We saw The Matrix Reloaded last night. There were a ton of kids in line, presumably to see the opening of Finding Nemo, so Matrix wasn't too crowded. Unfortunately, we waited long enough for them to take it out of the cushy stadium seats and put it in a small theature with the old fashioned seats. That made it a little uncomfortable.
The Matrix was good. It's gotten a lot of down reviews, but I still enjoyed it. The one thing I thought was so stupid was Neo's flying like Superman thing. That was a bit much. As for the metaphysical connection, they kind of blurred over that part by having the actor ("The Architect") speak really quickly so you weren't quite sure what he was saying. It could have been deeply profound, or it could have been as dumb as the battery thing from the first movie. At any rate, the first movie is better, but the second is not too bad.
I love Saturdays. When I was working I loved Saturdays because it was a day of laziness, sleeping in, no work (most of the time). I figured when I lost my job that everyday would be like Saturday. Ha! Wrong! I underestimated the power of the Day Care. They make an inordinate amount of noise in the morning, enough to wake you up in a cranky mood. But Saturdays, beautiful Saturdays--a Day Care reprieve. I love Saturdays.
The weather has finally cooled off a bit here. It was really hot the last couple of days--like upper 90's hot, which is hardly tolerable under normal circumstances but with a heart condition it's worse. If the summer continues like this we may need to buy one of those window air conditioners.
I just finished an excellent book, Life of Pi by Yann Martel. A winner of the Booker prize, this book definitely makes you think. It starts out a tad slow but once you get over the initial hump you can't put it down. If you're looking for a thoughtful read, look no further.
I have returned from my extended weekend and camp reunion. I had a great time. I was even in the slide show. Granted it was a picture of me as a 16 year old camper, wearing green neon shorts (it was the 80's!).
As it turned out, Kevin would have hated it, which is what I expected, which is why he didn't come. There were three basic groups at camp. The old, old staff members, the middle staff members (me), and the staff members who are currently staff members (okay, I'll say it, the YOUNG staff members). And within those 3 groups people congregated in little cliques, so it was JUST LIKE CAMP AGAIN! Ah, that friendly feeling. Fortunately a small group of my friend-type-people were there and we had a wonderful time reminiscing. Our conversations went like this:
"Remember when my staff drove the golf cart into the lake?"
"Oh my God, that was so funny."
"Remember when they hung the canoe from the rafters in the dining hall with rock climbing rope?"
"Remember that night when there was the hail storm with a whole unit of popsicle [editor's note: hypothermic] children?"
"Oh I remember that. That was the same night the horses got out and completely freaked out!"
"And wasn't that really bad nurse fired that night?"
"You mean the nurse who gave someone Tinactin when she said she had a yeast infection?"
"She WAS fired that night."
"Where were you? I was in the Health Center trying to warm up popsicle children"
"I was holding horses in the hail storm. And then one bit its lip and bled all over me"
"I was in the parking lot when the fired nurse's bags were thrown out of the van and she was summarily sent home."
"Ah, those were the days."
That was the good conversation. Unfortunately, the whole morning was filled with conversations like:
"So what have you been doing these last 8 years?"
"Well, I got married, had a baby/am having a baby, and I'm teaching. You?"
It seems that everyone who used to work at camp either became a teacher or is still living with their parents and working for the Girl Scouts. I was an anomaly.
Because of my heart I was spared walking around the huge camp property. I got to drive a golf cart instead (although I didn't drive it into the lake like one of my staff did). The golf cart was very convenient. As my friend Tiffaney said, "I'm really sorry you're sick but this works out very well for me." I had forgotten how funny Tiffaney is.
So that's the update on the camp reunion. I've had good luck with reunions. I really enjoyed my high school 10 year reunion as well. I would encourage you to attend your local reunion.
I honestly believe Scout sits around all day and thinks of cuter and cuter things she can do. Today I found her relaxed on the bed with her head on my stuffed Snoopy. Her face was right next to Snoopy's and it was adorable. Unfortunately I don't know how to work the digital camera so no picture. Hopefully she'll do it again.
Last night we were at another concert--this time it was up to Berkeley to the Freight and Salvage to see folk singer Richard Shindell. The concert was better than excellent! The venue is very small and Richard did a lot of talking in between songs, which I just love when artists do that. I really enjoyed it.
Shelby's Life and Whatnot will be taking a break over this holiday weekend. I'm traveling down to LA to attend my summer camp's staff reunion. I'm looking forward to seeing camp again even though I know it's going to be butt cold at night. Kevin and Scout are going to hold down the fort here in San Jose while I'm out. I think Kevin will build the mountain on his model railroad setup (layout? Whatever you call it).
Well I may be one of the last people on Earth to have done so, but I've finally joined Netflix. Strangely enough, I joined this movie rental website so that I could watch more...are you ready?...TV. We have no cable in this house and have been 99.9% TV-free since August. The remaining 0.1% is the fact that we do receive a very weak and fuzzy NBC signal. We've never watched it, however.
The specific TV shows I'm interested in are the critically acclaimed HBO series like Six Feet Under (of which I've seen only one episode) and The Sopranos (of which I've also seen only one episode--on the same night as Six Feet Under). I could have just subscribed to cable and gotten HBO, but Netflix is a much better option for several reasons. First, it's cheaper. Second, getting HBO now would mean that I'd be coming into these shows in the 4th or 5th season (whatever they're on), which means I'd have to rent the first episodes anyway. Third, Netflix is very convenient, as confirmed by the large number of people who have recommended it. Fourth, it's cheaper.
I can't say for certain how I'll like Netflix. The main issue is that I have a tendency to rent movies and then never watch them. With Netflix there's no time limit, so I fear I'll hold onto a DVD for months before returning it. I'm just not a dedicated movie watcher. But we'll give it a try and see how it works.
I think this is the longest break I have taken from blogging since I started oh so long ago. Sorry to disappoint my loyal readers. All three of you.
Friday night we went to a great Dar Williams concert. Kevin introduced me to Dar when we first started going out, and now she's one of my favorite artists. Opening for Dar was Ben Taylor. I immediately thought "Ben Taylor? THE Ben Taylor? As in the son of Carly Simon and James Taylor?" As soon as Ben opened his mouth, all doubt was removed. He sounded just like his father (as if there were dozens of other Ben Taylors running around giving concerts). I almost expected "Fire and Rain" to break out at any minute, but he stuck to his own work. Which I can understand, trying to form your own musical career as the son of two fabulously famous singers, avoiding Mom and Dad's songs. I wasn't all that crazy about his stuff though. His voice was great, but the hard rock quality of his music turned me off.
So that was Friday.
Saturday and today (Sunday) I spent all day at a writing workshop through UC Santa Cruz Extension. I really enjoyed it. It went 10-5 each day and was just a two day workshop on revising, but it was so good for me, especially the second day. I had an opportunity to share some of my work, part of my novel-in-progress, and it was really well-received. It renewed my confidence and enthusiasm for my work. My writing has been suffering lately as I've been in a down mood, but I'm feeling better and am really motivated to start putting pieces of my novel together. Who knows, I may even let YOU read it :). This "you" includes Kevin, who got to read 3 pages of the novel for the first time yesterday. My teacher suggested turning my 3 page sample into an independent short story--something I'm seriously considering pursuing.
So that's what I've been doing the last 3 days.
At 8:15 we went out to see the lunar eclipse. Talk about a nonevent. We saw nothing. Maybe because the moon was, you know, eclipsed? No, actually it was too light still and the moon was too low on the horizon. Maybe we'll look later. See what we can see.
We had a kitchen incident a few nights ago. Kevin had some thinly sliced potatoes in the oven, but the problem was that by the time we were ready to eat, they were not ready to be eaten. I suggested transferring them to a Corningware dish and microwaving them to finish them off. So we did. After 5 minutes in the microwave, they still were not done. We decided to eat and let the potatoes cook a little longer. I set the microwave to "Go" for another 10 minutes and we blithely sat down. Mistake.
The first sign that something was wrong was the weird look Scout was giving me from the hallway. In retrospect, I'm sure she detected the burning potatoes instantly and was trying to figure out why we would do such a thing to food, glorious food. Anyway, I commented that Scout was giving me a weird look, and then Kevin said "Oh my God!" and leapt up. Smoke was billowing out of the microwave and had filled the kitchen (no dramatic flames, unfortunately--just smoke). We quickly opened doors and windows, turned off the microwave, and turned on the stove fan. I now understand why people are so often overcome by smoke inhalation. You really couldn't breathe in the kitchen.
Finally the smoke cleared and the charred bits of potato floated to the top of the dish when water was added, but the smell remains. Smoke smell is so hard to get rid of. And if you've ever wondered what over-microwaved potatoes smell like, I can tell you. It smells like really old, really stale cigarette smoke. Our kitchen now smells like the kitchen of a family of smokers whose 30 year habits have stained the curtains yellow with tobacco. It is, needless to say, gross. The cleaning lady came today and the kitchen does smell better, but I think it's going to take a while. Anyone have any remedies for smoke smell in the air?
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? PLEASE? A baby in the daycare next door has been crying all day.
I decided to break in my new Nikes. You know, I knew someone once who pronounced the word "Nike" as a single syllable--as in rhymes with "bike." She didn't believe me as to the proper pronounciation until I pointed out that in the commercials they say "Ny-kee." Still, her pronounciation brings a whole new dimension to the slogan "I wanna be like Mike."
Anyway, I forgot how confining tennis shoes are. After almost 2 years of nearly exclusive sandal-wearing, my toes are used to more freedom. It's going to take me a little bit to get used to my Nikes. That's Ny-kees.
There's a reason why Kevin is my favorite husband...he tracked down Jolly Rancher gummies and bought them for me!
We went to Gilroy (Garlic Capital of the World!) to the outlet stores to get new shoes. Tennis shoes, that is. I haven't worn tennis shoes in almost 2 years, since I threw out my last pair in Germany. I just never got around to buying new ones. But now I have. Kevin got new tennies too.
I just finished reading The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer. It was very good. It's the story of 23 year old Carrie whose relationship with high school and college boyfriend Mike is on the rocks, when Mike dives off the pier in the title into too-shallow water and breaks his neck. In response, Carrie runs away to Manhattan where she struggles with what it means to be grown-up and loyal. While the main character could have been more sympathetic, it's still an enjoyable book.
Yes, I do realize this is the third entry in a row that talks about Jolly Ranchers. Kevin found the JR sticks I remember from my childhood for sale on the web. There are big web candy stores where you can buy giant cases of whatever candy you want. This idea truly appeals to me. Unfortunately, I haven't found any cases of JR gummies.
I just finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan. There's a reason this book has gotten so much critical acclaim. It was excellent. It tells the story of a mistruth a 13 year old girl tells in 1935 and its impact through WWII and into the 21st century. I liked this book as much as I liked The Child in Time by the same author. I will definitely be reading more of his books.
What's next on my list? I have two books on my stack: Ann Packer's The Dive from Clausen's Pier, and Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. Austerlitz is being sold with Atonement, so it makes sense for me to read it next, but I've already picked it up and put it down once. I read Sebald's The Emigrants which was good, but challenging. I think Clausen's Pier will be a lighter weight book so I'm starting that one next. After that I'll have to hit the next book club book, The Rector's Wife by Joanna Trollope. Unfortunately Kevin and I will miss this month's book club meeting (postponed to May 20th) due to a concert. But that's okay because neither of us finished the book for this month anyway.
It finally occurred to me to visit the Jolly Rancher Website in search of the Jolly Rancher gummies I remember from my days in Michigan. Lo and behold, the gummies are still being made! Now, the question is, where do I find them?
I learned that Jolly Rancher has a wide assortment of fruity, juicy offerings. For example, there are JR chews (looks like a Starburst knockoff), JR lollipops (which I knew about) and JR lollipops with chews inside of them. Apparently JR jelly beans are available year-round (or so they claim). In fact, the only kind of JR product I didn't find were the JR sticks of my childhood. The long, flat, ruler shaped sticks that used to cost 10 cents and were on sale at the Little League field. I wonder what happened to those?
The dog next door, an ex-police dog named Duke, has been howling all night. Sometimes the other neighborhood dogs answer him, but mostly he's just howling his head off. I'm so glad Scout doesn't have a barking problem. She only barks when she sees people she knows.
My stomach is finally feeling better after my gluttonous (I almost wrote gluten, ha ha) night on Tuesday. I think I've finally digested everything. It was so good though!
I bought a package of Jolly Ranchers today. The assorted kind of small, log shaped ones. I had forgotten how much I like Jolly Ranchers. They are so juicy and flavorful. Before Easter Kevin bought some Jolly Rancher jelly beans and they were very good. There used to be Jolly Rancher gummies, but I haven't seen those for quite some time, like since I lived in Michigan, which was, weirdly enough, 7 years ago. I guess I shouldn't hold my breath. If anyone has seen Jolly Rancher gummies since then, let me know.
Last night was awesome. My friend Hai-Nhu came over and we went out to dinner in Japantown (Kubota). I was hungry so I ordered the combo platter: salmon teriyaki and calamari. It was SO GOOD, but SO MUCH FOOD. I completely overstuffed myself and have a stomachache today to prove it. I really must be more careful, but did I mention how good it was? Anyway, I'm in pain, so it's back to bed for me.
Here's a great website: Roadside America, featuring all the bizarre, kitschy things you can find at the proverbial side of the road, including Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, and the Murdo Auto Museum (see Elvis' motorcycle!). What do these three attractions have in common? That's right! They're all in godforsaken South Dakota! And Mary and I have been to all three! Particularly memorable was Mitchell, SD, where Mary and I drove around for an hour (after our visit to the Corn Palace) looking for a McDonald's that the sign claimed was there but didn't actually exist. Visit the Roadside America website and be embarrassed by how many of these place YOU'VE been to.
I've just finished an absolutely hysterical book, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Lamb answers the question "what the heck happened to Christ in the 30 years between his birth and his ministry?" With a style like Douglas Adams (to quote the Amazon entry), Lamb is a very funny poke at history and the Bible. Check your Christian Coalition card at the door.
I just got the mail and found that the DMV sent me a new handicapped parking placard! The one I have now expires in June, and the DMV sent me an updated one, and I didn't even have to ask. Now THAT'S service! Finally, our tax dollars at work for ME.
Scout spent another night in the cave bed. She's just irresistably cute in there.
Right now, however, she's in trouble. She went outside for a potty break and came back covered in cat poop. There are several neighborhood stray cats, and they love to poop in our yard, and Scout loves to roll in it. Yes, it's as gross as it sounds. Every time she does it she has to either get a full-fledged bath (which she hates) or a good scrubbing with the sponge (which she also hates).
The good thing is that we have the airlock door. The door to the back yard is off of the laundry room, and there's a door there to the rest of the house. We close the laundry room door and Scout gets an inspection before she's allowed in the rest of the house. This way we don't figure out she's rolled in cat poop after she's, say, snuggled under the covers of our bed. Right now she's sulking in a corner. Gross dog.
Today was Nikkei Matsuri, Japantown's Japanese American Cultural Festival. We decided to walk, since it's only about 3 blocks and people were parking further than our house. We took Scout, our illegal beagle (no dogs allowed, but we didn't know that until we got there) and she thoroughly enjoyed sniffing everything and was greatly admired by a number of people. She also got a new water bowl from one of the craft booths.
Of course the best thing about any cultural festival is...the food! We had Yakisoba served up by Wesley UMC (our church) and Gyoza from the booth next door. Mmmmmm.
Kevin went to Berkeley yesterday and got Scout a new bed at George, an upscale dog boutique in, well, Berkeley. We call the bed "the cave bed" because it's basically a fleece lined cave--very soft and snuggly. We thought this would be perfect for a dog who loves to sleep under the covers of our bed. Scout was a little unsure of the cave bed at first. She crawled right in, then came out and refused to go in, and then at one point barked at it, but by nightfall she seemed to have made her peace with it and spent most of the night in there. Maybe she'll stop taking up so much room in our bed now!
I'm playing with getting some of my pictures here on my blog. Right now I can only get them as links, so click on the text to see the image:
The Diamond Earrings I got for Valentine's day Or one earring, actually. Also notice the excellent haircut around the ear area, thanks Jennifer!
Shelby doing the obligatory "Help, I'm pretending to be an Alcatraz prisoner!" The double set of bars gives it away--the door to the cell was slid open.
Zach on Alcatraz Island Looking very dapper in the Dave and Buster's hat he won the night before.
Okay, let's see how that worked.
I was reading through some of my blogs and noticing a whining/negative tone, particularly toward books. I think it sounds like I don't enjoy anything that I read. So I thought I would do an entry on books that I really liked and would highly recommend to people.
Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. Not to be confused with The Secret Life of Bees which is actually about bees, the insect, Bee Season refers to spelling bees. After years of being mediocre, Eliza suddenly realizes a talent for spelling. As her father works with her to help her win the national bee, her dysfunctional family slowly unravels and is exposed. Well, it sounds like kind of a downer explanation, but the book is really good.
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. This book came to me through my friend Wendy, a Japanese-American vegetarian (for more on that, click on the "keep reading" link below). In it, Jane, a Japanese-American documentary filmmaker is hired to produce a TV show called "My American Wife!" to be shown in Japan to promote meat consumption. The book includes an expose of the meat industry requiring a strong stomach, but it's quite funny as Jane tries to subvert the program's intentions by selecting American families as they truly are (diverse, multi-racial, there's even a segment on vegetarian lesbians) instead of what her bullying Japanese boss thinks an American family should be. Ruth Ozeki recently released a new book All Over Creation which is on my list of books to read.
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. Wow, this is how reading should be. This fictional story of the real magician Charles Carter, set mostly in San Francisco during the prohibition is a fantastic, mysterious ride. The characters are rich and it's the kind of book you actually have fun reading.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I laughed, I cried, I stayed up ridiculously late to finish it in one sitting. The premise is gruesome--14 year old Suzy is murdered (this happens in the first 5 pages, I'm not giving anything away) and narrates the tale from heaven. You'd think this would be a downer read, but it's so uplifting as Suzy follows her family throughout the years following her death. There's a part near the end that I didn't like so much, but the rest of the book is just wonderful.
And, of course, your life won't be complete until you read Pulitzer Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I simply cannot say enough good things about this book. A hefty tome, it's worth every last page, as it tells the story of Josef Kavalier and his cousin Sammy Clay, comic book artists in the middle of the Golden Age of comic books. Set against the backdrop of WWII (Josef barely escapes Nazi controlled Prague) this book will make you laugh, make you think, and make you want to read it all over again.
Those books should get you started :)
I certainly don't mean to define Wendy as merely a Japanese-American vegetarian. I mean, she is, but she's also a wonderful friend and very caring person. When she and her husband Marc lived in San Jose (they're now located in Denver and we miss them terribly) they were Scout's dogsitters when we'd go out of town. Wendy is quite definitely one of Scout's favorite people in the whole world. She does this ear scratching thing that sends Scout into absolute gales of pleasure that no one else has been able to duplicate. Also I think I still have Wendy's copy of My Year of Meats and she's been nice enough not to bug me about it :).
Tonight I'm off to a girl's night in with Sandy, Dorothy, and Hai Nhu. We're going to be eating white chili and watching Secretary. That should be fun.
I just finished reading this year's Newbery winner, Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi. Wow, what a dud. I can't believe it won. The Newbery award is an annual award given to the most distinguished children's or young adult book. Crispin is set in 13th century England. When the title character's mother is killed, a price is put on Crispin's head. He flees his tiny village, hooks up with a traveling performer, and goes to the Big City. Oh, there's also a mysterious cross of lead that belonged to Crispin's mother. The cross has something writing on it but that is a Big Secret because Crispin can't read. Anywho, the plot stumbles along in an entirely predictable way and when the Big Secret is finally revealed I was too busy yawning to appreciate it. The ending sounds like the author said to himself "oops, I'm out of time--let's wrap this up." And I'm not even mentioning that the name "Crispin" sounds like a snack cracker.
Surely there were better books from which to choose. I'll have to read the Newbery Honor books from this year. It occasionally works out this way, where a stinker gets the award while an excellent book is merely honored. A classic example is 1953, when the winner, Secret of the Andes beat out one of the finest children's books ever, Charlotte's Web. I mean who's ever heard of Secret of the Andes???
The Newbery committee (actually it's the American Library Association that gives out the award) must be trying to push historical fiction on our young people. Last year's winner, A Single Shard is set in 12th century Korea and is also a plodding, predictable book. Readers interested in historical fiction would do well to stick with Karen Cushman's work, especially Newbery winner The Midwife's Apprentice. I fear books like Crispin will turn children off to historical fiction forever.