sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 17, 2009

stressed out
posted by soe 2:04 am

Please pardon my lack of posts for the next day or so. I am a big bundle of stress right now and figure no one really needs me to unload it here.

But if you see my Connecticut set of keys, you will let me know, right?

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June 15, 2009

into the stacks: southern 1
posted by soe 11:58 pm

Flush by Carl Hiaasen

From the jacket: “Noah’s dad has a little problem with anger control. He tried to stop the Coral Queen casino boat’s illegal dumping … by sinking the boat. But his bold protest fizzles: Within days, the casino is back in business, and Noah’s dad is behind bars and out of action. Now Noah is determined to succeed where his father failed. But even though pumping raw sewage into the waters of the Florida Keys is both gross and against the law, turns out it’s near impossible to catch the flusher — especially when he’s already bamboozled the prosecutors, the local press, and even the Coast Guard.”

My take: When I decided to sign up for Maggie’s Southern Reading Challenge 3, my first challenge was going to be meeting a review goal of the first book by today. So I thought I’d tuck a kids’ book into the list so I had time to pick it up at the library, read it, and get it reviewed. I’d read Hoot before, so I knew that I liked Hiaasen’s style, at least for his young adult books.

Like Hoot, Flush takes place in Florida and focuses on the story of a middle school boy who finds out about an impending environmental disaster and must decide what he’s going to do.

The book opens at the town jail, where Noah has stopped in to visit his dad on Father’s Day. Paine is a mild-mannered waterman who, as his family routinely points out, tends to get a little carried away when he sees a wrong that needs righting. In this instance, he has sunk a local casino boat, purportedly because its owner, Dusty Muleman, is pumping the boat’s toilets into the bay. Noah’s mom has tried to bail him out, but Paine refuses to let her. He’s happy to stay locked up, claiming his being in jail brings attention to the situation, but the kids overhear Donna on the phone talking divorce and start to worry their father may have gone too far this time.

In the days that follow, Noah and his younger sister, Abbey, see what they can do to learn more about the charges their father has lobbed at Muleman. They scout around the marina, dodging Muleman’s bullying son during the day and his thuggish security at night. At Paine’s suggestion, Noah consults an ex-mate from the Coral Queen, Lice Peeking, a soused bum living in a trailer with Muleman’s bosomy ex-girlfriend, Shelly, who both agree Muleman’s no good.

But when the kids nearly get grabbed, Lice disappears, Paine gives up his fight, and Shelly, Abbey, and Noah witness the effect the sewage has on the local wildlife, it’s time to up the ante. Can Noah and Abbey set up Muleman, dodge the scarred old man living in the woods (who seems to know an awful lot about them), and still be back home in bed before their folks get home?

Ultimately, this is a story about interconnectedness and vigilance. One thing touches another, which touches another. Noah’s family might get frustrated with one another, but, ultimately, they’re there for each other, looking out for one another, watching everyone’s backs. They are separate but a whole. And the environment is the same way. One person can — for good or for evil — affect the wildlife and the people who use the water. And even seemingly benign carelessness can lead to long-term problems. The environment is not something apart from us.

Hiaasen works a bit hard sometimes to drill these points in, sometimes creating a rather awkward back story to make it all work. But he has created some great characters — Noah, a real boy who’s inherited his father’s passion for protecting those who can’t speak up for themselves; Abbey, his analytical sister with a flair for drama; and no-nonsense Shelly, whose big heart is ultimately much more noticeable than the tattoo on her arm — who carry the story through in the end.

Pages: 263

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cupcake misadventures
posted by soe 2:42 am

A couple weeks ago, as you may recall, I was desperate to bake up some goodies involving the first two spring fruits — strawberries and rhubarb. Jenn suggested I try cupcakes first, which was just as well because Rachel of Coconut & Lime was marking her fifth blogiversary with a contest involving her recipes.

So I commenced, far later in the evening than was advisable, to make her Baby Loves Rhubarb Cupcakes: (more…)

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June 13, 2009

digital conversion, day 1
posted by soe 9:01 am

For those of you with cable or dish service, your transition to the digital tv broadcast era has probably been no more of a headache than putting up with a stream of news stories, commercials, and banner ads warning of the switchover. Those of us who receive our television over the airwaves (and particularly the subset of that group living in cities or remote areas), however, have spent the last few months fretting. Would we lose stations altogether? Would we have to put up with the flickering in and out on the stations we did get? (Again, those of us living in urban areas found it particularly trying that trucks passing by and helicopters flying overhead seemed to knock out perfectly good stations.)

By the time Rudi and I got home last night, the transition was complete. We rescanned with interest and a bit of trepidation: what would we find?

Of the stations we received back in the good old analog days, about two-thirds come in still, with the added boon of substations. I imagine this will be particularly nice when trying to learn foreign languages, as MhZ now offers us five different stations that focus on international and diaspora programming. We also get NBC, Fox, myNetworkTV, ION, Univision, and the CW. And with most of these stations, it looks like the signal amplification they were allowed to implement yesterday has done the trick of traffic taking out our signal.

Unfortunately, we have not yet found a way to pull in CBS or ABC (who made the decision to leave behind the VHF bands in favor of UHF), or any of the three PBS stations we used to get.

I’m hopeful that Rudi and I will be able to find spots in the living room where the antenna pulls in those key missing stations. PBS will be a particular loss, since their online offerings are woeful compared to what they air on tv.

And, yes, if we don’t regain them, there are always videos, online offerings, and, even, turning the tv off.

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June 12, 2009

my d.c.: adams morgan murals
posted by soe 11:30 am

The neighborhood just to the northeast of mine is Adams Morgan, one of the most ethnically diverse and vibrant in the city (except on weekend nights when it becomes a bastion for Virginia party boys and women attending bachelorette pub crawls).

One of the things that makes the neighborhood stand out are the impressively large murals that surround the community. These are just two of them:

Mama Ayesha and Friends

Mama Ayesha’s marks your entrance into Adams Morgan after you cross the Duke Ellington bridge from the west. Mama Ayesha Abraham, born in Jerusalem in the late 1800s, opened the restaurant (originally called Calvert Café) in 1960. Still run by her nephews and great-nephews, the Middle Eastern eatery took her name after she died in 1993. The 60-foot-long mural, Mama Ayesha Welcomes Presidents, was painted earlier this year by Karla Rodas.

Keep heading down the road toward the heart of Adams Morgan and you’ll come across Un Pueblo Sin Murales… (A People Without Murals…) just before you hit Columbia Road.

Adams Morgan Mural

People without Murals...
A Proud Neighborhood

This is the oldest outdoor mural in D.C., painted in 1977 by Carlos Salozar and Felipe Martinez, who’d immigrated to the U.S. to escape the Pinochet regime in Chile a few years earlier. Designed to embrace the Latino heritage of Adams Morgan, the mural spans several buildings and is three stories high. After falling into disrepair (although never marred by graffiti, local activists are quick to note), it was restored in 2005 by Juan Pineda, who kept the original images, but updated the colors by using spray paint.

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June 11, 2009

muted, perspective, and luminescence
posted by soe 10:48 pm

Three beautiful things from the past week:

1. The pitter-patter sound begins on the leaves overhead as the rain just barely starts to fall.

2. I have made a mistake in the most recent book I wrote, neglecting to update statistics after the manuscript was shelved for a period of years. Yesterday, when the error was pointed out, I felt mildly ill at the oversight, as the mistake squarely rests on my shoulders. But then I remembered my early days as an editorial assistant, when my boss would put newly printed publications in a drawer as soon as they arrived so he couldn’t look at it and see any errors we’d overlooked earlier in the process. Inevitably some eagle-eyed reader will find them and point them out, he used to say, so there’s no point in stressing about them. It’s just part of the process.

3. A firefly slowly passes my open window. Summer is here.

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