Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday, end of 30 days

Well, I didn't make it every day this month, but 21 of 30 is still pretty good. What did I learn this time around? That it is really hard to come up with something worth saying every single day of the month. Especially when life is playing routine, and there aren't any exciting trips or hikes or events to talk about. I don't really want to bore you with everything I do, so some discretion was advised as well. I mean, how many times a month do you want to hear me say "I played a lot of tennis," or "I didn't do anything but clean the house this weekend"? Probably not many. I used to put more of that stuff up on Facebook, but not lately. I have been using my blog as the primary way to share what I am thinking about and doing, and leaving Facebook and Twitter as the places where I see what you are up to, and where I share interesting articles and so forth. It is easier to think before I post when I have to write it out here than when I just pop into Facebook and put up a quick status update. Less chance of regret.

Anyway, tomorrow is a new month, and I can guarantee I won't be posting every day. I'll aim for a few times a week though, so there will still occasionally be something worth reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A photo for Wednesday

Photo by Michael Donovan
Ah Wednesday. The week is almost half-over, at last. Yup. That's about all I have to say about that for now. So, anyway, my parents visited France earlier this month, and my dad has some of his pictures up on his website. Go visit. They are so cool that I am even more annoyed that they didn't take me (their fully grown-up and independent daughter) along for the trip. There are days when I wish I was still living at home...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Changes, sigh

I am a creature of habit, and I don't like change much. Changing seasons, OK. Changing clothes after going to the gym (and after a shower), OK. Changing the color of ink in my fountain pen, OK. Changing phone numbers, not so OK. Changing residences, not so OK (although I like being somewhere new, eventually). So, I am really getting sick of every single thing I use to organize my life on the interwebs changing. Now, not only do I have to adjust to the new settings on the Facebook feed, there are big changes coming for the profile in general - to make it, what? My memory? The keeper of my life events? That's the way I have heard it described. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family in far-flung places (and to annoy people with lots of links to articles); I don't need or want it to be the keeper of my important events, memories and photos. So once again I am going to have to go through and change settings, adjust what I see in my feed and what I let others see.  Already I use it less than I used to, and I don't see a new profile changing that.

And today, the promised/threatened migration of Delicious finally occurred. For those of you who don't know, Delicious is a social bookmarking site that allows you to save links/bookmarks and tag them, so they are available on any computer you use, and so you can share them with others (if you so desire). Because I often use two or three computers in a day, I primarily use it to organize all the sites I like to visit on a regular basis, like web comics and magazines and blogs so they are always up to date, no matter which machine I am on. I don't use it to share pages and links with other people. I do that on Twitter and Facebook (which is kind of the problem, to the Delicious developers).  But, the new incarnation (which was made necessary because the original developer of Delicious was going to kill it, before another company took it over) is primarily designed to help you share links with other people, and to discover new things to read/look at that other people like. I really don't need anything else to read, and I don't particularly want to share everything I read with random strangers. Also, because the site is still in beta mode, a lot of the functions and features that I used every day are not working. The only way to sort my bookmarks is by date added. Honestly? I really don't know when I added things, and don't care. I look for something by its name (what a radical idea1). Not all the tags work correctly right now either. So, in an attempt to find something that works, I was forced to turn to my Google Bookmarks list, which I first set up when the future of Delicious was in doubt. But none of my tags carried over, so I had to go through and re-tag everything, and re-delete things I have deleted in the last few months. Which took time that I really should have been using to do something else. And I don't really like having every part of my life on Google - what if they suddenly decide (wrongly) that I am trouble and shut me out of my account? It has happened to people - their entire lives are disrupted.

Then too, Google Bookmarks really wants you to share everything with the public. What is with this need to share everything? Can't we just be by ourselves once in a while? Can't we keep the various aspects of our lives separate once in a while? I like compartments, I like organizing things to be separate that don't really belong together. I don't keep my food in the bathroom, and I don't keep my clothes in the living room. I like that I leave work behind at the end of the day, and I like that I can go to tennis and hang out with friends that don't know and don't care about what I do at work. These are things that keep me sane; it's the same online. For me, it isn't so much about privacy, although that is a valid concern; rather, I don't care about what other people do online, and cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would care what I am doing all the time. I do like to share - see all the articles I share on Twitter and Facebook, not to mention this blog - but sometimes, I like to use these tools just to make my life easier. And to do that, I don't want them to be constantly changing in ways that some faceless developer has determined will be "better."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books Week

Did you know that we are smack in the middle of Banned Books Week? Well, we are. As a librarian/avid reader/liberal, I am very much anti-book banning, so I like Banned Books Week. There are plenty of arguments out there about why banning books (and movies and TV shows and video games and music) is just plain wrong (and stupid), and I am going to trust that you are internet-savvy enough to find them, if you so desire. Instead of adding my voice to that, and rambling on for days - which I am perfectly capable of doing - I will give you my brush with book banning:

When I was in 8th or 9th grade, a parent at my school tried to get a book banned from a class reading list, The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima, because it had naked ladies (actually, culturally-correct pearl divers) and a couple of teenagers tempted to have sex. My mom was on the curriculum committee at the time, and asked me to read the book and give her my opinion. I like to think that was because I was (a) very well-read, with good opinions about books, even back then, and (b) I had extremely well-developed common-sense for someone of my age group. (Mom, don't say anything that will disabuse me of this notion. I like the rosy-tinted view of my precocious self.) Anyway, I read the book, and although I don't really remember all that much about it (I can't remember most of the plot described in the Wikipedia summary), I do remember that it was not in any way worth banning. It didn't get banned, in the end (probably not because of my opinion, alas), which is as it should be.

The whole incident struck me then, as it does now, as incredibly ridiculous. The innocent child who could have been asked to read such filth was in junior high at the time, and the book was for a junior or senior level class. How did having such a book on a list harm that kid? No idea. (Besides, in high school, anything assigned in class is less likely to be read simply because it was assigned i.e. boring and homework, therefore, often skipped. A book you pick up on your own and read in private is one you want to read, and far more likely to be "dangerous").  Also, the book was in an elective class, not a required one. If the parent still had her panties in a bunch over the book by the time the student got to that point, in 4 or 5 years, she could have just not allowed the child to take that class. That is how people should react to something they don't approve of - by not reading it, not by trying to force other people to stop reading it. (Of course, I also think we should expose ourselves to things we don't generally approve of before we make the choice to continue with our dislike, but that is another point for another day). Not to mention that the mother couldn't protect/shield/pamper/mess up her kid for ever.

There are plenty of books and TV shows that I don't approve of for whatever reason, but unless they are primarily hate-speech and require some sort of active response, I don't read them, I don't watch them; it is my choice to make. I don't think books should be banned, because suppressing an idea or opposing viewpoint doesn't allow for discussion, for debate, for exposure of alternatives. It provides a false sense that everyone believes the same thing, that we all ought to live in lock-step with one another. We don't. We shouldn't. In a country that prides itself on being the country of "liberty and justice for all," the free exchange of ideas and viewpoints is a vital necessity. Even for junior high students. So, go read something that has been banned, and flaunt it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Umm, yeah, Friday

Picture by Candace Donovan
This has been a long week. The weather has been all over the place - up to the upper 80s for a couple of days, then down to 50 last night; sunny one minute, pouring rain the next. One co-worker has been on vacation all week, so my daily schedule is all switched around, which adds to the slight discombobulation caused by all the technological changes on Netflix, Facebook, and Pandora (yeah, they changed stuff too, but I actually like their changes, so I haven't complained). This weekend promises to be busy, as they all have been recently. Oh, and I just thought of something - the rain means the grass will be growing again and the lawn will need mowing. Drat.

Anyway, I'm not feeling too chatty, and I am sure you don't really care for the minutiae of my daily existence. So enjoy this lovely picture of bread (which is making me hungry) that my mother took recently in France, and have a good weekend. I may or may not be here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Funny things to Read

I am still feeling like Grouchy McCrankypants - Facebook's newest change is not helping - but there are still things that make me smile. Here are a few of them, in no particular order:
  • Unshelved - a cartoon by and about libraries and librarians. Some days, I swear they are spying on my office to get their material.
  • Sheldon - another great web comic with a boy genius, a talking duck, a cranky grandfather and Flaco. Squee!
  • Cute Overload - pictures of cute animals. Need I say more?
  • Disapproving Rabbits - of cute rabbits looking disapproving.
  • Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me - the weekly NPR news quiz. It's kind of like the Daily Show, on the radio.
OK. So those are things that make me happy. What about you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grouchy McCrankypants

Yup, that's me today. I am still irritated about the recycling thing from yesterday, and the whole Netflix debacle. I didn't really mind the price hike earlier this summer - I can afford an extra $6 a month, and if I couldn't I shouldn't have it in the first place - but the splitting of the two parts of Netflix into a DVD company and a streaming company just piss me off. We use both, and I agree with Farhad Manjoo's observations 100%:
I think it's an idiotic strategy. Most of Netflix's customers subscribe to both DVDs and streaming, and if they're like me, they like the service because it enables both not-so-picky instant gratification and well-considered delayed gratification. I use the DVD service to select movies that I really want to watch and am willing to wait for; I use the streaming service when I want to watch something—and pretty much anything—right now. I can keep doing this after the DVD plan is renamed Qwikster, but it will require more work. If I search for a movie on Qwikster, it won't tell me that the movie can be seen for free, right now, on Netflix. If I search for a movie on Netflix and don't find it, it won't let me add it to my DVD queue. Say I watch a bunch of DVDs starring Kevin Spacey and then give them all a one-star rating. (I can't stand Kevin Spacey.) Because the two services will have separate ratings databases, Netflix might just recommend that I watch a Spacey marathon.

Add to that Rick Perry's ascendency into the Republican front-runner, despite/because of the incredibly hateful and stupid things he has done, like cutting funds for women's health clinics, and anything else related to the 2012 presidential race, and I am just flat out cranky.

In an ideal world, I would just shut myself away from the radio, newspaper, internet and other people for an indefinite amount of time until I felt better, or at least until I was feeling slightly more charitable towards the human race. Instead, I am stuck going about my normal routine without biting someone's head off or shooting myself in the foot. Sigh.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tennis again, and a recycling rant

The fall tennis flex league starts this week, so tennis will be taking up more time in schedule again for a while. I've only been going to one class a week, and not playing outside of that since the end of July. I have a match today after work, and Benjamin played two matches this weekend. At least the weather is a lot cooler than it was this summer!

In other news... I thought I had read an announcement that our local public works was going to be distributing new recycling bins this fall that would hold a lot of recyclables and wouldn't require sorting, like my parents have in Bellevue. Can I tell you how much I want this? A lot. Currently, the only recycling Maumelle has curbside is newspapers and aluminum cans. Totally useless to me - we don't get a newspaper, and don't use many cans. You can take other recyclables to the recycling center/transfer station, but they have to be separated by type, and I don't think they take glass. When you don't have city-provided bins for keeping things separate, it is a total pain in the neck to do so - we've tried. Anyway, so today I finally got fed up waiting for news from the city about this and emailed the public works department. And found that I was wrong. They have no plans to change the system that is in place, and "In order for recycling efforts to be cost-effective and not end up in the landfills, the materials must be sorted." Which is, as Bellevue shows, totally false. Not to mention that Conway's drop-off doesn't make you sort anything except glass. So I guess we will have to continue doing what we have been doing, and taking monthly trips to Conway with our cars full of recycling. I have been unable to properly recycle anything at my own home since I moved away from home in 2001 - in Austin, our apartments never recycled anything, so we had to take everything to a recycling center there too - and I am getting tired of it. I mean, how many other people in Maumelle actually bother to take any recycling to the drop-off center? Probably not that many. I do, but I am close to what my cousin (who is one himself) calls a hippy nut-job (I have two compost bins and a worm bin - definitely hippy nut-job). In this advanced day and age, we should have smaller garbage cans and larger recycling bins, and I should have to sort my recycling. Simple things to save the earth, like recycling, should be getting easier, not harder.

Friday, September 16, 2011

2011 Reading Challenges Update

Whoops. Looks like I forgot to post anything yesterday. Sorry ('cause I know you are all heartbroken.)

Today, after finishing the marvelous Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, I added it to my "books read in 2011" list on Goodreads, and discovered that it was the 111th book I have finished this year. That was my original goal for the entire year, back in January. I will clearly blow past it by the end of the year - I mean, I still have 3 1/2 months of reading to go - so I revised my goal up to 140. If I meet it, it would be the most I have ever read (at least since I have been keeping track, which means probably ever). Benjamin is a little skeptical, since I have read a lot of graphic novels and manga this year - he says I should remove them from the total. But I don't want to do that - I read them, didn't I? And they are published as books - they have ISBN numbers and everything. So they stay. It is my own challenge, so I can set the arbitrary rules.

The other challenge I joined this year was to read 12 books that had been sitting on my "to read" shelf for over a year (here's my original post about the challenge). So far, I have read 7 of the 12, and I am currently in the middle of the 8th. I managed the two longest a while ago, and 3 of the 4 I haven't started yet are not long. But one of the ones left is Madame Bovary, and it isn't exactly short. I think I am going to listen to that one on my iPod, since I found an unabridged addition on Audible.

If I do manage to read 140 books, I am most likely setting an almost impossible bar for myself. I doubt I will be reading quite so many graphic novels and manga all at one time again, for one thing. Ah well. The important thing is that I will have a challenge for the future.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Procrastination much?

My watch is fixed! Yes, this is a big deal because the battery went out, oh, probably (at least) a year ago, and I have not managed to get around to fixing it until today. And it was strictly because I kept putting it off/telling myself it was too much trouble. I don't tend to procrastinate on important things, but things like getting a watch battery fixed and washing the outside of my house windows, even when they are driving me batty, tend to get pushed off into the future.

For the watch, I didn't know of a jewelry store that was easily accessible during my daily/weekly schedule of errands and work. Any errand that is not something I do on a normal basis is "difficult," and therefore subject to procrastination - I am a creature with deeply ingrained habits and routines. Having to drive somewhere different or do a non-routine weekend errand is a big production, at least in my own head. Never mind that I could have found a jeweler nearby on the internet in less than five minutes, and easily gone by after work as a slight detour. Yes, I know I am completely irrational at times - Benjamin, being pretty darn logical and a philosopher, finds my brain completely mystifying. (Not that he doesn't procrastinate on certain things himself... *washing his car* ahem.)

Anyway, I had a dentist appointment this morning not far from a known (to me) jewelry shop, and I remembered to take my watch with me. Since I had the time, I stopped by and got it fixed. Yay. And no, it really wasn't that hard.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An apple a day...

Photo by Michael Donovan

My office has decided to join a state-run plan to get employees exercising and eating more fruits and vegetables. There are rewards for doing so, and I already do everything it requires, so I could probably clean up when it comes to tallying exercise and eating right, but I am not going to join. Why? Because there are certain things I am willing to do in life, and certain things I am not. Willing to do: get up at 5 AM to go to the gym, even when I have only had 5 good hours of sleep. Not willing to do: fill in a daily log of exercise and food. To their credit, you don't have to set (and reach) a goal to get rewards, which would really piss me off - you just have to do the good stuff and record it. But, even years ago when I was actively trying to modify my diet and lose weight, I refused to count calories or keep a food log (for more than a day or two). Partially, this is because of my perfectionist tendencies - it is so inexact to log in my exercise using only the two categories of "cardio" or "strength/flexibility;" where does one put fencing, for example? And tennis? Yes, it has cardio advantages, but it isn't the same as running or an aerobics class. I find the lack of granularity and detail maddening. Same with the fruit and vegetables counting. How does one count vegetables in a casserole? Or in a sandwich? I get kind of paralyzed by the details. Partially, I don't want to turn everything into a spreadsheet. I already record everything I read, I have a blog, I have a journal. While my dad may keep track of the number of times he mows the lawn each summer, or how many times he fills his car each year, I am not ready to be that obsessive. It gets boring after a while. Partially, it is just me being contrary. If I am doing something on my own, and someone comes along and tells me I should continue to do so, but also keep track, I don't want to. Even if it would get me extra time off. I am just that obtuse. Not that I am going to stop exercising or anything, I just don't want to do it their way.

Also, I am not interested in the program because I already have all the good habits they want to foster.  If the program gets more people in my building to exercise and eat better, great. But since there is no push in the program to actually remove bad habits (apart from smoking) such as drinking sugary sodas for breakfast (or sweet tea - this is the South, after all), and no incentives for eating whole grains and less meat, I am not sure how effective it will be in changing the overall health of people in the office. I suppose I will just have to be happy that at least they are trying. Some change is better than none, after all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oh Monday

As the more observant of you might notice, I didn't post anything yesterday, which means that I won't make my goal of posting every single day in September. Since it was a completely arbitrary self-imposed challenge, it doesn't really mean much in the grand scheme of things. I didn't write because I spent most of the day actively avoiding the computer and radio and anything else news related. I didn't write because I don't have anything original or important to say about the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Yes, I remember exactly where I was and what I did that day, but those are my memories and I prefer to keep them that way, rather than using them to create a false sense of empathy or connection. Maybe, one day, if I have children and they study 9/11 in school and want to know, maybe then I will share, but they don't need to be out in the ether of the internet. So consider my lack of posting yesterday as my own moment of silence. If you feel the need to read something about the anniversary and what the attacks have meant for us as a nation, read this excellent "Ask the Pilot" column on Salon.

In other news, today seemed determined to assert itself as a MONDAY, and a full-moon Monday at that. Despite keeping myself very busy yesterday and making myself very tired, I had trouble falling asleep (in part from the brightness of the goldurned moon peeking through the slats of the blinds in my bedroom) and got far too little sleep last night. Adding insult to that injury, I woke up 20 minutes before my alarm normally goes off, which meant I was awake at 4:40 AM. I don't know about you, but I tend to break the morning and night into chunks that I classify as "early" "far too early" and "still the middle of the night." Since I regularly get up at 5 AM, that really should only classify as early, and some days it does. Other days though, it is far too early. But no matter what, anything that falls within the 4 AM time-slot is still kind of the middle of the night to me. Sigh. (Of course, this also applies to sleeping in. For me, sleeping until 6 AM on a weekday qualifies as sleeping in, while 7 or 7:30 on a weekend means I have slept until an ungodly late hour. The cats seem to agree and take pains to get me up close to my normal time. Sigh again.)

Anyway...what my general lack of sleep meant is that I am starting the week off already tired. I did make it to the gym for a 2-mile run and a session in the weight room, but if I had been less tired and moving better, I could have probably done 3 miles. And Monday decided that it was having fun with me, so it made me get bright pink strawberry smoothie on my expensive, hand-made white skirt. It also dropped an uncooked egg off the kitchen counter, but that was part of Benjamin's Monday, not mine exactly. As he said, maybe he unconsciously did it to make me feel better. And there was traffic. Sigh.

Other than all that, I am actually peachy. Or as peachy as a pessimistic, cynical, Eeyore clone ever gets. And at least I didn't spill my scalding tea all over myself.

Since I haven't got any pictures of my own, enjoy one of my dad's. He is currently in France and sending occasional updates. As soon as he gets home, there will be plenty more where that came from, up on his website. (Sorry in advance about the surfing wizard .gif. He likes it...)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sick computer still sick

So, my computer is still broken. We took it to the Apple store today, to no avail. Part of the problem is that my computer is now 6 years old, and Apple no longer sells parts or software for it. The guy at the genius bar tried to get it to a point where he could load something onto it, but the computer wouldn't even recognize that drive. I brought it home, dug around in my stuff until I found the original start-up disk, and tried to reinstall the operating system...Nothing. Sigh. It has been a good computer, but I have a feeling that it has had it. If so, I am contemplating replacing it with an iPad, instead of a full computer. Since we have another computer (the one I am using right now), and I don't do any real work on my computer, I have a hard time justifying a brand new laptop. The iPad will have to wait for a while though - they aren't cheap, and I am going to have to be pretty desperate before I can talk myself out of that much money for a toy. Puritan guilt - I've got plenty of it. Anyway, at least I have seen the new Apple store - it looks like any other Apple store, but since it isn't in a mall (well, it is, sort of, but an outdoor one) it is bigger and less squished than the others I have been in. Whee.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday video

Leverage is one of my favorite shows on TV right now. Since it is Friday, and I don't have anything else to say, watch this, then go get the full series.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cherie Priest - go read her books

One of my favorite authors right now is Cherie Priest. I am in the middle of two of her books (one I'm reading with Benjamin and one on my own) and there is another one due out at the end of the month or beginning of next month. Since she writes in a lot of different genres, I can't really describe her as having one style. But she writes really good female characters and snappy dialog, and plain, old, really good stories.  The most famous series is the Clockwork Century - Boneshaker, Clementine, Dreadnought, and coming soon, Ganymede. They are set in an alternate history where the Civil War is still being fought in the 1880s, and Seattle is infested with zombies.

This cover is from the one that just came out on Tuesday, a sequel to Bloodshot. It is also set in Seattle (at least partially), and has vampires (who definitely don't sparkle), a ex-Navy SEAL drag queen, and lots of action.

Anyway, you should go read something of hers. You will thank me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Day at Bell Slough

We considered going for a proper hike on Monday, since the weather was so nice, but decided that we had too much to get done at home to allow us to take so long on an excursion. Instead, we headed up to the Bell Slough - a wildlife management area between Maumelle and Conway.

It's purpose is to provide a resting area for waterfowl and other birds as they migrate. (Although hunting is allow in the area, so I am not sure how restful it really is). It also has a nice trail that loops around for approximately 3 miles through oak trees and other typical Arkansas forest terrain.

Miikka loves hiking here - there is always so much to smell. He was practically quivering with excitement when we got out of the car and headed for the trail at a run, towing me along behind.  When we hike, we have an established order - Benjamin first, followed by Miikka, with me bringing up the rear. Sometimes Miikka tries to take the lead, but he is so often distracted or side-tracked by an interesting smell, and he stops so suddenly that he causes pile-ups. If Benjamin takes the leash, Miikka is worried that I am not right behind him. So: Benjamin, Miikka, Hope.

There were some wildflowers blooming along the path, although it hasn't rained for a few weeks. 

The best part of Bell Slough is that even though it is right next to the freeway, and is in easy driving distance of Conway and Little Rock, there are almost never too many people (and by too many, I mean anyone other than us). It is easy to slip into nature for a little while, breathe in the clean air, and relax. This trip, we saw two other people, but only from a distance. Perfect.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Trying to do too much

Lately, I have this feeling like I am trying to do too many things. Too many new things, to be specific. Since January, I have taken up running, tennis (well, that goes back to November, but it didn't get serious until this year), yoga, and fencing. At the same time I am still trying to go to the gym for weight training a couple of mornings a week, and to do tai chi often enough that I don't forget any of it, and meditate for at least 20 minutes most days (not necessarily because I want to be more enlightened, but because I want to keep panic attacks and crippling anxiety attacks at bay without going back on anti-depressants). I also miss my bassoon, which, I am horrified to admit, I have not touched in at least 2 years, nor played regularly since we left Austin. The garden needs work too. Honestly, I don't have that much time. I work full time, have a dog, three cats, a chinchilla and a husband who all need and deserve my attention as well. Not to mention my bed, which has a standing appointment every night, and is feeling slighted.

I am really enjoying all the new activities and the friends I am making through them, but I don't think this level of activity is sustainable. Nothing is getting my full attention, because I am too busy doing something else to practice anything. I really want to get better at tennis and fencing and yoga, and not lose proficiency in tai chi, and not forget how to play my bassoon, but each one of those is enough to be a full-time hobby on its own. If pressed, I could come up with very good reasons for sticking with every activity - tennis is a sport I have wanted to play for a while and it takes the place of racquetball (which I also miss, but which is sort of a pain to play around here, and Benjamin and I were tired of only playing each other), and I am on a team with fun teammates and a great coach. Fencing is another sport I have been interested in trying for a while, and Benjamin loves it and really wants me to love it as well, and so far, I do. Last week was the first time I actually got to fence, and it was fun - A 12 year-old beat me, but it was fun. Running is really just an extension of the cardio exercise I was doing at the gym, but more intense (and it takes longer for me to run 3 miles than it does to use an elliptical for 30 minutes, which is why scheduling of my gym trips is becoming a problem). Yoga is a good relaxer and strength-building activity, and boy do I need the flexibility work it provides. So, I can't choose; I don't even begin to know how to choose.

I guess it is a good problem to have, since it means I have the money to pay for all these hobbies, and the time to at least attend the practices and classes. And it is obviously a problem of someone without children, because if I had children, I would probably be more worried about them being over-scheduled than worrying about my own activities. But the middle-class, privileged nature of the problem doesn't really make it less of a problem for me right at this moment. For the moment, at least, I will continue with all these activities, and I will continue to drive myself crazy with my attempts to do everything (which rather negates the fun, stress-relieving purpose of hobbies), but one of these days I am going to have to make some choices. Sigh.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Uh oh...

My poor computer is sick right now. It is 5 years old, and last night, while I was reading something on the web, it went blank. Since it was late, I didn't want to deal with it. This morning, when I started it, I got the blue screen of death.  I figured out that I can open it in safe mode, but that means I can't connect to the internet. Good thing we have another computer. Next weekend I guess I will have to take the poor thing to the (brand new) Apple store and see if someone can make it work properly again. It is probably a software issue, but I have no idea how to fix it, even with the "helpful" ideas on the Apple page.

In other news: it didn't rain, but the temperature is just about perfect today. We took Miikka for a walk at the Bell Slough - there will be pictures eventually. Maybe tomorrow or Wednesday. I re-potted a couple of plants, put together a new bookshelf, got some laundry done, with Benjamin's help cleaned the house. So much for not doing anything this weekend.

The weather is supposed to be really nice all week, but I predict we will have at least another week of really hot weather before fall comes in for good. But at least we know it is on its way.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Oliver is in a hat

I have had a request for more pictures of Cleo and Oliver, but since they rarely leave the bedroom or do anything photogenic these days, you get a few older pictures.  We are heading to a potluck for Benjamin's philosophy department, and there is a chance of rain. Such is your weekend update.

In the meantime, Oliver is in a hat. Your argument is invalid.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not going to fail this soon

Ha! Thought I forgot all about blogging today, didn't you. Well, OK, I did, for a while. But I am here now, a good three hours before midnight. Not that I have anything particularly interesting or illuminating to say today, so this is a little stream of consciousness. I've been awfully busy so far, for a weekend in which I said I was going to do nothing. When you have a three-day weekend, everyone always asks if you have any big plans. I do it to other people, they do it to me. I usually say no - because I hate doing "big things" at the same time that everyone else in the area is doing the same "big thing." I mean, I love camping, but I would never voluntarily go camping on Labor Day or Memorial Day (umm, although that is exactly what we did this past Memorial Day...but the river we camped by was packed, so it proves my point a little). Too many people also taking that opportunity to get back to nature. I might be willing to go to a museum or something, if there was an exhibit I was interested in. Generally though, I prefer to stay home and relax on a three-day weekend.

But there isn't anything like that this weekend, and I planned to not be busy. But I spent most of the day out, at a tennis lesson, running errands. Good thing I have an extra day, although, we are thinking of going for a hike, if it isn't raining. Hike, I said, not camping. So I am not really breaking my own rule.

Time to go relax for a little bit before bedtime. Tomorrow I have to wash a cat, so I will need my rest!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Report: The Reading Promise

Since I promised to write every day this month, it seems appropriate to start the month off with a book about a promise: The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. You may have heard of this book when it came out earlier this year - Alice and her father started reading together when she was in elementary school, and continued, every day, until she left for college. This book is about The Streak, as they called it, but it is also about the importance of reading and books and family.

Overall, I give the book 3 1/2 stars out of 5. I love the topic and the idea of a reading streak. Both my parents read to me while I was growing up, but not every single night for years, and at some point, I started reading aloud to my mother while she was driving me to and from my music lessons and orchestra rehearsals and on road trips. Then I started reading to Benjamin while we were dating, and we still read together. So, obviously I approve. I enjoyed the way Alice Ozma (yes, both names from books, yes, bother actually her names - the middle ones. And she said she liked them together, so I will go ahead and refer to her that way) used the days of The Streak as markers for important events in her life. But...I sort of wished she said more about the books themselves, about what they were reading, about how she felt about those books. She admits that they didn't even really keep track of everything that they read (augh! How could you not do that?!) That isn't what this book is, but that is sort of what I hoped for from the subtitle. More my problem than the books though.

One problem I had, apart from that, was the dialog. I simply couldn't find it believable at times that a child would speak the way Alice Ozma records herself as speaking, and I can't believe that she remembered conversations that clearly. I know that recreating conversations is not unusual in memoirs, so my problem isn't with that, exactly; it is more that the 10 year old Alice Ozma at the beginning of the book sounds an awful lot like the 20 year old Alice Ozma at the end of the book, or like dialog written by an adult who doesn't know any children. Yes, she read a lot and had a big vocabulary. So did I, and I certainly don't think I ever sounded like that. It is just a bit too precocious and precious.

Overall though, I enjoyed the book. It was an easy read, and it is a great testament to reading aloud together. I think teachers, librarians, and parents would enjoy it. If you are interested in more information about the book or Alice Ozma and the Reading Promise that is in the back of the book, you can visit her website: Make a Reading Promise.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

30 Days Hath September

First off, can I just say Wahoo! We have survived August, and are blessed with September. I learned yesterday that while astronomers use the equinoxes as the markers for seasons, most meteorologists use months. So summer is June, July, and August, and autumn is September, October and November. Makes tons of sense to me. That is what most people do too, I would imagine. Being a stickler, I tend to go with the astronomer's version, but only because it is canon. If someone else uses a different scale, I can "allow" myself to as well. Yes, I am that strange.

Clouds, somewhere over Arkansas or Texas

As a reward for reaching September mostly unscathed from the summer, I am setting myself the task of blogging every day this month, even the weekends. I'll try to have something interesting to say at least 80% of the time, and pictures too. I have a few more cloud pictures from the Hawaii trip, and now that cooler weather is a possibility (not necessarily a reality, but a girl can at least hope in September) there might even be hiking and the attendant pictures.

A quick reading update: I have read 96 books so far this year. At this pace, I will blow by my goal of 110 by the beginning of October. I might have to count pages next year though, because my count is a leeetle inflated by some of the manga and short graphic novels I have been reading lately. But page counts might be edging just a tad into obsessive, maybe...