Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Super Power Would You Want?

This is a question that has sparked some interesting discussions amongst friends before, and Joanne's recent review of Fairy Tails, Volumes I and II brought this question to the front of my mind.  I think that whenever people hear this question, they always think that there will be a fairly pat set of answers, but it always turns out to be surprising, so...

If you could have any kind of super power at all, what would it be?  I've been told that my original answer to this question was that I would like the ability to communicate with animals.  This way, I wouldn't have to make up all of my dogs' dialogue in my head, and I would feel much more at ease in the water, knowing that I could call for help at anytime if I ever got in trouble, sort of like Aquaman.  Also, capturing cool underwater shots would be much easier.  

I am going to moderate the comments on this one because I want to see what everyone comes up with without the influence of other people's answers...well, now you have the influence of my answer, but that was just to get things rolling. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Book Review Meme

Okay, honestly, I'm a little confused about how all this is supposed to work, but I'm going to give it a shot.  If you want to participate, go to John's site, Grasping for the Wind, for easier cutting and pasting of the list of links.  Here's the info from John's site:

"Well, I have had new idea for a meme, so I thought I would go ahead and post it, and see what kind of reaction it gets.

Here is how it works: Find a favorite book, movie, or videogame review (Science fiction and fantasy related) that you have written, no matter where it was posted, and add it to the following list. Make sure to repost the whole list, because in doing so, we accumulate what the reviewers themselves think is their best work, and give each other some linkages, increasing everyone's rankings.

Again, I plan to keep track of all the blogs that link back to me, and I will add the review of choice to the list. If you are one of the early adopters, you can check back here occasionally and add the new ones that get added to the list at your blog or website.

This probably won't be as successful as the Book Reviewers Linkup Meme, but I certainly would find it useful to know what reviews are considered their best by the writers themselves.

Use the format of [Blog /Website Name] - [Book Name in CAPS w/ Link] by [Book Author Name]"

The Book Review Meme @ Grasping for the Wind
1. Grasping for the Wind - INFOQUAKE by David Louis Edelman
2. Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books - A COMPANION TO WOLVES by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
3. Dragons, Heroes and Wizards - ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE by Robin Hobb
4. Walker of Worlds - THE TEMPORAL VOID by Peter F Hamilton
5. Neth Space - TOLL THE HOUNDS by Steven Erikson
6. Dark in the Dark - GHOST STORIES OF AN ANTIQUARY by M.R. James
7. A Dribble of Ink - THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
8. Fantasy Book News & Reviews - EMPRESS by Karen Miller
9. Fantasy Debut - ACACIA by David Anthony Durham Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Overall Review Afterthought
10. All Booked Up - THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley
11. Fantasy Cafe - THE BOOK OF JOBY by Mark J. Ferrari
12. AzureScape - ANATHEM by Neal Stephenson
13. The Book Smugglers - THE INFERIOR by Peadar O'Guilin
14. Besotted Bookworm - PARANORMAL FICTION FEAST by Christine Feehan, Julie Kramer, and Jayne Castle
15. Renee's Book Addiction - WANDERLUST by Ann Aguirre
16. SciFiGuy.ca - THE BLACK SHIP by Diana Pharaoh Francis
17. Literary Escapism - FOR A FEW DEMONS MORE by Kim Harrison (with spoilers)
18. Speculative Horizons - THE TERROR by Dan Simmons
19. Stella Matutina - NEW AMSTERDAM by Elizabeth Bear
20. Variety SF - MISSION OF GRAVITY by Hal Clement
21. WISB/F&SF Lovin' Blog - SEABORN by Chris Howard
22. Highlander's Book reviews - A MADNESS OF ANGELS by Kate Griffin
23. The Old Bat's Belfry - THE CROWN CONSPIRACY by Michael J. Sullivan
24. Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews - THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
25. The Sci-Fi Gene - PERDIDO STREET STATION by China Mieville
26. Against the Nothing - MAY BIRD AND THE EVER AFTER by Jodi Lynn Anderson
27. Flight into Fantasy - AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman
28.  Subliminal Intervention - UNWIND by Neal Shusterman  
29. Items of Interest - BITTEN TO DEATH by Jennifer Rardin
30. Necromancy Never Pays-- GENERATION DEAD by Daniel Waters

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happiness A-Z: F

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading.  It's fairly self-explanatory. :)


1.  Fire - I know this is sort of a touchy subject what with all that's going on in Australia at the moment, but I'm not talking about the started-by-arsonists kind that kills people. I'm talking about the controlled variety you find in fireplaces, campfires, and atop candles, things like that. Fire is just so cool to watch. It's there but it isn't. It dances along above the surface, blue, orange, yellow, wavering, flickering, mesmerizing. I could sit and watch fire for hours. Of course, my definition of watching fire includes a lot of poking it with sticks, adding fuel and fanning the flames along with actually watching it.

2.  Fuzzy socks - On days when you don't have a fire to keep your feet warm, fuzzy socks are invaluable. Not only do they keep your feet warm, but they make you feel like a Muppet, and how can that not make you a little bit happier? 

Also, this
is how I roll on airplanes.  Hey, it keeps my feet warm on the plane, it's easy to take your shoes off on the plane without having to worry about having stinky feet, it's still easy to put on shoes to go the bathroom, and it makes people in the security line smile.  

3.  Flowers - All of them.  Except maybe the ones that smell like rotting meat.  Actually, those would still be fascinating to see, I just wouldn't want to bring them home.

4.  Full bellies - In particular, full baby bellies (cute!), full puppy bellies (cute!), and my full belly (I'm not grouchy anymore!).

5.  Flying - I'm so good at it in my dreams, I don't know why I can't get the hang of it in waking life!

6.  Fireflies - Like little bits of magic floating in the air.  So cool!

7.  Friends - Both the real-life variety and the TV show.  

***Edited 2/24 to add that this is also a part of ABC Wednesday's F is For....Facebook! post

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happiness A-Z: E

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading. It's fairly self-explanatory. :)


1.  Elephants - They're just cool.  They're smart and they take care of each other and they do that thing where they hold onto each other's tails like they're holding hands.  And baby elephants.  OMG!  They're so cute!

2.  Emotions - They separate us from the robots.

3.  "Eeeee!" - How else do you let people know that you've just seen a mouse or been caught unawares by the sprinklers?

4.  Ernie - What a happy, optimistic guy, full of empathy for others.  And that laugh!  

5. Earrings - They make you pretty...well, prettier.

6.  Easter Eggs - They're pretty, fun, AND edible.

7.  Eating - I think I'd just die if I couldn't eat!

**Edited 2/21 to add that this post is also a part of ABC Wednesday-go check out other "E" posts over there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happiness A-Z: D

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading. It's fairly self-explanatory. :)


1.  Dad - When I was growing up, my dad was the disciplinarian in the family, so, from my point of view, he kind of sucked.  The worst was that he would talk to you about what you had done and make you think about what you had done and why you had done it.  It was a DRAG!  Now I can totally appreciate that strategy, and I am glad that I had someone there to instill some values.  He spent 15 years driving 120 miles/day to work and back.  We could have moved closer to his work, but he didn't want to disrupt the stability that we had between school, home, and nearby family.  My dad is also one of the funniest people I know, he is a great story-teller, and he is someone that I genuinely like as well as love and respect.

2.   Duck -  This was what everyone called my father-in-law.  He met my mother-in-law when she was a single mother with 6 kids in tow, fell madly in love, married her, and they proceeded to have another 7 kids.  I'm not sure how the early relations between Duck and his step-kids were, but I know that by the time I came into the family, they were all one big, happy family.  The kids are all brothers and sisters, there's never been any designations between half-brothers and brothers, half-sisters and sisters.  Duck saw them all as his kids and he worked hard to take care of all of them.  He was quiet and accepting of everyone and was a great role model for all of his sons and grand-sons.  

3.  Dancing - I've always loved dancing, and I love to watch others dance-hula, Dancing With the Stars, ballroom dancing competitions, movies about dancing, the ballet, I love it all.  I met my husband while out dancing, and while we don't go out dancing much anymore, we still enjoy it when we do.

4.  Dirty Dancing - The movie.  See #3.  Also, as much as I love this movie, it is one of many that totally ruined me for high school.  High school was such a let down after watching this movie.  There were no family trips to the Catskills.  There were no smoking hot dance instructors with whom to have sultry, forbidden love affairs during the summer.  As I recall, there were just summer jobs waiting tables at Chinese food restaurants and things like that.  *sigh*

5.  Dragons - They're just cool.

6.  Dreams - Both the kind you have while you're sleeping and the inspirational, goal-oriented kind.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Visual Aid

Remember how, a few posts back, I talked about a picture of me with a mushroom the size of my head?  Well, I haven't found that picture, but Brooke put up a picture of some mushrooms that look like that mushroom, so I thought I would send you over there to admire them.  

That's all.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-February

Turns out our sprinklers come on at 8:00AM.  Why do I know this?  Because I was outside trying to take pictures in my yard when they came on!  Luckily, my camera is waterproof, and it is warm here.  So, on with the show!

Well, here's what he looks like today:
Not only has he put out a whole new set of leaves, but the one that he put out last month appears to be almost mature.

Next we have the 3rd or 4th successive bloom I've had on this orchid in about a year.  As orchids go, I think this is a pretty fast-growing one.  The colors up close are really striking, but I wasn't quite able to capture them here today.  Perhaps it was the lack of coffee and the wet backside that threw my game.  Yeah, that must have been it.  ;)  Also, this bloom is beginning to fade a bit, and it's a little beat up.  It's been very windy here lately.  There should be 3 little spiky pieces on top, not 2, but I kind of like this look-it sort of looks like a bunny rabbit orchid now. (I know, I'm killing you with my scientific-ness today, huh?) 

Here's my orchid (Onc. Papilio x Kalihi) sharing the spotlight with some chives and a pink bougainvillea in the foreground.  In the background, you can see some red ginger (right above the far-left bloom on the chives), a red ti plant (above the orchid) and the base of my lime tree.

This next one is one of my favorite plants.  It's a Clerodendrum quadriloculare.  When we first moved to Hawaii and were looking for a house, we looked at a lot of model homes in some of the new developments that were going in like gangbusters at the time.  One of the plants that was commonly used in the landscaping was this type of Clerodendrum.  I never saw any in flower, but I loved the dark green leaves with the purple undersides, and it was something that I kept tucked away in the back of my mind as a "someday" plant.  Well, we didn't end up in one of those new model homes, but a couple years after we moved into the house that we did buy, I looked out my office window one morning to find my front yard full of potted plants that my neighbor had snuck into our yard that morning.  He knew I liked plants, and he had a bunch of extras sitting around his yard.  One of them was this Clerodendrum.  (Yay!)  Our neighbor passed away about 2 years ago, so this plant holds a special place in our yard and in my heart.  When we had our recent landscaping done, they decided to move this plant, and it went through some serious transplant shock.  I didn't think it was going to make it.  So, I am thrilled to be able to share these pictures with you today.

Next, thanks to the birds in our yard, I have discovered a great new way of germinating sunflower seeds:
This lily is located underneath our bird feeder, and it turns out that it holds just enough moisture at the base of its leaves to germinate the sunflower seeds that the birds keep dropping. I never would have thought of this on my own!

To see what other people have blooming in their yards right now, visit May Dreams Gardens' Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happiness A-Z: C

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading.  It's fairly self-explanatory. :)


1.  Cheese - I love cheese.  I've written before about how my love of cheese made me laugh until I cried.  I don't know what else to say.  I could live on cheese.  I  might not live long, but I'd live happy!

2.  Cats - I like the furry creatures, but I'm talking about the musical.  I know there are a lot of people that think Andrew Lloyd Weber is sort of the Stephanie Myer of Broadway, and I won't necessarily argue with them.  The play is based on the writings of T.S. Eliot.  I'm not really that familiar with T.S. Eliot, but I don't find the story-line of Cats all that compelling, I don't love all the songs, although a well-sung version of  "Memory" just shatters me at my core.  What I like about Cats is the production itself, all the people running around in their cat costumes and their fancy cat wigs and cat makeup.  I like watching the performers on stage-they've actually done quite a good job of turning themselves into cats, even, perhaps especially, the supporting cast.  If you watch the chorus of cats in the background while one of the stars is in the spotlight, you will see them all grooming, slinking, stalking, scurrying, and generally doing a great job of becoming lycra-covered, human-looking cats.  

This clip is of Elaine Paige, portraying Grizabella as part of the original London cast.  She's a washed-up, has-been cat who has been shunned by the rest of the cat community.  She's gone through about 8 1/2 of her 9 lives and is trying to come back into the fold.  

Here is Betty Buckley in the same role, performing at the 1983 Tony Awards along with the rest of the original Broadway cast.  If you want to skip directly to her part, it starts at about 3:47.  Personally, I think Elaine Paige's performance is far superior.  What do you think?

3.  Center Stage - Okay, this might be one of the worst movies ever made, but I love it!  It's about a bunch of kids at the American Ballet Academy.  They are all vying for some of the rare and coveted positions in the American Ballet Company.  Who will get those positions?  That all depends on how they perform at the year-end workshop.  There are staunch classicists, rogue dancers, a motorcycle on stage, and love triangles!  Okay, so "worst movie ever made" might be kind of harsh.  The plot itself is okay, but the acting is terrible.  To be fair though, most of the dancers are professional dancers, not actors, and the dancing is the part of the movie that I really enjoy, so I'm willing to overlook the bad acting.  The first time I saw this movie, I watched it, rewound it, and watched it again immediately.  A few days later, I was talking to my cousin and asked her if she'd seen it.  She started laughing and said, "Yeah.  And then I rewound it and watched it again!"  I hardly ever do that, and neither does she, but there's something about this movie.

4.  Comfort - In all it's forms.  I like comfortable clothes, being comfortable around people, sitting comfortably, being comforted when I am upset about something, being at a comfortable temperature.  I have had some great teachers along the way.  In case you missed yesterday's post, Basset Hounds are masters of comfort.  I guarantee that if you walk into a home with a Basset Hound, and the dog doesn't come running to greet you at the door, it's because it is lounging somewhere, comfortably, and does not see the need to come check things out.  That's what the humans are for.   

5.  Chocolate.  and Cake - Even better, chocolate cake, but I will take either one separately, unaccompanied by the other.

6.  Classic cars

7.  Cool Whip on pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving - I know it's not the real thing, but it's what we always had growing up, and that's part of what makes Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for me.  

8.  Clydesdales - They're so big and strong and beautiful and sweet, like Clyde.  Also, they always make me cry during Super Bowl commercials. 

Awwwwwwww!  Go little guy!  You can do it, you can do it!  Yay!!!  He did it!  Wait, what...?  Awww, that's sweet.  I won't tell either.  :)  Gah!  Now I need a tissue!

9.  The Color Purple -  I've never read the book, but the movie was outstanding.  This one definitely holds up.  I think it's absolutely as relevant today as it was when it was released in 1985.  

10.  Color - Purple or otherwise.  I'm looking out at my yard now at the reds, greens, silvers, whites, pinks, and purples that show up so beautifully against the blue sky and the browns and grays in my rock wall.     

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some Questions For All You Knitters

I don't knit, but it's one of those things that I would like to learn how to do someday.  I know a lot of bloggers knit and a lot of knitters blog, and I always read about folks that have unfinished projects lying around that they don't think they'll ever finish (I believe these are known as UFOs-UnFinished Objects), and that got me thinking about two things.

1.  Is there a book that any of you would recommend for a first-time knitter who is totally new to the scene?  I'm talking about total self-teaching here.  I just read a post by Annika that mentioned Stitch and Bitch-any input on that one?

2.  Would it be a worthwhile project for any of you knitters out there to trade your unfinished projects with other knitters who would be more likely to finish them?  What if there were a big database of unfinished projects-hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters, socks-that you could all choose from?  It would be sort of like a gift swap, but, you know, with half-finished products.  Maybe someone has a sweater that just needs arms and they hate doing arms and somebody else is good at arms.  I guess perhaps the technical term here would be "sleeves."  LOL.  Or maybe somebody wants a pair of mittens but hates starting them and someone else has a pair languishing at the bottom of their knitting bag.  I don't know.  I have no idea if this would be worthwhile or not, that's why I'm asking all of you.  If so, is there anyone that would want to coordinate that?    

Happiness A-Z: B

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading.  It's fairly self-explanatory. :)


1.  Butterflies - An unexpected flutter of beauty bebopping its way through the world.  How can that not brighten your day?

2.  Baby animals - Technically, I guess I already covered this in my "A" list when I listed Animals, but I think baby animals deserve their own listing.  Holy Cuteness and Cute Overload are good resources for your daily fix of baby animals and other cuteness.  Some of my favorites include baby elephants, baby hippos, and baby Basset Hounds.

This was our first Basset Hound, Sadie, when she was a puppy.  She was mostly ears, and we had hard wood floors, so running was tricky anyway, but every once in a while those short little legs would step on one of those long ears, and then it was all over!

3.  Buster - I've mentioned Buster before.  After we had Sadie for about a year, we decided she needed a companion, and we adopted Buster from a Basset rescue society.  Here is what he looked like when we first got him:
See that spot on the back of his head?  That was a big scar from some injury he had sustained before we got him. We suspect that someone might have thrown him out of a car, but we don't know for sure.   :(  He recovered fine, and he's been with us ever since.  Here he is consulting on our landscaping a couple months ago.  

4.  Basset Hounds - Duh!  They are great comic relief, and according to this 2006 New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell, they are the only other dogs besides beagles that have never been implicated in a fatal human attack.  They are laid back and have no problem making themselves at home.  Case in point:

"I'm NOT moving."

"You're not going to make me move are you?"

According to bassethoundrescue.com's the Basset Hound's Indoor Energy Level is, "Low-From One End Of Couch To Other."  LOL.  That's about right, but they are actually very energetic and have pretty high endurance if you get them out somewhere where they can run around and smell things.  So they're still good for someone who wants a dog that they can go out and do stuff with, but they'll be right there with you when you want to sit down on the couch, have a beer and watch TV too.  Also, they're stubborn.  If you've ever tried to reason one of these goofballs off the couch, you know!  They'll totally pretend that they don't understand English when it suits their purpose.

Haha-I just went back through and reread my post up to this point, and I realized that the quotes I made up for the two pictures above totally captured both dogs' personalities.  Sadie was stubborn and independent and a little aloof.  Buster is stubborn too, but, when it comes right down to it, he's a total pushover.

5.  Bees - they do good things-they pollinate flowers, they make honey, and they give directions to food sources by wiggling their butts.  I can't do that.

6.  Books - Since we're on the "B" list today, one of my favorites from the past year is Backyard Giants:  The Passionate, Heartbraking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever.  You can read my review of it here.        

7.  Braveheart - I love this movie.  This is one of those movies that I can always stop to watch if it is on TV.  If I'm flipping through channels and Braveheart is on, that's it, three hours-gone!

8.  Butter - I'm no Paula Deen, but butter makes everything better.

That's all I've got for today.  What "B" things make you happy?  


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happiness A-Z: A

Okay, so by now, most of you have probably seen and/or participated in the alphabet meme that is going around.  Someone assigns you a letter, and you list 10 things that you love that begin with that letter.  (My "O" list is here.)  I've had a great time visiting everyone's lists and seeing all the different things that people come up with, and I've been inspired.  

One of the things that I wanted to do with this blog was to celebrate the little things in life, and I'm afraid that I haven't been as diligent about that as I would like.  Shana over at So Not Zen began a project earlier in the year to list 5 things every day for which she is thankful (click on the 365 Days of Grace button in her sidebar...or just click here).  I think this is a great idea, and I thought I would combine the two and work my way through the alphabet, each day listing 5-10 things that make me happy, that I love, that I am thankful for, etc. 

So let's get started with


1.  "Amarillo by Morning" - This is quintessential George Strait, and it is one of my all-time favorite songs.  The thing that sets this song apart from all the other country songs about rodeos and bull riding and the life of the cowboy is the fiddle at the end of the song.  The fiddle is great throughout the song, but at the end, everything else fades away and you are left with a haunting fiddle that sort of rises up and floats away like smoke.  Unfortunately, the radio stations always tend to cut this part off.  Because they're idiots.  I can't think of any other acceptable explanation.  Even if you are not a country music fan, go check this out.  Buy it on iTunes or Amazon.com or wherever you get your music from if you have to; it's only 2 minutes and 54 seconds of your life, and if you truly regret that you will never be able to get back those 2:54, let me know, and I will spend the $0.42 to send you your dollar back. 

2.  "Angel of Harlem" - This is a U2 song, and you all may already know how I feel about U2, but the reason I like this song in particular is...hard to put into words.  It's energetic and celebratory and joyous. It's all the things that I want this explanation to be that it's not!  LOL. Seriously.  Think about something that you are passionate about, that you lovelovelove, something that has inspired you, moved you, but you can't quite explain it in a way that will adequately express it to anyone else.  That's where I'm at with this explanation, and that was where Bono was at when he wrote this, except that he DID manage to adequately express it, and he and the rest of the band manage to convey this love with such enthusiasm that you can't help but be happy when you listen to this song.  *sigh*  If you hate this one too, then I owe you $2, and you should never read any of my song recommendations again.

3.  My cousin, A____. - She's one of the smartest, funniest people I know, and I love her dearly.
(BTW, these aren't ranked in any way!  I was just wavering about whether to put her under "A" for her name or "C" for cousin).

4.  Apples -  They're tart and sweet and shiny and pretty.  They're in season after most of the other fruit has passed it's prime.  They're rugged-you can throw one in your backpack or lunch bag and not worry about it getting squished like a handful of strawberries or a bunch of grapes might.  Also, in dire situations, they could be thrown in self-defense.  What's not to like?

5.  America - I'm not exactly what you might call patriotic, and America isn't perfect, but when I look around at places in the world where women are still considered property, where a woman's worth is measured by how many cows she can bring to a marriage, where women are not allowed to show themselves in public, where girl babies are killed because they are not as valuable as boy babies, where one's religious beliefs and relationship to God are dictated by law, where civil war is the standard, I am really happy to have been born an American.   

6.  Animals -  While there are a few I could do without like fleas, ticks, mosquitos, rabid dogs, frightened skunks, etc., animals in general make me very happy.         

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-04, part II: The tie-in review OR What I'm Reading Now-Ten Points

This week's Weekly Geeks is about passion and inspiration. Chris wants to know what we are passionate about (besides reading and blogging) and why. We are also supposed to share anything that will help explain our passion.

Well, I already talked about what I am passionate about, so I am kind of cheating this week because I am going to do a mini-review here as well, but only because I think it fits in perfectly with this theme.

Ten Points
by Bill Strickland-This story alternates between the author's childhood and the 2004 series of Thursday Night Criterium rides. Strickland is an editor by day and a cyclist in his spare time, and he has promised his daughter that he will earn ten points in the upcoming riding season. The criteriums, or crits, are weekly races consisting of 30 laps. Every 3rd lap the first four riders across the finish line earn points. Strickland was riding against Olympians and other legends in the racing world, and scoring even one point was hard to imagine, let alone ten. The need to earn the ten points ran a lot deeper than just his promise to his daughter; it was his way of working out some of the demons from his childhood as well.

The portions of this book that talk about Strickland's childhood might be hard for some people to read, especially parents. His father was extremely abusive. The focus of the book is not on the past, but the parts of the past that are revealed are horrific; the fact that Strickland is alive at all is a miracle. I know, sounds like a great book so far, right? Despite all the terrible things from his past, this is ultimately an uplifting book. The reason that I'm including it here is because of Strickland's absolute love of cycling. As I was reading this, I was thinking how amazing his love of the sport was, and then I thought how perfect an example this would be for this week's Weekly Geeks topic. From Location 876-85 to 892-900 on my Kindle, 2nd-largest font (I know. I'm sorry. This is near the end of Chapter 5 for the rest of you):
"I've never been able to explain why bicycles captivated me. They are marvels of both the mechanical and the metaphysical. This simple machine, essentially unchanged since its invention more than a hundred years ago, is the most efficient vehicle ever made, converting about 98 percent of the energy put into it into motion. The bicycle is the iconic childhood Christmas present and the star of one of the most powerful rites of passage when, as children, we learn to propel ourselves beyond our parents' reach. Einstein is said to have thought of the theory of relativity while riding. Albert Hofmann, the chemist who accidentally invented the mind-altering drug LSD, rode a bike during the world's first acid trip. A study in the late nineties found that the rhythm of pedaling a bike induces the same physiological changes the body undergoes during intense prayer or meditation.

But for me, the answer-or as close as I ever get to one-is at once simpler and more expansive: The bicycle spoke to my soul. It reached inside me and touched something essential to my spirit the way old stamps, or African violets, or egg tempera infuse other people. Those who pretend to be able to parse the secrets of our primal loves always sound foolish to me. We love what we love, and I love cycling with the same kind of mysterious, infinite delight with which I love Beth and Natalie and nothing else in this world. That is why I ride, because I was a cyclist before I ever saw a bike, the same way I was Beth's husband and Natalie's father before either of them existed for me. "
Wow. I mean, just wow. This little snippet is everything I wish my Weekly Geeks contribution had been. There is another piece that I would love to share with you, but it's the absolute end of the book, and while it isn't exactly a spoiler, it is the very end of the book, and that doesn't seem quite right! I will just say that I thought the ending was absolutely the perfect ending for this book. This was a very quick read, and I would highly recommend it.

Weekly Geeks 2009-04, part I

This week's Weekly Geeks is about passion and inspiration. Chris wants to know what we are passionate about (besides reading and blogging) and why. We are also supposed to share anything that will help explain our passion.

I think the thing that comes next for me after reading is gardening.  I've always liked dallying around with nature.  I have pictures of me Somewhere there exist pictures of me as a little kid in my grandma's flower bed, me holding a mushroom the size of my head, me holding a wild baby rabbit, something which I'm sure was not good for either of us!  My cousins and I used to run around our grandparents' property, picking wild onions to give to my grandma.  I don't know if she ever actually ate them, but, in proper Grandma fashion, she was always super excited about receiving them.  I used to take my mom's square baking pans outside and build miniature landscapes in them.  I would get hunks of moss to lay out as the grass and then I would pick flowers, usually crocuses (croci?) to stand up between the hunks of moss as trees, and then I would keep it watered until the flowers died.  I'm sure this thrilled my mom to no end.  Maybe that's why I don't remember having brownies very often growing up.  

Nowadays, I just enjoy being outside and seeing what plants do.  I like to watch them grow and unfold, as you saw here.  I know this is going to be to my detriment some day, but I also like to touch plants.  I just want to pet them.  Actually, this has already been detrimental to me, but only mildly so.  I visited a cactus/succulent garden (yeah, you can see where this is going, right?), then had to pick my husband up from the airport.  The conversation on the way home went something like this:

Me:  Owwww.
Hubby:  What?
Me:  I don't know.  It feels like I have a sticker in my finger.
Hubby:  Bunny [because that's what he calls me].  Did you try to pet the cactus at the garden?
Me:  Noooo.
Hubby:  Bunny.  Reeeeaaally?
Me:  No.  

Here's the thing:  I was very careful about what I touched.  I picked up a prickly pear (leaf? node? paddle?) off the ground to check it out, but I made a point of not grabbing any of the pokey parts, so I don't know where the sticker came from.  :(

Anyway...I also like to read about plants and how they grow and what works well together and what kind of insects do what.  It's just really cool to see how interconnected everything is in nature.  Two books that I really like are Roses Love Garlic:  Companion Planting and Other Secrets of Flowers and Carrots Love Tomatoes:  Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.  Honestly, I don't know if the science behind these books is any good or not, but I think it's fascinating.  Another book that I enjoy which offers advice I have tried and had much success with is Lasagna Gardening:  A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens:  No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! I have put in two flower beds using this method, and they were both quite successful.  One was a moon garden-all white flowers and white/gray foliage so that you can see it at night by the moonlight (I believe this is covered in the Roses Love Garlic book)-and one was just a couple of plants that I threw into my front yard, not realizing that my front door would soon be completely overgrown!  

See this little guy? Looks kind of like a bee or a wasp at first glance, right? It's actually a type of fly that acts as a pollinator for many flowers. Here is a list of other insects that are beneficial to your garden.  Sometimes the worst looking ones are the most beneficial!  I took this picture the other day when I was outside trying to read.  I kept getting distracted by all the yelling in the neighborhood (it was Super Bowl Sunday) and all the wildlife that was buzzing around inthis bush.  Along with these Syrphid flies, I had honey bees, hummingbird moths (Hemaris ??) carpenter bees, and lizards.  The lizards weren't so much buzzing as darting, but, you know.  Here is a carpenter bee that my husband found wobbling around on the sidewalk the other day.  He was trying to find a good place for him to rest, but in the meantime, he decided to take some pictures.  I love these guys!  They are such gentle giants.  Unfortunately, they get their name from the fact that they burrow into wood, which sometimes makes them a pest, but I've never noticed them going up into our eaves or anything, so I don't think they are causing us any problems.  I just like to see them buzzing around the garden.  

So, all these critters were living in one flowering plant that I have in my yard, or maybe not living in it but at least enjoying it, just as I was.  I'm sure there are many more that I can't see as well.  This is also why I have such a hard time spraying for anything in the yard.  I know if I spray something to kill aphids, it's not just going to kill the aphids.  It's probably going to do damage to everything else that is happily co-habitating with my plant and the aphids.  I would much rather just wait for the lady bugs and their alligator-looking babies to move in and take care of things, and it has been my experience that they will.

Some additional links:
May Dreams Gardens where Carol discusses all things garden-related.  Also the home of the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, where readers send in pictures on the 15th of each month to show what is blooming in their gardens.  This a great way to get inspired and maybe find a new plant that you have never seen before.

The Garden Web Forums-This is the place to go to discuss anything gardening-related.  There are forums by region, by name of plant, by type of garden, pretty much anything you could want.  Sometimes the hardest part can be figuring out where to go first!

Garden Rant-This blog is written by four avid gardeners, and the topics vary all the time and are often tied to current events.

Waikiki Worm Company-Even though this is a Hawaii company, this is still a great resource for anyone who is interested in composting with worms.  You can get a lot of good information and then go from there.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ten Things I Love, Brought to You by the Letter "O"

Of all the latest and greatest memes that are currently going around, I saw this one over at Trish's blog, Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? and thought it would be fun.  Basically, you are randomly assigned a letter, you come up with a list of 10 things you love that start with that letter, and then if other people want to participate, they let you know in the comments, and you randomly assign them a letter.  Trish was assigned the letter "O" and has already given us her list;  now I've also been assigned an "O" so I'll have to see if I can come up with 10 more.  I guess it's probably ok if we love some of the same things though!

1.  Olives-Unlike Trish, I do love olives.  Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving if I don't eat an entire can of black olives all by myself.  When I was a little kid, I ate a whole bunch of black olives (probably an entire can all by myself) and they made me so sick I threw up.  Never once did my loyalty decline.  That's how much I love olives.  Kalamata olives are awesome in pasta and salads, green olives are great on pizza, and black olives are great out of the can.  Running around with them stuck on the ends of all your fingers is totally optional.

2.  Orange-colored "Rosalind"-Isn't she lovely? This is a hibiscus that I found at a local nursery a few years ago. I bought two of them, and was thrilled to find that one of the plants was a double-blooming variety like the one shown here.  Unfortunately, they both came to a disastrous end.  I don't remember exactly what happened, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with our then-new puppy who, for some reason, seems to have a beef with a lot of the plants in my yard.  Of course, I haven't run across another since.    This picture by Dick Johnson is from the International Hibiscus Society.    

3.  Olympic gymnastics-I enjoy watching the different routines, and I am always amazed by the pure strength exhibited by these athletes, not to mention the flexibility.  I can't even touch my toes, let alone the back of my head with my foot!

4.  Olive Garden-Okay, okay, I know, but the thing is, we don't have one here in Hawaii.  I love their salad and their bread sticks with alfredo sauce, so whenever we make it back to the mainland we always hit up an OG to get our salad and bread stick fix and then we're good to go for a couple more years.

5.  Oreos-Self-explanatory.

6.  Our Old house in Omaha-Do I get three points for that one?  When we lived in Omaha, we had the cutest remodeled Victorian house on about 1/3 of an acre on a quiet corner lot.  Technically, we weren't in Omaha, we were actually in a little town outside of Omaha, but nobody would know where that was if I said it, so I just say Omaha.  Our house had all the charm of the Victorian design, but it was completely remodeled with a new basement, so we didn't have all the headaches that go along with a 100-year-old house.  We used to sit outside and watch the fireflies, which were not unique to our house, but were unique to me in the sense that that is the only place I have ever lived that had fireflies.  I want to import them to Hawaii.  My husband thinks that I would somehow be responsible for killing off all the dolphins if I did.  He's probably right, so I guess I won't.  I don't want to be responsible for starting some invasive-species epidemic that ends with the death of all the marine wildlife.  I would feel really bad about that.

7. Old Man Buster-This is my dog, and his name is just Buster, but he is an old man and sometimes that's what we call him, as in, "Hey, Old Man, how ya doin'?"  He is sweet and funny and a big slobbery mess, and I love him so much.  This picture was taken a couple of days ago when we were outside reading.

8. Oprah.  There, I said it.  I know a lot of people can't stand her, and I know she can get a little up on her high horse at times; but geez, come on.  If you had reached Oprah status, are you telling me you might not slip up every once in a while and think you know better than some other people?  Maybe forget that not everyone has an entire walk-in closet of $500 shoes?  I'm pretty sure I would.  She's taken a talk show and turned it into something respectable.  Sure she still does the interviews with celebrities promoting their latest movies and the makeover shows like everyone else (but come on, don't we love those?), but she's encouraging people to take charge of their health, to be charitable, to be spiritual, to generally try to be better human beings.  She's also encouraging people to read.  I know a lot of people won't read a book specifically because Oprah recommended it, but I think that's as silly as only reading books that Oprah has recommended.  If you want to read a book and then Oprah recommends it, you'll just have that many more people to talk about it with later.  If you've hated everything she's ever recommended, then don't read what she recommends.  No big whoop.

9.  Open minds-Because I love people who will still love me even if they hate Oprah!

10.  Opportunities that you didn't expect-Whether it's the opportunity to leave work early, travel somewhere you didn't think you would get to go, take a trapeze class, or talk about the fact that you took a trapeze class, it's usually a good thing!  Sometimes opportunities don't work out, but having the option is nice.  

What?  I know you were all waiting for me to go there with the list of things I love that start with "O", but I'm not going there.  So there.

So, if you'd like to play along, let me know in the comments, and I will randomly assign you a letter.