Friday, July 31, 2009

Shh! Its a Surprise

I am working on DH's birthday gift and could use a little input. (Obviously since I am posting this here, he doesn't read my blog!!)

I am going to get one or two of the pictures he took in China printed on canvas to hang in the family room, but I am having a hell of a time figuring out which picture/pictures. I also have to figure out if I want color or black and white. These pictures are all from Huang Shan China, the most beautiful region he went to. I think black and white would work better for the room (red paint), but some of the pictures are so pretty in color. For now,they are all posted in color.
Watch the slide show, noting the titles, and then vote for what picture you think would be the best, and PLEASE feel free to leave comments about them!!

Which picture should I have printed for my Husband?
Misty Mountain 1
Misty Mountain 2
Spikey Peak
The Range
None of the Above - try something more cultural
ugg boots


Our alarm got unplugged yesterday, and when I went to reset it, in my never ending wisdom, I set it for 11:30am instead of of 11:30pm. That means that our alarms did not go off this morning. Instead, DH woke up at 8:47am when he had been planning to be at work at 9am.

Luckily its not that big of a deal. Since DH was on call last week he wracked up tons of extra hours that need to be "used". He has been coming home at 2 in the afternoon this week. Today it might be 2:30pm.

In other news, I am becoming a nomadic reader - 50 pages of this book, 50 pages of that book. I have recently finished North and South, historical fiction set right before the civil war (there are two more books in the series that actually cover the civil war), Dream of a Peaceful Dragon, about one woman's trek across Bhutan, and A Single Hound, which is poems by Emily Dickenson. I am currently reading five books. (nomadic, see?) - a biography of Ulysses Grant, a turn of the century murder mystery, a spoof of L.A. culture, a fictional work on the Mormon church and plural marriage, and the nonfiction autobiography of one of Brigham Young's many wives. For this last book, I am erasing as I go. Whoever read it last was clearly a devote Mormon who felt it necessary to write "not true" or "she doesn't understand the doctrine" or "this is not our teaching" next to every passage in which she insults the LDS church or points out the flaws of its founders. Its really annoying, so I am erasing it so the next person does not have to put up with it. Seriously, who writes in library books?

I plea to the world: DONT WRITE IN LIBRARY BOOKS.

Anything else interesting? My job hunt continues. There were actually jobs to apply to this week, so that is nice. Next week there is a job fair I am going to, but I am not optimistic about the opportunities it will create.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sister Act

The first part of the weekend was dominated by a much anticipated visit from my older sister LEK (from here on out, LEKT), and her new husband. JET.

They arrived late Friday afternoon. We hung out and chatted, walked the dog, and then went off for a tasty dinner at Donatos (my favorite pizza in Columbus). We rented a movie, grabbed some snacks, and came home just in time to meet Aaron coming home from work. After some video games (Rock Band) we walked the dog again, this time to Dairy Queen. yum! Then, back at the house we watched Yes Man, which I really enjoyed. It has some good messages: Don't let life pass you by, everything is best in moderation, and THINK for yourself.

Saturday morning we intended to go to the Farmer's market, but plans got changed due to the downpour. We tried to find cousin Becky, but failed, then we did some shopping. It started pouring again when we were in Target and I got to run across the flooded parking lot to get the car. I really do love rain! We ate at El Vaquero, then headed home for a relaxing afternoon (LEKT and JET needed their sleep). We watched Kung Fu Panda and napped away the afternoon. When we finally woke up (OK, I was the last one up!), we went for a very nice walk at Sharon Woods Metro Park, and then headed to the Pig Iron for a seriously tasty BBQ dinner. (MMM, corn pudding). After that we played some games (Buzz Word, a video game trivia game), and then watched Hancock. That took us to 2am, when our guests left for Cleveland so that JET could make his 5:45am flight back to Denver. It was very good seeing them!

Obviously, the schedule of the visit means we slept in on Sunday. When we finally did get up we watched 10,000 BC, and then I headed for Grandma's.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Get me AWAY from this book!

I went to book club last night. It was a lot of fun! The book, Away by Amy Bloom was horrendous. Luckily, however, everyone, including the host who had picked the book, recognized it as such, and so the host had us answering such questions as "If you had the choice of either getting a piercing somewhere besides your ear, getting a tattoo, or re-reading this book, which would you do? Describe your new tatoo or piercing" and "After being forced to read Away you go on a killing spree and are now on death row. What is your final meal?"

We had lots of good laughs, and stayed pretty late (oh, and as usual, the food was delicious!!). On the way home I got to watch a lightening show high up in the clouds, very pretty.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Third Anniversary!

Yesterday marked three years of marriage for my and DH. It seems like it has been both not that long and forever.

To celebrate we went to The Refectory. It is a very fancy resteraunt here in Columbus, by far the fanciest resteraunt I have ever been to, and it was a really fun evening. I had the TOMATO SALADE with julienned salami, wild caper vinaigrette, LEMON ROSEMARY DUCK BREASTwith sour cherry bordelaise, and TRADITIONAL VANILLA CREME BRULEE. DH had the REFECTORY CRAB CAKE with mild smoked red bell pepper veloute, BABY RACK OF LAMBwith Bleu d'Auvergne and lamb jus, and RASPBERRY SILK CAKE Almond Daquise layered with Raspberry Gelée, White Chocolate Bavarian and Hazlenut Crunch . Everything was amazing. We think the crab cake and the creme brulee have wrecked cheaper crab cake and creme brulee for us. lol. I might say that the Duck and Lamb did as well, but since we never have those, its a moot point. After dinner we rented a movie and came home and watched it. It was Run Fatboy Run, and was funny and very sweet.

For the past two years I have written in a journal on our anniversary about what happened in the year, who we are friends with, what we do, and what are plans are for the future. It changed a lot from year one to year two, and will change again I am sure for year three since I am not in school anymore!! Someday perhaps it will stabilize. I thought I would share some of the things I wrote this year with my blog readers.

- This is the first year of our Marriage that we did not move. We still are enjoying our first home.

- This year we got a third cat, the fourth pet in the household, Little Caesar, who is shy but so affectionate when he trusts you. He is still skittish but improves every day

- Our friend Ben is still living with us and we still enjoy his company, though he has mentioned moving back to Missouri in the next year for work reasons.

- In the past year, DH was hired on by the state, told they were eliminating his position, and switched back to Accenture

- I quit school with just my masters and have been unemployed for two months now, looking for a job for five months.

- For fun, we play some video games, have people over for rockband, DH plays World of Warcraft (I was into it for awhile but stopped playing when she was travelling so much in May and June). I have been reading A LOT. We don't watch much TV these days - occasionally Leverage. I like Deadliest Catch while Aaron is always trying to change channels to 16 & Pregnant on MTV. We still occasionally go to Crew soccer games and the Dollar Theater, but have been renting a lot more movies recently.

- The Current Events of the year: Obama was elected president (much to our happiness), the Economy crashed, the government put a lot of money into stimulus, the big debate is currently health care reform though not long ago it was climate change, Iraq is not in the news as much and the U.S. is working towards a withdrawal, Afghanistan is still a mess.

- Songs/Music this year that we noted So What by Pink, Love Story by Taylor Swift, J-Pop Videos, Like a Boss spoof

- Movies we saw this year (some!) - Dark Knight, Harry Potter 6, Slumdog Millionaire, Mega Shark vs Giant Octupus, Underworld Rise of the Lichans, Milk, Kite Runner, North Country, The Illusionist, Run Fatboy Run, Twilight

- Then I wrote down what all of our friends are up to. There were three weddings this year, and two new engagements to report, along with the one death.

- For our anniversary we went to The Refectory and had a great dinner.

- Our plans for the future, we hope to stay in Columbus another 2-3 years (DH keeping the same job), and Amanda needs to find a job, or might end up back in school.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gandalf is Home!

I just wanted to make a quick post to say Gandalf came home today!

He looks thin, and he smells bad, but he is eating and drinking and most importantly, peeing!! We will have to keep an eye on him the next few days and he gets an (expensive) new diet. But, I am very glad he is home!! I think he is too.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Fall-Over Woman (inspired by The Bookthief)

In this post:
A Definition
The Strawberry Cheesecake
Sweet Revenge
A Forgotten Book
350 Degrees
The Fist Fight
Another Season Ends
A Sick Cat
Other Cuts and Bruises
The Half Blood Prince Rewind
The Next Book
Disturbing Dreams

A Definition
Klutz (noun, slang) -

  1. A clumsy person.
  2. A stupid person; a dolt.
Related words: clumsy, uncoordinated, daft, stupid

Strawberry Cheesecake
On a windy day with a sea-colored sky Amanda made her way up to her Grandma's house. As was her duty, she brought all the ingredients and tools necessary to make a yummy dessert: in this case, a strawberry cheesecake. She arrived to the smell of old flowers and forgetfulness, and immediately set to her work. Within a half hour the cheesecake batter was mixed, the strawberries were pureed, and all necessary ingredients had made it into a graham cracker crust and into the oven.

Sweet Revenge
The cake taken care of, Amanda set to cleaning up the mess she had created. Bowls were licked and rinsed out, beaters washed, counters wiped, until only the food processor remained. Amanda set about the task carefully, wary of the sharp, curved blades. Soon, the main body of the machine was cleaned out and only the blade, fixed stubbornly to its pivot, remained. Amanda carefully grasped the dull side of the blade and pulled. With a sweet sound of revenge, the razor-sharp blade slipped and cut into Amanda's finger. She swore under her breath and dropped it in the sink, squeezing her bleeding finger in her fist. The blood was red like fruit punch and anger. Upon further examination, it seemed to be just a nick, on the inside of the top joint of her finger, where the skin wrinkles and puckers to bend.

A Forgotten Book
Not long after the food processor took its revenge for unknown offenses, Amanda's uncle, a tall man with a bald head and rusty ponytail, her aunt, a women with bouncy brown hair who smelled of stress, and cousin, a athletic girl of 21 years, arrived and set about their own duties. The room gradually filled with the sweet scent of strawberries and cream. Amanda found a book sitting on the counter. It was a book called Touching Darkness (Midnighters Volume 2). She had left it there the last week, the book forgotten in her rush to get home. She picked it up with excitement, and exclaimed that she has been looking for it.
"Is that yours?" Her grandma asked.
"Yes! I forgot it here," Amanda replied excitedly.
"Oh, I started reading that," Grandma replied, a sound of slight confusion, perhaps fear the book would disappear, in her voice.
Grandma read a book about teenagers who experience an extra hour every night well everyone else freezes? Amanda never would have picked it for her, but if she wanted to read it then she was more than welcome to.
"Oh! Then I can finish it while I am here today and leave it for you." The words came to Amanda readily and poured into the shared air, an invitation to enjoy a fantasy world.
Grandma smiled.

350 Degrees
Forty pages later, and the cheesecake was done. Amanda opened the oven door. 350 degrees of heat and hard work poured out, along with the mouthwatering smell of success. Amanda slipped on hot pads and pulled out the cookie sheet, balancing the cheesecake carefully. The pans seemed so hot, they seemed to try and burn right through the hot pads. She rushed it carefully out to the garage and slid the pie pan onto a cooling rack which had been carefully laid out for her by her uncle, but there was no where to set the cookie sheet. She started to ask her uncle where to lay it out, but the pan bit her with hot teeth through the hot pads and she decided to just set it down. Her uncle however caught her request with eager ears and began to give instruction.
"Just wait a minute, let me pull out another rack," he sputtered. Amanda was frustrated. The pan was so hot! But she waited. She shifted the cookie sheet around this way and that, moving her hands in the hot pads to keep them from sizzling. Then, in her haste, the cookie sheet slipped and with a sharp pain slid against her forearm, leaving a 4-inch long red line, a needle-thin raised blister on the skin. Amanda cursed, out loud this time, and set the pan down on the garage floor, running inside seeking a cool reprieve from the burnt puckering of flesh. The injury had its benefits though. Uncle felt horrible and treated Amanda very kindly all evening, and as she needed to hold ice onto the injury, she was left to her reading and not asked to help with other tasks. She was able to finish her book to leave for Grandma. And, when dessert came, the cheesecake was even more delicious for the pain that had gone into making it. Amanda drove home under a chocolate sky, her belly full and the pain in her arm subsiding.

Three days later, Amanda and her husband found themselves wondering what to do for dinner, and decided to join some friends for a trivia night at a nearby restaurant. The game was filled with laughter and good food. After six rounds, the game was coming to a close and Amanda's team found themselves tied with someone else. A tie-breaker question was asked. The DJ read the question slowly over the microphone.
"In what year was the first Tour de France completed?" The words hung like electric static in the air, buzzing in the ears of the competing teams, and then being matched with a buzz of whispers.
"I think we should guess sometime in the 1960s"
"Couldn't it be a lot older than that?"
"It was after WWII, right?"
Then, a voice of more confidence, the voice of Amanda's husband chimed in. "I think its A LOT older than that. I was reading about the Tour de France, and for some reason, the date 1870 is sticking in my head."
"That seems way too old"
"I don't know, when were bicycles capable of doing mountains like that?"
"I think we should go with him, always go with your gut I say"
"Lets moderate it, since we don't have to be dead on lets guess 1910," said Jeff, self appointed team leader. With anxious eyes they submitted 1910 as their answer. The date 1870, the gut feeling, hung in their air like bits of fog. The music stopped and the DJ began.
"Well, we have two very different answers here! One team chose 1970 and the other chose 1910. The actual answer is," there was a silent pause for dramatic effect, and it was filled with excited nerves.
"1903!" FYC takes the game! All the friends jumped up excitedly and patted each others backs, all except Amanda's husband. He leaned back in his chair.
"Why did I think 1870, what is that date?"

The Fist Fight
Amanda had never been in a fist fight. She still has not really, but that strange Thursday afternoon experience gave her an idea of what it might feel like. She was laying in her cinnamon colored bedroom, the TV droning in the background, when she decided to stand up. Well, she didn't just decide to stand up. She remembered suddenly that she was supposed to do something, and went to leap out of bed. Unfortunately her leap was not successful. Momentum building, she threw her feet off the bed and started to lift her body. But, her left foot landed in a laundry basket that lay hidden near the bed. The momentum was too much. Her body swayed forward. She grappled with the basket, trying to remove her leg, but to no avail. As if in slow motion, she careened forward onto the cluttered floor, the right side of her jaw meeting heavily with the edge of a waste basket. It broke apart and fell. For the third time in the week, Amanda swore, righted herself, and rushed to the bathroom. There was no purple bruise or red cut to accompany the throbbing, red pain that filled her cheek. So this, she though, is what it must be like to get punched in the jaw. Her jaw ached for two days straight, and even after that remained tender to the touch.

Another Season Ends
Despite her sore jaw, Amanda had friends over that night. They came bearing casserole and vegetables, gossip and goodwill. They shared laughter and food, and then settled down for a serious two hours of Torchwood. The episodes were serious. The air in the darkened room was filled with a black tension and smell of sadness. The second season ended. The lights were turned on but a gray, hazy mood remained. Plans were made for another get together. The guests left.

Amanda noticed, Gandalf had not disturbed them all night.

A Sick Cat
It was not like Gandalf to leave so many guests alone, especially when they were focused on the television instead of him. Amanda went looking for him, and found him in their bedroom, soft grey fur smelling of urine. He was sick again, and it was obvious this time. They vowed to take him to the vet in the morning, gating him downstairs in case he peed.

At 6am, Amanda was having a vivid dream and there was a strange noise in it, a desperate squawking call. Then, Aaron spoke and awoke her, icey fear in his voice.

"Did you here that?" he asked anxiously.
"You heard it?" Amanda replied, swirls of confusion surround her words. She thought it was in her dream.
"Yes" Aaron got up and looked in the closet. No one there. Gandalf was laying in the corner but he looked sound asleep. "I thought you put him downstairs" he said.
"I told you he can jumpy that gate" Amanda replied.
"Well maybe he isn't sick then, if he can jump a gate" Aaron said. He turned the light out.
"He certainly isn't 100%" Amanda replied and rolled over to go back to sleep.
30 seconds later the sound occurred again, but this time in their states of full consciousness, Amanda and Aaron could both discern two new things.

(1) This was an uncontrollable cry of pain.
(2) It came from Gandalf

"Yeah, he is just feeling fine," Amanda said and jumped out of bed (not landing in a laundry basket or getting in a fist fight with a trash can this time. Aaron turned on the light and she swooped up Gandalf and carried him downstairs. He laid down next to the litter box. He laid down in the litter box. He made that horrible noise. He laid down by the wall and was silent for a while. Amanda went upstairs and went to bed. 2 hours later she got up and called the vet, and had them there in a half hour. In the early morning, the veterinary hospital hadn't yet reached its full chaos. They took Gandalf into the back, and several minutes the vet came in, a concerned look on his round face.

Gandalf had a urinary tract blockage and will be in the animal hospital until at least Sunday, more likely Monday. In exchange for getting him back healthy, Amanda and her husband will have to relinquish an arm, and perhaps a leg.

Other Cuts and Bruises
On Saturday morning, Amanda got up and moving with one less cat to follow her around, one less cat to get in her face. That did not keep her from getting injured. Her injuries, after all, do not come from cats. First she noticed a unexplained red, burning cut on her leg. Then, she walked into a table, leaving a dark bruise on the top of her right arm to set off the still-red burn on the bottom. I am truly a Klutz, she thought.

The Half Blood Prince Rewind
That afternoon, under a slate grey sky spitting cool rain, Amanda met her friends at a theater. They bounced around in excitement and entered a dark, cool room, that gradually filled. The crowd smelled of popcorn and giddiness. The movie started. As predicted, it was better this time. Amanda knew what to expect, and what not to spend her energy waiting for. She allowed herself to become more involved. She noticed the intricacies of the good performances. The movie ended, the lights came one. The giddiness was replaced by a sense of urgency in the dull light as people rushed to leave.
The critique began immediately, comparing notes. What were they happy with? What disappointed them. Amanda joined in readily, but was shocked by some of the commentary - not in its insults but in its ignorance. She filled some gaps, then came the comment:
"I am really annoyed they are turning book 7 into two movies," a friend said.
"I am not! I hope it means they won't butcher it as much as they did this one!" Amanda replied, pink with surprise.
"But how much time are they having between releases?" the friend asked.
"I don't care, there is so much in that book, it needs to movies."
"As far as I can tell, the first half of the book is mainly them wandering around wondering what to do" the friend said. Her voice cool with insult.
"I think you should reread it if that's what you think" Amanda replied, the pink surprise tinging into a red frustration.
"I have reread it, and I ended up skipping a lot".
A variety of words in various combinations danced in Amanda's mouth. Most of them explained what happened in the seventh book, and why it was two movies worth, some of them expressing frustration or anger, some of them turning to other topics that had the same bitter taste. None of the words were said, as her friends changed the topic.

The Next Book
The evening, Amanda lay, wrapped in her mocha bed quilt, reading a new book. Never Let Me Go. It left her with a sense of unease as she switched off the light and lowered herself into the black blanket of sleep.

Disturbing Dreams
Amanda awoke with a start at 4am, though this time it was no cat. The room was hazy gray. Her thoughts were swirling madness in the nighttime. Her teeth ran over her front tooth, and then her finger. There was a small indentation there. She knew it had been their awhile. What if it broke off? This sudden visualization lead to a deeper, darker feeling. What if it broke off? She would spend the rest of her life with no front tooth, or an implant. That would be part of her story, her only story. The totality of the brevity of life slipped over her and she curled up next to her husband. She wished it was a dream. At least if it was, she would be asleep and not stuck awake so early in the morning, words keeping her awake with their noise.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I just took a whirlwind trip up to Burton, OH in order to visit my sister and see the midnight release of the latest Harry Potter movie - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It was a quick trip but a good one.

I got in around 5pm, but Laurelyn had to deal with some last minute clients and ended up not getting done until around 6pm, so I sat in my car and read with the windows down, breeze blowing. It was quite pleasant. I finished The God Delusion and started One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. When she got off work and had showered (you definitely need a shower after working with alpacas all day), we headed off to a local Mexican restaurant. It was quite tasty and we both enjoyed a margarita. After that we were pretty much killing time until it got late enough to head over to the movie theater. We got there around 10:20pm. A lot of people were already showing up, some in costumes related to the movie, some in costumes that didn't even make sense (an angel??). Anyways, we got good seats right in the middle of one of the theaters, and sat and talked for remaining time, then it started.

Here is my spoiler free review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the movie.

The Good:
- The acting has improved and I was very impressed with some of the actors' performances.
- The comedic portions. They did a very good job with all of the teen interactions and amusing parts of the story. We laughed so much!!
- Emotional charge of certain key scenes

The Bad:
- Random insertions of action scenes not in the book (which also is annoying in that time was of the essence)
- Lack of attention to details that make the world come alive, particularly with regard to internal logic of the plot, characters, etc. This seemed to be largely due to (1) messy attempts to shorten the plot by adding in new scenes that don't fit the characters (PS- I am not abject to having to change scenes, but keeping everyone in character is essential) and (2) an attempt to make it more user-friendly for people who haven't read the books or paid close attention to the other movies.
- Lack of carrying through certain plots that are started
- Drastic cutting/lack of the scope of the final climatic sequence in the book
- Emotional charge of certain key scenes

I will see it again, maybe even this weekend, and I am sure in a week or two I will be totally in love with the movie despite its flaws. Right now I am a bit peeved.

After the movie we headed back to Laurelyn's house, where we both crashed. I woke up at 11am and she was already at work again, so I headed home, back here to Columbus. Talk about a whirlwind trip!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Pretty Blue Skies
Cousin Anthony and Aunt Adele

Beth and Ken took us on a hay ride!

Rachel and Anthony share a laugh

Us. :-)

Cousin Jessica and her Daughter Annebelle

Aunt Dottie (Uncle Jim in the background, Uncle Bill in the foreground)


Uncle Jim holds his Grand child Kyle, Cousin Dan holds daughter Jessica

Cousin Anthony holds his niece Annebelle

Close up of pretty cute little flowers.

Me in Corn (as high as an elephants eye?)

Laurelyn smiles with Uncle Bill, Cousin Gary, and Cousin Anthony in the background.

Uncle Bill

Uncle Jim holds his very sleep nephew Kyle

Proof I was out on this scary (dangerous) train tressle. It was fun despite how stupid I felt.

Cousin Dan

Holly Hocks - I saw and liked these, so Ken gave me some to take home and plant.

More Pretty Flowers!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hi, my name is GIANT NERD

Saturday was pleasant, though do to my discretion, quite long.

I spent the afternoon at a baby shower for a friend. It was pretty small - about 8 people - and lots of fun.

Then, when I got home DH and I decided to go out and spend the evening together. We went to Red Lobster. MMM. Coconut Shrimp and a Malibu Hurricane, quite tasty. Then we went shopping (more browsing). It was nice just spending time together. We almost went to the dollar theater, but there was nothing playing we were both interested, so we ended the evening "out" at Half Price Books, where we bought a bunch of classics for cheap.

When we got home I played rock band and drank Malibu&Pineapple Juice. I don't typically play alone that much, but it earns your characters money in a way that playing at Rock Band parties does not... and you then use the money to style your characters in ridiculous ways, which is very fun to me for whatever reason. After playing awhile I decided I needed to read George Orwell's Animal Farm in its entirity. I had never read it and had bought it at the book store. Its about 125 pages long. I did it too, I stayed up late reading a classic novel.

Thats right, I got tipsy and decided to read a classic novel. I am such a rebel. You can call me nerd now.

P.S. - It was not worth it. As a political science scholar, it was just redudent to a million arguments and facts I already knew.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chronological Lapse

Its not that I have nothing to blog about, its just that I am lazy.

What I chronologically should blog about is the BBQ I went to Sunday with my maternal extended family. It was a lot of fun and I got some good pictures. But, as I am lazy and don't want to go downstairs to get my purse to get my camera out to upload pictures, I cannot exactly blog about it yet, can I? Or at least not fully.

I also realized that I never posted nearly all of what I intended to about my trip to Duluth. I had some great days up there after the wedding that never got posted about, and some great pictures. I do not know if its worth going back to. Sometime I might just dump a lot of pretty pictures on here.

So, out of chronological order, what I do want to blog about is fiction. What fiction have I been engaged in lately? In the past week or two I read (or finished reading) Tale of Two Cities, A Picture of Dorian Grey, and Pride and Prejudice. I also am half way through a really terrible book called Wild Animus and have made significant progress in my non-fiction read (which I always move through more slowly than fiction), The God Delusion. Besides that, I have established a weekly event of having people over to watch Torchwood, a BBC show, and have borrowed four movies from the library and watched them - The Illusionist, North Country, Forbidden Kingdom and Triplets of Belleville. Oh. And we rented Underworld: Rise of the Licans and Bank Job from the movie store.

So... what should I review? Quite a few choices, eh? I think what I missed about being in graduate school the most was the lack of good fiction. I certainly have no shortage now. If any of my readers want me to review any of these books or films I would be most delighted, but as I do not have time to talk about them all, I shall focus on one - A Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. I hear that it was his only novel and that it got him tried for indecency. '

It really is a horrible book, not enjoyable to read in any way shape or form. The characters are horrendous. They are (not all at once, but in parts), vane, stupid, pompous, self-righteous, cruel, evil, egotistical, ignorant, naive, impulsive, obsessive, superficial, contrary, and overly-emotional, indulgent, enabling, and fatuous. In short, they are meant to characterize and display every horrible thing that human beings so often are. Really, the book is pure genius. I don't know how he thought of it, how he constructed it so carefully to be so horrible. I had a friend who had to stop reading it because she started to get nightmares, and I can see why. Although, while her nightmares were likely of the morbid and murderous themes, mine would more likely be of the self-loathing and entrapment themes. In short, this book was horrible, but it is meant to be horrible, and is genius in its horribleness. Everyone should read it, no one will enjoy it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Where I come from...

Al Franken and the Odd Politics of Minnesota

Seriously folks, if you want to know where I come from politically and socially, read this article. My parents might be implants to Minnesota, but I would say they fit in with this description, particularly the "Other states, other voters, express alienation by staying home on Election Day. But Minnesotans take a more civic approach to their estrangement, showing up at the polls and replacing the bums with some choices that scan as odd from a distance."

In the words of my father, "whats the worse that could happen if we elect a third party, we could be at war with a failing economy? wait, that already happened."

Also, I have answered the question "what was up with Jesse Ventura?" countless times in my university career, and have always said, "hey, he did what he promised, he did a lot of good things for the state," and he did. You don't have to be beholden to traditional party politics, just think like a Minnesotan!!

Full text of the article:
July 5, 2009
Independence Days

Al Franken and the Odd Politics of Minnesota

At the St. Paul Civic Center in 1982, what should have been a routine re-election convention for the Republican Gov. Albert Quie was underway, but he had dropped out before it had begun.

A newbie reporter to Minnesota politics, I watched as democracy broke out in earnest on the convention floor over the fight to replace him. There were walkouts, prayer meetings, candidacies that came and went in the blink of an eye, all perpetrated by delegates who had the stamina of Marines. Their various causes righteous, their faces flushed with excitement, they went into extra innings, deep into the night. My head spinning, I climbed up into the bleachers and sat near a shaggy-looking guy in a shiny hockey jacket from Anoka. We watched the full pageantry of electoral politics silently and then I finally looked down the row and spoke. “Is it always like this?”

“Yes,” the man said, turning toward me. I recognized him as someone who should know: Garrison Keillor.

Mr. Keillor was already on his way to legend as the host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” but there he was staring in fascination at one of the most rococo expressions of state democracy in the land. Lately, everyone else has been watching Minnesota politics as well because the race between the Republican senator Norman Coleman and Al Franken, the comedian and radio host, ended in a deadlock. (A third-party candidate, a frequent feature of Minnesota elections, altered the math.) After a ruling of the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday, more than seven long months after the election, Mr. Franken will become Senator No. 60 for the Democrats, a significant number because it could help make the Senate filibuster-proof.

It may not be a stretch to say that the nation’s governance hinges, in part, on the arrival of the man who played Stuart Smalley, a simp who was a bit too eager to put the self in self-help on “Saturday Night Live.” On Wednesday, a question I knew was coming arrived from a friend on the bus: “What is up with Minnesota politics, anyway?”

To which I say, as opposed to what? New York? Florida? California? And as a former Minnesotan who lives in New Jersey, don’t even get me started about politics, Garden State-style.

Yes, Minnesotans vote like crazy. At 77.8 percent, the state had the highest turnout in last year’s very busy presidential election. But yes, sometimes Minnesotans’ votes seem just plain crazy as well.

Other states, other voters, express alienation by staying home on Election Day. But Minnesotans take a more civic approach to their estrangement, showing up at the polls and replacing the bums with some choices that scan as odd from a distance. (We might mention that the Minnesota state bird is actually a loon, but there is other less avian evidence of Minnesotans’ idiosyncrasy.)

In Minnesota, there is a kind of populist approach that is less progressive than a reflex, a notion that politics belongs to citizens, and politicians only rent their positions.

The civic entitlement-engagement of Minnesotans has produced lions on the national political scene — Hubert H. Humphrey and Eugene J. McCarthy — but is fungible enough to produce singular leaders of another sort. There is not only Mr. Franken, but Jesse Ventura, a former pro wrestler who ran as independent in 1998 on the Reform Party and won, dumbfounding the rest of the nation. There was also a dentist from the Iron Range, in the northeast part of the state, Rudy Perpich, who both preceded and followed Mr. Quie and was dubbed “Governor Goofy” by Newsweek for his suggestion that the governor’s mansion be sold and that a chopstick factory be built in northern Minnesota.

Even Senator Paul Wellstone, with his hippy bus of a campaign and outré commercials that took out a sitting senator in 1990, stretched the definition of what constitutes electability. And in the last election in adjoining Congressional districts, Minnesotans elected Keith Ellison, a liberal Democrat who happens to be both black and the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, and Michele Bachmann, a conservative who is an advocate of intelligent design and once entreated a rally against same-sex marriage to “cry out to a holy God.”

Here’s the thing about most of those folks: in the main, it could be argued, they did a pretty good job. Governor Ventura hired a talented crew of state commissioners and came flying off the turnbuckle when he needed to. Governor Perpich was one of the first governors in the nation to realize that international economic efforts by states were increasingly important. Senator Wellstone came swinging out of left field with a raging populist agenda, but promptly made peace with Senator Jesse Helms, the Republican from North Carolina, who made a much better friend than enemy when it came to getting things done.

Behind the state’s unpredictability, there are some political fundamentals at work.

Minnesota was settled by agrarian, church-going folks — Norwegians and Swedes, with many Germans as well, whose subsequent generations continue to take a dim view of political corruption and vote accordingly. The habits of civic life are baked in at early age, with churches and unions — historically strong in Minnesota — reminding members that voting is both an obligation and an opportunity. The presence of distinct regions with separate needs and political agendas — the average union member from the Iron Range has very different expectations from government than a mother from the populous suburbs that ring the Twin Cities — means that each regional constituency shows up at the polling place to make sure its interests are seen to.

In terms of process, Minnesota is deeply married to the precinct caucus approach, which means the grass roots flourish and frequently overwhelm would-be kingmakers. The state’s system of public financing means that anybody who gets organized enough to be in a race will have the wherewithal to campaign. And perhaps most important, Minnesota has same-day registration, which means that a walk-up vote can tilt an election, as it did when Governor Ventura won.

“There are numerous state laws, institutions, and processes that contribute to the highly engaged electorate that often votes independently,” said David Schultz, who teaches election law at Hamline University in St. Paul. “Yes, party membership is high, but there is a sufficiently large enough independent or swing voting bloc that no one party can win elections in a statewide election unless it wins crossover votes.”

Demographics provide very few clues. Overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Protestant and Lutheran, the state has elected four Jews to the United States Senate in recent times. (Jews makes up less than 1 percent of the state’s population.)

“Because we think we’re such shrewd judges of human nature we’re intensely skeptical of everyone who looks and sounds like us and because we’re so proud of our broad-mindedness, we make a big show of embracing everyone who doesn’t seem like us,” said Brian Lambert, a radio personality and former media critic at The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Remember that when Ross Perot ran for president as an independent in 1992 he received 24 percent of the state’s vote. Bill Hillsman, a political-advertising savant who helped invent Paul Wellstone, said that this kind of independent showing is less about third party than a third way into politics.

“The reason that different people break through in Minnesota politics is that there is a willingness to entertain a notion,” Mr. Hillsman said. “They look at candidates regardless of the conventional wisdom and orthodoxy.”

“Minnesota Nice” is real. It’s why you see seed art at the Minnesota State Fair, a popular local art form, expressing all kinds of political and cultural thinking. It’s hard to think of another state in the union where you’d see gay-themed art made out of mix of flax and corn seed.

“It is a state of deep contradictions,” said John Rash, an editorial board member of The Star Tribune of Minneapolis and a contributor to WCCO-AM, a radio beacon of all things Minnesotan. “There is a kind of prickly progressivism here. We are extremely reserved right up until we walk up to the ballot box.”

In 2005, I went back to Minnesota with Mr. Franken while he tested the waters for a run. In the past, he had been incredibly impolitic around a microphone —once suggesting that the only person with a lower poll rating than Newt Gingrich was the Unabomber — and had written an indelicately titled book called: “Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them).” But I found him remarkably skilled at retail politics: I watched him exchange jumper-cable stories with voters from northern Minnesota at a so-called “bean feed” fund-raiser. Still, as I dropped him off at the condo in downtown Minneapolis, I watched this short man with a backpack and no relevant political experience amble toward the front door and thought: “Could this wiseacre be the next senator from Minnesota?” The answer turned out to be yes.

And yes, Mr. Franken’s fast mouth carries with it the possibility of embarrassment, but as people who have to wear the equivalent of a spacesuit to go outside five months a year, Minnesotans are used to the mix of wonder and amusement their state engenders.

Like other curveballs thrown by the Minnesota electorate, Mr. Franken might figure it all out, because, as Stuart Smalley used to say: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.” At least in Minnesota.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

You know you live in the 21st century and are of an internet generation when you tell all of your online friends and communicants that something really serious happened in your life, but not any of your "real life" friends, not any of the people you see on a daily basis. I just hate dealing with the awkwardness of it, and the apologies, and sympathy, and all of that, in person. I know this is probably not healthy either in the short run for me or in the long run for my friendships, so I will try to remedy it soon. I swear.

In others news, the 4th of July was a lot of fun. This morning I went to the farmers market and got some tasty and healthy vegetables to snack on, so I can stop being miss piggy. Then, I spent the better part of the day lounging around with Aaron watching TV. We haven't really done that since football season, so it was relaxing. In the evening, we met some friends and went to the Columbus Crew soccer game, despite some minor rain. It was a lot of fun! While I thought the Crew defense played horribly, the worst part was the reffing, which was very badly bias in favor of D.C. But, it came out in a tie despite the reffing and defense, so that's nice.

After that we went over to a friends how and tried the game "Puerto Rico". I had a migraine by that point though so I am afraid I wasn't a very good sport. Even if I had been headache-free, the game just wasn't my type, too limiting and too "screw each other over" for my taste. Aaron had a good time though.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Song of Myself

I am spending the day, as planned, cleaning my office (with on and off assistant from a friend). I found this poem I wrote in 10th grade of High School. The minute I laid eyes on it I knew I wanted to post it here, but upon reading it in detail it seemed even more relevant than I could have intended.

Song of Myself

Of me I write and the World I see and no one else upon it,
My age is of no significance, and my looks powerless;
I say what matters is what we think, and not what is,
And the power of the mind is stronger than resistance.

I, Amanda ----, insignificant almighty Daughter of America,
Logical, improvisational, insane, listening, thinking and creating,
A Friend, no more important than those I acquaint with,
No more codependent than independent.

Of Philosophy and Psychology I sing,
Where nothing and no where is my soul,
And nothing and no where is all that is not my Soul,
Where thoughts and Ideas flow freer than water.

Freedom rings here and here is all that matters,
As I see tiny Children beg their Mothers for toys,
And Doctors crane vicariously over Dying patients.
Families and People of all kinds flock to steepled churches and dignified synagogues,
Old men and tired workers gather at holy benches to beg Mercy
From some almighty being whose Existence is improbable, and Power, impossible.

A delusional 30 year old scribbles incomprehensible loops in worn thin coloring books;
A famous author pounds out another best selling novel;
A toddler speaks his first word as the single mother cheers him on;
I see the world, and hope it cannot see me.

I see the sharp sting of Suicide that affects only the living,
For the dead are gone and cannot regret their actions.
And I see the social ladder climbed only by the simpletons,
Just as deadly as suicide, leading to self destruction.

Humanity protests my perspective,
Yet I know that I am infinitely flawed, and myself all alone;
And what I say matters to me, is all that matters;
And even that, is nothing,
Just as I am nothing.

- Written by Amanda, 1/06/2000
I was going to be writing today about the fact I finally planted my garden, or the beautiful weather, or the Rock Band party last night.

Instead I get to write about the fact that one of my friends from undergraduate, Ian Rucker, killed himself. It still is sinking in, impossible to comprehend really. We saw him at the end of May, at the wedding in St Louis. He was one of the groomsmen. He seemed quite himself, and happy with his life. He invited us to stay with him in Washington D.C. anytime. I don't know what happened, or what must have been underlying that external portrayal of normalcy and well being. I think its quite normal, in these circumstances, to feel as if we should have noticed something or done something the last time we saw them, but I think anything I come with that could have been noticed is quite invented.

This is not the first time I have dealt with a suicide, and as much as I wish it to be true, statistics alone would suggest it is not the last. It is now, however, and will always be, the bane of my existence. It makes me want to run out to everyone I know, whether I know them as intimate friends and family, or mere acquaintances, and tell them not to kill themselves, which would be rather a pointless endeavor, as those who are OK would either be offended, confused, or concerned, and those that aren't would have deaf ears for the message.

I am sorry, Ian, that you thought it had to come to this. You were loved by many and I will miss you. Rest in Peace.

Left to right - Ian, Benjamin, Ben, Aaron