Sunday, October 31, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews: Open Water

In a group setting, the job of the person who has seen the movie before is to sit quietly, with a Cheshire Cat grin on his or her face, while everyone else experiences the movie. The job of said person is not to give a spoiler every two scenes. I probably would have enjoyed this movie much more if the person in the room who had seen the movie knew what his job was.

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Three sentence movie review: Paranormal Activity

A well-crafted, tense "scary movie," it had it all: creepy things happening; sympathetic main character; awful, unsympathetic other character. I enjoy scary movies that rely on very few special effects to tell their story. It also kept me from sleeping very well that night.

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Poem for October: Praise Song for the Day

Praise Song for the Day
Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

I chose this poem for October because it was the poem read at Barack Obama's inauguration. I wasn't enchanted when the poet read it that day, but when I read it on my own I really liked it. In a political season with words more declaimed than whispered and more spiny than smooth, I felt like this was a poem to commit to memory.

The past two political years haven't turned out as I would have chosen. I would like to see more compromise--and not just by Democrats sliding ever close to the Republicans' positions while the Republicans refuse to move. I would like to see elections that cannot be bought by a few and I would like to see a political process that finds commonalities in our population, instead of pitting us against one another. This election cycle I saw a lot of "you have something that I don't have (pension, decent health care, etc.) and because I don't have it, you shouldn't either." I would like us to work towards, "how can we get everyone to have something good?" I know there is a lot more figuring it out at the kitchen tables and it makes me tired. This poem, celebrating a "sharp sparkle" and the idea that "any thing can be made" is a bit of a buoy in this acrimonious, bought and paid for, rude and grabby time.

Books read in October

Yep. School (and schoolwork) are in full force right now. Only five books read this month.


Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
Seymour, an Introduction
J. D. Salinger
This is the October Library Book Group selection and a J.D. Salinger creation I have not read. Reading the first story I was delighted to remember how much I love J. D. Salinger. Something about his prose leaves me just on the edge of a delighted hoot. Seymour, an Introduction, I did not love. I felt it was in need of a firm editor, and I ended up skimming most of it. Before Salinger's death, I would imagine, now and then, that when he died we would get to read all the things I assumed he had been writing for forty years. There was talk that he was continuing the story of the Glass family. I imagined that, posthumously, we reading public would see thick novels published, that were as much fun to read as the Catcher in the Rye. Reading Seymour, an Introduction, I think that perhaps if there are more novels, they probably will lean in the Seymour direction, rather than the Catcher one.

The New Frugality
Chris Farrell
In some ways a run-of-the-mill financial planning book. Its main difference is that the advice comes from the "consume less" angle rather than the "budget and hope for the best" angle. There was a very good chapter about home ownership and how to figure out what the author calls your P/R ratio, the "Price to Rent" ratio. This chapter might be good to read for people who are currently renting and frustrated with it.

There is also a lot of talk about living long and prospering, a subject that I believe we who read a lot of financial planning books will see more of in the next ten years. The author points out that we all will probably not have the retirement our grandparents have and will keep working and working, at least part time until at least our 70s. He points out that our "retirement jobs" can be half time work and contain the best parts of our "career" jobs without all the baggage. Farrell gives the good advice to start to volunteer with organizations you care about in your forties, so that when you retire they know you, your strengths and you can work together.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Nifflenegger
Achilles heel alert! Anyone wanting to distract me from whatever task is at hand only need hand me a Nifflenegger novel I have not yet read. The woman's story lines are addictive and I have trouble getting anything else done until I reach the final page. Having now read both her books, I can say that her strength seems to be writing complex novels--this one skips around in time--and building enough tension through the book so doing anything other than reading seems uninteresting. Her books are also very long so getting to the end, and back to life, takes a substantial investment of my life. This is not the worst thing in the world.

The Aeneid for Boys and Girls
retold by Alfred J. Church.
This was written in 1962 and so its prose was old enough that I had to pay much more attention than I wanted to. However, I probably paid much less attention then if I had been reading Virgil's masterpiece. To tell the truth, I was looking for an Action Comics version of the tale, but this was as easy as the library got.

I read this as a comparison to Livina, which I read last month for the library book club. I found some striking differences between the two, namely that in LeGuin's telling of the story the gods are not involved at all. This makes sense as the book was from the main character's perspective and most of us don't have sense of the string pulling various gods do on a daily basis. It would have been fun if LeGuin and I could sit down and discuss her choices as to what to include in the book, but I think I would want to wade through an official version first. Given LeGuin's lamentation of the death of Latin and how we are as a culture seeing the actual death of the great "dead language"--statements I agree with and feel sad about--I can't imagine the withering look I would get if it came out I couldn't be bothered to read even a translation.

Interesting differences between books written "for boys and girls" in 1962 and today: there was a forward and an afterward. When was the last time you have seen that in a children's book? The scattering of drawings almost never matched with the text on the page, something that I think has to do with printing layouts. Also, I'm pretty sure when the publisher says, "boys and girls" they were aiming the book at the 11-14 age group. Today the title would be The Aeneid for Tweens and Teens.

*Note. I just published my review on Goodreads and I'm the only one to review this book! So exciting!

The End of Overeating
David A. Kessler
Fabulous book! In the first section Kessler accurately describes my--and apparently many Americans-- interactions with food, ("I want a cookie. No I shouldn't. Well, it's been awhile. But I would be better off without one. But it's been a hard day. I'll just have one. Well but one will be one too many. and on and on and on") as well as traces the brain chemical response that leads us to overeating. In the second portion, he looks at how food manufacturers have capitalized on our tendency to want more to increase their profits. In the third section, he describes steps people can take to retrain our brain chemicals and habits to stop overeating.

Kessler sometimes has a tendency to bring up a point and wander off from it, but overall the book is worth reading.

Started and did not finish

I finished all I started this month.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Did it!

Nearing the end of the month, I replenished my vegetable stores and bought some salmon. I spent just under ten dollars at New Seasons and just over ten dollars at Fred Meyer.

New Seasons: -9.75
Fred Meyer: -10.20

Remaining balance for the month: 10.85.

Net growth in my checking account: +20.85

Good job me. I fell down on my vegetable production, so I would have been better off to only be +10.00 at the end of the month, but I'd rather be up than down.

White beans

The white beans in the container on the right are the ones I soaked and cooked to make white bean, sausage and cabbage soup. After I cooked them, I put them in the refrigerator until I had time to make the soup. Time passed, and they went bad.

Not to worry. I unearthed the white beans in the center from the freezer. I had soaked and cooked a batch some time ago and put extra in the freezer for quick use in the future. I put them in the refrigerator to defrost and once again time passed and they went bad.

The white beans on the left I happily discovered on the pantry shelf. They made it into the soup, which was delicious.

I'm contemplating a resolution for next year to use all my food up and not let any go bad. There are some staggering statistics about how much food people in the United States throw out. I, unfortunately am part of that statistic. It's such a waste. The food had been created and transported, I pay money to buy it, in some cases I invest time to cook it and then, into the compost or trash it goes.

You might hear more on this topic later.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The drawback of not cooking enough vegetables.

My goal is to cook vegetables five times per week. This week I have not even come close to meeting that goal. The drawback is that when I don't have a bank of veggies to draw upon, it is difficult to feel full. Today I had red beans and potatoes for lunch with some leftover squash. By 4:00, I was very hungry, a state in which I don't really like to spend much time. I ended up standing at the PSU Bookstore before my class started debating between the overly large package of saltines, the overly large package of potato chips, the even bigger bag of Cheetos. I rejected the various nuts because they were either hideously flavored, or had shells. I ended up with a package of frosted animal crackers to go with my apple.

Not surprisingly, I was ravenous by the time my class ended. I stopped by Cafe Yumm! before getting on the train and had a Yumm Bowl with Greens. It set me back $6.95 which leaves me with $30.80 for the month. I'm about to go out in the dark and find some diakon radish greens to steam. I've got to have more food for tomorrow.

Sometimes this being an adult is no fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A case for not having too many clothes

It was a very social weekend and unfortunately, I stayed home from work today to finish my homework. The boyfriend was also social and didn't do his laundry, which is usually a weekend task for him. Instead, because I was home, I did it. I got points. I sorted the piles (there were many) and eventually washed ten loads of laundry. Our washer is small, but ten loads is a lot of laundry and that is one week of clothing.
Here we witness the tyranny of labor saving devices. Back when everything had to be hand cranked--or, god forbid, boiled--no one would have this much clothing. But now that washing is so "simple" we just buy more clothing. We then need more time to do our "simple" task and, whoosh, the purported free time is gone.

What's the minimum amount of clothing you could get away with?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More chocolate and major donor

I've been trying to get a US Savings Bond for a bat mitzvah present all week long. It took five trips, three to one bank, two to another, and I succeeded. In the middle of all that, I bought a brownie at whole foods. So my remaining money for the month is $37.75.

Often I will cook or bake things for presents and I had promised to bring a cheesecake to the bat mitzvah for the Sunday brunch. However, the ingredients for said cheesecake are expensive and I knew that they would eat up the majority of my remaining funds. What to do? I did what all poor artists do: find a patron.

"Sweetheart, if I make a cheesecake for Peri's bat mitzvah, will you pay for the ingredients as your part of the present?"

"Uh, I guess. How much would it be?"

"Probably eighteen or twenty dollars."

He agreed. It turned out that I low-balled the estimate a bit, though I didn't do that intentionally. The ingredients for the Chocolate Zebra Cheesecake cost $25.50 at my local Fred Meyer. And that was with the chocolate on sale for $1.99 per bar, down from $2.79. Expensive? Yes. But incredibly rich and worth it? Indeed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rankles me.

If you don't want a yard, move into a condominium. Don't cover all your existing yard with black tar paper and ugly rock, which will eventually sprout weeds anyway. There are a million ways to have a low-maintenance yard and this is perhaps one of the worst. There are two tiny fat dogs who live at this house. I see them on the porch sometimes. They probably wouldn't be so fat if they had a place to run.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The siren song of chocolate.

I heard it today and ended up buying a bar of fancy chocolate at Whole Foods. It was $2.79 which brings me to $39.74 remaining for the month. "Less than forty dollars," seems much less than "More than forty dollars." I think I'll be alright because I have enough vegetables from the garden to get through the week. That gives me $20.00 each week to spend on vegetables for the following two weeks. Assuming I don't hear the call of chocolate again.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews: The Invention of Lying

Funny, and in a thinking way. Unlike most Ricky Gervais sad sack characters, Mark Bellison was incredibly fun to watch and the large amount of cameos in this movie also made for great entertainment. Jennifer Garner was great, though I spend a lot of time wondering if she had cheekbone implants and deciding her lips must be pumped full of collagen, no?*

*She seems like such a nice person I don't mind so much, but it is distracting.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A fun game.

I'm building up a bit of a cushion to my food budget. I want to leave a little left over every month, partly so I don't accidentally bounce a check and partly so I have enough to get my quarter of beef next August. So here is what I 'm doing.

I've made a list of staple food I eat each month. At the beginning of the month I am doing a "big shop" so I have all my basic food. My goal is to only shop one other time that month, however now that the meager amount of vegetables I harvested this year are beginning to peter out, I may need to go more often for vegetables.

I've done my "big shop," as I'm calling it, for the month and have figured that to have an extra $10.00, I need to keep my spending on food for the rest of the month to $45.00. Is this possible?

Yesterday I bought thyme (they never had it in bulk and I had to give up and buy a regular jar) for $1.99 and a cup of dried beans for $0.48. This leaves me with $42.53 for the remaining 25 days in the month.

I'll report in now and then, so you can follow along. In my opinion, the only way to save is to make things fun. It's a fun test for me, and it will also probably keep me from spending $3.00 on cookies at The Pearl Bakery. Every time I do that I picture my grandmother rolling over in her grave. Sorry grandma, sometimes that shortbread just calls to me. Perhaps not this month, though, eh?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Three sentence movie review: The Social Network.

I'm deeply divided about this movie so you are getting six sentences, three each from two different perspectives.

From the general movie going public perspective:
This was just a fabulously gripping movie. From the first scene to the last the creation of the Internet site that changed all of our lives is mesmerizing--and we are talking about a lot of coding, i.e. people staring at screens. Top notch acting by everyone, especially the "we must see more of him" Jesse Eisenberg.

From a slightly-aware female perspective:
Where are the women? The movie starts with a great female character, but she quickly exits stage left and the women we see are reduced to object status (or slightly unhinged girlfriends.) Surely there must have been a few women involved in some aspect of the creation of Facebook
outside of the interns and the young things with flat stomachs for Sean Parker to snort cocaine off of?

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Friday, October 1, 2010

What now?

So I'm still not caught up, what now? Now I will publish one post per day until I have caught up to present day. I've just placed all of September's pictures into draft posts. I've made sure all the movies are listed. I'm ready to whiz through these....Shoot. I've got 16 posts in September on this blog alone. Never mind. I'm going to try and do two per day. Or a bunch on weekends. My oh-so-free weekends.

162 posts completed and published since August 20. That's approximately 4 posts per day, which is a huge effort. Good job me.

Motivation, brought to you by Excel and Desktop Printing

It's amazing what a nice looking piece of paper will do for my motivation. This was the sheet I created so I could keep track of my blog posting. Back in the day before desktop publishing, I would have hand written this out and it would not have been as pretty. It also would have taken me forever. I created this in about two minutes, printed it at school and was on my motivational way. There are so many wonderful things about this modern world.

The thing in shadow in the lower right-hand corner is the pin I got at the Romanian wedding Matt and I went to in August. I wasn't sure where to put it and didn't yet want to throw it away, so I stuck it on my motivational paper. Sentinel notices it every once in awhile and attempts to pull it down, so I should probably move it somewhere else. I think I will leave my piece of paper up for awhile, it feels so good to look at.