Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More from Spy Rock

Most of the trees on the hike were bare (apart from the pines, of course), but there were still many interesting things to see. Like this cairn that some past hiker constructed out of the local rock.

And these fungi that covered a dead tree on the side of the trail.

From a quick internet search for "tree fungi" I found an index to tree fungi, which gave me a name -turkey tail fungus - and led me to this interesting website. I absolutely love the internet and the speedy finding of information! Sure, I could have found this information in a book, eventually, assuming that my library had a book of fungi.

There was also this lovely spiral of lichen on a rock.

And moss that seemed to glow when the light hit it just right. 

These pictures don't really do the glow justice, but hopefully you can get the idea. It is the small views like these that motivate me to get out into the woods, just as much as the vista from the top of the mountain.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Hike: Spy Rock, 8.8 Miles

Wearing orange so hunters don't shoot us.
 On Friday, we took our now annual post-Thanksgiving hike. We started doing this as a tradition back in Texas, as a way to avoid shopping or sitting at home doing homework. This year, we chose an 8.8 mile loop hike in the Ozark National Forest that took us through a (planted) pine grove, up the side of a ridge, and eventually to the top of the tallest hill/mountain in the area.

Because most of the leaves were off the oaks, we had some great views out over the surrounding countryside as we climbed. Although it was primarily an uphill sort of hike on the way out, it wasn't really that bad, and I speak as someone who really hates hiking uphill.

There were some great natural features, like this big boulder and moss and lichen (which I am saving for another day). 

And peeking through the trees is a view of Spy Rock - the midpoint/destination of the hike.

Hmm. I was calling this Spy Mountain when I was telling people about it, but clearly, I was incorrect. The sign from the trail proves it.

This was the view at the top. What you can't feel is the wind. Hold on to your hats!

It was a good day for a hike - not too cold, but not too hot. And it was only really windy at the exposed top of Spy Rock.

Miikka had a grand time on the hike. Yes, he made it all 8.8 miles without any trouble. And even better, he was allowed to go almost the entire way off-leash. The dog who, in the neighborhood, can't even be let out in the front yard off-leash, went at least 8 miles without wandering away or running off into the woods. He just stayed on the trail, between Benjamin and I, the whole way. Once, at a Y in the trail, he did want to go down the opposite fork, but was eventually convinced to come with us instead. And even then, he didn't just cut through the grass to reach us - he trotted back to the Y, staying on the trail. He was on the leash at the top of the mountain, while we ate lunch, because I don't particularly trust him not to go over the edge, and a couple of times when we got close to logging roads where we heard the occasional 4-wheeler (the only other people we saw the entire hike). Otherwise, totally free. What a good hiker!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When She Woke book review

When She WokeWhen She Woke by Hillary Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. A re-telling/re-working of The Scarlet Letter. When She Woke is set in a not-too-distant distopian future United States, where the religious right/social conservatives have taken over the government and laws, where there is a Secretary of Faith in the president's cabinet and where having an abortion nets you the same punishment as a murderer. And that punishment - the guilty person is Chromed through genetic implants, turned a specific color indicative of the crime. As someone who grew up close to, though not really a part of, the world of conservative evangelicals, and as someone who is furious at the current crop of politicians trying to roll back human rights in American, this book was both terrifying, and heartening.

Hannah has been Chromed for aborting the product of her affair with a very married, very important man. Once released back into the world that now despises her and, in some cases, actively wants her dead, she must learn who she really is, what she really believes, and how to survive. She was always a little too rebellious for her very straight-laced mother, asking too many questions, not following the full intent of the law, but this characteristic becomes what saves her, in the end. It carries her from the halfway house of horror to a chance at a new life and a true re-awakening.

I almost gave this 5 stars, but there were a few too many moments where I wanted to shake some sense into Hannah for that rating. Overall though, a fantastic book, and one that would be a great pick for a book club or reading group.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 18, 2011

Funny things I saw this week

Woo! Friday! Here are a couple of funny things I saw this week:
Two Lumps - a cat cartoon that is snarky and funny. I just discovered this one, and am working my way through the archives.

Jimmy Fallon as Jim Morrison, singing the Reading Rainbow theme song. Sorry, it isn't available to be embedded - you will just have to go click.

And one more, to make it a few funny things instead of a couple: Eating Over the Sink, a humorous parenting blog by Samantha Bee (from the Daily Show) and her friend, Allana Harkin. I don't have kids, obviously, and many things I read about having children/pregnancy/parenting scare the crap out of me, quite frankly. Not this one. I think it is the humor that makes everything seem like the whole might be a little more manageable, when I get around to it (if I do).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When I said I wanted rain...

I didn't mean this much, all at once. This is a photo from the National Weather Service, showing how much rain we got on Tuesday. Our house is smack in the middle of the 4-5+ inches of rain. It was a record-breaking day, apparently. One that our roof wasn't quite prepared for - we have a leak in the kitchen, right over the kitchen table. A leaky roof is not one of the joys of home-ownership. We are hoping that we just need to have it patched, and not completely replaced, since the problem seems to be in just one spot.

Sorry to say, I am really not mentally equipped to deal with such problems. Usually, I am a forward thinking feminist, capable of dealing with anything that comes my way, but when something goes wrong with my house or car, I revert. I want my husband to step into the stereotypical gender role and fix it for me. If I had a time machine, I would to go back in time to high school and take shop class and auto mechanics, so that my ignorance of those subjects, which is what makes me freak out, goes away. Yeah, yeah, I could probably take such a class now, but it would have been better back then, before the freaking out. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What I will do for books

If you have been reading me for any length of time, you know I am a book nerd, or book geek, or whatever you preferred designation. At the start of the year, I set a goal of reading 110 books this year; I blew past that in September or October. My to-read shelf at Goodreads has almost 600 books on it (I keep reading books on it, but then I find a like a particular author, and have to add everything else they wrote, or the author mentions an author that was influential for them, and I have to go and add that author...). I read author blogs, follow authors on Twitter, read Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal (those two are ostensibly for work purposes, but really, they just feed my habit). All of this is to say, yes, I am a wee bit obsessed with books.

So it should come as no surprise that I drove 3 hours each direction to Memphis this past Saturday, just to hear Cherie Priest talk for an hour at a book store to promote her most recent book, Ganymede. She is definitely one of my favorite authors right now, and while I read her blog and twitter feeds (and feel a little like a stalker whenever I reply to something), I had never seen her in person.* My dad saw her at a book event in Seattle and told me that she reminded him of me (by which I think basically, he meant that she is a smart, snarky female, but hey, whatever). Since book tours are pretty rare these days for any author who is not also a great personage, I jumped at the chance to see her, even though it did mean 6 hours in the car.

Not that driving 6 hours just for book-related activities is unheard of in my family. One summer, when Benjamin and I were living with my parents, Mom, Dad and I (Benjamin refused to be crammed in a car for 6 hours with all three of us, just for a bookstore run - probably wise), drove the three hours from Seattle to Portland, just to go to Powells Bookstore. That's it. We did nothing else except each lunch while were there. If you know Powells though, you know that it was totally worth it.

Anyway, the talk was fun - I got a couple of books signed (she probably would have signed everything I have, if I had lugged it in, but two is fine), and got to say hello. I confessed to being an, um, ardent, fan, and she even recognized my name from comments on FB and Twitter. (I have been assured by another author that I have interacted with in Twitter that simply chatting is not at all like stalking, but I can't quite shake the feeling that I am probably annoying them somehow.) Actually, I was having a hard time not acting like a manic fan girl before the reading, when she came into the cafe where we were eating lunch. I am usually so not a fan girl type - too beneath whatever dignity I pretend to posses, but I was almost bouncing up and down and giggling. Benjamin was, I think, mildly amused at my silliness.

If you ever get the chance to see a favorite author, you should. Go, listen, chat if they offer that opportunity, and buy a book - even if you already have all of them. They need our support in this world that is increasingly hostile to endeavors that don't make tons of money. And you might just have a good time!

*I take that back. I did see her a couple of years ago at ALA when she was on a Scifi/fantasy panel, and I got a free copy of Boneshaker. I had tried to read it a few months before and couldn't get into it, but after hearing her talk about it, and having a free copy, I tried again and really liked it. (Benjamin makes fun of me for disliking it, and then doing a 180). Enough that I then read everything else. But still, that was a panel, and I didn't know anything about her then.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Should I run a 10k?

I'm thinking about it, just a bit. My exercise routine needs a little shaking up, maybe a real goal to work for - pounding the treadmill just because is getting old. I'd love to be able to run outside, which might be enough of a change, but since I have to go to the gym at 5 AM (OK, 5:30) it is far too dark for me to feel comfortable outside by myself. The other times I have available for running that aren't too dark are usually dedicated to walking the dog. I feel guilty leaving him at home when I go outside for exercise, since he really needs walks, and I like walking as a form of relaxation.

Anyway, a goal. I don't really feel any desire to become a long distance runner, and I don't really care about races - I run to get aerobic exercise, mostly, and to increase my endurance for tennis and fencing. But now that I can routinely run 3 miles at a time on the treadmill, I am bored. It seems like a 10K would be a good goal to work towards. But maybe I should be working on other things first, like increasing my speed at the 5K (even though I just said I don't care about races, that doesn't mean I don't want to go faster). I'm just not sure - you could pour syrup on me and call me a waffle I change my mind so often.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I spend too much time reading blogs and magazine posts by serious runners - people for whom running is their primary form of entertainment and hobby, who race for fun, who worry about their split times and minute changes to their strides, and how to fuel up for an ultra-marathon - and I start to think that way too, or at least think that I should think that way. This isn't necessarily bad, but a lot of what I read is certainly over my head, and written for people with a different focus. And after a while, I start thinking that there is only one way to do things - the competitive way - and lose sight of my actual goals with running. (This is a not uncommon problem with me.) And those goals are really not related to running - running is more of a tool for me to improve my other hobbies, instead of the hobby itself. I do want to improve, and I want to make sure I am doing things correctly so I don't injure myself, but I am, ultimately, not trying to be a serious runner.

So, I am thinking about a 10K, but I haven't decided. And if I don't do it, that's OK. I need to remember that back in January, when I first starting thinking about running, I couldn't run 3 miles, I hated running, and I wouldn't have even thought about a 10K.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's the little things

Some days, Monday's especially, it can be the little things that keep you going. Today, it is my new tights. I am absolutely thrilled - thrilled I tell you - that I found several pairs of tights at the store that are NOT control-top, and do not make me feel like sausage. I want tights that keep my legs warm and complement my clothes, not ones that make me feel like I am being cut in half. So, yay for the new tights I bought this weekend.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A song for Thursday

Not much to say this week, apparently. So you get a video of one of my favorite musicians -Karine Polwart - playing one of my favorite songs. Warning - it is folky, so if you have an aversion to that sort of thing, don't click. And don't tell me if you don't like it - I don't want to hear it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bye Bye Worms

If you have been following me for a long time, you might remember that we have a worm bin. Or rather, that we had a worm bin. We started using a worm bin to dispose of food scraps back in Austin, when we lived in an apartment and didn't want all the banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds etc that we produced to go to waste. The worm castings and worm "tea" were great fertilizers for our container gardens. Although it was never as odorless or bugless as the various books and websites asserted it could be, we put up with fruit flies in the bathroom and extra cockroaches on the porch for almost 9 years. They moved to Bellevue with us for a summer, and back to Austin. When we moved to New York, we gave the bin and its batch of worms to a friend. but shortly after we arrived in Brockport, I made a new bin and restocked it. That batch moved to Arkansas with us and lived in our bathroom whenever it was too hot or too cold.

Lately, however, we have been neglecting the worms. Partially, we had a hard time generating enough food for them, since we now also have two regular compost bins in the back yard. We eat a lot of vegetables and fruit, but not so much that the remains can sustain worms and compost. On Saturday, as we were leaving for tennis, I noticed that there were suddenly a lot of dead worms on the floor of the garage - probably because there wasn't anything left to eat in the bin, and they made an ill-fated break for freedom. The garage was never a great place to keep them anyway, since it gets pretty hot in the summer, and there are lots of roaches. So, rather than let the rest of the worms suffer, I emptied the remaining worms into one of the compost bins. If they like it there, they can help the microbes eat up the leaves and food waste and Kirby-bedding. And we will no longer have to have two yogurt containers on the counter with mouldering food in them - just the bucket under the sink.

I feel a little sad about quitting our vermicomposting adventure, although it stopped being much of an adventure quite a while ago. It was certainly something different, something not at all corporate or widespread. Something that was a sort of an extreme lifestyle choice, like making my own yogurt and baking my own bread every week (I don't do either of those all that often anymore), but not as far out as living in a yurt or becoming a dumpster diving freegan. Now, I am just a normal suburban environmentalist, with compost bins and a clothesline.