Sunday, December 30, 2007

A year on the nightstand

Here is a list of all of the new books I've read over this year, with a short reaction for each.

1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (fun gothic mystery)
2. She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb (eh)
3. A Fool's Gold by Bill Merritt (hard to believe it is non-ficiton)
4. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore (hysterical)
5. You Suck by Christopher Moore (my favorite of all the Moore books so far)
6. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore (funny, but not as good as it's sequel)
7. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore (the author is demented)
8. A Bell for Adano by John Hersey (touching and maddening)
9. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats)
10. The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (great little action/suspense novel)
11. Who's Afraid of Beowulf? by Tom Holt (a Christopher Moore recommendation)
12. Puss 'n Cahoots by Rita Mae Brown (murder mystery where you can't tell the villain)
13. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (great graphic novel on a complex issue)
14. Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey (good but not great)
15. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (absurd and badly written)
16. Plum Lovin by Janet Evanovich (fun bit of fluff)
17. Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (one of those melodrama novels about dysfunctional people that women seem to eat up)
18. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (cute children's book)
19. There's a (slight) chance I might be going to hell by Laurie Notaro (okay)
20. A murder for her majesty by Beth Hilgartner (great historical mystery)
21. Pleasing the Ghost by Sharon Creech. (children's fluff)
22. The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (nobody twists fiction like Fforde)
23. Nicky Deuce: Welcome to the Family by Steve Schirripa and Charles Fleming (entertaining diversion)
24. Grayson by Lynne Cox (would have made a nice magazine article)
25. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (great read, slightly disturbing)
26. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich. (a series that stays strong)
27. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling (the middle lagged and the epilogue left me most unsatisfied but overall a strong finish)
28. The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis (interesting but not captivating)
29. Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz (loved it!)
30. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (love finding a new series!)
31. We're Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbark (not quite what I was expecting)
32. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (would have benefited from an tighter edit, it was like she wanted to show off all she knew)
33. The Color of Water by James McBride (fascinating)
34. Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman (a bit repetitive, but interesting)
35. Sex With the Queen by Eleanor Herman (makes me relieved to live in the present)
36. Bones to Pick by Carolyn Haines (another strong showing in a fun series)
37. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris (I'm beginning to develop a thing for one of the characters)
38. First Among Sequels by Jaspar Fforde (don't read without reading the first four books!)
39. Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay (I want to be friends with the characters in this series)
40. The Lady and the Panda by Vicki Croke (mind boggling-the story itself, not the book)
41. Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman (great example of an author re-imagining established characters)
42. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris (yes, I do have a thing for Eric)
43. I am the Messenger by Markus Zasuk (I really liked, until the end)
44. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (it is a brave man who skewers himself as completely as Sedaris)
45. Marley and Me by John Grogan (read with a box of tissues nearby)
46. West with the Night by Beryl Markham. (Highly recommended)
47. Villain's Guide to Better Living by Neil Zawacki (a satire that actually has good advice)
48. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (read a borrowed hardback and want to purchase it)
49. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris (can you tell I enjoyed this series?)
50. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris (the author does a great job of interpreting the vampire myths to her own world)
51. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris (I just love Eric)
52. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn (you know how when a book ends and you are sad to leave the characters behind? Well the Lady Julia Grey mysteries are like that. The next one isn't due out until December 08 or January 09. God's teeth! I can't wait that long!)
53. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (I hope she writes a sequel)
54. Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (first in a trilogy. I enjoyed it, but I think it will be a bit of a stretch to flush it out into three books)
55. Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss (disappointing)
56. Caddy Ever After by Hilary McKay (please don't stop with the Casson family stories!)

For those who have paid attention some of the books that appeared in the "on my nightstand" section (including the one on there now) are not on this list. It is because I haven't finished them. Some I will go back to, others not.

Monday, December 10, 2007

From the Shelves 7

It is well into the month of December and soon we will be overloaded with saccharine sentimentality and the cloying treacle that is most holiday entertainment. That is why I offer up this antidote, The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore. Read it now as a preemptive strike or read later as a palate cleanser, but above all read it. It is a hysterically irreverent novel, complete with a twisted yet touching version of The Gift of the Magi, lessons about love and community unity, granting wishes for children, and oh yes, zombies. It sounds absurd, and in some ways it is, but it is wildly entertaining and funny.
A few caveats though. Do not read this in public. You will laugh out loud starting with the author's note and keep right on laughing throughout the book. For some reason other people find the sight of someone reading and laughing hysterically to be disturbing. Moore's books are filled with quotable dialogue. If your friends will look askance on you for saying things like "he no likea the light," then perhaps you should give it a pass. The Stupidest Angel features many of the characters from previous Moore books so in one way it spoils some of the suspense of some of his other novels, but that is a trifling concern.
But if you are already sick of the maudlin pap that is heaped upon us during the Christmas season, and/or A Christmas Story is one of your favorite movies then you will thoroughly enjoy The Stupidest Angel. Read up!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Observations, no matter how nicely stated, still come across as criticism.

You leave the house and you just know it is going to be a rough day.

It just might actually kill you to smile.

You feel like a freak for no discernible reason at all.

White noise is actually really loud.

Nothing is better than a warm chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk.

You wonder just what on earth you have gotten yourself into.

Sometimes, all these things are true.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

collection of random observations

My mother is amazing. Every year my parents host Thanksgiving and every year, mainly because of her hard work, the meal is a roaring success. This year was a small Thanksgiving for us, only thirteen people, but we had enough food for twenty-four. My sister has already nominated me to take over the actual turkey and gravy preparation when the time comes when Mom flat out refuses to do it. I find this an intimidating prospect.

Family traditions are funny things. Sometimes something becomes a tradition without anyone meaning for it to become one. Like, my cousins and I always watched Clue over the Thanksgiving holiday when we lived in Virginia. That "tradition" was one that ran its course though. Not having Thanksgiving with my cousins because they live too far away now on the other hand, that is a much more bitter pill to take.

Speaking of bitter, why is it that so many of the things that are good for you taste so nasty? I'm talking green vegetables here people! Sure you can make them palatable by pouring dressing or butter or cheese on them but doesn't that defeat the purpose?

I wish I didn't have such a sweet tooth. I've been working on limiting it, but with the Kingdom of Sweets (aka Christmas) looming on the horizon it's hard to do. I need to work on selecting the best thing. Much better to get those fat and sugar grams from something truly worth while than a bunch of middling desserts.

I was really hoping to go and see a live performance of The Nutcracker this holiday season, but time got away from me. Apparently the tickets have been on sale since August and other commitments have gobbled up the month. I guess I will have to get my fix by popping in my trusty video of American Ballet Theatre's production with Mikhail Barishnikov.

I really wish I could speak Russian.

Russian tea is one of my absolute favorite beverages in the whole world. I can't wait for it to get cold enough to make some. Maybe I can convince my mother to make some. She is really the only one who has a pot big enough. It makes the whole house smell of Christmas when it is simmering.

Is it just me or have they started airing the classic Christmas specials really early this year? Already A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas have aired. What gives? It isn't even December. Show those programs when they aren't competing with first run t.v. episodes! What with the strike and all it will only be another week before they've all aired. If all the good Christmas shows have aired too then we will be in a vast wasteland of television programming. Or course, it could be argued that we already are in one, what with all of the reality t.v. and all.

One reality t.v. program that I really enjoy is Project Runway. The best thing about it is that the contestants actually have to do something that requires skill, not just a cast iron stomach and a weak gag reflex. However, sometimes the judges say things that really annoy me. Well, more precisely, Michael Kors says things that annoy me. Honestly, he is the most inconsistent man. If you criticize one designer for something, don't praise the exact same thing in someone else's work. Duh.

Tail-gaters also annoy me. As do drivers who come to a complete stop when making a right hand turn (when there isn't a stop sign or stop light).

Stoplights remind me of that song lyric in Silver Bells "even stoplights blink of bright red and green." They sort of are in perpetual Christmas mode.

Doing Christmas cards for your co-workers is a lot like doing Valentines at school was. Maybe you don't want to give one to everyone, but you feel like you should. Sigh.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Long Line of Sass

It occurred to me that I frequently mention that if you spent time with my family you would understand me more completely, but I also realize that this is not necessarily a feasible thing for everyone. So, in keeping with my whole November=family thing started yesterday with my book review, I thought I would share some information about my family. But where to begin?

I come by many of my personality characteristics quite honestly. The competitiveness, the smart-ass wit, the stubbornness, the sweet tooth, the dramatic flair, the slightly skewed sense of humor, the independent thinking, and yes, the temper, have all been thoroughly documented on both sides of my family tree. In both the men and the women. (Really, there was no hope at all for me to be a sweet, demure little thing). But it is the women I'm going to talk about today.

The first recorded example of the long line of sassy women is with Eleanor of Aquitaine. I know that it is very popular to claim royal connections, and it is quite possible that I am not descended from her, but as it cannot also be disproved I'm going with it. Eleanor of Aquitaine was a formidable woman who went on Crusade, was highly educated, managed to get her first marriage to the King of France annulled, remarried a man eleven years her junior, became queen of England, owned more of France than the king did, and gave birth to ten children, two of which became kings of England.

Moving right along to her great-granddaughter, Joan of Acre. Joan of Acre was the daughter of Edward I and was married twice, the second time in defiance of her father's wishes, and to a man not of noble rank. Considering that Edward I's nickname was the Hammer of the Scots I would say that was pretty nervy. But what do you expect of a child born while her parents were both on Crusade in Palestine? Supposedly I am descended from a child from each of her marriages. Best not to dwell on that too much.

Of more concrete proof is my descent on my mother's side from Priscilla Mullins, the wife of John Alden. Both John and Priscilla arrived in New England on the Mayflower, and after the first winter both of Priscilla's parents and her brother were dead. Young, alone and in a very foreign country, Priscilla withstood it all. And when John Alden came to speak on behalf of his friend Miles Standish for her hand in marriage, Priscilla told him to speak for himself. A smart man, John did and the two were married and had "many children."

I'm sure that over the years there were more sassy women on my family tree, but the record does not show it. However, once we get into living memory the tree is jam packed.

On my father's side we have:
Charlotte Cope (my fourth great-grandmother) who was a member of the landed gentry in England and married a shoemaker. Considering the time period this was just scandalous. How did they meet? Upper class women were very sheltered and protected at that time, and strange men didn't just start chatting them up.

Her daughter in-law was Anna-Maria Higgins, a woman who was born just shortly after her parents landed in New York from Ireland. She married an English Episcopalian shoemaker and went on to have seventeen (yes, that's right seventeen) children. Imagine telling your Irish father that you not only wished to marry a Protestant but an Englishman to boot? She outlived her husband and eight of her children, and wasn't disowned by her father.

Her oldest child was Marcella Agnes Collinson. Nana, as we call her, was born in 1857 and died in 1953. She outlived all three of her husbands, all but three of her brothers and sisters, and one of her grandchildren. She lived through the Civil War, the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza, World War I and II, the flu epidemic of 1918, the assassination of two presidents, the Great Depression, and the Great Blizzard of 1888. Her first husband died sometime in the 1880s, and she remarried in 1891 to Charles Conover, a man who was almost thirteen years her junior, and they had one daughter, my great grandmother, Isabelle Katherine Conover. Then in around 1901 she divorced Charles, retained custody of their daughter, and stayed on speaking terms with his entire family. I can only imagine that Charles had done something horrid, and perhaps one day I will get up the nerve to write New Jersey and get the divorce papers.

Isabelle (aka Gam) and her daughter Barbara (aka Meme) were less overtly sassy. Gam loved dirty jokes, had hands that could span an entire octave on a piano, and was married twice, both times to a man named Frank. My memories of her are few as I was slightly intimated by her regal bearing and posture, even more so because of her penchant for flashy jewelery (un-beknownst to me it was mostly paste) and fur coats. Gam broke her hip when I was in the third grade, and upon learning, when she came round after surgery, that she had had to have a blood transfusion she quipped "God I hope they didn't give me AIDS." Sadly, she suffered a stroke while still in the hospital.
Meme told me once when I was in the fourth grade that "sometimes you just have to say damn it, it makes you feel better." She loved scary movies and got a bit of a perverse pleasure out of telling me the plot synopsis of each one. It took a lot to make Meme mad, but look out if you did. One of my favorite stories is how she retaliated against her oldest son when he was an intractable teenager. Dennis did not want to be awakened in the morning and one time he swatted his mother in a groggy and grumpy state. The next morning when he didn't wake up when she called his name she slapped his rump with her hand, a hand that had a straight pin between two fingers. Dennis never had to be called twice to wake up in the morning again.

On my mother's side:

Amanda Jane Covington, my great-great grandmother, was widowed and remarried. She spent a week with her new husband, found him not to her liking, packed up her belongings and went home.

Sarah Elsie Gold (aka Mammy), my great grandmother, and Amanda's daughter in law, gave my mother a cast-iron skillet when she graduated from college. She told my mother, and I quote "that if a man ever hits you he has to go to sleep sometime." One time her husband had over indulged in alcohol and as he laid in the bed groaning she presented all four of their children to him and said "see what happens when you drink?" Mammy could spin a story better than anyone I have ever met, and loved telling her grandchildren and great grandchildren scary ones. "Riger, riger marow! I want my big toe!"

Margaret Falls (aka Grandma Warlick) my other great grandmother, survived a car accident in the 1930s that broke her pelvis and killed her husband. The doctors had told her there was a chance she wouldn't walk again. However, when the time came to leave the hospital she laced up her corset and went out under her own power. I never met Grandma, but all of the pictures and stories make me think of a girded iron vessel. She also married outside of her religion (Baptist and Methodist in this case-hey it was a big deal to her!) on the condition that any girls they had would go with her to church, while the boys would go with their father. Perhaps my favorite of all the Grandma stories is the night the chimney caught fire because it features two other sassy women in my family. Grandma was in bed nursing her youngest child, and sent my grandmother, the second youngest to fetch their father who was upstairs. She warned Gammy not to tell her father why she wanted him because Grandma knew that it would cause panic. Being only about four, Gammy held out for as long as she could and blurted out that the house was on fire. Grandpa yelled out "Lordy the house is on fire!" causing all sorts of turmoil. Grandpa sent his son Lester to fetch the neighbors but Lester didn't want to run through the woods at night by himself so Gammy, little four year old Gammy, went with him. By the time they had returned the fire was out because the oldest child, Vera, had done the smartest and simplest thing, which was to pour the water from her washstand through the grate of the upstairs fireplace, dousing the flames that had ignited the chimney column.

Another sassy woman, who I'm not descended from was my great Aunt Edna. One day she was watching a basketball game that her brother, my grandfather, was refereeing. Some woman in the crowd disliked the way he was calling the game and was heckling him. Edna stood if for as long as she could and then got in the woman's face. "My brother's a gentleman and he won't hit you, but I will!"

So as you can see, the women in my family tree didn't put up with a lot of crap.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

From the Shelves 6

As it is November, the month dominated by the most family oriented of all holidays Thanksgiving, I felt it only prudent to select a book that has something to do with family. To be fair, the connection to family is tenuous at best in My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl, but after reading it we can all either give thanks or bemoan the fact that he is not our Uncle Oswald.

Some of the more literate amongst you will recognize the author's name immediately, and you might assume that this is a children's book. You would be very, very, very wrong. My Uncle Oswald is the set up as the twentieth volume of Oswald's diary as published by some unnamed nephew. (It would have to be a nephew as no niece would brag about this man as her uncle.) Oswald is described on the back of the book as "aside from being thoroughly debauched, strikingly attractive and astonishingly wealthy, Uncle Oswald was the greatest bounder, bon vivant and fornicator of all time." And believe you me, Oswald lives up to that billing.

The book is raunchy, politically incorrect, naughty, decidedly odd, and hysterically funny. Basically take everything that makes one of Dahl's children's books so enjoyable, take out the creatures of fantasy, and mix in a great deal of sex and voila! While most people will be relieved that he is not their uncle, if you are anything like me, you will be a tad disappointed that this man never existed.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Reflections on Halloween

Halloween just isn't what it used to be. I'm sure that this is how many people felt when homemade treats fell from grace in favor of pre-packaged candy (and incidentally I think that most of those urban legends involving razor blades were started by the candy companies), but the fact that this assessment of this festive night of revelry has been shared by others before does not mitigate the accuracy of my viewpoint.

Some of it has to do with the absence of sidewalks in the neighborhoods of my town. Some of it has to do with the fact that for far too many people Halloween is synonymous with satanism, at least in this part of the world. And some of it may have to do with the fact that Halloween was on a Wednesday this year, and Wednesday is of course the second Sunday in the Bible Belt. But it is truly a sad state of events that Halloween is reduce to such pathetic dregs.

First of all, the concept of being in costume for trick or treating seems to be regarded as a suggestion, and not a mandate. Trick or treating itself seems to be regarded as a maybe activity. People just don't seem to have that fever pitch of excitement anymore. I clearly remember eagerly anticipating trick or treating each year, and how sad I was when I was too old to take part in that activity. It also seemed like a lot of homes didn't even bother with being there to dole out candy since the anticipated turn out is so low.

I love costumes, and in fact have come dressed up to work the last two years. This year, only my best friend Mockingbird was dressed up, and she had to tightly reign in her creativity because of her teaching commitments.

Additionally, most mischief that takes place these days is criminal, mean spirited, and/or violent in nature. This is probably what led to the deplorable practice of driving your kids door to door for trick or treating. Well, that and the absence of sidewalks. Neighborhoods need sidewalks people!

Nobody seems to have much Halloween spirit anymore (no pun intended). I mourn the passing of Halloween as I knew it on this, the Day of the Dead.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Glee manifests itself atypically

She smiled inwardly when he said it, a growing sense of satisfaction spreading throughout, warming her in a way that she was not fully accustomed to, as it was coupled with a wave of relief and no small amount of vindication. Rarely did "I told you" moments present themselves so beautifully, or without any angst of a decision gone wrong to spoil the moment. And here it was, laid out almost like a gift on the table that stood next to them, a moment that she had not allowed herself to believe would ever appear. But she did not say "I told you so." Instead she fixed her face into a sympathetic and reflective expression, nodded in support and made a non-committal noise before changing the course of the conversation. On the inside though...oh, on the inside, her soul danced a jig.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

From the Shelves 6

As this is October and thus the month of the creepy, kooky and altogether spooky holiday Halloween I have chosen a book that fits that genre. Or rather, a series of books. I am talking about the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. So far I have read the first three in the series and it is a fun, new take on the whole vampire mythology. In this world, vampires are real and have gone public, seeking rights etc. like normal people. They are able to do this in part because of the invention of synthetic blood. However, vamps aren't the only supernatural beings that exist.

The books revolve around Sookie Stackhouse, a blond barmaid with telepathy who happens to fall in love with a dead man (read: vampire)named Bill. Chaos and mayhem ensue as Sookie is thrust into the dangerous supernatural world, doing favors for big shot vampires, fighting off fundamentalist groups that wish to kill all vampires and their supporters, cavorting with shape shifters and catching murderers of the human variety.

The first book is Dead Until Dark, the second is Living Dead in Dallas and the third is Club Dead. The supernatural elements are well done, building on the ground work about vampires that we know so well, but adding creative touches here and there. The books are filled with humor, literary and mythological references, complex and interesting characters (human and otherwise) and a number of really good sex scenes. Sookie really comes into her own in the third book and I am tempted to go out and buy books four and five this weekend. (I really shouldn't since I need to re-read the book for my real life book club).

This series is pure fun but not altogether fluff. Sink your teeth into them. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the opportunity).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Puzzle pieces

It is always disconcerting to come to the realization that you do not "belong" at all in the place where you have chosen to live. This isn't really shocking, in fact, I've known I don't exactly fit in here for quite some time, and generally speaking I'm okay with that fact. However, this past Saturday I attended something that demonstrated to me that not only do I not fit in here but I never will. I don't find it depressing exactly since I am secretly relieved that I am not the type of person who would enjoy a tractor pull (nor, for that matter, know exactly what took place at one), but it did get me thinking. And what is disconcerting is that I also felt this way in college and to a lesser extent, in high school.
Ordinarily feeling different isn't such a bad thing, provided you can find a few other people who feel the same as you do, or who can at least relate. Fortunately I do have some friends who fit that bill. But spending your life feeling like you don't ever fully belong anywhere is not comforting. If I was radically different, with no common ground to speak of, maybe it would be easier to deal with because then it could just be chalked up to being in the wrong place. Rather like a puzzle piece from one box that had found it's way into another puzzle altogether. You'd know that the correct puzzle existed somewhere. Unfortunately, I am like a puzzle piece that looks like it should fit in a spot and it does, almost. Maybe one of the arms is too thick, or the angle of the spoke isn't steep enough. Minor things. So it gets tried this way and that, and occasionally pounded, in an effort to make it fit. And stubbornly the piece will not go. Thus it is left on the edge of the table while all the other pieces fit together forming their picture. At least I don't have to worry about being knocked off the table and eaten by the dog.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wonders of wonders

When I took my dog out for his morning walk something was different. It took me a moment to figure out what had changed when I suddenly realized it was cool! No really! And now, four hours later it is still cool! I suppose mother nature could be teasing me with this turn of events but, dare I say it? I think fall is finally here!

I love fall. It is far and away my favorite season, and sadly you don't really get fall here in the South. You get a few days at a time when it feels like fall, but summer generally rears its flaming head and tries to reinstate itself, succeeding for weeks at a time, even as late as November. Then winter comes along and strangles summer and fall and we are left with months of dreariness and no snow. The South doesn't really do winter very well either. Nine times out of ten the only "winter weather" we get is freezing rain or ice. Mostly it is just gray and windy and drab. For that matter spring only lasts about three weeks down here too. Blink and you will miss it.

But this isn't a post to kevetch about the weather. No, it is to celebrate all the wonderful things about fall. As a child, though I would never had admitted it then, I enjoyed the "back to school season." This wasn't because I was all that anxious to go back to school, but because it meant new clothes, and school supplies. I know this classifies me as a major nerd but picking out the new notebooks and things was always something I enjoyed, and I rather miss. Also the return to school did mean getting to see friends that I didn't typically see during the summer months and at least the prospect of something fun and exciting happening.

Furthermore, fall means football. I adore football! It is the vastly superior professional sport in this country, where almost every game means something and it is perfectly acceptable to yell "hit him!!" at the television. Not only that, but you have all the different levels to watch. High school on Friday (if you are so inclined), college on Saturday, and the NFL on Sunday. Plus, there are tailgating parties, marching bands, cheerleaders (hey, I was one, I enjoy the routines), and funny beer commercials.

Fall also is the domain of one of the more outlandish holidays, Halloween. Most people think of Halloween as children's territory, but as recently as 1900 it was a holiday for adults, with bonfires, courtship rituals, homemade treats, mischief that resulted in property damage and very macabre decor and costumes. Not gory costumes but creepy. It was really only with the advent of mass produced candy that the holiday became geared more towards children. Too many adults think it is beneath them to wear a costume on Halloween. This is ridiculous since we all wear masks every day (albeit not physical ones)and play different roles depending on who we are around. Why not embrace that fact and go for it? Sure you might look goofy or out of place, but if more people did it then you wouldn't now would you?

Other things I love about fall:
1. The turning of the leaves. I love seeing leaves are they really are, instead of as they hide themselves thanks to photosynthesis.

2. The smell of woodsmoke from a fire.

3. That brisk bite in the air that makes you crave hot chocolate or apple cider after you've been out walking the dog or raking leaves.

4. Fall foods: soups, ciders, apple desserts, pumpkin bread. You haven't had chicken noodle soup until you've tried my mother's. Bliss. Hmm.... I wonder how soon I can get her to make some.

5. Thanksgiving. I know that for most people this is a holiday of obligation, but for me it is one of my favorite holidays. I'm very fortunate in the fact that my family gets along and actually enjoys each others company. I come from a large family though, and Thanksgiving is really the only holiday of the year that virtually everyone gets together. Plus there is all of the outstanding food. And unlike on sitcoms we never have weeks of leftovers at my house. By Friday night all of the turkey, stuffing and gravy is gone, if not sooner. Gluttony, thy acolytes await you.

6. Christmas is just around the corner and there is that wonderful flurry of activity to look forward to.

There are more things that I love about fall of course, but I think I have prattled on long enough. Besides, I may wake up tomorrow to a 90 degree morning (God forbid).

Saturday, September 8, 2007

From the Shelves 5

Hello loyal readers! It's that time again, albeit a bit later than I had hoped, but then again when a flake runs a red light and hits your car you have other things on your mind besides posting. But I digress.

This month's book is Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John. I chose this book in honor of the start of football season (pre-season doesn't count). RJYH chronicles the author's experience of participating in a full season of RV subculture while following his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide football team. While the book does recount plays from the games it is really more about the fans and thus does not require the reader to have a ridiculous amount of pre-existing knowledge about the team. However, some passing knowledge of college football is recommended. Of course, if you don't have that I can't for the life of me imagine why you would read this book. Unless of course you simply enjoy a well written, humorous book. (But then again, people do an awful lot of things that I can't fathom the reasons behind).

RJYH is a quick and entertaining read. It has also garnered a high "dad" rating from my father which speaks to a high level of appeal as he prefers books that are more snack like in nature, as opposed to three course meals. If nothing else, the level of obsession that is displayed by the fans St. John encounters will make you feel a great deal better about your own obsessions.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Addendum to "what I've learned"

Looking back on the last blog I feel that a couple of the items need some clarification.

In regards to #6, while I firmly believe that this is true, I have to say that just because it can backfire on you that doesn't absolve you from doing good deeds.

For #16, if I offer to cook for you, and not just in a party situation, but actually cook for you personally, then you are a special person to me and should consider yourself lucky. Not to be smug or anything, but I do have a knack for it and it is an expression of affection. Just as if I tell you that you smell good it is like the ultimate compliment from me. But that's something else altogether.

For #17, the thrill of it is that I can keep it on a short lease. Chocolate has no power over me! Well, actually it does, especially if it is combined with peanut butter, but I can resist the siren song of temptation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What I've Learned

August 17th was the one year anniversary of my becoming a homeowner. I had planned on doing this post closer to that date, but it also happens to be my mother's birthday and festivities took precedence. At any rate, these are some of the things that I have learned over this past year.

1. Houses are WAY more expensive than apartments. I know a lot of you just went "well duh SL," but really and truly even though I knew that they were more expensive, I didn't realize how much more until I was left in charge of everything.

2. I'm actually a pretty good cook and have a knack for picking tasty recipes.

3. Yoga is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

4. My dog is very spoiled, but a sweet creature that I love fiercely. (I sort of already knew that last part, but what the hell.)

5. Additionally, he is not to be trusted outside without a leash. That lesson almost came at a very steep price.

6. Good deeds frequently get you punished.

7. I have horrible taste in men.

8. Being pleasant and cheerful all day long is very tiring for an introvert. Think of it as a marathon performance for an actor. (My natural at rest state appears to be serious). Constantly being around people for 8 hours wears me out. Again, I sort of already knew this but it has recently been driven home. Repeatedly.

9. I should never underestimate the general public's ability to annoy me, or any administration's ability to mess up a free meal.

10. My reading material reflects a certain level of fracture in my personality. I don't actually think I'm fractured, just that the wide variety of books I chose to read could be interpreted that way. Does it really seem possible for the same woman to read books on football, vampires, the sexual escapades of long dead monarchs, Ghengis Khan, wizards, fictional murders including one that revolves around an anthropomorphized egg, and children being trained as military leaders in a dystopian future and enjoy them all? Well, that's me.

11. For someone who reads as much as I do my spelling stinks. This isn't really a new concept either, just painfully pointed out to me every time I blog. My vocabulary has always outstripped my spelling capacity. It made writing AP essays a bitch.

12. I care about most people way more than they care about me.

13. Way too many people find the concept of a print card to be mind boggling. Clearly it is an advanced concept that needs to be taught in school.

14. Your wit is like a muscle, it must be exercised daily or else it will atrophy.

15. Syrion and I apparently look enough alike that we are thought to be related.

16. Cooking for other people, especially if they are appreciative, is way more rewarding than cooking for just yourself.

17. My sweet tooth must be kept on a short leash or I will lose control of it.

18. I can hold a grudge for a very, very long time.

19. Chickpeas are actually quite tasty.

20. I never look as nice in photographs as I do in the mirror.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

From Hell

So tomorrow it starts. "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!" Yes, my friends, tomorrow is the first day of fall semester at my place of employment. If I could carry a taser, a bullhorn, and a flask of a sweet alcoholic beverage around with me all day perhaps I could enjoy myself. Alas, and alack, but for some reason they will not allow these accessories. I have also not been able to find that perfect outfit that screams both "don't give me any shit" as well as "I will be happy to help you" while simultaneously looking professional. If anyone has any suggestions for that combo please let me know. I must steel myself for my trip into one of the circles of hell. I think this calls for ice cream and cards with friends.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

From the shelves 4

Ah August! The dog days of summer, when it is beastly hot and all you want to do is lay somewhere cool with an icy beverage. The perfect time to take a walk in the woods. No, not a literal one! I mean Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.

To be fair, recommending A Walk in the Woods is a bit of a cheat as it was chosen as one of our book club books the first year I participated. (Yes, it was my suggestion). However, it is still worthy of it's moment in the blog spotlight. This was my introduction to Bryson's work, as it is for many people because it is the most well known of his books. The premise of the book is Bryson's ambition to walk the length of the Appalachian trail, albeit not in one fell swoop. Did I mention that Bryson is not a hiker, nor, by his own admission, particularly physically fit?

Along with some hilarious incidents, most involving an old friend of his named Katz, this book is filled with information about the origins of the trail, the status of the trail and the environment at the time, and lots of other fun facts and trivia and pithy observations about life, the wilderness and humans in general. At times the book will depress you, like when it discusses the deforestation that is occurring in the Blue Ridge Mountains, thanks in part to the pollution from the cars used by the countless campers who come there each year. Many of Bryson's books contain strong environmental themes so if you happen to drive a gas guzzling behemoth and think global warming doesn't exist then you probably won't enjoy this book. But quite frankly most people who are in that state of denial don't read anyway so it is moot point.

Bryson has caught a lot of flack for this book from die hard trail enthusiasts because they felt that he made light of the difficult nature of hiking the trail, and behaved irresponsibly by going out and hiking whilst being woefully unprepared. Clearly the die hard trail enthusiasts think that people who read books like this are stupid and can't learn from Bryson's mistakes. Anyone who reads the description of how he and Katz felt, looked, and smelt after their first foray on the trail will NOT think "hey! I want to do exactly that!" Or if they do and they end up dying because of their foolishness then they will be a prime candidate for the Darwin Awards. Really what bothers the die hard fans is that the book raised the popularity of the trail with day hikers, and they resent the intrusion. Not that you can really blame them for that sentiment, we've all experienced that feeling when the newbies invade.

But back to the book itself. A Walk in the Woods shines a spotlight on often overlooked, and underfunded national park. I grew up in Virginia and now live in North Carolina and despite my knowledge of the trail's existence, I knew next to nothing about it's history or how it was run. My cousin's ex-boyfriend attempted to hike the trail from beginning to end and the trail kicked his ass,(he readily admits this by the way) and he was a major outdoors kind of guy. It is not for light weights or the squeamish as the book makes perfectly clear. But the book is not all "Danger Will Robinson!", or gloomy environmental information. Large portions of it a extremely funny. Bryson has a very deft turn of phrase and the ability to draw the reader in and make them experience everything along with him. An excellent skill in a travel writer don't you think? So take A Walk in the Woods with Bill Bryson, I promise you that you won't regret it. And best of all, you won't need any bug spray.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Happy thought for the day

Few things are as comforting as laying on your bed petting a warm, snuggly clean dog. Is it any wonder that I have trouble getting up in the morning?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Invasion of the creepy crawlies

Last night, after viewing the eagerly awaited DVD of Hot Fuzz (you may recall that it was one of the things that lead to my post about entertainment thwarting) I took my beloved pooch out for one last potty run before going to bed. As I stood on the carport I happened to notice a rather large cobweb to my left. I shifted my gaze to see how far it came out over the walkway (it was at the top of the mini-staircase leading to the backyard) and that's when I saw it. A HUGE spider right smack in the middle of the web. Naturally my motion detector light in my car port is not working, so I can only base this description on the light from the yard, but counting it's legs it was about the size of a quarter and appeared to be yellow and brown. NOT GOOD!

Shuddering slightly to myself I took Duke back inside and fetched my roommate, a broom, and the bug spray and then we advanced on our enemy. Spare me the claptrap about how spiders help control the bug population, so do bats but I don't see anyone signing up to have a bat house in their backyard. (Actually, if I didn't live "in town" I would probably put up a bat house). Spiders are incredibly creepy, and this one looked dangerous. And incidentally when I took Duke out in the yard that afternoon there was no spider web. Huge spider, huge web, short amount of time.

But back to the hunt. I sprayed, the spider tumbled down its web and Fi swatted! Most of the web and the spider tumbled down into the flower bed. But we didn't see its corpse. The steps were well illuminated so we waited. I knocked down the rest of the web, and then Fi spotted it! It was trying to make its getaway across one of the stepping stones. Foolish creature! Had it stuck to the grass we would never have seen it. Fi sprang into action and whacked the life out of the vile wretch with the broom. I swept the debris into the grass and we returned to the comfort of our home.

Monday, July 30, 2007

twiddling my thumbs

I don't really have anything interesting to say but I wanted to post something because I had been away for a while and well, as the title implies, I'm a bit bored. Actually, more than a bit. Funny how as a child I eagerly awaited the summer months, but now as an adult I find them horribly dull. It may have something to do with the fact that for an entire month I can't do my main job functions, because I have no budget to order with and there is an embargo on catalog maintenance, and because my hours have increased each day because we close two hours earlier on Fridays. Nine hours of work each day when you barely have enough stuff to do to fill up half of that is a tedious thing.

But it isn't just work doldrums. I seem to be suffering from a general state of malaise, a dissatisfaction with myself and others that permeates everything. I'm bored, but there is very little I feel like doing. I'm sad, but not in a debilitating sense (thank the gods), easily annoyed but not angry really. Just blah. And as we have previously established "blah" is not my normal state. What is that word people use? Ah, yes, intense. But all intensity seems to have ebbed out of me over my week long journey to the beach, where funnily enough I only got to spend about two hours at the actual beach. Sigh. So I wait, moving through my life without any verve, doing what I am supposed to do and wondering "is this really all there is?"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I have one thing to say

Bear with me. Last night my good friend Mockingbird and I attended our local film festival (Real to Reel) and saw a wonderful documentary called Darius Goes West. A group of eleven young men decided to take their friend, Darius, who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, on a cross country road trip to California with the expressed goal of convincing MTV to put him on Pimp My Ride and having his wheelchair customized. It wasn't so much that they wanted the wheelchair tricked out, it was that they wanted to raise awareness of the disease in the demographic that watches that show.

I admit that I knew very little about Muscular Dystrophy until last night. I did not know that it is the most common fatal genetic disorder to affect children worldwide. There are nine different forms of Muscular Dystrophy, all of which produce degeneration of the muscles of the body. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the most severe with a 100% fatality rate. The longest anyone has lived with DMD is their early 30s. Most people with DMD succumb in their late teens or early 20s. Check out the Muscular Dystrophy Association's website for more information. (Or to check my facts).

The young men involved in this documentary are incredible. It was completely and utterly clear that they valued Darius as a person and as a friend and were doing this to not only create lasting memories for him and themselves, but also because they wanted his life to mean something. And Darius himself was amazing. Here was someone who has been given a slow and painful death sentence and yet he was living life to the fullest, without self-pity, and without shame. How many able bodied people can say this? Not only did they simultaneously raise awareness of DMD everywhere they went, but they also demonstrated how, despite the ADA, handicapped people are shut out of doing daily activities most people take for granted. And you would be really surprised to learn what is and what is not handicapped accessible. Carlsbad Caverns are, but the St. Louis Arch is not.

So what is the one thing I had to say? It is simply this: Fuck MTV. They refused to do a show where Darius's wheelchair got "pimped" out because "they were worried that the accessories would impair his mobility." Bullshit. You want to know why I say this is bullshit? Because a car customizer in Decatur, GA pimped a wheelchair out for Darius instead. So for anyone in the area who is interested head to Full EFX in Decatur, GA because that dude rocks! This isn't a slam against the individuals who actually do the work on Pimp My Ride, on the contrary, when our group of merry men met them they were extremely friendly and totally unaware that the request had even been made. No, it was the suits in the executive offices who decided that they couldn't be bothered to do this amazing thing for this teenager as well as generate positive press for themselves and awareness for a terrible disease. Why would they want to do anything positive when they make so much money off of shows that feature the worst of the worst of teenage American culture?

So if this story pisses you off the way it does me, say it with me! Fuck MTV! Don't ever watch any of their crap programing ever again. Share this story with others so that they too will know, without a doubt, that the people who run MTV are as shallow and superficial as the brats on their shows. And then you should visit Darius Goes West to find out more, or visit Charley's Fund to donate to a non-profit charity that is devoted to funding research for a cure for DMD.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Aggressive? I'll give you aggressive!

There is a certain company who shall remain nameless that seems to think they have a right to call me at work an harass me. They remain nameless only because I did not remember their company name for the following reasons: 1)I did not initiate the interaction with them, 2)I have never purchased anything from them, and 3)when they call not only does their company not display on my phone screen, but they refuse to say which company they are calling from. Apparently, a previous employee here indicated somehow that we would like to be listed in a business directory, which is funny because 1)we are an educational institution, and 2)as the library we do not have the authority to make that decision for the school itself. So every once in a while different representatives from this company call and try to get me to pay an invoice, which they have never sent in the mail, and the one time I got something faxed to me there was no record of it in our business office. I ask you, how is it possible that we owe them money for a product we have never heard of, never received, and have no record of ordering? In a word, it isn't.

Today though, the infernal person who called to speak to me, on someone else's extension, told me that I was being aggressive and that she wouldn't continue to speak to me and would rather fax something and then hung up. And all because I said, in an admittedly terse tone, that I had tried to cancel this business approximately five times, that we never received anything and had no record of them in our business office. And every time I made a statement she interrupted me. Now, I have nothing against this person, she may be a very nice person, but the fact of the matter is that she works for a company that is trying to dupe people out of their funds through unscrupulous methods. And I do not hold with that.

I confess that I did not keep my tone in a professional calm, but I did not swear at her, or hang up. I want this resolved and I thought I had it resolved. But apparently not! If anyone knows how to channel their anger into that icy, lethal, quiet tone please come teach me! But for now it is beyond me. And the next time someone from that company calls they will see what aggressive is and it will not be pretty. Because what I wanted to say was "give me the name of your company, your supervisor, a phone number that WORKS and stop calling me, because we did not order this and we do not owe you money! I'm contacting the Better Business Bureau as soon as we hang up and if there is any justice in this world you and all of the other shits who work there will be out of job. Do I make myself clear you stupid, fucking cow?"

That's aggressive. And if I knew the name of the company I would do it, without giving them the heads up. Now I'm hoping that they do send a fax in so I can skewer them with delight. There was once a time when I would eviscerate someone without a second thought for much less aggravation than this. That level of wickedness is still in me. Do not awaken it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself.*

This weekend, I purchased the ingredients to make would should be a stupendous cake. One of these ingredients happened to be a bag of snack size Reese cups. (The recipe calls for two cups of chopped chocolate covered peanut butter cups.) I was under the impression that I needed to provide refreshments for a work function, but as it turns out the work function was canceled. I contemplated not making the cake, as I really don't need to eat any of it, but sadly, one of the ingredients won't keep until I return from the beach. However, the purpose of this blog is not to ramble on about a cake, but rather to discuss just how incredible a bag of Reese cups smell when you open the package. My dear friend Mockingbird was over for a visit last night and she asked if she could have one, and thus I opened the bag. My toes curled and my knees almost gave way when the luscious scent of chocolate and peanut butter came wafting out. Because of the time I managed a shred of self-control and did not eat any last night, but I know I will be weak this evening. I shall make the cake and bring it to work where we can gorge ourselves on the wonderful mingling of two of the best flavors in the world. It's registration, we've earned it.

*And I usually drag others along with me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What's up random?

I have caught a lot of flack for being a slack blogger, and I will admit that going 13 days without a new post is a bit lax. However, in my defense, July is a terribly boring month and not much of interest has happened. I didn't want to blog about trifling stuff, but none of my other ideas ever came together for a blog of any length. So here is a collection of randomness to amuse and entertain.

Rodgers and Hammerstein were full of it. They are the composers of that ridiculous song "I adore being a girl," used in their musical Flower Drum Song and lately in commercials for some hair dye being hawked by Sarah Jessica Parker. There is very little that is fun about being a girl, certainly nothing that would make me burst into song. Ask any woman who has just had her annual or a mammogram if she adores being a girl. The answer will be a resounding "no."

Summer is really not fun after you've hit puberty. Especially if you are a girl! (Notice a theme here?)

Fireworks are lots of fun, but very scary if they malfunction and explode in the parking lot instead of up in the air. Not that I would know from personal experience or anything. I'm just saying.

There is a terrible amount of ambivalence that you experience when the final installment of a series looms on the publication horizon. On the plus side, we finally get to learn how it ends! On the down side, it ends. Fade to black. Roll credits.

You know your dog is spoiled when you keep a jug of treated water in the fridge for him. Granted it is to combat his fish breath, and it has worked very well, but still, it does make him seem coddled.

Nothing says summer the way the scent of a charcoal grill does. Not up close and personal, but that distant smell on the breeze.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin: ice cream is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Which reminds me, if the busybodies of this world pass the fat tax I am moving to England.

I really don't like the way my voice sounds on tape. I think I sound exceedingly girly and rather high pitched on tape, neither of which I view as a good quality. The worst thing is that when I mention this to others they say "but that's how you sound." Makes me not want to talk at all. But then someone says something particularly dumb and I can't resist making some snarky comment.

Browsing in a bookstore, a good bookstore mind you, gives me a disproportionate amount of pleasure. I frequently succumb to temptations within those walls that make my creditors and retailers rub their hands in glee. However, I do resist the urge to merely walk up and down the aisles running my hands across the shiny new books, as well as the urge to pick up a book and stake a claim in one of the big arm chairs. Yes it is tempting, but the Barnes & Noble is not my living room, and thus I shouldn't treat it that way. Others should heed my advice and not do this either.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

From the Shelves 3

Bonjour mes amies! Aujourd'hui, le livre que j'avis choise est Une Annee dans Provence, ou A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle pour les gens qui parle seulement Anglais. J'adore cet livre parceque cet livre est tres amusent mais aussi parceque.....ok, my rudimentary French has failed me. (Scared some of you didn't I?) I adore a A Year in Provence because it is amusing, but also because of the rich language and Mayle's ease with which he creates such memorable characters. Interestingly enough it is his observations as a British ex-pat living in France that I enjoy the most, as opposed to his fiction.
The book is done in twelve chapters, one for each month of his first year in Provence. Peppered with French words and luscious descriptions of food, some of which you would never dare eat yourself even if you had the chance, this book is as relaxing to read as the Provencal lifestyle he describes. He shows off his neighbors and other locals in a humorous light, but never in a condescending manner. His disdain is reserved for his fellow countrymen who come to visit the region and have no respect for it or appreciation of the differences that they find. Basically you get the idea that he wants to scream "if you want everything just the way it was in England then bloody well stay there!" I can relate.
You need not be a Francophile to appreciate the book, although you may wind up as one after reading it. You also need never have visited France to enjoy the book either, but it will make you want to go. (But don't try and find Mayle's house that he describes in the book. He's since sold it and another unsuspecting couple wishes to live there undisturbed by bookworms.) If you have ever lived somewhere and felt out of place or taken aback by how different the place is compared to home you will get A Year in Provence, and if you haven't, you will love the book too.

Return to the Shelves 2

Okay, here it is! If you've read The Book Thief here's you chance to sound off.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

sniff, sniff....dear god what is that smell?

I thought it would be fun to revisit a previous blog post and do the inverse. So this shall be a list of scents I don't enjoy. Now, I'm not talking about the obvious things like port-o-potties, or skunks or anything of that nature. No one likes the way those things smell, except, perhaps another skunk. These are things that aren't obviously offensive but that make me, if not gag, at least grimace.

1. Cigars. Most right thinking people also hate these, but considering that people still make and smoke them clearly not everyone does.
2. Celery. It is a vile food.
3. Onions. All I have to do is pass through a room where they are being chopped and I can taste them for ages afterwards. Bleck.
4. Low tide. Specifically in a bay. It smells of decay.
5. Polo by Ralph Lauren. My brother spilled almost an entire bottle of this in our basement when he was in high school. On the carpet. We all hate it, even him.
6. Tuna fish. Do I really need to elaborate?
7. Beer. Nothing more than apple juice gone wrong if you ask me. And on someone's breath? Ew.
8. The generic industrial hand soap that is found in the restrooms at the local Harris Teeter and my favorite barbecue restaurant in town. It looks like Dial, but it's not. You have to wash your hands with something else and sometimes add a scented lotion too to rid your hands of its vile stench. If everyone had the same reaction as I did they wouldn't have it anymore. Alas and alack.
9. Sauerkraut.
10. Bell peppers. They overwhelm everything else in a dish with their taste and scent.
11. Cedar wood. I know that cedar repels moths and other such things, but it makes me think of a rabbit hutch.

Feel free to share the scents you secretly loathe. I know you have them. Everyone does. Come, confide in me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I swipped this idea

from another person's blog (thanks Chad!), so despite the lack of originality in the topic, the content will be highly original. So here they are, ten weird or secretive things about me.

1. When I'm bored (which is often) I decide what my friends would be if they were a dessert, a cereal, a color...well, you get the idea.

2. I hate celery with a passion and intensity normally reserved for those who have wronged me or the people I care about.

3. I was a cheerleader in high school, which isn't weird or very secretive, but since so many people say "you were a cheerleader?" upon hearing this I included it. Plus it goes with number four.

4. I can be painfully shy and/or awkward in certain social situations. Doesn't jive with having been a cheerleader now does it? But it's true.

5.I seem to have an inexplicable attraction to men with dimples in their chins. Ask me about it and I'll elaborate. It's rather frightening if you ask me.

6.I still read children's literature for fun. Don't laugh, it's really good.

7. Michael Jackson's Thriller video scared me so much as a kid that I would hid in the linen closet when it came on. And I did this because my sister ALWAYS wanted to watch it. Always!

8.I eat my cheeseburgers plain, just bread, meat and cheese.

9. I can't sleep if my feet are hot.

10. The only restaurant I wanted to eat at when I was really little was Denny's because you could get breakfast all the time. Now, the idea of eating there makes me queasy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Be very, very quiet......

We are going on a book hunt! Well, not exactly a hunt, but a Shelfari! And what, pray tell, is a Shelfari? Shelfari is this wonderful new website that my friend Blake shared with me. (Thanks Blake!) Essentially, it is a social networking site, but this one revolves around books, so it is not nearly as creepy as some of the other ones out there. What you do is create a free account (the whole thing is free which means everyone can use all of the features) and then you create your shelf. You can put whatever books you want on your shelf, although since they also have a "reading list" feature it helps if the books on your shelf are ones you've read. You can write reviews for all of your books, give it a star ranking, create tags for them, see other people who have that book on their shelf, see if there are any discussions going on about the book etc. Or you can just put them on your shelf and leave others to speculate about what you thought of them. A lot of people do that. I personally find that annoying.

The social networking part comes in with the discussions. You can join groups that share your interests, and if you don't see one you like you can start one of your own. You can also make groups private which means the moderator controls who can join (if you want to be all elitist about it, or if your group becomes mega popular and you need crowd control). You can leave messages on people's pages, you can send requests for friend status (although as far as I can tell the only thing that friend status does is place them on your profile page). Speaking of your profile page you can make it as descriptive or non-descriptive as you like. There is only space for one picture by the way and most of the members I have come across don't use a real photograph, or at least not one of themselves. The site also will show you the people who have the most overlap with your bookshelf.

The site is still in beta mode, which means a lot of the functionality that you would hope for isn't there, yet. For instance, the search feature does keyword only which means when you search for Kurt Vonnegut you get all of his books, but also any other books with Kurt or Vonnegut on them. However, the company responds quickly to emails that you send and even have a feedback survey where you can submit ideas for improvement. You also do that via email if you want. Since it is still in beta testing it means they are looking for ideas on how to improve their product. So suggest away!

If you enjoy books I highly recommend this site. Not only does it give you an opportunity to shout to the world how much you loved or hated a book, but you can find great recommendations for new things to read. So put on your pith helmet, bookmark the page, and go on a Shelfari. But be warned! It's addictive. If you are interested my user name is Librarianwho.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From the Shelves 2

This post comes later than I had intended, primarily because I was trying to decide if I was going to comment on this book, as it violates the original idea of these book recommendations. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is not a happy book. It isn't completely depressing either, but if you read it and don't cry the police should come for you as you are clearly a sociopath with no feelings.

The story is set in Munich during World War II. Oh god! It's one of those books? Yes and no. Yes, because it is about the horrors of war. And no, because, you see, this book is narrated by Death. The title character is a young girl named Liesel who falls in love with books and decides, as her form of protest, to steal books (and a few other things) from the oppressors in her city. Liesel, it should be noted, is not Jewish. Max, who is hidden in her basement, is though, and this is as much his story as it is Liesel's. Ostensibly, this book is for middle school students, but at 550 pages, and with phrases like "he tasted like regret in the shadows of trees" and the liberal use of the word asshole, frequently as a term of affection, it is only pretending. Not that they wouldn't enjoy it, but there is so much in this book, it is unfair to stamp it with the stigma of being young adult literature. (And I think there is much more to young adult literature than most people are aware of and I still don't want it labeled as such.)

Despite the darkness there is humor to be found in this book, as well as much sadness. Death is a very busy man throughout this novel, coming to collect those you would least expect him to, and those you do not want him to. The ending is both sad and happy, much like life itself. I highly recommend this book, but have tissues at the ready. For you too, will be "haunted by humans" just as Death is after you read The Book Thief.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding Through the Glen

Lately, people have accused me of being a little obsessed with the BBC's new show Robin Hood (the first season is airing on BBC America on Sunday's at 7:00), specifically with the actor in the leading role (Jonas Armstrong). I am however, not as obsessed as the person (or people) responsible for this blog. New Robin You see? Makes me look positively disinterested doesn't it? And they aren't just obsessed with the show, but Robin Hood in general. Interesting stuff there though. Of course, I did find this site, so there you go. But in my defense I was using stumble upon and it led me to it. If you haven't watched the show I highly recommend it, and not just because I find the lead actor to be impossibly attractive. Watch it! And suffer along with me until season 2 airs in the UK. They are filming it now, in Budapest of all places. Oh to be in Budapest this summer.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Return to the shelves

Okay, so here it is, the place to post any comments on The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie, if by any chance any of you took my advice and read this book. Or if you want to post any of your own book suggestions feel free.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A rose by any other name

This is not about roses. It is about scents, or rather, my sense of smell and the scents I enjoy. (I figured a Shakespearean reference was better than calling this blog Odor-rama).

There is no other way to say this: I have a strong sense of smell. (This also results in my being more sensitive in the taste department as well but that's another blog entirely). What do I mean by strong? Imagine being able to smell someone's bubblegum, from four to five feet away. Or their lip gloss, or lotion, or hairspray, or the flavoring in their coffee. Or in one spectacular case being able to smell someone's cologne from about twenty feet away while others couldn't smell it from two. You get the idea. This of course creates some problems for me since the world is a smelly place, and frequently not in a good way.

But it does make pleasant scents that more enjoyable. What do I think is pleasant? Glad you asked. (Ok, so you didn't really, but I'm going to tell you anyway!)

Freshly laundered clothes and sheets.
Baby powder.
Suntan lotion.
Bread baking.
Bacon frying-but only while it is frying, afterwards it smells stale.
A distant charcoal grill.
Apple cider heating.
Butter melting on corn on the cob.
A clean dog, or rather, my dog after his bath.
An ocean breeze.
Freshly cut grass, but only if there are no onions in the yard.
Old Spice (my father's cologne/aftershave).
Chloe (my mother's perfume when I was little. I believe it has been discontinued).
Whole bean coffee. I love to stand on that aisle in the store and inhale. If the beverage tasted as good as it smells I would be perpetually wired.
A turkey or whole chicken roasting in the oven.
Freshly fallen snow.
The air right before it rains.
A live Christmas tree, there is nothing to compare to the real thing.

There are others I'm forgetting, it's hard to concentrate when your spoiled little dog keeps whining to be petted. (And there is one thing I deliberately left off). Please feel free to share the scents you enjoy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rule Britannia

Anyone who knows me more than superficially knows that I have deep abiding love for the UK. This started at a fairly young age. I enjoyed the Beatrix Potter stories, and gobbled up other classics of children's literature that hail from that fair isle. One of my first crushes was on Peter Pan albeit the animated Disney representation of him. And everything just snowballed from there. My favorite music, movies, books, television shows, and plays are filled with British works and/or actors. I even took a survey of British history from 1603 to present in college. It had a cumulative final by the way, all essay. I love the language, and all of the various dialects therein. I find myself wanting to use British English spellings. I love their slang, and turn of phrase. I love the concept of tea in the afternoon, and I love fried toast. I love their dry wit, and their ability to find the humor in sadness and dark situations. There is just something about the British Isles that captivates my imagination. The Celts! Boudica! Stonehenge! The Tower of London! White Cliffs of Dover!

I don't think you can chalk this passion up to DNA, because while England is heavily represented so are Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands. (If heritage held that much sway over me I would be constantly at war with myself). But really, the amount of quality creative output that comes from the UK is amazing. Think about it: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, the Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Cult, Noel Coward, Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Michael Caine, Tim Curry, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, James Bond, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Rabbit. All from the UK! Do you enjoy The Office? Based on a BBC show. Trading Spaces? Ditto. Weakest Link, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Big Brother? Ditto. Whose Line is it Anyway? Yep, British. Antiques Roadshow? Yep. Say what you will about his style but Andrew Lloyd Weber changed the face of musical theater. Monty Python is the benchmark of sketch comedy whatever anyone else says.

And ok, I realize that I've been using British and UK interchangeably, and I know that those of Scottish descent/birth take exception to this and my apologies. If it makes you feel better I did my reference pathfinder on Scotland during grad school. And an entire semester's work devoted to that fair country of the British Isles. I told you I have a passion! And I'm not even factoring in Australia, New Zealand or Canada at the moment.

Perhaps it's a size thing; it is much easier to produce crap for the public consumption in a big country like ours. Perhaps it's an age thing; the US is really just a spoiled teenager compared to the rest of the world. Perhaps it is just me. And what has prompted this outpouring of love you may wonder? BBC America. I switched to Directv last week and I am in hog heaven. I'm hooked on Robin Hood. I end up watching at least one show a night on that station. It's dangerous for me I tell you. I already slip into a British accent when feeling silly or sarcastic which is like every other sentence lately. Everyday it moves a bit closer to an obsession as opposed to merely a passion. I give my friends permission to smack me if I start writing colour or theatre or if I ever refer to diapers as nappies.

Friday, May 18, 2007

remind you of anyone you know?

"Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so." -Bertrand Russell

Too bad we can't keep those who don't wish to think from killing others with their self-destructive behavior and/or small minded ways of thinking.

Goodness, but I'm morose of late.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Celluloid in the Spotlight

So this is going to be a reoccurring feature, and I thought that the title sounded better than movie of the month. I thought it would be fun to talk up some of the classic films I've enjoyed over the years and try to get other people to appreciate them as well.

My first pick is Charade, starring Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Mattheau, and James Coburn. It's a suspense/thriller from 1963, directed by the great Stanley Donen. Sadly, it was recently remade as The Truth About Charlie with Mark Walberg and Thandie Newton in the Grant and Hepburn roles. No offense to those two actors, they are both very attractive and quite talented, but really people. Who are you kidding? Nothing can be added by remaking this film. There really should be a law the prohibits any Audrey Hepburn movie from being remade. So far they've committed this atrocity twice, the first time being when they remade Sabrina. The same could also be said for Cary Grant films, although I must confess that Denzel Washington was outstanding in the Preacher's Wife which was the remake of the Bishop's Wife. But where was I? Oh yes, Charade.

This is not an action packed film by any means, nor is it particularly scary. However, it has a tightly crafted plot, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, and enough moments to ratchet up the viewer's tension level to make it quite enjoyable. If you are like me and like movies without gaping plot holes, that are well acted, have an interesting plot, witty dialogue, and a good mystery you will enjoy Charade too. I highly recommend it, and fully intend to purchase it in the near future.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Substandard Piece of Citrus*

This past Sunday I went with a group of friends to see Spiderman-3. While we certainly had an enjoyable afternoon, the movie was less than impressive. The visual effects were fantastic, and the acting was solid, but the movie was too long and had too many plot lines going on to do any of them justice. The story line with Sandman is superfluous. The over arching theme that they were going for was that revenge is all consuming and makes us nasty (how novel!), but as revenge elements are present in ALL the other story lines it wasn't necessary to have Sandman in the movie. (And Thomas Hayden Church was in desperate need of lip balm throughout the entire movie. You know you have lost the audience when that is the sort of thing they focus on.) It would have been much better to fully develop the other story lines, particularly the one featuring Venom (oh Topher Grace, so deliciously wicked in this film), and saved Sandman for the potential 4th film. Additionally, there were quite a few cheddar moments (look! Spiderman appears in front of a giant American flag on his way to save the day!), and an overall heavy-handedness by the filmmakers that made most of our group resentful. We are not coming into this thing cold people! For pete's sake the first two movies were just aired on network t.v. last week. Enough with the flashbacks! Enough with the exposition! We don't need it spelled out for us. While this film was not nearly as disappointing as X-Men 3 it was still not worth the exorbitant price that the movie theater charged. $9.25....for a matinee, where do they think we are New York?

Additionally there is a certain element of selfishness in people the prompts them to bring their small children and/or babies to these films. We had at least three crying babies and two kids who wouldn't be still or quiet. Not only is this unfair to your fellow movie goers, but it is also unfair to the children. It is unreasonable to expect a four year old to sit still for almost two and half hours watching a movie that they couldn't possibly understand. Not to mention, men disintegrating into sand, men being covered with black ooze, numerous fights, explosions, deaths, and women plummeting to narrowly adverted death are the things of childhood nightmares.

*a substandard piece of citrus: direct reference to a lemon wedge that exploded across a table when a dear friend attempted to squeeze it into her water glass. Now refers to anything we view as disappointing or shoddily made.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


"Why don't you have a boyfriend?" This question was recently posed to me out of the blue by a well meaning young woman that I work with. I get asked this question frequently, and I never know what people expect me to say. It's a rather impertinent question, simultaneously implying that there is something wrong with me because I'm single and that there is something that I am aware of that causes me to be single. One day I'd like to answer "I'm part of a secret society of library nuns who've taken a vow of spinsterhood in order to dedicate their lives to showing people how to use an online catalog and the photocopier." However, as she seemed genuinely perplexed by my singleton status (which I took in a complimentary manner) I controlled my snark and told her I didn't know.

Usually when this query is put forth to others and you force them to provide more of an answer than "you got me," they inevitably end up saying that I'm too fill in the blank. Over the years I've pretty much heard it all. Too smart (is that really a bad thing?), too bitchy (in my defense that was in high school), too independent, too clingy (those last two were from the same guy, clearly he was "too stupid"), too emotional, too attached to my family, too quiet (ha!), too serious, too classy (is there really such a thing?), too normal, too weird (I can't be both!), too pretty (oh come on!), too intimidating (because of being too smart etc.), too accomplished, too distrustful, too intense (I get that one a lot), too demanding (because I expect to be treated with respect), too uptight, and too picky, just to name the most often and/or recently cited.

Never mind the fact that I've seen girls who were prettier, smarter, weirder, meaner, more accomplished, and way more high maintenance than I am get married, the majority of these characteristics aren't things I can really do anything about. The exception being "too picky." This comment was supplied by a friend who told me that clearly my standards were too high. Sour grapes from another single woman? Hardly. This statement was issued by a happily married man. I refuse to believe that my standards are too high because I know plenty of women who fit them, so it is ridiculous to believe that there aren't any single men who fit them.

But that's not really the point of this. The point is, people clearly see in me what they want to see, as opposed to seeing me. And there's not a hell of a whole lot that I can do about that. In reality, I'm a little bit of all of those things. (Although too pretty? Are you serious? Would you like a trowel for that load of crap you are spreading? I mean, I don't frighten cattle or anything, but "too pretty" are words used to describe the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, not librarians with pixie haircuts. But I digress.)

Friday, May 4, 2007

intense vexation

There seems to be a disturbing trend among the decision makers at my place of employment to try and be all things to all people. (I can't decide if this is a lust for power consolidation, an eagerness to please, greed, short sightedness, or a martyr complex. The motivation is different for each person that I am thinking of.)Then they turn around and complain about being spread too thinly. Or, as the case may be, the people who their decisions actually affect are forced to be spread too thinly. News flash! When you try to be all things to all people what you end up being is half of something. Nothing gets done in a timely fashion, if it gets done at all. Everyone gets stressed out, and no one is happy. There is a saying that no one can use you as a doormat unless you lie down and let them, but lately people keep signing others up to be doormats. This is grossly unfair. I realize that life is not fair, but just because that tenant is true that doesn't give everyone the right to make it more unfair than it already is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

From the shelves

I belong to a book club. I know, you are all SHOCKED by that statement, but it is an important piece of background information for what I am about to write. I enjoy this book club, and it does force me to read books that I, in all likelihood, would never have read. That being said, it never ceases to amaze me how many of the members suggest depressing books for this club. Not occasionally, but consistently, every year. This also doesn't seem to be unique to my book club. Two of the most well-known nationwide book clubs (Oprah's and the New York Times) also select a disproportionately large amount of heavy reading.

It isn't that I disapprove of somber or serious reading material. There is certainly a place for it, just as there is a place for other forms of literature (well, maybe not V. C. Andrews.....). I just don't quite understand the desire to want to curl up with such unpleasantness. (And incidentally have you ever noticed the types of movies that air on Lifetime? Oh yes! Let me watch movies about women being brutalized in myriads of ways! What is it with people? But I digress.) Humorous literature seems to suffer from the same lack of respect that comedic movies do. Just because something is funny it doesn't mean it lacks merit, and just because something is serious it doesn't automatically mean that it is worthwhile.

Basically, this was a long-winded way of saying that I'm starting a new feature to this blog. At the beginning of each month I am going to post a book suggestion with some (hopefully) pithy comments about why I enjoyed it and why you should read it. This is not a book club in the traditional sense. I am not going to later post fun facts about the author or the subject, or discussion questions. I will post a query for comments on the book at the end of the month though, in the event that anyone takes me up on my suggestion or wants to add their own.

Right! So let's begin. The first book I am going to suggest in The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. (Yes, it is the same Hugh Laurie that is better known to most Americans as Dr. House. Yes, I agree it is most unfair that one man should be blessed with so much talent, but there you go. It's not as if we don't get to reap the benefits of his work.) I discovered this book while viewing Christopher Moore's website, an author whose work I only recently discovered, and who will be profiled later in this series. So why should you read The Gun Seller? It has an interesting and, most unusually given it is a novel of intrigue, a feasible plot. The main characters are fully formed, (there are one or two peripheral characters who, as I recall, weren't flushed out very well, but then if they had been they wouldn't have been peripheral), it is full of witty dialogue, and the premise actually makes you think. It addresses one of the issues raised in V for Vendetta although not in such a dark and disturbing manner. Just how much complicity is there between the media, the government and the weapons industry? Just how far will greed drive people and what sort of atrocities will they commit in the name of "public service"?

The Gun Seller should score highly in the area of appeal to men as it is action packed and plays out in a rather cinematic mode. However, ladies, you should not be discouraged by this. The scenes of violence are not particularly graphic and tend to be quite brief and the hero is quite dashing. So find, read, and enjoy! (By the way, for those who know me personally, our local public library actually owns this book! I know, you are stunned and amazed, but it is true.) To close, here is my favorite line: "My God! My life is ebbing away in this room!" I keep hoping for a chance to actually say that out loud......I certainly think it often enough.

Monday, April 30, 2007

We're just a bunch of cuddle monkeys

I hadn't intended to blog on this, ever really. Somehow it is just on my mind.

In the 1950's a researcher named Harry Harlow conducted an experiment with baby monkeys to see which of these needs they would choose to fulfill: food or comfort. He built a wire "mother" that provided milk, and a warm, cloth covered "mother" to provide comfort. All of the monkeys clung to the cloth mother and only went to the wire mother when absolutely necessary. They would then hurry back to the cloth mother. He deduced that because the monkeys chose something that they "liked" over something that they "needed" that attachment to your mother isn't based upon your needs being met, but rather on something more complex.

In my opinion (that's a bit redundant isn't it?, after all this is my blog and who the hell else's opinion would it be?), while Harlow's conclusions make sense (but duh! what kind of idiot can't tell that attachment is more complex than being fed?), I think he has a fallacy in his scenario. Never mind the fact that it strikes me as unnecessarily cruel to torment baby animals in this manner, it does, but that's not the point. He assumes that physical contact, comfort and warmth aren't needs. Bollocks.

Now, I realize that you aren't going to die if you go three days without being touched. I know that it isn't on the same level as food and water. But when you think about it, physical contact isn't just something we enjoy. If you look at the tragic situations in the Russian and Romanian orphanages you can see definitive proof of this. This need doesn't stop once we leave childhood, but with each passing year it gets harder and harder for us to meet this need, unless we are in a romantic relationship. (Or perhaps have a lot of touchy-feely friends). Part of this has to do with the awkwardness of adolescence, and the desire to distance oneself from "childish" things. Part of this also has to do with the fact that the older we get the more we are conditioned to view physical contact as synonymous with sexual contact. However, these aren't one and the same. (Just like every square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square. Yay Geometry!). But for many people they end up being the same, because that's all they can get.

So, if you know someone who stays in a relationship with someone despite the fact that it is clearly toxic (either emotionally or physically), remember those baby monkeys. Remember that they were damn near willing to starve themselves in order to have someone to cuddle with. It is a powerful need and one that is sorely met for too many people. Hug someone you know today.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

a week of entertainment thwarting

I have been thwarted repeatedly this week in my entertainment choices. First of all, I can only watch Scrubs in re-runs as I work Thursday nights. All of the episodes that have aired this week were ones I had seen already, a couple of them more than once. Why can't the channels airing the episodes in syndication have the courtesy to air them in order? Is that too much to ask? Apparently. Secondly, when trying to pick a movie to view this weekend my friends and I discovered that neither of the films that we wished to see (Grindhouse and Hot Fuzz) were playing locally. Or even a little bit off. Oh no, we would have to drive for at least one hour to the pulsating hotbed of cinemas: Charlotte. Yes, my life has come to this, I must drive for an hour each way to enjoy films with any sort of intelligence. I will cut our local cineplex some slack on Grindhouse, it is three hours long which means fewer showings which means fewer dollars. However, it makes no sense to not show Hot Fuzz. It will show all of those torture flicks and lame teen movies for weeks at a time, but not something like Hot Fuzz. Maybe they are showing all this dreck so that no one will complain when those films get kicked out to allow ten screens of Spiderman-3 next week. But I digress. Finally, my good friend Mockingbird phones me last night to inform me that Fox has canceled their new show Drive after four episodes. Four. Now, I'm not saying that Drive was television gold, but it was certainly interesting and with such a large ensemble cast it would take a while to get all of the plot in place. But, oh no, Fox pulled the plug. Why broadcast a show with even a scrap of intelligence when they can glut the television landscape with vile content like Temptation Island, or the notorious "If I Did It" interview? And does anyone else find it disturbing and hypocritical that Fox brings us both the most conservative network news program in the US as well as the tawdry tripe I just mentioned? Sigh. Thus, I have been thwarted. I don't like it at all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Channeling Garbo

Yesterday, when I arrived home, I was in a sulky sort of mood. After fixing myself a rather tasty sandwich for supper, I settled down on the coach to veg out. I wanted some peace and quiet and time to myself. Easily achieved you would think considering I live alone. Oh no. First, my mother called, which was fine, and actually expected. Unfortunately, I don't have a phone hooked up in my living room, it is in my den, so in order to answer the phone I must get up and run through the foyer, the hall and into the den to grab the phone, dodging the floor lamp that I moved so that I would have better light for a project that I am working on. So, I hang up and go back to coach. The phone rings again and this time it's the credit card company. This is the third time in a week that someone from the credit card company has called and it is to lecture me on the dangers of identity theft. I yelled and argued and finally hung up. If they call again I may have a hissy fit! (Oh yes, I am Southern!) Then, just when I am settled down again, my neighbor rings my doorbell because he wants to offer me radishes from his garden. I felt like screaming "I want to be left alone!" Solitude is so hard to come by sometimes.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Waxing rhapsodic

While keeping my grandmother company this weekend I discovered that TCM was airing one of my all time favorite movies, Roman Holiday. My grandmother is almost 92 years old, very little holds her interest, and movies hardly ever. Flashbacks, complicated plots, special effects and dream sequences all confuse her, primarily because she has trouble hearing the dialogue, but also because if it doesn't appeal to her she doesn't pay attention. Well, Roman Holiday caused her to put her word search book down and actually ask me questions about the plot. The last movie I remember her enjoying was Happy Gilmore, and that was mainly because Bob Barker gets to beat up Adam Sandler. Roman Holiday is a fantastic film, with a charming plot, outstanding performances by Audrey Hepburn (who really could do no wrong) and Gregory Peck, (personally, I could lay on a concrete floor and listen to Gregory Peck read from the phone book and be happy but that is neither here nor there), and a fitting ending that is not schmaltzy or unbelievable, but is also not weep into your pillow. They don't make movies with endings like this one anymore. It's always either unbelievably happy (they elope together) or heartwrending (she dies or is married off to some toad). Shot on location and in black and white the film is also the best advertisment for Rome that could possibly ever exist. Every time I see it the wanderlust grips me and I fantasize about strolling through the streets of that great city indulging in a gelato, throwing coins into fountains, zipping about on a Vespa, and basking in the Mediterranean sun. (I also want to visit the catacombs but that didn't make the cut in the film-a rather morbid place for an incognito princess to visit don't you think?) However, the stark reality of the exchange rate and my mortgage quickly nip that dream in the bud. Frankly, I think Rome should send all of the descendants of anyone involved in the making of that film presents every year. If you have never seen Roman Holiday (yes, even if you are a straight man) you should rent it immediately. Don't wait for the serendipity of finding it on television, only TCM airs it without commercials.

Friday, April 20, 2007

did you know

that you will have more plaque on the side of your mouth that corresponds to the side you sleep on? Gross, but true. So remember to floss! Please.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

and now for something completely different

I indulged myself by buying a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls this weekend. As I stood in the kitchen savoring my treat, I first, gave thanks that I was not lactose intolerant as I was enjoying it with a glass of ice cold milk, but then I began to wonder. The Hostess Ho-Ho (terrbile name!) is essentially the same thing, and yet the Swiss Cake Roll is vastly superior. (Please do not sue me Hostess!) Perhaps it is because the Swiss Cake Roll comes two to a package while Ho-Ho is all by it's lonesome, or perhaps it is because SCR is covered in more of a milk chocolate coating, while HH is darker. I thought that it is because Hostess is a subset of a huge conglomerate and thus the little cakes have to ship farther. However, Little Debbie is also a subset of a big company, although not as big as the one Hostess belongs to, and so isn't exactly local. Interestingly enough Little Debbie snack cakes are also cheaper than Hostess, although that isn't really a deciding factor in why I enjoy them more.
It isn't that I think the Ho-Ho is bad, on the contrary had I never experienced a Swiss Cake Roll I would probably really enjoy them. But this is not the case. Ah, Swiss Cake Roll. Pass the milk.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

human nature

I was planning on posting something funny yesterday, but now it seems sort of distasteful to do so, at least for now. I'm not trying to take this tragedy and make it my own, I am lucky enough to not know anyone involved. That being said, I can't even begin to imagine what this is like for those who do or were. This sort of thing is something that I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around.
We are always surprised when it happens, mainly because you don't want to believe that your fellow humans can be so indiscriminately cruel. But humans are. Always have been. If you pay attention to history, the sordid underbelly that drove all events, we are truly quiet horrifying. Humans would seem to be the most dangerous, deadly, and depraved animal on the planet. Oh sure, other animals, like sharks, alligators, and bears, will attack and kill you but rarely without purpose. Rarely without cause. Not so with humans. Humans, like other carnivores, kill for food and in defense of self, but they will also kill for sport, for personal gain, and in sick instances, pleasure.
Yet, we continue to have faith in the goodness of people. Because we can be good, and act in a selfless manner. I think we would go mad if we lived with the idea that people are as sick as the worst of us. But we shouldn't be surprised when things like this happen. Upset, horrified, repulsed, sickened, saddened, determined to prevent something similar happening again. All of those things and more, but not surprised. Joseph Conrad got it right. Everyone has a heart of darkness. Not that that excuses, explains, or justifies what this person did, but sometimes it is important to remember the worst case scenario, because it will happen. Humans can really suck.

Friday, April 13, 2007

travel tips 3

What? More tips? Yes, I am a know-it-all and I like to share. Here are some tips that I forgot in 1 & 2.

1.) Wear as little make-up as possible, especially on long flights.
2.) Pack disposable moistened clothes in your purse or carry-on. That way when you land you can refresh your face and then put make-up on if you have to. This is again, more useful on longer flights.
3.) Do not wear perfume, colonge or after-shave when flying. Share this tip with the teen-aged males in your life. Passing someone who has showered in their perfume or colonge is gross enough, imagine being cooped up for hours on end in a flying sardine can with no fresh air. Pass the air-sick bag please.
4.) When traveling with a child, even on a short flight, be sure to pack snacks and assorted things to amuse them like books or games (video or travel versions) or ipods. It will help keep them from getting bored which means they will be less likely to annoy their fellow travelers. Flying makes a lot of people nervous and generally speaking they are less tolerant of natural child-like behavior than they normally would be. Also, it will give the kids something to do in the terminal which will keep them from wandering off.
5.) If you are a nervous flyer pack something to distract yourself as well. No, I don't mean booze!
6.) If you are on vacation pack a journal of some kind. Even if you aren't a writer you can at least jot down where you went and what you did. For example: Tuesday, went to the MOMA and had lunch in their cafe. Hated all of the art. Dinner tonight will be at the Russian Tea Room. (I don't hate all of the art in the MOMA, I've actually never been and don't even know if they have a cafe. I was just trying to illustrate a point. Stop your criticism.) This will help you to jog your memory when talking about your trip or when scrapbooking your photos. Or even just adding captions to your photos in an album, online or otherwise.
7.)Other items that are a good idea to pack are a raincoat (especially if you are traveling in Spring or going someplace known for crazy weather), slippers (I have pair of Isotoners that look like ballet flats. They pack well, weigh almost nothing, feel good, and keep my bare feet off questionable carpets.), Band-aids (I know, the company doesn't want their name used to refer to all of these types of things, but what on earth do you call them? Adhesive strips? That sounds like tape.), anti-biotic ointment (like Neosporin) and moleskin. Walking a lot, no matter how comfy your shoes are, often leads to blisters. These three items will save the day.