Archive for July, 2009

Doctor House & me

Thursday, July 30th, 2009
geez. 143

I mostly wanted to show off my fire-escape zinnias.

I have a terrible habit of checking out 15 books at once from the public library of all knitting patterns, and then am overwhelmed and can’t get around to more than one of them without freaking out and using a whole pad of post-it notes to mark things that I-omg-need-to-make.  Inevitably I return them all and just head back to my beloved ravelry for one or the other 362 other patterns in my queue.  In an attempt to tame my knitting ADD in particular, I am making a concerted effort to sloooow down.  So I only have 5 knitting books checked out (this is an all-time low for me!) and I am actually making progress experimenting with a pattern from each of them.  I so am very, very tired of scarves, but am very interested in lace, and am especially interested in using up old skeins I have lying around, so One-Skein Wonders (ed. Judith Durant) was just the thing for me last weekend.

The Stella Bamboo Lace Scarf (btw, I didn’t use bamboo, & in fact don’t know what I used because the label had fallen off so long ago) was a nice addition to my insane weekend marathon of House MD, which I discovered I have a not-so-closeted passion for.  This baby is getting mailed off today to a special friend.  SECRETS!  The Bean was quite happy to model it before it got mailed off:

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Bean modeling!

My plans for the upcoming weekend quite possibly involve all of Firefly (!!) and maybe-just-maybe lotsa mittens.  Cannot wait.

Top 10s!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I like to think that I’m fairly reliable, but plenty of people would tell you that I’m not.  My pen-pal Shanna could tell you that I never ever ever write back (she writes the loveliest letters, too) and she’d probably even tell you that we’re not pen-pals anymore because I was so miserably bad at responding.  Sorry Shanna!  Many of my friends could tell you of times that we had plans and I canceled at the last minute because I really just didn’t want to leave the house (sorry trivia team!!!).

Just as bad, I have regrettably promised several different friends at different points in the last year that I would make a list for them of my top-10 favorite graphic novels/comic books.  I must have promised Kate this more than 6 months back, and months and months and months ago Jason  & Kelly sent me a message asking me the same on goodreads that I just plain neglected to respond to.  I am really by no means any kind of authority on graphic novels or comic books–I feel far more comfortable talking about favorite pieces of fiction or poetry (or even my favorite celebrity gossip blogs).  I was awfully late getting into comic books.  I had always loved X-Men (and continue to follow a couple of the different trades) and my dad tried to get me interested in Superman, but the BSC and the Saddle Club were pretty much way more exciting when I was young (what can I say, Stacey’s tales of being a young fashionable diabetic really resonated with me).  I started reading graphic novels with Bone & was very much hooked.

Creating this list was kind of a serious struggle.  For one thing, I can hardly remember many of the titles that I’ve read.  I’ve never consciously kept track like I do with novels.  For another, I really loved many titles when I first read them.  Some things meant a lot more to me at the time–when crafting this list, I tried to take this into consideration.  Three years ago, as a miserable senior in college, I positively adored Jeffrey Brown, whom I could completely commiserate with.  Now?  I can barely stomach passing by a Jeff Brown book in the comic store.  I also need to note that while one trade of a series might have really stood out to me as the end-all-be-all of comics, in the end I just combined all the trades as one series.  This might not do some specific favorite trades justice.  Apologies.

  1. Jessica Abel-La Perdida
  2. Brian K. Vaughan & others-Y: the last man
  3. Aline Kominsky Crumb-Need More Love
  4. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon-Preacher
  5. Jason Lutes-Berlin 1&2
  6. Adrian Tomine-Summer Blonde
  7. Julie Doucet-365 Days
  8. Alison Bechdel-Fun Home: a family tragicomic
  9. Craig Thompson-Blankets (this is one that has so much life significance that it has to be on the list)
  10. Andres Nilsen-Dogs & Water

My list is awfully heavy on the drawn & quarterly side of things (which I don’t mind because I fully admire 99% of the work d&q artists put out), so a special mention #11 should go to Pascal Blanchet for White Rapids.

I’m sure that tonight I will get home and smack myself on the forehead for forgetting three or four ALL TIME FAVES, but for now, this will have to do.

Overly predictable

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

In unsurprising news, I adored My Invented Country.  In surprising news, I’m switching it up.  Next book, I’m back to Erdrich.  But this first, a thing about Isabel Allende that makes me smile wildly when I think about her: she’s funny and makes me think about the States with weird new eyeballs.

“The North Americans’ sense of time is very special.  They are short on patience.  Everything must be quick, including food and sex, which the rest of the world treats ceremoniously.  Gringos invented two terms that are untranslatable into most languages: “snack” and “quickie,” to refer to eating standing up and loving on the run…that, too, sometimes standing up.  The most popular books are manuals: how to become a millionaire in ten easy lessons, how to lose fifteen pounds a week, how to recover from your divorce, and so on.  People always go around looking for shortcuts and ways to escape anything they consider unpleasant: ugliness, old age, weight, illness, poverty, and failure in any of its aspects.” (pg 188)

Of Love & Shadows: watch me fall in love with Chile

Friday, July 24th, 2009

This morning I finished Isabel Allende’s Of Love And Shadows and promptly started another of her books, My Invented Country.  This is one of the few things I really love about my job: I can look at books for like three hours of the day and get paid for it and no one will question me.  Sometimes my proximity to fiction can be dangerous (every single day I walk by the new book shelves and something catches my eye.  This is so bad for my already nonexistent social life).

Of Love And Shadows was right up my alley: unnamed Latin American country, scary dictatorship, plenty of desaparecidos, a beloved family dog, you name it.  I am trying to think of people I know who would love this book as much as me, and I’m stumped (other than OMC, who shares with me a staggering propensity for tales of juntas in Chile & Argentina.  Fun fact about OMC & I: we met four years ago in a class about Latin American Revolutions.  He always wore plaid shirts rolled up to the elbows and dominated class discussions and was so smart and adorable that I think I fell immediately in love with him.  Sorry if this tale makes you barf.)

I’ve discovered that an aspect of Allende’s writing that really resonates with me is her descriptions of women’s personalities.  Sometimes on Project Runway Nina Garcia tells designers that they really understand a woman’s body, and this is like the greatest compliment Nina could give someone, because she is such a feisty and scraggly-haired judge.  Allende, my goodness, gets women.  I like this.  I like that I want to be friends with all the women in her stories, because they are hard as fucking nails and do outrageous things like digging up the bodies of the disappeared and burying the weapons in the desert and so much more.

A segment that has stuck with me since I read it:

“Digna knew that in spite of the apparent abyss separating them, she could tell Irene the truth, because in essence they were sisters–as, finally, most women are.”   (pg 106)

My Invented Country is all about the Chile of Allende’s childhood and I’m not sorry to say I have now spent the rest of the afternoon searching for cheap flights to Santiago.

Best of Panama (maybe)

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009


toucan friend




panama city2

panama city

I’ve been awfully lazy about editing and posting Panama pictures.  When I realized I had more than 2000 pictures to go through, I kind of froze in terror and didn’t want to do anything about it.  There are many, many more where these came from, but consider this a greatest hits of Panama.  I don’t even really know what to say about a lot of these.  I smile when I look at a lot of them.  Does that help?  The pool picture is the Hotel Versalles in Chitre, where I got to use free wireless in exchange for buying one or two beers, or sometimes a shrimp ceviche.  I kind of don’t like shrimp.  But I like limes and onions. So ceviche is okay in my book.  Just not with shrimp.

The toucan friend followed me around for a long weekend at the beach.  OMC and I rented a car and drove really far south and I got chased by an emu, ate a lot of delicious tacos, listened to howler monkeys, looked at howler monkeys, was scared of howler monkeys, was delighted by toucans, watched champion surfers, etc.  I really like toucans.  Their beaks are so heavy.  This toucan tried to eat rocks.  I don’t think he was very smart.

All of the beaches I went to in Panama were pretty amazing.  The vegetation comes right up to the water, which I thought was neat.  A lot of the coastal land in Panama is just mangrove swamp, which you want nothing to do with, but in the areas that have sandy beaches, the waves are INSANE.  I got stung by many jellyfish.  It wasn’t that bad.

I actually did work in Panama!  This was from an endless shovel test probe at one of our potential sites.  We took this baby down a meter and it took a good part of the day.  Shovel test probes are surprisingly fun.  In this one we found most of a whole pot (is “most of a whole” even possible?  I have to think about this.) and encountered a whole lotta clay.  This was before the rainy season started.  Everything was kind of brutal and ugly until the rains came.  This particular site was full of Africanized bees.

The desert pictures are  some of my favorite pictures ever.  La mula is the only desert in Panama.  I think it happened accidentally because of all the cattle grazing there.  I don’t remember much about it because I was insanely distracted by the storm rolling in.  It was honestly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  Super red clay and all of these creepy tree roots sticking out everywhere.  I want to make a post-apocalyptic movie here.  It would be super scary.

Panama City might be the world’s ugliest metropolis.  Not much to say except the bulk of it looks like this, which I guess is kind of charming in a way.  The other part looks like Miami or something.

See?  Super ugly.  I wouldn’t lie about this.  That said, I really enjoyed the mall in Panama City.  I got to go here a couple times because the bus station is in the mall.  It’s the biggest mall I’ve ever been in and all the mannequins are…busty.  Panama City was about 5 hours by bus from the city where we lived.  One weekend a couple of us drove in and got caught in a really nasty rainstorm.  We also got very lost, which is easy to do in a city that has only four actual street names (I am exagerrating, but not that much).

I kind of forced OMC to take me to the canal one weekend.  He has been 6 times I think.  The canal smaller than I’d imagined but still pretty impressive.  Would go again.  WordPress is making me go crazy.  I will say more about the rest of the pictures at a later date.






Take this advice.

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I remember vividly, possibly to the day (definitely to the month), the point at which I fell deeply, maybe pathetically in love with Latin American history (in particular, military dictatorships and, best of all to me, revolutions!!!!) and knew that my life would not be complete without it.  It probably isn’t surprising that my love affair began, as so many of mine do, with a book.  At this point I was 19, and fresh out of Kentucky-land-of-the-ponies-and-the-sorority-and-the-free-drinks-for-all-girls-in-skirts, which should suggest to you I wasn’t exactly an academic.  I begrudgingly took a history class called Modern Latin America.  Begrudgingly because, duh, I was an ENGLISH major and why did I need history.  The professor (a lovely, quiet, charming woman who I harbored a secret brain-crush on–she now teaches at William & Mary and is probably at this moment influencing the lives of similarly quiet girls in Virginia) assigned a segment from A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture (Marguerite Feitlowitz).  I can’t tell you how quickly this book changed my life.  I finished this book–read well beyond the assigned 100 pages–and thought, well, holy fucking shit.  This book.

This book.  This Dirty War.  I was so inexplicably drawn to Argentina for years.  Moreover, to South America, to Central America, to the epic, terrifying and guilty history of these lovely countries and cities I could only sadly imagine and realize through books.  This love affair, it hasn’t ended.  This morning I finished Isabel Allende’s the House of Spirits.  I am too overwhelmed by the loveliness and importance of this book to write much about it.  Allende is Chilean–she lived & loved through her cousin’s all-too-brief regime and escaped during Pinochet’s all-too-long–and the family in this book deeply parallels both Allende’s experience and the experience of all too many Chileans.  Read this book.  Read this book.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Read.  This.  Book.

Things I wish I were doing right now instead of sitting at a computer with an ergonomic & quiet mouse

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Lately I have been trying to convince myself that I should quit my job and run away and do something crazy with my life.  I probably won’t do this, because I am by nature an extremely anxious person and I like to have things planned out and I am a little bit of a perfectionist.  I couldn’t run away right now, for example, because I am not packed and good god, I couldn’t leave behind my cowboy boots.  It just occurred to me that I am even a little bit of a packing perfectionist.  I kind of like packing.  I am so disgusted by me.

When I am in this mindset, though, I have lots of excellent ideas of ways I would kill my time once I ran away (I am not only a closet perfectionist, I am also one of those “needs to stay super busy” types).  So when I sit in really, extremely boring meetings at work or try to pry my face off of my keyboard or when I’m not busy moaning about the fact that I am really just a data entry specialist in a fancy titled disguise, I imagine that instead of working I am:

  • tending to an amazing, perfect garden that gives me produce year round
  • cooking well-rounded meals (I have learned that working full-time while going to school at night means I can’t necessarily care if my meal is lacking in one aspect of the food pyramid.  I don’t need that protein anyway, right?)
  • knitting sweaters & hats for the folks I love
  • learning about birds (especially ducks)
  • learning about plants and their ilk (in Panama I had myself convinced that my calling was actually to be a botanist.  I want to be a botanist!)
  • walking so many dogfriends
  • practicing yoga
  • going for a run (new fun fact about me: I just started “running”.  I am up to 4 miles!  This is a life-time accomplishment for me!)
  • volunteering to work with kids
  • reading ever so much (duh.)
  • going on really fun vacations to Maine or Prince Edward Island or South Dakota or SOMETHING.
  • attending classes in a subject that I am really excited about/working on a degree that I care about (this is such a novel idea.  Do people actually get to do this????)
  • riding horses with my sweetum
  • going on a really great & fulfilling hike
  • being a pseudo-archaeologist
  • etc

Gee, my work & school dissatisfaction are pretty evident.  Here’s to daydreaming.

Since you’ve been gone

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Hi!  I’ve returned.  I am a lot tanner, a little smarter (maybe?), a little more into eating meat, and very much out of love with working a boring library job.  I want out of here, but that’s neither here nor there.  While I was away, I did as much reading as I could, but I was perpetually crunched for time in Panama, and when I did have free time, I was so tired I almost immediately fell asleep.  Hammocks, though, are so excellent for reading.

Anyway, in the last 6 weeks I read:

  • Jeffrey Eugenides-Middlesex
  • Junot Diaz-Brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao
  • Milan Kundera-Identity
  • Octavia Butler-Wild Seed
  • Isabel Allende-Paula (absolutely incredible.  Made me sob.  On a chicken bus.  In Costa Rica.)
  • Louise Erdrich-Master Butchers Singing Club
  • Jhumpa Lahiri-Interpreter of Maladies
  • and this ninja series I borrowed from OMC that was a little tedious and made me have weird dreams.  Although I read literally 1000 pages of the series, I can’t for the life of me remember what they were called.
  • also I am forgetting another book that I read.  My brain is GONE.

This weekend I went to Ottawa & Toronto and (OMG) I saw a moose!  Actually, three of them.  I’m currently reading Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits (she is my new gf) and eyeballing a couple of graphic novels stacked on my work desk.  I need to get back into the spirit of school & yoga & running & reading more regularly & being social & so much more, but for now I am content to hug the dog and hunker down with Clara &  my new friends in House of Spirits.