Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books Read in December 2013

Top reads in each category this month:
Mr. Wuffles! (Funny picture book for cat lovers of all ages)
Bluffton (Graphic novel with intriguing subject.  Also pretty.)
OCD Love Story (It was another good YA month, but this was weirdly delightful)
Grown-up fiction:
Glaciers (Spurned several times, without reading it.  Actually reading it was grand.)
The Cocktail Primer (Because a girl needs a solid cocktail book in her collection.)

Picture Books
Mr. Wuffles!
David Wiesner
Read for Library Book Group
I put off reading this, because I thought the title was dumb, but come to find out the title is all part of the author's nefarious plot to write a hilarious picture book.  Minimal dialogue in English (though a goodly amount of alien dialogue as well as some "ant" and "ladybug" dialects) and very apt pictures of a cat on the prowl make this book a winner.

If You Want to See a Whale
Julie Fogliano, Erin Stead
Read for Librarian Book Group
Dreamy pictures, fun.

Year of the Jungle:  Memories From the Home Front
Suzanne Collins
Read for Librarian Book Group
In a strange bit of kismit, I happened to read this book the same day I watched the movie Platoon for the first time.  This book accurately captures the unknowing of a six-year-old with a father off to war for a year.  The photograph of Collins on the final page slew me.

Flora and Ulysses
Kate DiCamello (sp)
Read for Library Book Group
This book had me from the first sentence of the first chapter.  It was hilarious and enjoyable, with just a bit of snark.

Matt Phelan
Read for Librarian Book Group
Solid graphic novel about a boy who befriends vaudevillians including a young Buster Keaton and his family.  An interesting story, and beautiful to look at.

The Real Boy
Anne Ursu
Read for Librarian Book Group
A quick reminder that j-chapter books are not my favorite.
This was okay.  I felt frustrated with the characters, the world building was a bit uneven and I thought the illustrations were rather poor.  That said, if you have an awkward boy who is into fantasy, this might just do the trick.

Forgive me, Leonard Peacock
Matthew Quick
Read for Library Book Group
Why not spend a day with Leonard Peacock, a teenage boy who is planning on killing a kid at his school and then himself?  Well, probably because that sounds rather grim.  However, I would encourage you to actually read the book and spend the day, because Leonard Peacock is quite the interesting character and many things do not go according to plan.  A sweet, heartfelt book.

OCD Love Story
Corey Ann Haydu
Aside from a marvelous cover* this book has a crackling first chapter.  And then it's just a good, solid read.  I especially appreciate how the adults grow and expand as the book goes on, though I have to wonder just why, exactly her parents let the main character drive.

*I KNOW!  But I can't not judge a book by its cover, at least in part. I just can't.

Bad Houses
Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
Great graphic novel that balances several plots with a deft hand.  Or rather, hands, as there is an author and an illustrator to think of.

All the Truth That's In Me
Julie Berry
Read for Librarian Book Group
Captivating narrative of a teenage girl kidnapped from her village (though the time period and location flummoxed me) kept for two years, then returned, having had her tongue cut out.  I liked the narrative structure of short chapters addressing "you" with the you in question being Lucas, the boy she had a crush on.  I felt it meandered a bit in the middle and could use some tightening, but Berry kept dropping clues here and there like breadcrumbs which made for a very satisfying read when all was said and done.

Oh, but the cover!  I may have to do a blog post on horrible YA covers.  When the main character could be found guilty of "fornication," there is no reason to depict her with her hair down in full sultry-eyed makeup.  It just doesn't work.  At all.

Hostage Three
Nick Lake
Read for Librarian Book Group
I never really took a liking to the main character and thus this book was more of a slog than a gripping drama.  I also was not at all fond of the tricks the author used near the end of the novel.  Points for capturing the zeitgeist though. (Somali pirates.)

"Grown-up" books
Romeo and Juliet
Wm. Shakespeare
Why is this the easiest play to read?  Is it that we are all exposed to it so early and so often?  The explanatory notes for this play seem to be shorter and there are no expanded notes in the back.  This is the only Shakespeare I've ever whipped through.

Alexis M. Smith
Read for Kenton Library Book Group
This book was on the Lucky Day Cart at the library for some time and I always passed it by because the book itself is tiny and then, on top of that, the pages have huge margins.  For some reason, I decided that the book was not worth reading because of its small size.  Enter the January Book Group Selection.  Because I had to, I read it and it turned out I really liked it.  It was wonderful how the author managed to write such a complete story using so few words. Also, it's set in Portland AND set in the Central Library. When I finished it, I almost started reading it again, it was that quietly delightful.  What a great find.

March Book 1
John Lewis
Read for Library Book Group
Solid graphic novel with eyewitness testimony to the emerging Civil Rights Movement.

The Cocktail Primer
Eben Klemm
Here is what I was looking for in a cocktail book:  I wanted one with a list that basically said:  if you just want to have a basic setup at home, here is your list.  I wanted to learn about cocktails, what parts of them are important, how they relate.  I wanted a good, basic text.  You have no idea how few cocktail books fit this description.  Most of them have hundreds of cocktails in them and the organization is terrible.  There is no learning, just long, long lists of ingredients.

But this book was just what the doctor ordered.  There is  a very good "Getting Started" chapter that discusses how to set up your home bar, how to pour, shake, stir and serve. There is a breakdown of the essentials of a well-stocked bar, discussing which Whiskies and Tequilas etc. are important to have on hand. There is also a list of three different lists of liquor to have on hand from "Hey, I just got a cocktail book" to a more complete setup.  Klemm also walks through the list of equipment you need and gives a recipe for simple syrup and cocktail cherries.

After that comprehensive introduction, there are six more chapters each focusing on a drink and some offshoots from that drink.  We begin with the chapter on the Martini's Children, and work our way to high balls.  Each chapter gives us the makeup, complexity, sweetness, acidity, strength and level of refreshment of each family of drinks.  There is also an explanation of when you might want to drink said drink.

All of this would have been enough, but the book is also rather droll and delights in details I, myself find important.  For example, when discussing shakers, Klemm writes, "The metal-on-metal set is a little more efficient for chilling drinks and makes a nicer shaking sound, depending on whether you prefer a heckita-heckita-heckita to a shooka-shooka-shooka, but the pint glass on metal is a bit better when you're getting started because you learn how much you are pouring."  He also takes a wry turn with the realities of home bartending.  On one way to make the Gimlet:  "It's quite nice, actually, especially if you've run out of simple syrup."

Now that I've bought the book, I will have to go about working my way through it.

Great American Dust Bowl
Don Brown
Read for Librarian Book Group
A concise explanation (with pictures and primary source documents) of what the Dust Bowl was and how it came about.  Good for younger children and lazy former History majors who don't really enjoy wading through nonfiction.

Three sentence movie reviews: Rock of Ages

Oh Glee, thank you so much for popularizing the mash-up.  Because without which, I never would have seen a delightful combination of the hideous "We Built this City" combined with my favorite asshole anthem "We're Not Gonna Take It!".  I have a pretty strict ban on Tom Cruise movies, but Tom Cruise playing a somewhat addled Axl Rose-type was not too hard to swallow and Catherine Zeta-Jones,* Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand continually cracked me up.**

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.

*The "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" dance sequence was incredibly fun, and featured a bevy of delightful 80s "mom" clothes.
**And really, I was already sold because I own(ed) most of those songs either on 45rpm or cassette, but I can say that this was quite a well done movie musical.

Three sentence movie reviews: Saving Mr. Banks

I'm going to spend the first sentence of three telling you that I thought the soundtrack was incredibly intrusive, subtracting a lot from what was otherwise a good picture.  That said, this is a very good movie, with Emma Thompson hitting it out of the park as the uptight, persnickety P.L. Travers.  The supporting cast is also very good,* and the costumes are particularly of good quality.

Cost: $5.00
Where watched:  Regal Tigard Stadium 12 with Mom and Aunt Carol

This is a very good poster.

*Colin Ferrell is in particularly good form and the Edwardian fashions suit him quite well.
**I loved Travers' form-fitting and structured wool dresses, set against breezy LA style.  The dark green one with the fitted waist and buttons was my favorite, but oh, the camel coat with blue lining she wore near the end?  I covet that tremendously.

The evolving story.

I started in July with a goal to write every day.  After the first three days, I started writing word counts.
I kept it up in August,  minus the four days I took off for Cindy's wedding.  On the 15th I realized my plunge-in-and-write style wasn't working and did some character development.  Then work started and I had no time to write.
I took a writing class in October, and resolved to return to outlining, as that had worked well in the past for me.  My goal was 500 words per day.  I was very good at meeting this goal.
Except for a few days, I kept it up in December, too.

Onward to January.  Will I finish my first draft by 1/31/14?  Stay tuned.

What I've been up to: collecting rewards and making bread.

I feel like I haven't been taking very many pictures of late.  Although I've written over 475 posts for this blog alone this year, so perhaps a short break is in order.  But here's what I've been up to, aside from reading, writing, watching movies and blogging.

I didn't realize I had backer rewards coming, but here they are.
I made some bread.  It's from Laurel's Kitchen Break Book, which is the best book to pick up if you are thinking of taking up whole-grain bread baking in the new year.  This is the milk bread recipe and made two very nice loves.  The book itself teachers you step-by-step what to do to create excellent all-whole-wheat flour bread.  Most "whole wheat" recipes use a bit of whole wheat and a goodly amount of All-Purpose Flour.

Bread making is a good skill to have if you want to save money and control your ingredients.  It's also kind of magical.  This started as two cups of milk, a quarter cup of honey, some yeast, flour and salt.  A bit of mixing (with a mixer) and a few hours of rising and deflating and shaping and there is delicious bread waiting for me to eat.

Two tips should you embark on the bread journey:
1) Buy some vital wheat gluten (Bob's Red Mill carries this product) and add 1 tablespoon per cup of flour.  It makes all the difference.
2) If you don't have a warm place for rising (our house is mostly pretty cold) turn the oven to 170 and when it comes to temperature, set the timer for 10 minutes.  Then shut off the oven.  The heating turns the oven from a cold cave to a warm environment and if you turn on the light to the oven the temperature will be maintained.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: Platoon

This movie was released just as I was starting to pay attention to what was going on in the world, so I remember the buzz, but there was no way I was going to be allowed to watch it due to violence and my parents' ambivalence about the Vietnam War.*  Fast forward twenty-seven years and I can now say I understand what all the fuss was about.  I realized I'm coming late to the party and all y'all have probably seen it, but this had everything a great picture should have:  acting, setting, plot, a warts-and-all view of the war itself, as well as a smattering of war porn.**

Cost:  free from library
Where watched:  at home.

Thanks to Jan and her Best Picture Movie Project.  Without her watching this, I never would have motivated.

*For a long time, I thought my dad was too old to go, but when Bill Clinton ran for president, I realized my dad joined the National Guard to avoid the draft.  This was something that was not really loudly proclaimed, especially since so many people made fun of Clinton for what was essentially begging to be in the National Guard.  Though now that we've had a president who joined the National Guard and didn't even bother to show up, I can proudly say that my father actually did his National Service to get out of going to a crappy war, unlike a certain member of the Bush family.
**Because who wouldn't want to die in such a dramatic movie fashion as Willem Dafoe?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: Enough Said.

I wasn't really ready to be uncomfortable for as long as I was during this movie, so that was a surprise.  However, I loved the romance and the chemistry between Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini and also Toni Collette* was there too, which made for some great acting.  There was a nice parallel story of sending your child to college, so overall, this was a very good film.

Cost:  $3.00
Where watched:  Laurelhurst with S. North.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2013/posters/enough_said.jpg

*Speaking in her real accent.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: Pain and Gain

I've discovered Filmspotting, a podcast where they have long (long, long) conversations about movies and I find this podcast enjoyable.  Recently, there was controversy when one host picked this film to be in their top five while the other host was incredulous that it was liked at all.  Having now watched the film, I can say it was NOT an enjoyable example of the dumb criminal film* as what was amusing at the beginning turned quickly into the movie equivalent of the criminal's "stupid" repeatedly banging me on the head with a chair.**

Cost:  $2.00 from Videorama
Where watched: at home with Matt.

*Good "dumb criminals" movies: Fargo, To Die For.
**Matt rather enjoyed it, though.

Too many music distributors.

I really would like one, compact thing, with witch to access all of my music.  Instead I have a menagerie.

Here's the stereo, which plays the radio, CDs, cassette tapes and also records, if I hooked up the record player.
Because the stereo doesn't really get good radio reception, I also bought this radio which I love! It's small (notice it tucked away next to the stereo in the above picture) and the knob gives a satisfying "click" when I turn it on.  The reception is superior, which is great because I listen to the radio a lot.
Unless you factor in podcasts.  With the new phone, I found an app that gives me podcasts I love.  Because I don't like to walk around the house with ear buds in my ears, I bought this Bluetooth speaker.  It stores nicely in a drawer.
And then, if I want to listen to any non-CD, non-cassette music, I have the iPod, which is old.  It doesn't even have all of my music because it doesn't all fit (the rest is stored on my computer.)  I could listen to the podcasts via iTunes on the iPod, but I find iTunes incredibly unfriendly (and I know I'm in the minority here, but iTunes just doesn't work the way my mind works) so I don't get the podcasts through iTunes.

Someday I would like to have a compact stereo system with speakers that can play in different areas of the house, and my music/podcasts on one device.  But right now?  I straddle many worlds.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: Pleasantville

I'm a sucker for movies about awakenings and when they involve books or sex (two favorite things) I'm even more of a sucker.  So I think this movie is great, and very clever in its message.  It's also perfectly cast and one of those moments in movie history where the technology combined with the story to elevate the movie beyond what it would have been otherwise.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched:  at home.  Knitting.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: American Hustle

Overall, I found this movie to be a little on the long side, it could have been tightened up a bit here and there.  But also overall, I greatly enjoyed every performance, the hair, and the clothing of this picture.  Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence are incredible to watch.

Cost:  $5.00
Where watched:  Regal City Center Stadium 12.  Where, for the first time in a long time, there were a goodly number of people there.  We actually got stuck in the parking garage because so many cars were exiting at the same time.  That never happens.  We played the Advanced Level Preview Game* to pass the time.

*The Preview Game, brought to you by Sara of Pike Schemes.
Everyone in your movie-going party makes a guess as to how many previews there will be before the movie.  In our rules, you have to have a green screen (the MPAA rating thingie) before the preview for it to count.  Sometimes theaters sneak in special sneak previews of films, but these do not count.  The person who guesses correctly, or is the closest, wins.  Bonus for dramatic flourishes of the hands while counting previews.

The Advanced Preview Game, brought to you by me.
After the movie is over and you have discussed what you like and dislike about the film, try to name (or describe, if you can't remember the name) every movie featured in the previews.  This is a surprisingly hard game.  If you can name them all, you win.  Winning in this case is usually a team effort, as my mind goes totally blank.  I usually end up asking Matt questions to elicit some of the movies.  Questions might be: "Was there a movie with a lot of shooting?  Was there a talky-talky feature?  Was there something Sci-Fi?  Anything with kids?  Did one of the movies prominently feature women?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Postcards from Netherlands and Texas

Hans writes from Utrecht that "I love our Royal House."  He also told me that they got a new king and queen this year, which I knew because of an earlier postcard from the Netherlands and because I read it in the paper.  I would be excited about a new king (or queen) too!

Preston writes from Canyon, which is apparently a small city in the Texas Panhandle.  He tells me that Canyon is where West Texas A&M University is.   I'm also interested in Preston's card because he sent it with a 33-cent stamp.  It occurs to me that it has been a few years since 33-cents paid for a first-class letter.  I remember the stamps he sent, though.  It was the series of early US flags.

It's been a dry month for Postcrossing postcards.  I'm glad these two came in the mail.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: The Last of the Mohicans

I avoided this movie when everyone was swooning over it, and I'm not sure why.*  I was set to find this dull or not-well-aged or something, but the movie won me over with it's story and not just because Daniel Day-Lewis is kind of a hunka-hunka-burnin'-love.**  I liked that it was a Michael Mann film which means manly men doing manly things, but Hawkeye was all gooney over the girl, which is a rare sight in a manly men film.***

Cost:  Free from library
Where watched:  at home. (Toes are now confetti pink.)

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/1992/posters/last_of_the_mohicans_ver3.jpg

*As a teenager, this happened a fair amount with movies.  If too many people liked something, I just never saw it.  This is why I cannot count either Turner and Hooch and Top Gun in my movies-watched-pantheon.
**I feel like I mostly see Mr. Day-Lewis in roles where he's all grizzly or icky for some reason.  Not all tall and tanned and well turned out as in this film.
***However, we must discuss an interesting phenomenon.  I'm calling it Decade Hair Creep, but it needs a better name.  In DHC, some or all of the main characters' hair take on the qualities of the current day, despite relative historical accuracy of the rest of the film.  In this case, I'm thinking of how quickly the two female leads lost their coifs and walked around for the rest of the movie with perfect early-90s tousled locks.  At one point, one of them has even fashioned a very 1990's braid, on the side front.  She had time to do that braiding, but didn't feel compelled to pull her hair back completely?  Hmmm.  See also:  all the orphans in the 1982 version of Annie.  Also, the mother in A Christmas Story.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

And a bit from the book.

I'm feeling rather gregarious, so here's a bit from the book in progress.  This is from early on, maybe chapter 3 or so.  Irene is our main female character, and Marie is one of her good friends.  They are traveling back from the high school basketball tournament in Pocatello where they have spent two days "supporting the team" in pep band, though mostly just hanging out, waiting for the next game.

“Spill it.” Marie plopped down on the empty seat next to Irene for the ride back.  The tournament was a bust.  The basketball team had headed immediately for the losers bracket, and then to the bottom of the losers bracket, making each game a bit more doleful than the last.  Even the presence of the pep band could not pep the team—or its crowds—to much in the way of enthusiasm, much less winning a game. 

Marie was the only other female saxophone and normally would have been her partner in crime for the trip, but she was preoccupied with brokering a peace accord between Karen and her now ex-Jason and she herself had recently taken up with different Jason, this one a tuba player, so had been running with the brass crowd.  With Irene hanging out with the drummers, they hadn’t crossed paths much during the trip, but Marie had a keen eye and a good ear for gossip and Eddie’s constant hovering near Irene had not gone unnoted.

“What do you know?” Irene asked her, searching for dirt.

“Do you want to know the wild, unsubstantiated rumor; the one I heard and believe, or the facts I, myself have observed.” She spoke in a low voice, conscious of the people around them.  Marie could ferret out the secrets, but she also knew how to keep them to herself.

“Must I choose?” Irene grinned.  The two of them had been friends since junior high and knew each other’s ways.

“Good point.” Marie agreed.  “Let’s start with the wild rumor. You, Irene Johansen, snuck into Alex’s room and engaged in various forms of congress with all four drummers staying there.”

“Ugh.” Irene protested.  “Not Alex’s room.  Stefan ended up in Alex’s room, no way would there be congress of any kind happening there. Not even general passage of legislation.” Stefan was the lumpy and slow male cymbal player.

“Ah, so there would be with Alex.” Marie pushed a bit, curious.  She didn’t really understand Irene and Alex.  They always seemed like friends who were on the verge of fighting.  But something also seemed to indicate they were on the verge of—well not love, exactly.  Maybe a physical consummation of some sort?  Both kept their feelings confined, so even Marie’s best reconnaissance had left her with confusing data.

Irene made a face, thinking of Alex and various forms congress. “Not going to happen.  Who starts those rumors, anyway?  Let’s move on to what you do believe.”

“I heard that Eddie has a thing for you.”


“And that’s what I heard.” Marie said.

Irene sighed.  Marie was holding out.

“Let’s move on to what you’ve observed.” Irene said, deflecting the request.

Marie gave her a look. “I’ve noticed that Eddie has never been more than 10 feet from you this entire trip.” she counted one on her finger. “I’ve noticed that even right now he is not more than 10 feet from you.” She counted two while Irene leaned past Marie to scan the bus. Eddie was sitting one seat behind and across the aisle.  He and Alex were working out a complex rhythm, softly beating their drumsticks on their legs.”

“I’m willing to bet,” Marie continued, counting off another finger, “that he looks over to check on you before I hit one.” She began counting down,  ”Five.  Four, Three, Two.”

Dammit.  Right as Marie hit the number two, Eddie looked up, caught Irene looking at him and smiled at her. Irene smiled back and ducked down again.

“Furthermore,” Marie counted off her last finger “I’ve noticed how much you’ve been flirting with him this weekend.”

“I have not.” Irene protested.  She had hardly talked to him, since they had the conversation on the way there about joining drum corps for marching band.

Marie fixed her best stare on Irene. “Please, lady.  I know you.  The hair flipping has amped up, plus, I haven’t been too far away to see the sideways glances you favor and the cheery waves you’ve been dispersing all weekend.”

Irene rolled her eyes, caught.

“What I want to know,” Marie leaned closer. “is do you like him?”

Irene sighed, and kicked the back of her seat a few times, thinking. “Maybe?”

“He’s a drummer,” Marie countered “You have to give me more than a maybe.”  Marie and Irene had fought back against the drummers through most of the marching band season.  They didn’t like the drummers’ attitudes, their inflated egos and their bossiness.  The two of them had done a pretty good job making themselves pains in the asses of the entire percussion section.  Irene’s feelings had changed a bit as the months had passed, mostly paved by Alex.  Marie wasn’t really convinced drummers were okay.  Her head had been turned by the shiny volume of the brass section, working her way from trumpet to trombone to now tuba.

Irene thought a bit.  “I don’t not like him.” she said slowly, “but I’m not sure if I like him because he likes me, or because I like him.  I don’t really know him very well.”

Marie squinted one eye and observed her.  “So we need to shrink the group a bit, I think.”

“What do you mean?

“I mean, your group is too big, he can’t get a word in edgewise.  You should have a few people, like no more than five, over to your house and see what he does.”

“I don’t know,” Irene hedged.  “Maybe I want to find out if he likes me.”

“Oh he likes you.” Marie said, glancing over her shoulder and catching Eddie peering past Alex again.

“Well, then,” said Irene.  “Maybe we should wait and find out what his next move is.”

How's it goin'?

As you may recall, I've taken a break from writing essays so I can focus on writing 500 words per day in November and December of the novel I am working on.  Here's an update on my progress.

I've missed two days.  One was Thanksgiving, which had me going from 6:15 in the morning to 9:30 at night.  In all that activity, I completely forgot to write. I woke up suddenly at 11:30 the night of Thanksgiving, was stricken by breaking my streak, and then decided to stay in bed instead of hauling myself out to bang out 500 words.  The other day was a game night we hosted.  I miscalculated just how long the gaming would go on.  It was a very long and hard day, and by the time it was 11:15 and I had the choice of writing or bed, I chose bed.  In general, it has been no trouble to find the time to write, though Fridays and weekends are more difficult because my time is not as scheduled as on the other days of the week.  I've had a few sessions of cranking out the words and then going straight to bed because of this.

I've done a good job of meeting my words written per day goal of 500 words.  Only one day did I write exactly 500 words, every other day I wrote, I exceeded the goal, including one day where I wrote 3400 words.  I was suspicious of that outlier, but I went back and double checked and indeed, I churned that day.

By far my usual practice is to write 500-599 words.  I did so on 21 days.  The next most common is 600 words, happening on 6 days and then 700 words (5) days.  From there we step down to 1 to 2 occurrences.

All that writing is adding up.  When I set my goal of 500 words per day, I accepted the fact that I would "only" have 48,000 words by December 31.  This was seen as lesser achievement because in order to "win" National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) you need to write 50,000 words between November 1 and  November 31.  I was beginning with a bank of 17,000 words and taking two months and still coming up short.  But I'm happy to report that exceeded my original writing goal on December 11 and I crossed over the 50,000 word mark on December 13.  

Overall, I'm quite pleased with my progress.  The book is still fun to write, I'm chugging along and the rest of my life hasn't been thrown out of control.  Plus I get to make nerdy Excel charts as explanation.  Win-win.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Get Fuzzy: Bucky and Social Networks

He's not wrong, I think.

I enjoy how Get Fuzzy manages to be very funny in just one panel, and then get even funnier as you read on.

Here's the full comic. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Guess how much this tiny amount of pine nuts cost?

I will give you a hint and clue you in that they are $39.99 per pound.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: Step Up 2: The Streets.

When watching the Step Up* movies, I find it best to turn off the racial filter because really, the mostly white kids are going to best the mostly of color kids at their own game, really?  That said, this is an enjoyable dance movie, which is to say that the plot is incredibly predictable, some of the acting is horrendous and it doesn't really matter because there is enough dance to make it fun.  The leads are fine with Robert Hoffman all wide-eyed and shiny and Briana Evans all snarly girl with a heart of gold.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched:  at home

*I enjoyed calling this movie, "Step Up Two Colon The Streets."

Channing Tatum report.  Indeed, he has a bit part, just as I assumed.  However!  Said bit part (about 5 minutes total) also consists of CT dancing!  Using trampolines.  Becuase all the cool clubs have trampolines.  I guess? His dance was total CT and had an ending that made me squeal with delight.  And yes, I actually squealed.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Confusing messages in packaging

I had a total impulse buying moment at Powell's today.  And all stuff for me.  It's the worst.

But anyway. I was seduced by this Tangle Art kit, inspired by Zentangle, which I learned about through Postcrossing.
On the front there is talk of a 40-page book!
On the back, it has become a 33 page book.  Plus 7 blank sketchbook pages.

Postcard from North Carolina

Sent by one half of the delightful Pike Schemes, who enjoyed a trip to North Carolina for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


It doesn't matter how cold it is outside when there are KITTENS to watch.  These guys are all up for adoption.
This fellow is my favorite.


Like I mentioned in the killing frost post, it's been cold here.  And it doesn't really get this cold here.  But temperatures insist on hovering in the 20s.  Here's the thing about unseasonably (I should be using a word that means weather-not-in-the-normal-temperature-range.  Is there such a word?) cold weather.  We don't have the proper wardrobe.  Pants are the big problem.  Normally, in Portland, I just wear the same kind of pants year round.  They serve me through the "heat" of summer and the "cold" of winter.  I've lived in places where it really does get cold and let me tell you, I had a separate part of my closet for winter pants.  But here it doesn't make sense to do so.  The result is that I walk around with very cold legs until things return to normal.

But look!
Winter weather is also quite pretty!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


From a series in the Oregonian about US 26:

"This is where the rubber hits the road.  This to me is what eastern Oregon is all about.  This is where you can picture pioneers slogging through the desert, running low on water and wondering how much longer it will take.  This is a very lonely section of the road before arriving in Vale close to the Idaho border."  Thomas Boyd.

Or, as I call it:  home.

Essay: Paul Walker

Paul Walker, The Fast and the Furious.
photo from IMDB

It was spring of 2003 and I was in the incredibly boring “observation” phase of my teacher education career.  While other of my classmates were making deeper connections with the teachers they were observing and even getting to teach something now and then, my mentor teacher didn’t really seem to want me around, and encouraged me to observe other teachers on the staff.  They didn’t want me around either, so I floated from period to period, class to class like the perpetual new girl who didn’t fit in.  In hindsight, I can’t believe I was paying PSU for this experience.

So it was that I was sitting in the classroom of a rather absent-minded teacher nearing retirement. It was during the passing period so the kids were doing things kids do before they get to class early:  check their phones, wander around and talking to people, engaging in shenanigans.  The building itself was soul-killing.  It had been built in the 1970s and had no windows for energy efficiency.  Many classrooms were divided by folding walls, so that classes could come together and teachers could co-teach.  That practice had been abandoned, but the flimsy partitions still remained.  It just meant that you could hear what was going on in the other classes, if the teacher or class was too loud.  Sometimes I wonder if there are things more depressing in the US than educational policy through the years.  I mean, when you really think about it?

I had perched in an empty desk in the back of the room and was watching the students, which was the best part of the experience.  One girl had gone to Disneyland over Spring Break and had some pictures to show her friends.  A few of them looked over her shoulder. 

“And I met Paul Walker,” she said, shyly.  And there she was in the photo, standing with a smiling blue-eyed blond.

“He was just there?  At Disneyland?” one of her friends asked her.

“Yes.” The girl smiled, “And I asked him if I could take his picture and he said yes.”

“That’s amazing.”

Who was Paul Walker? I wondered.

Another girl, not part of the friend group, perked up.  “What was that?” she asked, bustling over.  She was one of those big girls: tall, big boned, big hair, big voice, big personality.  “Oh my god, that’s PAUL WALKER!” she exclaimed.  “HOW DID YOU GET THIS PICTURE OF PAUL WALKER!?!”  She squinted at the photo, not listening for the answer.  “IT’S REALLY PAUL WALKER!  SHE HAS A PICTURE OF PAUL WALKER!  I CAN’T BELIVE THIS IS YOU WITH PAUL WALKER!”  Her voice took on that pitch and decibel level that only teenage girls and annoying radio contest winners can reach.

The classroom teacher looked on her shrieking in a nonplussed manner.  The bell hadn’t rung yet, so no need to reign her in yet.  But her shrieking didn’t go unnoticed by the others in the class. “Who the hell is Paul Walker” I heard muttered from different areas.  The partition was even pried open and a much younger, less absent minded teacher poked her head in.

“Everything okay in here?” she asked, scanning the room.

“SHE HAS A PICTURE OF PAUL WALKER!” the girl shrieked to the teacher, who was not at all interested.

“Maybe you could keep it down.” the teacher suggested, and closed the partition as the bell rang.

The picture was returned, the girl settled down and I made a mental note to check who Paul Walker was.

It turned out I knew who he was.  He was the guy in the Fast and the Furious.  The same sort of blonde blue-eyed leading man Hollywood pops out by the hundreds and throws against the wall of audience enjoyment to see who sticks.  He’s the kind of guy I think of as a working man actor.  Good enough (or good looking enough) to get major parts in minor films, but never considered a serious actor, either because he didn’t have the acting chops or because the path to serious acting is a difficult and treacherous one only achieved by a few.  And why not sit back and rake in the money making movies that the masses love?

And now he’s gone.

I’ve never not paired Paul Walker’s name with that girl shrieking in that classroom long ago.  She’s probably moved on, I’m guessing Paul Walker was a passing adolescent infatuation, but I also can picture her hearing the news early on a Sunday morning and shrieking “PAUL WALKER IS DEAD!” loud enough to bring her husband and children from their beds, blearly-eyed and wondering,  “Who the hell is Paul Walker?”

May he rest in peace, and may his friends and family have an easy transition to a world without him.