Sunday, August 31, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--The 40-year-old virgin

I don't buy the premise of this movie, that all his problems stem from being a virgin. Plenty of people are this awkward and lonely and have had sex. Putting that aside, and letting go of the fact that his friends aren't very friendly, and this is a very raunchy movie, this is funny stuff.

Note the first: as you already know from the title if you do like/will like this movie or not, all those above qualifiers probably aren't necessary.

Note the second: this is when I first noticed Seth Rogen. He's not my movie boyfriend a la Edward Norton, but I do keep track of what he is up to.

Note the third: I quoted a line from this movie to Matt years ago and he has used that quote ever since, despite not having seen the movie. Now that he has seen it and he can legitimately quote the movie he probably never will again.

17 ways to live happily...Have an emergency fund

Have an emergency fund of at least something.

How many years have I been saving up a three or six month contingency fund? Roughly ten. Have I ever come close to having even three month's salary saved? Once. Then I moved across the country and was unemployed for awhile and that cushion disappeared. But the reason I haven't been able to maintain my savings goal is because I kept running into emergencies. Did the fact that I didn't have all three months salary matter at that point? Nope. It still helped me that there was money there. I'm hoping that, at this point in my life things have settled down enough that I can get that three to six months cushion in the bank over the next few years.

Letters written in August

It is the dog days of the resolution. During my two weeks off I finished writing notes and sending pictures to all the people who went on the trip to Hungary, then I put my pen down. What letters that were written were to the pen pals I've made through LEX and to Sara. I returned from my trip with about eight Sara letters to respond to and during the trip she wrote me a very long one. It is a fabulous letter, filled with multiple fonts and clip art. Future Historians will love that one.

1 August--YRUU
2 August--YRUU
3 August--YRUU
4 August--YRUU
5 August--YRUU
6 August--YRUU
7 August--YRUU
8 August--YRUU
9 August--YRUU
10 August--YRUU
11 August--No one
12 August--No one
13 August--No one
14 August--No one
15 August--No one
16 August--No one
17 August--Jan
18 August--LEX Diane (movies)
19 August--LEX Diane (food)
20 August--Sara
**Letter Back--Jenna, YRUU parent
21 August--BroMAunts
22 August--No one
23 August--No one
24 August--No one
25 August--Postcard Sara
**Letter Back LEX Dorothy (2)
26 August--Deborah
27 August--LEX Gerry
28 August--LEX Don
29 August--Sara
30 August--Sara
31 August--No one

Books read in August

I'm writing this in November, so memories of August are a bit hazy. I've pieced together the following from my notes. I remember not reading much in August, which is strange because I had two weeks off. I think I had a backlog of magazines to catch up with. So three books isn't fabulous, but any book read is a happy thing.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Michael Chabon
I love how Chabon creates entire alternate universes. His settings really come alive. What struck me as I was reading this book, is how much the story line mirrored all of the Patrick Kenzie/Angine Gennaro novels by Dennis LeHane. And I'm not just saying that because I was obsessed with them this summer. Summary: Rouge central figure disregards establishment practices and sets out on his own to get to the bottom of things and find The Truth. Central figure is also hopelessly in love with female character and is a better man with her then without her. The difference between this book and the LeHane series (aside from plot line details) is the setting--Boston vs. Alternative Universe Jewish Alaska--and the fact that knowing a bit of Yiddish probably helps with the Chabon book.

Song Yet Sung. James McBride
Follows the lives of residents of the Maryland shore during the time of slavery. Will our main characters make it to freedom? I'll let you find out for yourself. My favorite part was McBrides' description of "the code", the network of messages slaves passed along through laundry, the blacksmith and others. It was fascinating.
(This review is very Reading Rainbow-eqsue)

Prayers for Rain. Dennis LeHane
And I finish the series for the second time this summer.

Started but didn't finish
Firefly Lane. Kristin Hannah
This books suffers from what I call the "Mork and Mindy Syndrome." This syndrome, named by me, came about in fifth grade when I was reading a novel and the main characters discussed watching Mork and Mindy the night before. The 1985 me was confused as to how they could be watching that show at night as it was not currently on the prime-time schedule. The 1985 me eventually figured out that when the book was written, Mork and Mindy was at the height of its fame and it would make sense for the characters to discuss it. The end result was by mentioning one detail that would become dated with time, the author pulled me out of the universal setting where I related best to the characters and instead set the book, for no good reason, in the late 1970s when I was very young. I see this happen a lot in novels set in the present day. In my view, the good ones manage to describe the activities of the characters so the book could be happening over a large period of time. The bad ones mention a fleeting pop-culture reference (i.e. The Aniston Haircut) that ties the story unnecessarily to a particular year.

With that explained, I can say that I lost several hours of my life on this book and I regret that I can't go back and choose not to read it. The very long story, about two friends, one who becomes a famous TV journalist and the other who becomes a housewife, spans several decades and the author seems to think the best way to show the passage of time is to mention both sweeping events and hair and makeup styles. Also, when I quit 3/4 of the way through I could tell exactly where the plot was going. Usually I will read to the end to see if I am right, but the Mork and Mindy effect was so large in the book I couldn't stand it any longer.

On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm. Michael Ableman
I read most of this book which was a great illustration of suburbia encroaching on rural land. It has lovely pictures.

Attack of the Theater People. Mark Acito
This book picks up with the same characters we met in How I Paid for College. Alas, it had been too long and the writing was so full of life--Acito practically vibrates with energy when you see him in person--it was a bit much for my slothful vacation self. I put it aside for now.

Didn't even start.
There wasn't a thing I brought home this month that I didn't at least begin.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--Tropic Thunder.

My jaw dropped twice in the first 15 minutes--in a good way. A truly explosively funny movie. I thought the plot line was inventive and I think the whole controversy about the word "retarded" was a bit off base.

17 ways to live happily...Ride a bike.

Ride a bike.

Why do people in the US love their cars? Because they give them freedom. Not having a car means getting the freedom of keeping your money, but giving up the freedom of just jumping in the car and going somewhere. The bike gives some of that freedom back. Bikes are cheap, they get you some exercise while moving you from place to place and you can maintain them for less than $100.00 a year. Plus, they are fun to ride. Reclaim that kid feeling and get on a bike.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--Hamlet 2.

So not explosively funny (as I was promised) that I only heard two people laugh in the theater. It was also incredibly formulaic. Formulaic movies aren't explosively funny, they are just lame.

17 ways to live happily...Drive a junker

If you must own a car, drive a reliable junker.

I grew up in Boise, Idaho and if I still lived there I probably would own a car. Due to its bare-bones public transportation system I don't think I could live a full life based on the bus schedule. If I did live in Boise, and did own a car, my hope is that I would be driving a reliable junker. The importance of a reliable junker (or even nice used car) cannot be overstated. They run well, they don’t cost very much, and because you aim to drive them until they die, you don’t have to get wrapped up in the pristine paint job. They don’t automatically lose value when you drive them off the lot as new cars do and once you already own an older car there is no pressure on you to keep up with the Jones’ by replacing your current new car with an even newer car.

The radio station I listen to has an ad that actually says, "Don't listen to your parents about buying a car and driving it until it dies. Today, you need a new car every couple of years." If you believe this statement, STOP. It is not true Actually, you never need a new car. With a reliable junker, you never have to worry about fender benders, exorbitant car payments, or your car getting stolen.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


This summer was the first time I heard the term "staycation." I loved it because it perfectly describes what I do for most of my vacations: stay home. Sure, I went to Hungary this summer and last summer Matt and I had an actual week vacation in Eastern Oregon, but mostly I'm at home working on projects during my time off.

However, now all the local tourism people are trying to take the term and morph it to one that means "vacationing in the state you live in." That's not what it means. If they are successful and this becomes the definition of staycation, I may never get another vacation again.

17 ways to live happily...Don't own a car.

If at all possible, don't own a car.

Since college, I've always lived in towns with good public transportation. If I ever have to move I will do my best only to move to a town with public transportation. Cars are the great sucking drain on your salary: you buy one with a lot of your money then put a lot more of your money into it in the form of gas and insurance and repairs. Do what you can to avoid buying a car so you can avoid the car owning you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--Summer Movie Throwdown.

That's right folks. All the movies I've seen this summer up until now. That's 36 sentences all in one post.

Viewed in Okland, Romania with 13 youth, projected on a wall with very quiet sound. It was hard to hear, but still good. This makes viewing number three.

Be Kind Rewind
I expected a very different movie than what I saw. It was much sweeter than I thought it would be and pretty funny. Overall, a tiny bit formulaic, which surprised me, given the director.

Devil Wears Prada
I love a good truly awful (personality-wise) female lead, especially when balanced by a good female lead with a moral quandary. Excellent acting by all involved with a taut storyline. But overall, I mostly loved looking at the clothing.

Two of the youth recommended this movie to me and I soon found out why: It's a nerd fantasy movie. I've been waiting for them to make a movie of this "true story" since I heard about the book on NPR. The only thing that disappointed was a major change from the true story to the movie world--other than that, good acting, good story line, just a good movie in general.

Just My Luck
An absolutely asinine movie with a stupid plot, insipid acting and annoying scene after annoying scene. Why did I watch it? When you haven't had more than 3 hours sleep in more than a day and you are trapped in a plane, many movies that you wouldn't watch on terra firma will do.

The Dark Knight.
A huge disappointment as I really was looking forward to it. The acting, special effects, etc were all fabulous. I just hated, hated, HATED the plot.

Incredible Hulk
After the disaster of Hulk there was really only one way to go. And I thought Edward Norton was an interesting Bruce Banner. It almost erased the stench of The Dark Knight.

27 Dresses
I wanted to like this movie, but I didn't. Four months later I can't remember why, which is a review right there. I do think Judy Greer needs to be in every movie I see though; she is awesome!

Mom hadn't seen it, so here it was for the fourth time. Not movies survive to the second viewing, much less the fourth. I hope Michael Cera doesn't get overexposed.

Stranger Than Fiction
When I first saw this movie I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. A very clever story with good actors bringing their a-game. This is why I love the movies.

Pineapple Express
Not as funny as I wanted it to be, but I was happy to see the actor who played "Bust-Ass" in "All the Real Girls." And I like James Franco and Seth Rogan. So very silly movie that I mostly enjoyed.

Iron Man
Still good. Still Robert Downey Jr. Still didn't like Terrance Howard.

The Fair!

Note: Blogger seems to have switched the order in which they post pictures when you put up five at a time. Rather than reorder 40 photos, you instead will have to read an out-of-order post.

My mother and my Aunts picked me up early for work today to go to the FAIR! I've not been to the Oregon State Fair yet. The fact that it is in Salem (about an hour away) is a hindrance as is the time of year. I left work early during the crucial week before school starts. Eeeee. But it was still fun. We went to see Garrison Keillor's Rhubarb Tour which turned out to be not a full Prairie Home Companion show but some music and a "Quiet Week in Lake Wobegon" story and (my favorite!) several sound effects segments. It was incredibly fun and of course we sampled the delights of the fair beforehand.

A colorful "fair food" booth.
Some of the rides.
Aunts Pat and Carol are right behind us!
Just in case you can't read this sign, there are about 30 others to remind you.
Upon arriving, we decided to take this great chair lift across the fairgrounds so we could get our bearings.
I love the flag next to the ad for sustainable energy. Also, this boy was very into waving at everyone.
Sara saw the giant pig at the Western Idaho fair. I saw it from the air at this one. I particularly love the "Alive!" moniker.
Some full-faced face painting.
Midway delights.
Mom and I in the air.
Children dancing to one of the musicians. He was not so good. He kept needing assurance that we were having a good time. "Are you having a good time?" he would ask multiple times per song? When there weren't many "wooooo"s he would say, "Let me know that you are having a good time!" We heard a lot of him because we were eating.
Eating Fair food!
I love that you get noodles and rice. We termed it a very Hawaiian meal because many cheap places you eat in Hawaii you get to choose at least two of several starchy sides.
The juxtaposition of the mechanical bull (which I associate with scantily clad women and 80's metal music as epitomized in more than one video) and the "Are you going to Heaven?" booth is one of my favorite things about the fair.
This guy was Brandon Cash and he was great! He sounded very much like Johnny Cash. We heard him both ways on the chair lift thing.
Some local Dahlias. The one on the top row right was called something like "Patricia Ann's Sunrise" Patricia Ann would be my Aunt Pat's name.
This was one of my favorite things about the fair. They had all sorts of informative signs about Oregon Industries.
I don't understand how these chicken see.
Baby chicks!
Another kid dancing to the insecure musician.
People made this Superman costume! It is awesome!
I had 8 pictures of decorated cakes and managed it cut it down to two. (Lucky you.) I love this cake that has all of the "State Whatevers" on it.
And who could resist this cake?
Well what do you know? It's this guy. But now he is selling mops.
Some good Oregon wines.
Okay, this was one of my favorite things. Somewhere down below there will be a picture of table settings. For some reason, table settings get a full critique that is published for everyone to read as they walk by. I don't understand why, if they do full critiques, they choose table settings, but they do. They were pretty funny to read. And anal. "please keep the forks 1/2 inch from each other." And spot-on, most of them.
Another cool thing about this fair. These are all Oregon Authors selling their books.
Fair humor. (a pun unto itself!)
Some interesting information about seed farming.
Back on the chair lift to go and see Garrison Keillor.
From the air, we saw this Chinese Acrobatic Dance Troupe. They were pretty cool.
Argh! It's the cross stitch again! And it got second place! Again!
My favorite quit was this one made from Army Fatigues. I have a quilt made from bluejeans on my bed at home, so this would be its enlisted counterpart.
Here's the table setting that the critique above discusses.
Accidental zoom portrait while attempting to take a picture of Aunt Pat and I in the chairlift.
This couple was awsome. And full of fair highlights. (Flags, stuffed animals, big smile, etc)
What's that long line for? Could that possibly be the line to get in to see Garrison Keilor? It was!
Farris Wheel at sunset.
If you squint really hard, you can see the guy with the red shoes. That's him. Garrison Keilor.
Usually when he reads his "Lake Wobegon" piece for the week I am bustling about the house doing chores. My attention drifts in and out. Tonight I sat in the not-cold summer darkness with thousands of other people and listened as he spun his tale. With nothing to distract me and with his famous calming voice it was very much a zen experience--a very nice summer moment. Alas, it was followed by a long walk in the dark to the parking lot and a late night drive back. But still, it was THE FAIR! I love the fair and this was a great one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

17 ways to live happily...

17 ways to live happily on what you make.

I make okay money now, so it is easier to live happily on my salary. Now that I have broken through the $12.00/hour barrier, there is more living and less juggling. I've had lean years, but they have (mostly) been abundant anyway because I do my best to be happy with what I have and try my best to limit my wants.

Suze Orman, financial planning guru, says that everyone she councils, whether they make $150,000 a year or $20,000 per year, wishes they made just about $500.00 a month more than they do. If only, her clients tell her, they just made $500.00 more per month everything would be fine. What I take away from that story is that I will never really have enough, enough, but I might be able to happily make do with what I have.

The over the next few weeks, I'll publish 17 things I've learned about living well on what I have.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bike Rack Evolution

After one begins to ride a bicycle, one begins to figure out ways to not haul things on one's back. At least that is how it worked for me. I hate having things on my back. I think this comes from my very first forays into bike commuting taking place during Idaho summers. Hot and sweaty backs and backpacks with sweat saturated straps are not for me.

Here was my first solution. These are very nice panniers which I paid a lot of money for in 2000. I think they were $70.00 apiece. When I eventually ride across the country I will take them along as they hold tons and are sleek and well designed. I have used them a goodly amount; when I was student teaching I rode to teach each day and all of my materials fit right in there.
But sadly, they are not quite perfect for Portland. It rains here. A lot. And every time it starts to rain, I had to stop and get out the rain covers. I didn't like that so much and began looking with envy upon the rain proof panniers of other bikers. Also, I worried about them getting stolen and took them with me everywhere.
Here was my next solution. I don't know about other towns, but these bike buckets are HUGE in Portland. It's not surprising. They are fairly rain proof, not super expensive, and they are made from recycled materials. You can even make them yourself. I did not do this, however, instead choosing to purchase mine from my favorite bike store Citybikes. They were $25.00 apiece, so two of them set me back $50.00. Not cheap, but $20.00 cheaper than one of the above two panniers.
I used canvas shopping bags and they fit right inside the buckets. When I had to make a stop at the library or grocery store, I just lifted the canvas bags out of the buckets and walked away. It made hauling things simple.
Also, I put this fun reflective tape on the back to keep people aware of me.
So with all this perfection of my bike buckets, why would I need to go with another style? Well it had to do with not wanting to carry around canvas shopping bags all the time. Durable they are, but they look so sloppy. I bought this bag last winter, and it didn't fit in my bike buckets. So began the search for a good but cheap expansion of the bike rack.
My solution came from wandering through Home Depot. I spied in the closet makeover section a variety of wire drawers. They turned out to be just the thing. I bought one and some zip ties to attach the drawer to my rack and voila! Bike rack expansion. The zip ties and drawer together came to $22.00 which is less than one of the bike buckets.
With this handy bungee ($4.95 in bike stores) my rack holds a variety of things. When it rains, I take a piece of plastic sheeting and set it across the top and we have a quick rain proof way to cart things around.

With all that evolution, I'm ready to evolve to the Extracycle. Someday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bike project Day 26: To Mirador

The Bike Project:

In which I attempt to ride all the yellow, green, blue & purple streets on the Bike There Bike Map while increasing strength, stamina, aerobic capacity and exploring Portland’s nooks and crannies.

Day 26

Weather: Sunny and hot.

Normally data such as ride speed, distance, etc. goes here, but I didn't bring along any of my data collecting devices.

The Ride:
Lombard and Denver Ave.
Take Denver to Rosa Parks Way
Check out Recycling Center
Continue on Denver
L on N. Ainsworth
R on N. Vancouver
L on NE. Skidmore
R on N. 18th
R on NE Tillamook
L on NE 16th
Follow that around the Lloyd Center
L on Irving
R on 16th, follow that to Ladds Addition
L on Division
R on 21st.
Stop at Mirador

Route comments:
  • I needed to check out the Portland Recycling Center before I had my day-o-errands and I also wanted to get some two-quart sized canning jars at Mirador, so I decided to ride my bike. It was a good day for riding: hot, but with a breeze.
  • The ride itself was pretty uneventful. I'm still having that problem with my neck hurting if I spend too long riding. I think a more upright stance needs to be in my future.
How fun that I came across these children riding safely in a line. I suspect they were part of the Community Cycling Center's Summer Camp, a program that I am very enthusiastic about, if not supportive monetarily (at this point.) Children learning to properly ride bikes = good adult riding skills!
Ladd's Addition was sketched out by William Ladd himself. He was inspired by Pierre L'Enfant's design of Washington DC. If you look at a map of Portland, Ladd's Addition is easily identifiable as the suddenly diagonal portion on the map in a city of north-south and east-west grids. Unlike DC, there are not important buidings where the diagonals meet, but rather rose gardens. I enjoy getting lost in Ladd's Addtion and admiring all the houses.
Mirador was good, as usual. They have all sort of household things: things for cooking as well as canning and other preserving, but also natual fiber shower curtains and bedding, etc. I even got some cute stationary made from recycled maps. After purchasing my large canning jars I rode the fast way home (along the Eastbank Esplinade) and stopped to pick some black berries at this bush. Luckily, I had a container to place them in.