Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paper Back Rider

A few years back, I was looking for a certain book called Five Smooth Stones. I had read it long, long ago, and remembered it being a life-changer. As in, this book should be required high school reading instead of, say, Ivanhoe. So I poked around on the internet, and found a site called Alibris Company. They specialize in rare and out-of-print books. I was able to find 2 copies of my book, which I immediately loaned out and have never seen again. (I wonder if they have another copy...)

Today they sent me an email with some suggested reading they have "lovingly chosen" just for me. Let's just see what books I apparently need to read, shall we?

Here's an up-beat little book. Boy meets girl; boy loves girl; boy disappears-and-reappears unexpectedly. Cool beans! Or terribly inconvenient. What if you're in the middle of, say, flipping pancake? Or changing a diaper? To be honest, I haven't read this yet, although it's on my ipod, and I have begun listening to it. It's pretty creepy, so far. Um, do I need to read creepy literature? Maybe so; I did read The Lovely Bones, and although I loved it, the movie was a creepfest. So maybe. I'll finish this book (via audio) and see if it makes me happy.

This book was highly touted when it was first published. I read it in a couple of hours, and can't say it's a life-changer. I wanted to better understand life in the middle East, but did I? Or did I learn more from Not Without My Daughter? Or are both books misleading? Anyway, this was a downer. There was mayhem and racial conflict and abandonment. If I want to experience that, I'll watch Real Housewives of Atlanta. So I won't be buying this book. Besides, already read it. So, no thanks.

Oh, now THIS is interesting. Here's the description:
This guide offers suggestions for developing grief support groups and directions for using art to help children ages 6--12 individually or in groups cope with loss and change. Curricula are provided to use with the four workbooks in the series: When Someone Very Special Dies, When Something Terrible Happens, When Mom and Dad Separate, and When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness.
The fine folks at Alibris have lovingly discovered some traits about me that I didn't know I had. For example, apparently I lead grief support groups for children. That must be where all my free time has gone. Oh, and I'm an art instructor. Well, that part's pretty accurate. I can draw killer stick figures. Maybe that's what happened to the Someone Very Special who had died. My killer stick figures got 'em.

And here's the last book they've lovingly chosen for me. Now, I'll admit 2003 was a banner year for death & grief in our family. We lost 2 granddaughters, my mom, and my daughter's marriage in the span of 11 months. I bet this book would have been very helpful back then. But seven years later? Doing fine now, thanks Alibris. I'll pass on this suggestion, too.

I know the internets can sneak a peek at my emails and website visits, and evaluate my likes and dislikes based on the info they glean from that data. So friends, I ask you this: do you think I'm in trouble here? I thought I was fairly happy-go-lucky. I wake up with a positive attitude almost every morning, knowing I have a full complement of health points available on Treasure Madness. I look for the good in people and situations, even though that really annoys my husband. I keep a fairly clean house and person. So what is it about me that causes Alibris to send me a suggested reading list like this?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another Marie Callender's Thanksgiving is put to rest. Christmas is around a couple of corners. It's always a whole lot of work and worry, but we have such amazing employees, they are always willing to help carry the burden. Because of a demanding few weeks at work, it's taken me a few days to catch up on all the daily Stuff it takes to run a household. I'm in awe of all my Facebook friends who have already decorated their homes. I haven't found the energy for that yet. Maybe this weekend.

Maybe not.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Give a Home for the Fleas, a Hive for the Buzzin' Bees...

The warmer weather is upon us, and with it comes the age-old physics question: How is it an 80 pound dog can shed 15 pounds of fur today, then miraculously grow it back overnight, only to drop it again tomorrow? I have gone through at least 3 very expensive vacuums in the past few years sucking up dog hair. Turns out, in spite of their convincing commercials, vacuums don't do well with that poundage of hair. And I own probably a half dozen "guaranteed to stop the shedding" doggie brushes. Yeah, not so much. I have taken her to the groomer to have her "undercoat" removed...what's an undercoat, anyway?...and apparently all that does is loosen up the stuff, enabling it to fall more easily.

Next stop: The Yul Brenner look. My dog may be completely humiliated by her new 'do, but at least I won't have to sweep twice a day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I got my very own Kindle a few months ago. I was anxious to give it a test drive...kick the tires and light the fires, so to speak. So I downloaded my favorite of all-time novel, Stephen King's The Stand. I downloaded the NIV version of the Bible, which isn't my preferred version, but it's the one my church uses, so I'm going with that particular flow. And I downloaded an American Idol blog subscription.

I'm a die-hard audiobook fan, because my old lady eyes get tired so easily. Plus I like to "read" while I drive, and I love to hear really good readers. Well, I decided to try the Kindle's text-to-speech feature. I plugged in the speakers, and opened The Stand, a book I've read repeatedly, and from which I can semi-quote long passages...and it's a good thing, because it was being read by R2D2, and I had no idea what was being said. So the robot voice on the Kindle was not going to cut it for me.

It's a little bit awkward to hold because it's stiff and solid. I wondered if I could get used to that.

Uh oh. This was starting to look like an expensive disappointment, like my first Palm Pilot, or my digital voice recorder. (which was just fabulous until it took the death ride through the wash cycle. Hey, nowhere on the packaging did it say not to launder it. There was no warning about leaving it in my pocket and just tossing it in with the darks)

But I digress...

I was excited when I discovered I could download the new Wally Lamb novel (retailing at Amazon for $36.95) for under ten bucks. So I did. It took about 30 seconds to download. From thin air. No cables, no plugs, no computer, nothing. Wow. First I got a free sample to read before making the purchase -- Barnes and Noble never did that for me! So I started to read. The book is about Columbine survivors, and the ripple effect such a tragedy has on people's lives. Really really good...

And suddenly, I was hooked.

I can read in any position: in the car, in the bed, leaning against the shopping cart at Costco. I can change the size of the font to adjust to my current level of eye strain. I can lay the book aside or toss it into my purse without a bookmark. I am reading again, and loving it.

Here are a few more of the upsides:
-- all the books are $9.99. No matter how many pages. Sometimes they offer sale prices.
-- Amazon offers like a quarter of a million titles for download, with more being added all the time
-- you want the book right now? The download time is less than a minute. Less time than it'll take you to find your car keys.
-- that whole "free sample" thing? Oh, yes, please.
-- you can shop the Amazon store from the Kindle
-- it holds somewhere around 125,000 books, which is more than even Sarah owns.
-- even if you delete a book from your Kindle, you just download it again from Amazon at no additional charge
-- Sony has come out with a competitive product; always a good thing!
-- it has basic web browsing for a few sites. That's experimental, so we'll see.
-- it has an MP3 player (also experimental) for music or podcasts
-- when it goes into sleep mode, it posts random pictures of authors.
-- bit by bit I can get rid of the books on my shelves and replace them with photos of my boyos.
-- you can highlight passages, underline stuff, and make notes on the pages.
-- I look very cool using it

Here are the downsides I've found so far:
-- it's certainly not cheap. And probably not washing machine safe.
-- there's no back light, so you can't read without a light source. Kinda like a regular book.
-- no New Book Smell. (maybe they'll include that in Kindle 3.0)
-- the artwork is black and white; no color capabilities. Is that a downside for you? Because it isn't for me.
-- I'm having a hard time learning to negotiate my way around. Like finding a certain scripture is difficult.
-- you have no idea how many pages there are in the book, or which page you're currently reading or
-- worst of all, no idea how many pages left until the end of the book.

All in all, my new love is quietly serving me well. I'm happy to be reading again. And I'm really happy to be looking so stinkin' cool while I'm doing it!

Monday, February 16, 2009

In Honor of President's Day

Cupcakes, folks. The entire thing is made of cupcakes. Personally, I don't think Abe ever looked so sweet. President Obama is on the left.


Go here to see the progress.

Friday, February 13, 2009

And the winner is...

I decided to stay with Verizon. So I upgraded to their iphone wannabee, the Voyager. Must say, I'm loving it. Oh, sure, it lacks all the applications that are available with the iphone, but honestly, I can't remember the last time I had to tune my guitar or find a sushi restaurant. I think I can learn to live without a few bells and whistles. least until the next time I get to upgrade.

Woovie Critic II

This is Coraline. Sarah and I took the boyos to see it today. It was much much better than, say, running to the car in the icy rain or skidding on the wet sidewalk in your flipflops. I did both of those today, too. Coraline was better.

It's based on a book by Neil Gaiman, and you can read an excerpt here. I had never read the book, but from what I have read in these excerpts, the film follows it fairly closely. Coraline is loved but generally ignored by her workaholic parents. They have recently moved into an old house which has been made into apartments. They share the house with some delightful, quirky characters...two former actresses and their Scottie dogs, and a Russian circus performer who is attempting to establish a mouse circus. One day, while exploring their 150-year-old house, Coraline discovers a small door. In the way of all things mysterious, the door leads to another apartment, identical to her own, inhabited by identical parents (with the single exception that their eyes are buttons.) This Other Mother and Other Father spend all their time with the attention-starved Coraline, playing games, making her favorite dishes, and causing her to feel special and important and loved. They offer her the opportunity to stay with them always, but the hitch -- there's always a hitch, right? -- is that she has to allow them to sew buttons over her eyes. Drama ensues.

The movie is typical Tim Burton. The bad guys are all spindly-legged and spidery. There are Edward Scissorhands moments, and Corpse Bride moments and Willy Wonka moments (not the good Gene Wilder version; the creepy Johnny Depp one). Once the Other Mother revealed her true identity, C-Monkey (nearly 7) got scared. Mr Roboto, who is almost 10, denied being scared, but he's just ever so-o sophisticated, he'd never admit it if he were.

There were some weird things, too. Like a neighbor boy who, for no particular reason, had a hunched back and a Black grandmother. There is a circus scene with a very fat lady bouncing around wearing -- I kid you not! -- sequined pasties and a g-string. Maybe those things are right out of the book, but in the movie they were not explained, and only provided a couple of "Wait, what?" moments.

I loved the first half of this movie. It was quirky, melancholy, and sweet. I enjoyed watching Coraline build relationships with her odd neighbors. It was sad to see her parents ignore her to the point of driving her away. Even her initial discovery of The Other Parents was a fun twist, and it was a joy to see how they valued her. The second half of the film was pretty dark. I don't like seeing kids in danger, and I sure don't like seeing dead kids (oh, yes; three of them). It irritates me when kids talk like grown-ups, and although there was no PG13 language in the movie, there were several occasions when Coraline said, "Oh my God." We don't allow our kids or sub kids to say that, so it was very uncomfortable to hear it from a little girl I had grown to care about.

I have mentioned before that I see A LOT of animated films. I am often drawn into the actual animation...especially the little things like rain drops or animal fur. There is a scene in which Coraline is wearing flannel pjs, and they were so fuzzy! I found myself mesmerized by the fuzz, and wishing I could ask my friend John, Visual FX Guy Extrodinaire, about it.

So my recommendation? Don't take any little kids. Too scary. Too sad. Too many kids in peril, kids hurt, kids threatened, kids dead. I'd say, maybe 8 would be the youngest. And even then, I'd recommend some prep work and some debriefing time.

I mean, come on: sequined pasties?

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