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broodings from the burrow

June 21, 2012

adds up, ’80s revisited, and ice cream
posted by soe 10:55 pm

Happy summer! How crazy is it that Independence Day is two weeks away? I’m not ready! Let’s slow time down on this sultry evening and look back at three beautiful things from the past week, shall we?

1. My Bikeshare membership comes up for renewal. (Bikeshare is the system of shared bicycles located around the region. Pick up a bike from the automated stands in one place (like by your office) and ride it to your next destination (such as the grocery store, the park, or home).) The annual cost is not inconsequential, so I consider my options. But because the system tracks your usage, I am able to see that in the last year, I used CaBi 75 times, rode 91.47 miles (that would most likely not have been biked otherwise), and burned two days’ worth of calories. I hadn’t realized I had used it so often. Although I have my own bike, I find that the benefits at least equal the cost (if not outweigh them) for a continued subscription.

2. Twice in the last week, I’ve gotten to see favorite movies from the 1980s on the big screen. On Saturday, we headed up to Silver Spring to catch The Princess Bride on the AFI’s huge screen. It was fantastic — complete with occasional interludes of audience recitations. Tonight, Back to the Future was shown on a screen set up in Dupont Circle, and we trundled our camp chairs over there to watch. There was lots of applause at the key moments — and a real life DeLorean for us to check out (no sign of the Flux Capacitor).

3. I have not yet made homemade ice cream (although the canister is now in the freezer to enable making it this weekend), so we stopped at Larry’s for cones on our way home tonight, because two days in the upper 90s seemed to demand frozen concoctions. Rudi sampled the Mud Pie for the first time, but I opted for my favorite, Paradise, which was a fresh vat when we walked in.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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a possible remedy
posted by soe 1:28 am

I am tired.

I have finished my book. Rudi has washed the dishes. The cats are restlessly prowling, hoping I will fill food dishes and play with laser pointers. I will and I will brush my teeth, too.

And then I think I will attempt to combat my actual, physical tiredness by going to bed and sleeping straight through for six whole hours. It’ll be tough, but sometimes you just have to take the medicine instead of looking elsewhere for a remedy.

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June 19, 2012

into the stacks: hatchet
posted by soe 2:29 am

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

From the jacket: “Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present — and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parents’ divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self-pity, or despair — it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.”

My take: When Mikaiya said that she was going to finish off the remaining children’s book readalong we started two summers ago, I figured it was time for me to dust off my unread portion of the list, too. I started with this one because it seemed like it was long enough to be worth taking with me for Metro reading.

Hatchet was an odd book for me. Let me start out by saying I liked it better than I thought I would. It was well-written and the main character of Brian was a realistic, nerdy kid who grew up in the city watching a lot of PBS programming. He’s devastated by his parents’ divorce and by a secret that he believes precipitated it — but that all slips to a level of secondary import when the pilot taking him to his father’s for the summer dies and the plane crashes, leaving him alone to survive in the wilderness.

In the beginning, he does not keep his cool. He does what any of us would do in that situation — he freaks out. But after he realizes that freaking out does not fix the situation, nor does it lessen the energy that will be required to address the situation when he again focuses on it, he starts to use logic and his primitive instincts to cope with the many problems before him — including finding shelter and food.

While I liked the book, it did feel oddly dated. Written in 1987, the book predates the internet and cell phones. That’s fine, because a cell phone would not have been much help to Brian after the plane crashed, and public television substitutes for Wikipedia in shaping his knowledge. However, what really made it seem dated to me were the parts of the novel dealing with his parents’ divorce. They felt very afterschool special-y to me, in a sotto voce “poor Brian … his parents split up” kind of way.

Now, it could just be that I have been a long time away from books that focus on this issue, and that they do, indeed, still deal with divorce in the way they would have when I was a kid (when the book was written, for what it’s worth). In which case the book will not phase modern kids at all. If, however, I’m right, and current authors have found a more accepting way of dealing with the subject, then modern readers may find that aspect a bit off-putting. I don’t think it will affect their general enjoyment of the book or their appreciation of the transformation Brian undergoes, but it’s probably something to keep in mind when recommending it to younger readers.

Pages: 186

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June 18, 2012

into the stacks: daughter of smoke and bone
posted by soe 2:44 am

Once upon a Time Reading Challenge VIDaughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

From the jacket:
“Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she speaks many languages — not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.”

My take: Karou lives a double life. By day, she is an art student in Prague, hanging out with her best friend, Zuzana, at the Poison Kitchen, filling her sketchbook with pictures of fantastical creatures. But at night, she serves as the international courier for the real-life versions of the characters she draws — Brimstone, the Wishmonger, who trades wishes for teeth; chimaera Issa, Yasri, and Twiga; and tiny, bird-like Kishmish — the only family she has ever known.

It’s a stressful life for a young woman, but she’s trying to balance it all until an assignment in Marrakesh goes seriously wrong. An angel named Akiva, sent to destroy Brimstone and all those who help him, catches Karou doing business with a broken-down scholar and chases her back to Brimstone’s door, but not before seriously wounding her. She, in turn, discovers a terrible secret of Brimstone, who throws her out of his lair. But when Kishmish arrives at her apartment carrying the wishbone Brimstone has always worn, she knows something is seriously wrong.

Karou will travel the world and face all manner of evil to find out what has happened to her family. But when she finds out all of what has transpired and when Akiva tracks her to Prague, will she find the inner strength and hope to carry on?

This book got a lot of buzz last year when it came out, which I expect will be revived later this fall when the second novel in the series is released. Karou is a tough chick and an appealingly damaged heroine. She’s the sort of character you don’t actually want to be, but the kind you wouldn’t mind being the best friend of. It made me want to visit Prague, vividly described, as were all the settings in the book. It was original and compelling — and I found it hard to put it down — but I think in the end that the story was so dark that I liked it less than I had hoped I would. Not, of course, that that will keep me from giving the sequel a chance.

Pages: 418

This book fills the fantasy category of the Once upon a Time VI reading challenge.

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June 14, 2012

bling, berries, and girl talk
posted by soe 11:30 pm

It’s Thursday! Time to report back on three beautiful things from the past week:

1. A fancy-dress event requires fancy nails. I combine my normal shiny purple nail polish (colorway Buffy the Violet Slayer) with a sparkly paler purple (colorway Twinkle Toes) to give myself glitter-ball violet fingertips.

2. We have a berry trifecta this week — strawberries turned into popsicles and muffins, cherries for a picnic’s dessert, and blueberries for a snack and a salad topping.

3. Julia and I meet up for tea after work and spend a few hours catching up. It’s been a while.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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June 13, 2012

a grand day for a garden party
posted by soe 11:58 pm

On Saturday, John, Nicole, Rudi, and I took part in the annual Seersucker Social.

We met at Fort Reno — along with several hundred other cyclists — in our best bibs and tuckers.

Organizers Holly Bass and Eric Brewer

Nicole Vamps for the Camera

We biked a modest four miles across Rock Creek Park to the Hillwood Estate.

The Crowd Assembles

We ate, drank, and attempted to dance the Charleston to the sounds of a live band. Some of us were better at this than others.

Dandy Wellington and His Band

We laid on the grass and talked. We walked through the gardens. I got tossed out of the mansion.*



The croquet course and badminton courts were full, but there was no line to play with the hula hoops.


We danced a bit more and then pedaled back down to town, having passed a perfectly lovely afternoon.

A Bicycle Built for Two

Nicole and Me

(The rest of the shots I’ve posted are here.)

*Rich old ladies do not like you to walk around their homes without shoes on, even when they’ve been been dead nearly 40 years.

It should be noted that I was shoeless because my shoe broke, not because I was being willfully anti-establishment. It also should be noted that while I was not thrown out of the Met for touching a sarcophagus (I know, I know. I was a teenager who did not, at the time, realize what a stupid thing that was to do.), I was for a rather trifling violation here.

I’d also like to mention that I knew they were going to toss me out and that I skittered off to see what I could before they caught me. Turns out, when you have to come back to the main hall to move from one room to the next, that that’s only two rooms — neither of which contain the famed Fabergé eggs.

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