30 April 2009

fabric <3

i'm working on a project that allowed me to go crazy in a fabric store. it was awesome.

the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay - michael chabon

michael chabon || the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay || 4.0/5.0

i'm always excited to learn about young and fresh writers. michael chabon definitely falls into this group - his body of work is still comparatively small, but all of his novels have been well-received and are together very promising.

the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay is incredibly creative, reaches to broad themes, and was a fun read. kavalier and clay are cousin comic book writers, jews in the period leading up to the onset of world war II. clay is a native new yorker, and is joined by his escape artist cousin kavalier, a refugee from prague.

their comic book adventures are just the start of their story, and the plot reaches through several decades. chabon covers so many distinct forms of loss that the book is heart-wrenching, but the cleverness of the writing balances the novel nicely. definitely recommend.

27 April 2009

nashville marathon

when i started this blog, i had big plans to talk about things other than music and books. one of the things i imaged blogging on was running, but clearly that's not materialized - probably because, unless gifted with a humorous take on life, running is actually pretty dull.

that said, i've been running. this saturday i went to nashville and ran the country music marathon, my second marathon. it was pretty awesome, despite being awful. anyone who does long-distance running can probably relate, and i think the extreme of both experiences is what keeps us coming back. i'm hoping to run another full race either this late fall or early next spring.

nashville was great - its one of my favorite cities, and i love visiting. it was a joy to run through most landmarks, remembering my many previous trips to the city, and to think of those fun times with old friends.

my mixed review of race weekend:

-al gore sat behind me on the plane. seriously a life highlight. unfortunately i'm too timid to have talked to him, but i did eagerly listen to him talk to the woman sitting next to him. and he let me deplane first. awesome!
-cutting 15 minutes off my previous finishing time.
-surviving this race of doom, and knowing that i will likely never run in as difficult conditions again.
-awesome shirts!
-seeing finishers all over town and watching line-dancing at crazyhorse (dancing being clearly out of the question).

-it was close to 90 degrees when i finished, meaning just over 5 hours in the blistering heat.
-headwinds? i thought this was just a problem in biking - i was wrong. the wind was nice at first to keep us cool, but it was pretty ridiculous at times.
-did i mention the 90 degree thing? i'll confess to treadmilling it when the thermostat passes 70, so i definitely was out of my element.
-hills, hills, hills.
-super-sunburned face because i forgot a hat - oops!
-allergic reaction to my sunscreen & lingering hives that are driving me crazy.
-nine hours in the airport.
-having to watch the swine flu briefing in a crowded airport (more on that later).

life is sadly back to the old grind, except for the soreness and itchiness. i took a short run today, and after the initial pain and awkwardness, my legs feel a lot better.

everyone should run a marathon. seriously. talk to me about it, they're the best.

allergic legs:

the accidental tourist - anne tyler

anne tyler || the accidental tourist || 2.5/5.0

thanks to an nine-hour stay in the lovely nashville airport this past weekend, i was able to finally (and speedily) read this book, recommended by a very good friend.

in fairness, i think the fact that reading this book was the only source of entertainment available may have made me a little angry or frustrated at it, and hurt my score a bit. i can certainly attest to it being a quick read though!

the story was certainly good, and the book is well-reviewed. its a bit out of my usual style, however. in reviewing books here, i've started to better understand my own tastes in reading. accidental tourist is too... realistic for my tastes. maybe too mundane.

that said, the ended surprised me, and i haven't quite decided whether or not i'm glad at how the ending turned out. apparently its been made into a movie - anyone seen it?

fiona apple - never is a promise

23 April 2009

the vanishing point - mary sharratt

mary sharratt || the vanishing point || 2.5/5.0

while searching for a historical fiction to read, one of my book clubs chose this novel last month. we were hoping for a bit of mystery, and a bit of being taken back in time.

sharratt certainly succeeded in painting a picture of tough colonial life, but i was disappointed when the novel took a definite turn toward the romance angle. maybe i'm just turned away by romance novels, but i think her descriptions of passion on home-made bearskin rugs were a bit over the top.

with that exception, i enjoyed the novel. the historic nature kept things interesting, and the mystery kept me guessing. the main characters were strong women, and sharratt succeeds in impressing the complexity of each person. discussion in book club helped round some of the more flat individuals out, as we all related differently to each life.

19 April 2009

redistribution and the bible

i'm not a person who believes in a literal interpretation of the bible. there are far too many inconsistencies and historical remnants for me to consider using scripture alone to justify beliefs.

as a practicing catholic, though, i often interact with people who find the bible justification enough. what puzzles me most about this approach is not the overlooking of completely contradictory verses, but the ubiquitous picking and choosing.

one of today's readings got me onto this train of though: acts 4:32-35, which reads
the community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the lord jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. there was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.
what do anti-redistributionists read this as saying? i'm genuinely interested in how one justifies picking certain bible verses to read as absolute truth and completely ignoring others. explanations or thoughts would be much appreciated.

16 April 2009

yarn harlot - stephanie pearl-mcphee

stephanie pearl-mcphee || yarn harlot || 4.0/5.0

if you're a knitter, you should read this book. its pretty hilarious - just observations on the craft (she won't have you call it a hobby) and of the knitting world in general.

i particularly appreciated the short story-like setup. the book is about 200 pages and close to 40 "chapters," making for great bedtime reading or waiting-in-line reading. plus the writing is light and engaging, which ups the readability factor.

if you don't knit, it would probably still be a funny read, but probably to a much lesser effect. as someone who likes to pretend to knit (two finished projects a year doesn't really count, i don't think), i got a little bit of satisfaction simply knowing what the terms meant.

stephanie pearl-mcphee has a pretty awesome blog, too, if you'd like a taste.

the strange case of dr. jekyll and mr. hyde - robert louis stevenson

robert louis stevenson || the strange case of dr. jekyll and mr. hyde || 3.5/5.0

i finished this one up a while ago and have been dragging my feet posting about it. i'm not too sure why, but it may be that it didn't strike me with much inspiration. perhaps that's because the story of jekyll and hyde is so well known that its become a colloquialism - i imagine reading the book with shock value intact would be a completely different experience.

i enjoyed it, surely, and the writing was quite good. (could it be otherwise? it is a classic, after all). having finished, there are two things that i'm struck by:

1) i wish there was a listing of incredibly short classics (this one included). there's such satisfaction in having read a classic, and i'd love to knock the easy ones out quickly and increase my read count.

2) i love exploring the many different covers of classic books. the lack of copyright means lots of publishers, and lots of publishers means plenty of choices for a cover-shot. can't go wrong with a classic design.

developing world stoves & climate change

a very interesting article from the front page of the new york times today, on the role that cooking stoves in the developing world have on global warming. the article cites studies that have found the stoves responsible for up to 18% of the earth's warming, and suggests potential ways to take said stoves out of rotation.

i'm glad to see the attention, as the piece reminded me of a project i worked on in graduate school. i was researching waste management methods in the developing world, of which trash burning is particularly significant. aside from the myriad health detriments associated with 'backyard burning', i learned that even a moderate amount of individual free burning can release more toxins into the environment than a large-scale community incinerator.

an occasional campfire in the woods is one thing. regular use of fire lacking ventilation or filtration of the smoke, however, is incredibly dangerous to people's lungs, and depending on the fuel burned (hello, plastics!) threatens most other body systems.

i'm hopeful that the public pressure of global warming will lead to a change in the use of these rudimentary and dangerous stoves. i'm a little sad that it's taken global warming for us to open our eyes to the dangers (and easy solutions) of this problem.

05 April 2009

a plug for south africa

one of my best friends and former college roommate is finishing up her peace corps experience in south africa in about five months. her experience has been incredibly exciting and productive from all that i've heard, and she's been doing incredible work developing curriculum for teachers around her home village.

she's long been working on developing libraries for her schools, and recently was accepted into grant program. of course, there's an expected contribution to receive the grant. in her own words:

Another success, was the acceptance of both of my schools into the Books for Peace Project, a collaboration with Peace Corps and Books for Africa. For each donation request, Books for Africa donates a shipping container full of 20,000 books. The only catch is that the receiving organization must fund the transport, which most organizations can't do alone. So two of my fellow PC volunteers decided to arrange for a program in which volunteers would share the burden of the cost, and the benefit of the books. Each school will receive 733 books but first each institution must raise R1900 ($190) and each volunteer is then expected to raise $270 per school on the PCPP website and $125 per school on the Books for Africa website from friends and family at home. This means that I need to raise $790 in total by 02 May 2009.

if you feel compelled to help her out, the link to donate is here. its a nice, direct way to donate to a definite need, and i can certainly attest to anne's ability to ensure the money is put to best use.