Friday, February 28, 2014

Books read in February 2014

Not a huge turnout this month, due to falling into Veronica Mars, Season 2 and not climbing out until a few episodes into Season 3.  Also not a huge month for really awesome things.  I read some solid reads, but nothing I raved about.

YA Fiction
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Meg Medina
I read this at the same time I was reading Sonia Sotomayor's book and kept confusing the two, which was both amusing and maddening.  Aside from this book's awesome title, it really hit on the many ways a threat by a peer can affect a teenager's life. It was interesting to see how the main character's responses were interpreted by the adults in her life, as well as the role that social media played in the attack.  Very well done, if hard to read at times.

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets
Evan Roskos
Read for Librarian Book Group
I love this title and I love this main character who was so willing to YAWP (as Walt Whitman did) through his troubles.

Midwinter Blood
Marcus Sedwick
Read for Librarian Book Group
This was the Printz award winner and I think I was grumpy when I read it because I kept thinking, "they picked THIS?"  However, grumpiness aside, it's kind of a cool book which begins in the far future and works its way back to the distant past.  Each chapter is a different era with new characters, however, all the characters are linked.

The Living
Matt De La Pena
Read for Librarian Book Group
This book has everything!  Let's make a list right now:  class commentary, racial tension, smidgen of romance, strange illness, natural disaster (s!), survivor tale, heartbreaking sadness, corporate malfeasance, horrible destruction, rogue players, and escape.  And it all worked!  At least for me.  It was fast and fun to read and I'll just tell you right now, there is a second book to look forward too.

Mister Orange
Truus Marri
Read for Librarian Book Group
The story of a boy living in New York City during World War II.  His father is a grocer, and, as delivery boy for the grocery, he makes friends with an artist he calls Mr. Orange.  Nice setting, good insight into living in a large family.

Veronica Roth
Expectations were low, and I enjoyed this distopian novel about a girl who must prove herself.  It's kind of every "good" girl's dream: to go off and join a band of fighting ruffians who get around town by jumping on and off freight trains.  Plus, there's a hot guy.  Not the best I've read, but not the worst, either.

"Grownup" Nonfiction
My Beloved World
Sonia Sotomayor
Read for Library Book Group
One of the book group participants observed that he never imagined he would read about a Supreme Court justice buying underwear.  This was a very good point, and the charm of this book.  You get all sorts of insights into Sotomayor's world and I've never had that kind of insight into other members of the court.  I especially appreciated hearing her views about affirmative action, which is a topic I feel like I hear white people complain about a lot, but the people benefiting from the programs voices are often squelched.

I was often confused about which person in her life she was referring.  There were a ton of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that were briefly described and then not mentioned again for some time.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Essay: Portrait of a teacher who hated me.

She was my eleventh grade Accelerated English teacher and the rumor was that if you were in her regular English classes, she wasn’t great, but she loved her accelerated students and it would be just fine.  Ms. P. was tall and well kempt, a no-nonsense woman who got things done.  She had five children, and that, in combination with how early they all got married, probably means she was a Mormon, though of the rare sub-types that used “Ms.” and worked for pay.

The rumors weren’t wrong about her preference for her accelerated classes, she sparkled as the year got going.  We proceeded at a fast clip, blasting through the Scarlet Letter, the Crucible and Huckleberry Finn in no time at all.  The two of us shared the same first name, and I made some rather wise observations at the beginning of the year, so things started out okay, but the ardor faded at least on her part.

I hadn’t always been tracked into the smart English class.  Most of junior high had been spent in regular English with the ambivalent readers and disinterested learners, but my ninth grade teacher had been impressed by my writing and suggested I change things for second semester, so I made the switch.  Accelerated English was more fun because people wanted to be there and we could have actual discussions.  And I read and wrote well enough to keep up with the others.  Things were fine that year and in tenth grade.

But ultimately, I was a lazy student.  I did my homework, but didn’t go out of my way to shine things up.  This worked well for other classes, but not for Ms. P’s Accelerated English.  She wanted blood, sweat and tears and I wasn’t really interested in providing any of those things.  Junior year was also a rough time in my mental health world, and the creeping depression that followed me around that year probably didn’t help endear her to me.

I can’t remember an official moment when I realized she didn’t like me, it was more of a gradual process.  There were comments on my work that struck me as rather harsh, and she didn’t choose me for reading aloud anymore.  I think subconsciously I started slacking off and developed an odd habit of forgetting things were due, which meant scrambling to complete assignments 15 minutes before school started.

When the semester changed over, she started bugging me about assignments not turned in.  I had no idea what she was talking about, but agreed to get them to her.  As far as I knew, I had completed everything, but she was the teacher, so who was I to disagree?  I limped through that quarter, not really sure what to do.  I dreaded going to the class, just as much as she seemed to resent me taking up space, but she was the only Accelerated English teacher, so I was stuck with her.  I can still remember the feeling of freedom that came with the sudden realization that I could transfer to a regular English class.

I did just that, explaining to the counselor that things weren’t working so well in my current class.  The counselor spoke with Ms. P. who agreed to let me switch once I had all my work turned in.  There was a tense day or two when I worried what would happen, because I didn’t know what assignments I had missed. My mother finally called Ms. P. directly and asked what I was missing.  There was a silence while she consulted her gradebook and then a longer silence before she finally said, “She seems to have turned everything in.”  When my mother repeated the conversation, I felt like I’d won, but my mother said we’d both lost.

Regular English was spectacularly easy.  We took an entire quarter to read (re-read, in my case) Huckleberry Finn.  Most people couldn’t finish two short chapters per night and the discussion was anemic, but the teacher was impressed by me and I felt happier there than with the strivers.

Despite my frustration with her, I felt oddly connected to Ms. P.  She was kind of like the bad boyfriend you spend too much time trying to figure out.  Why was she so mean to me?  Did I remind her too much of herself?  Was she taking a strict line to motivate me, and that failed spectacularly?  And why did she think I hadn’t turned in assignments I had completed?

After leaving her class, I avoided her, though I saw her in the spring down on the Greenbelt by the river.  She was riding her bike and I was watching my boyfriend skate, which was an activity I both loved and loathed doing.  I remember feeling embarrassed she saw me taking part in such a traditional girlfriend role.  We both pretended not to see each other.

My senior year she was the editor of the school literary magazine and I remember being very surprised when something I submitted won first prize—I figured she would sink anything from me, she was the kind of teacher who was overly involved in the student activities she supervised.  Was she more hands-off than I thought, or was the writing really that good?  It sent me back to puzzling.  One of my friends told me she had asked where I was going to college and seemed pleased to hear I was heading off to a women’s college.  That she would even ask also confused me.

It’s a teacher’s job to get their students to learn, ideally by connecting them with things to love about the subject.  Even then I understood that it is an impossible task to like all your students, so it seemed reasonable—though embarrassing—that this teacher in particular would dislike me.  As an adult, I still wonder what she was thinking, but I don’t fault her for her actions.  She provided a good lesson in searching for what I needed and that sometimes giving up is the best course of action.  It’s not the American tale of striving that we’re all supposed to believe, but it is something that needs to be learned at some time.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Card from Russia

What's weird about this card is that it is a Papyrus card, that looks exactly like any Papyrus card I could buy in any store that sells cards here in the USA.

But inside (and apologies, Picasa isn't uploading to blogs anymore so I have to do it myself and sometimes the orientation thing is off) is Cyrillic!  Crazy!
What was written inside said, "Here is written: harmony and piece!"
So great!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


It's been Sonitrol for the entire time I've lived here, but I suspect that something has changed and that Sonitrol sign on the building is not long for this world.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Postcards from Russia, Virgina and Virginia

This is from Vladimir.  He hopes I like his postcard.  I do!

This is from my friend Sara (of Pike Schemes fame) to represent the "real" postcard world.

She also sent this postcard, which she made herself.  Astute readers with long memories might remember this picture from this post back in 2012.  I had the photo displayed prominently at my house because I loved it so, but Matt was not as much of a fan and was making noises about throwing it away, so I tucked it into Sara's Christmas present that year.  And she loved it too.  But now it has come back to me as a beautiful postcard I can hang on my wall.  I love it!
Note from the future.  Several WEEKS after I received this post card, I was weeding out front when the mail carrier came by.  "I just loved that picture of you in the denim overalls at the wedding!" she told me. "I laughed and laughed."  It took me a moment to figure out what she was talking about, but then I put it together and told her that it wasn't me in the short-alls, and then gave her the background.  Well done Sara!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Postcard from Portland

It's true!  At times, I get postcards from Portland, because I have a friend and we sometimes communicate via postcard.  Why send postcards to people in your own city?  It's fun!  Plus you can pretend you live in those pre-telephone day, when there was a morning post and an evening post and that was the only way to make plans.  In this case, making plans was exactly what this postcard was all about.  Plus, a quick review of Lone Survivor.

Essay: Veronica Mars.

Veronica Mars is an awesome television series.  I would write more, but I'm currently obsessed and must watch more episodes.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Get over the "bulking up" ladies. Or at least stop writing newspaper articles about it.

I can't tell you the number of articles I've read over the years about the subject.  It drives me crazy.  Big muscles are very cool.  Quit trying to be diminutive and tiny.

Look at our lame new size!

Before, we had the long skinny paper, as pictured on the right.  After, we will have the short, stubby tabloid-style on the left.  But right now?  We have both.

A two-sized paper is annoying for the following reason.  Here is the normal mode of transport for the paper.  It tucks nicely in my bag.

Right now, we have two different sizes, resulting in a hangover flap thing that doesn't tuck away very easily.
This will last until April, when it all becomes tabloid.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Wardrobe Architect: Your Color Story

I was held up by this week's installment of the Wardrobe Architect.  The color thing I wasn't really interested in doing.  But I buckled down and here are the results.  I think one of my things is that black is the main color (although khaki is creeping in a bit more) and then I wear something that pops, meaning I like a lot of bright or strong colors.  Bright orange is my favorite, but I like bright blue (aqua) or bright green too.  I used Kuler to create these palettes.  As for base colors, I never wear brown, grey or white.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Slings and Arrows Season 2

The play this season was Macbeth, which I learned is a very difficult play to stage effectively.  Our leads got up to some amusing shenanigans and some young players got to do the worst Romeo and Juliet ever conceived.  I found this season to be not as funny as the first one, but still enjoyable because the characters are interesting.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home with Matt

poster from:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Postcard from Oklahoma

This is from Aubrey who passed along this quote:  "Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is."  Francis Bacon.

Oh by the way, did we mention we would stop publishing the community news section?

No?  Funny, it must have slipped our minds.  But no matter, this is the last time you will see one.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Prince Avalanche

This was a very pleasant movie to watch in that way one gets when they have ample time and don't really care so much if the movie has a ton of stuff happen in it and everything.  The characters were interesting and time passed along.  However, I could not help thinking the following repeatedly throughout the picture: this is totally a film that would never, ever be made with women cast in the lead.

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

poster from:

Postcard from the Netherlands

This is from Eke who tells me her favorite quote is "Life is what happened to you while you made other plans."

And this card just launches me into "Everyone's a Hero" from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog.

Vintage Cakes: Gingerbread Icebox Cake with Mascarpone Mousse

Or make that "mascarpone" mousse as I had plans to make my own mascarpone, but the shop that sells the cultures was closed due to snow.  I needed a pound of mascarpone, which would have cost me $10.00 at New Seasons, so I went with the Internet cheat of cream cheese, a bit of sour cream and a bit of whipped cream.  Viola!  "Mascarpone"

I made the cookies on the Friday of the snow and the party was moved from Sunday (because of ice) to Monday.  So Monday I assembled.  Ten layers of gingerbread cookies with the mousse dividing them.

"But how will you cut this cake?" every single person at the birthday party asked me individually.  The plan was that the mousse would soften the cookies and it would be easy to slice.

And it was!  Isn't it fun?

Delicious too!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Spring Breakers

I'm not sure if I can correctly summarize the intense loathing I feel for this movie in a mere three sentences.  Suffice to say it's 90 minutes of the absolute worst parts of US culture and edited in a looping image way just so you get to see bits of the scenes on repeat.  If I had a daughter,* the roles depicted in this movie would be my greatest fear for her namely the longing to be an object and not a person.

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

*Or for that matter a son. There were no good role models in this movie, and I realize that that is the point, but that didn't make it a good movie.  Just gratuitous.

poster from:


Snow Day tomrrow!  Luckily they called it the night before so I could walk to the video store for reinforcements.

Three sentence movie reviews: Hombre

I got this movie partially because it's an Elmore Leonard-written Western, but also because the main character, John Russell, (played by Paul Newman!)  happens to share a name with someone I work with.  It was odd to hear that Elmore Leonard dialogue that I associate with hardened gangster and other urban underbelly people coming out of the mouths of frontier denizens, but that didn't make it any less enjoyable.  Diane Cilento was great fun to watch as the hardened, scrappy Jessie, and it turned out that the name John Russell was featured prominently through the movie including the dramatic ending, so I had myself a very good time.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

poster from:

Wardrobe Architect: Proportions and Silhouettes

I hated this exercise.  It involved spending a ton of time clicking through images and not finding what I wanted.  It's everything I hate about shopping, but with no actual clothing to wear in the end.  Plus, my pictures are very large and I want them to be smaller.  Alas.  Onward we must go.

Let's start with the names I gave to each picture.  They were something like Winter 1, Fall/Winter 2 etc. But really, when you get right down to it, in Portland for about 51 weeks of the year I can wear the exact same thing.  I don't wear shorts, so the dresses and skirts and short sleeves get augmented by tights and cardigans and the sandals switch out for shoes with socks or boots and there you have it, a 51 week wardrobe.  There are four days in the summer where you wear the super strappy dress and there are three days in the winter when you have no clothing for the incredibly cold temperatures, but other than that, it's the same thing year round.  So ignore the Winter/Fall/Summer designations I gave.

Here's my first combo.  Bright dress, (and why the back view, I have no idea) tights (though not in summer,) black shoes I can walk in.  I like bright colors, or fun prints in dresses.  Dresses need to be at least knee-length, should be fitted through the bodice and flared through the skirt.

This is the usual weekend thing.  Jeans (or pants,) fitted shirt, black shoes I can walk in.  The shirt can have most any neckline, the sleeves need to be long for winter, but shorter for summer.  I like stripes a lot, but solid, bright colors are good too.

Here was something I remembered while doing this.  I like FUN clothes.  I particularly like plaid pants.  So this outfit is the "oh yeah, I like fun things" reminder.  The shirt has fun detail, the pants are a fun print.  Again the shoes are black and I can walk in them.

Here's the dress in the summer variety.  Fun print, good color, black shoes I can walk in.

Here's my last one.  Black skirt (but with fun detail) bright shirt, which gets tights and a cardigan in the winter, black shoes I  can walk in.

So that's it.  I know I like fitted uppers, with flaring skirts, that I can do straight pants with fitted tops.  That I like fun clothing and black shoes I can walk in.  There's probably more, but I'm tapped out.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: People Like Us

I grabbed it for the Chris Pine eye candy (and good acting skill) but loved it because of Elizabeth Banks' subtle skill portraying Frankie.  This was a solidly built drama with good performances throughout.  While I enjoyed the movie as it spooled along, the end convinced me I had wisely invested my time.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home while the ice was raining down on our snow accumulation.

poster from:

Today's snow walk theme: signs.

I hearkened on the theme as I passed by the DMV.  I was pretty sure what all those orange sign said, but decided to take a closer look. Then, as I passed by the businesses in the neighborhood, I made note of their signs.

DMV. Rather apocalyptic in its repetitiveness and color.

Pizza Fino.  We Portlanders have to be reminded of proper etiquette concerning snow.

Liquor Store.  The Liquor Store in Kenton reminded us of the snow etiquette too.  But then they just gave up and closed due to snow.

"Glass" shop.  You can guess by the quotes and the bars on the window what kind of glass they sell.  The sign says:  Noon to 6pm Snow Hours

Po'Shines.  Notice the change from 3:30 to 3:00.  It was really coming down yesterday afternoon.

Lambeth Tag.  A prophylactic sign.

Panda Express.

Perfect Look Hair Salon.  I love the hand written sign, the parenthetical asides (snow) and the incorrect date.

US Bank (located inside the open Fred Meyer store)

Revived Cellular.  I like how they just shut it all down on the first day of the snow.

Sweet Science Boxing Lab. They are open, but you have to be careful.

Bike Shop.  I can't find evidence of their name on the Internet.  Regardless, I like the instructions to "Go Play."

Obsession with snow on fence

There is a grand house on Denver Avenue with a grand fence to match.  I became a little obsessed with the snow and the fence.