10.31.2010

random clouds

10.30.2010

how big is Africa?


Montana is big. People don't really get how big it is. Well Africa is much much bigger. Bigger than most of the rest of the land mass in the world. That big.Click here to see some other interesting views on land mass.

10.29.2010

living more responsibly

Look, you might believe in global warming, you might not. I don't really care. But, if you are religious, or not, we can all agree that ethically we should act as stewards for our planet. Period. End of statement.

But how? Erin sent me this great article from the LA Times. This is a great newspaper that I don't read often enough. The author tried numerous ideas to live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. She tried chickens (fail) and compostable toilets (fail too) and gray water systems (success!). The article is simply fascinating.

This year Brent and I have tried a few things since reading that DIY book. I bought a rain collector for our deck. Just used it to water our little bit of plants we still have left. We have a huge drying rack, but routinely forget to use it. We got this super neat recharging valet which turned off the electricity once your appliances were fully charged, but it never worked properly so we sent it back. I have started carrying my reusable coffee mug in my purse so I have it when I need it. Now just to remember to take it out of said purse...anyway, we are trying.

Read it and try some of these things!

Eco-friendly projects: One woman's report on living green

By Susan Carpenter

Los Angeles Times

It started with gray water, then escalated to chickens, composting toilets and rain barrels. I'm talking about the two years I've spent transforming my humble California bungalow into a test case for sustainable living — an experience that's cost me hundreds of hours of my time and thousands of dollars, an endeavor that has tested the limits of not only my checkbook but also my sanity — and my DIY skills.

When I first delved into the subject, the idea was to look at environmentally promising home improvement projects through the eyes of a budget-minded consumer. I had seen so much media coverage that heaped praise on newly constructed eco-manses or expensive retrofit products, but the stories didn't answer my biggest question: For the green-minded person writing the checks, are the improvements worth the time, effort and expense?

Although everything I retrofitted seemed wise at the time I did it, hindsight tells a different story. Over time, I occasionally questioned the wisdom of some actions.

The idealist in me finds value in every improvement, but the realist can't deny that some have been far better in payback — if not financially, at least morally. The systems that easily fold into my busy life are the ones I've enjoyed most.

What's been worth the money and effort, and what hasn't?

———

WORTH IT: PROJECTS THAT REALLY PAID OFF

GRAY WATER

First place

Gray water is the waste generated from faucets, showers and laundry machines — water that accounts for 54.2 percent of all water used inside a home, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With California deep into a drought, in August 2008, I retrofitted the plumbing on my laundry machine to send its gray water onto my landscape. Over the last two years, that simple switch has sent 9,720 gallons to passion fruit vines instead of the sewer, and it required only one change to my usual routine. I had to swap laundry detergents because my usual brand, like many, contained salt and other ingredients that kill plants.

When I first installed a gray-water system, it wasn't legal. Making it legal would have required a permit, extensive filtering apparatus and lots of cash. But in August 2009, these laundry-to-landscape systems were legalized in California, as long as homeowners followed 12 guidelines.

I've been so pleased with this low-cost, high-impact system that I hired a plumber to expand it in January, tying the wastewater from my bathtub, shower and bathroom sink into the same gravity-fed plumbing line that handles my laundry water. This so-called simple system also was legalized in California in 2009. Its legal status has since been rescinded, so once again I've gone rogue. I estimate my additional savings to be roughly 1,120 gallons per month.

Financially, this system is paying for itself, just slowly. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power charges me less than half a penny per gallon, so technically, gray water has saved me only $95 in water costs so far. But it's also reduced my sewer charge by about one-third, saving me an extra $3.30 per month. In drought-prone Southern California, gray water feels like the right thing to do. It's been the easiest, most sensible, hassle-free, sustainable system I've put in place at my house.

Cost: $1,988 ($312 for the laundry-to-landscape plumbing, $1,676 for bathtub and bathroom sink tie-in)

Resources: Greywater Action, www.greywateraction.org; Oasis Design, oasisdesign.net

———

SOLAR POWER

Second place

Photovoltaic systems pay off most quickly for consumers who use a lot of energy because tiered rates impose a penalty for heavy use, but solar electric still makes sense for low-energy users such as myself.

So much of Americans' carbon footprint results from buildings — about 43 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. I'm a household of 1 1/2 (mom and 7-year-old), and we use only about 4 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, something we've managed through behavioral changes, such as turning off the lights in rooms after we've exited, and through in-home efficiencies, such as swapping out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents and using power strips that can turn off DVD players, coffee makers and other energy vampires.

Using less electricity means I can get by with a smaller, less expensive photovoltaic system that not only covers my use but also produces a credit on my power bill. Going solar also meant my house was upgraded with a time-of-use meter. This type of meter allows me to receive credit for the electricity I generate during peak hours when electricity costs the most, but pay the least for the electricity during off-peak hours, when I recharge my cellphone and laptop and perform other tasks requiring power.

The downsides are that I am tied in to the grid and still susceptible to power outages, and I now have panels that need to be cleaned. It's a subject of debate, but my installer, REC Solar, said dirty panels decrease energy production by 6 percent to 8 percent. Many panel manufacturers recommend cleaning panels at least once during the summer. I wash mine whenever they look dirty or dotted with bird droppings, which is about every other week.

I think $6,000 is a small price to pay, not only for panels that should generate my next 20 years of electricity, but also for the greenhouse-gases I'm not creating.

Cost: $5,939 ($11,564, minus a $3,898 DWP rebate and a $1,727 federal tax credit)

Resources: California Public Utilities Commission, www.cpuc.ca.gov; 1 Block Off the Grid, www.1bog.org; REC Solar, www.recsolar.com

———

RAIN BARRELS

Third place

I was a rain barrel skeptic before I joined L.A.'s rainwater harvesting pilot program last fall and received a 55-gallon pickle barrel. Though rainwater holds such enormous potential for supplementing Southern California's dwindling reserves of imported water, rain barrels seem like such thimbles. During a normal L.A. winter, my 1,500-square-foot roof generates 13,500 gallons of water — a tidal wave compared to what a little barrel can handle.

Having lived with rain barrels for a year, I've learned that their small size makes them manageable and affordable. The water they catch isn't stored only for summer use. It can be drained in between rains to water nearby plants. An added perk: reducing storm-water runoff to the ocean.

I have three rain barrels — one from the city and two that I purchased separately. They're along the edge of my house, at the halfway point in a row of kiwi vines and berries. The 175 gallons they hold were a lot more useful than I'd expected for feeding my exceptionally thirsty fruit plants. The water they held lasted about a month into the summer.

I never had mosquitoes. I did, however, have some algae growing in the plastic tubes connecting my rain barrels, but it wasn't significant enough to reduce flow. Water pressure was problematic only for the last few gallons of each barrel.

I still think larger rain catchment systems are preferable. Alas, larger systems frequently need electric pumps and are far more expensive. In this economy, affordability rules. And it's affordability that could lead to mainstream adoption and significant water savings for our parched city.

Cost: $500 ($300 for rain barrels, $200 for installation and parts)

Resources: L.A. Rainwater Harvesting, www.larainwaterharvesting.org; Rain Bud, www.rainbud.com

———

EARTH WORKS

Fourth place

Rainwater isn't only a resource. It's also a potential pollutant if it runs off property onto pavement, picking up fertilizers and automotive fluids that are washed, unfiltered, into the ocean.

To prevent my home's contributions to runoff, which could be as much as 10,000 gallons per year, according to L.A.'s Bureau of Sanitation, I've sculpted my landscape to retain as much rainwater as possible.

The parkway between the sidewalk and the curb is concave and mulched. My backyard is home to a 15-foot-wide hole in the ground that is fed with gutters from my roof. During the rainy season, this infiltration pit can hold as many as 500 gallons at a time, allowing it to gradually replenish groundwater. During the dry season, it's been doing double duty as a skateboard pit.

Cost: Not easy to determine because it was part of a larger landscape project, but for DIYers, potentially free

Resources: Rainwater harvesting books by Brad Lancaster, www.harvestingrainwater.com

———

NOT WORTH IT: TASKS THAT LEFT HER MORE BLUE THAN GREEN

WATERWALL

The Waterwall is an Australian product that is exactly what its name implies: It's a wall that catches and stores water. Water channeled from the roof and gutter drains into a tank shaped like a thick concrete-block wall. It operates similarly to a rain barrel but holds six times as much water and is better looking. It's also modular, allowing water to flow freely from one wall into another in series.

The Waterwall was expensive, and installation was a nightmare. It's an excellent idea that simply wasn't worth the money for a person of my means. If California's drought persists and water prices start going through the roof, I'm likely to change my attitude. But so far, the $4,078 I've spent to store 634 gallons of water I could have bought from the city for about $3 is an embarrassment, particularly with so many ways to conserve.

Even worse, it's been annoying to use. I put my Waterwall near a trio of stone-fruit trees that would happily drink in the water. Unfortunately, the water pressure drops along with the level of water in the wall, and running the water through a relatively short, 15-foot length of hose or even lifting the hose above the spigot decreases its flow rate.

I love the Waterwall in theory, and I still think I would've ringed my backyard with Waterwalls if I'd known about them 10 years ago, when I installed an appallingly expensive redwood fence.

Cost: $4,078 ($2,300 for two walls, plus $944 for shipping and taxes, plus $834 for installation)

If I had to do it over again: I'd go with a cistern or a large, agricultural above-ground tank.

———

EDIBLE LANDSCAPING

When the economy was freefalling two years ago, I couldn't shake the fear that the American infrastructure was about to crumble and that I should start growing my own food. Thus began an incredibly long, expensive and back-breaking journey. Not only did I have soil that was high in lead, but I also had critters that liked to dig and destroy. Then there's the water issue. It takes a lot of the wet stuff to grow most fruit and vegetables.

Having transitioned my low-water ornamental landscape to edibles, I'd say this is a project for people with time, money and a love of gardening and cooking. It isn't a job for single mothers with high-stress jobs who'd rather not spend their precious down time watering, pulling weeds and bringing in their harvest.

I've resigned myself to the fact that I won't likely learn as much as I should to maximize my yields. At this point, I'm just hoping this whole project won't end up being a high-cost intellectual exercise that bears little fruit. Passion fruit and tomatoes have had the biggest payoff so far. Beans, corn and kale? Not so much. It's so easy to get high-quality produce from a CSA, or community supported agriculture group, which is what I've been doing for the last year: spending $18 a week for organic, locally grown produce conveniently delivered to my son's school.

Cost: outrageous

If I had to do it over again: I would install one or two planter boxes. I'd buy the rest of my produce from a community-supported agriculture group such as Equitable Roots.

———

COMPOSTING TOILET

Water is a precious resource, and we flush an awful lot if it away. At my house, my low-flow toilet uses 1.6 gallons per flush. If it's flushed 10 times a day, that's 16 gallons of imported drinking water that's pooh-poohed and sent 23 miles to a wastewater treatment plant that uses precious electricity to process it, then has to dispose of leftovers.

The final frontier of green living, the composting toilet is a low-tech option. There are a surprising number of commercial composting toilets on the market that look nice, cost a fortune and can't handle heavy use, which is why I went with something called a Separett. Developed in Sweden, it's a piece of plastic foam that looks like a toilet seat except it's outfitted with two holes — yes, No. 1 and No. 2. Each empties into its own 5-gallon bucket I access through a trap door on the side of my house.

I'll admit, as committed as I am to living green, this is not a system I use all the time. In fact, I use it rarely, and only for No. 1

As much as I support the premise of a composting toilet, I'm more devoted to the traditional porcelain god. I just try to flush less.

Cost: $627 ($127 for Separett, $500 for construction labor and materials to convert built-in cabinet to toilet)

If I had to do it over again: I might need more clearance under my house, but I'd go with a commercial composting toilet from Clivus Multrum.

———

CHICKENS

This is one of the projects I was most excited about and one that's turned out to be among my biggest failures. After buying a chicken coop, feed and hens procured through L.A. Animal Services, I got only four eggs.

L.A. may be a sprawling metropolis, but it isn't devoid of wild animals. Some people have coyotes. I've got possums and raccoons, which breached my coop and gobbled down my ladies.

A forensic investigation revealed the intruder had dug under its edges, so I fixed the problem by driving stakes deep into the ground and nailing pieces of wood to other possible areas of entry. Although I wasn't 100 percent confident that these beady-eyed villains wouldn't return to the scene of the crime, I nevertheless journeyed back to the animal shelter to purchase two more chicks, only to be woken up at 1 in the morning to the sound of distress. Running outside, I found a lady bird dangling from the mouth of a shiny-eyed raccoon. The other chicken was missing.

I've been buying eggs at the store ever since, but I was hipped to my local egg underground. Last week, I got my first dozen eggs from a neighbor who's more game than I for the challenge of raising chickens.

Cost: $530 for coop, feed and chickens

If I had to do it over again: I would skip the coop and find a local alternative.

———

SMALL, EASY WAYS TO LIVE GREENER

Green home improvement doesn't have to mean elaborate new systems or expensive construction projects. Some small steps for a greener life:

Laundry line

Clothes dryers account for 5 percent to 10 percent of a home's energy use. I have one, but I use it only if I'm desperate. My laundry line is strung unobtrusively across my backyard deck, and the sun dries clothes in mere hours. For me, the low-tech laundry line is about the easiest and simplest thing I can do to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Cost: about $50 for equipment.

Diet

My home improvement retrofits have convinced me that more environmental savings could be obtained by eating less meat and dairy. The cattle business creates more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, according to a 2006 United Nations report. So, although I love burgers and can't give them up entirely, I eat fewer, and I'm mostly substituting almond and soy milk for dairy.

Composting

About 26 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream is yard and food waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Composting that waste is how I produce only a small grocery bag's worth of trash every other week. It's one of my greatest achievements. About a quarter of my trash savings comes from composting food scraps. Cost: $20 for a bin through a city of Los Angeles composting workshop.

Recycling

The other three-quarters of my trash savings comes from recycling, for which I have an almost-religious fervor. About 80 percent of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet only 28 percent actually is recycled. Cost: nothing but the time it takes to throw something in the blue bin.

———

(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

10.28.2010

fun new camera


My friends Mike and Opal had this old camera hanging around. They gave it to me. I took the lens off of my digital camera and put the camera up to the camera to use the lens to take these pictures. They are only the first of many. Fun!!!

10.27.2010

stop catalogs

I am so tired of getting catalogs. Grrrr.

This might help you stop getting a few if they are a problem for you:

Click through to this link:
www.catalogchoice.org

To stop other junk mail write or email these people:
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

ww.dmaconsumers.org

Remove my name!

This seems to have reduced our catalogs/junk mail a bit.

10.25.2010

lovers and friends

"A scientific study reveals that having a new romantic partner comes at the cost of losing two close friends."

Brent sent me this article a few weeks ago. (Read the article here.) I have been thinking about this idea since then. And I think I did in fact lose two close friends when I gained Brent.

The article does not really satisfactorily discuss the "why"...Why does this happen? They think it just has to do with time management.

Interesting.

10.24.2010

boy, isn't this true

Bureaucracy was born out of the human desire
for complete assurance before taking action.

Scott Belsky in Making Ideas Happen

bodymedia fit

A few months ago I got this cool GPS watch for running, except that it had problems connecting with the satellites. By the time it connected, I was either too annoyed to run or too something...so I took it back to REI. The reason we shop there is so we can take things that don't work back...so I am glad they took it back. Their customer service is going downhill though.

In its stead I got this new little gadget: BodyMedia Fit. It is this little guy that you wear on your arm. It tracks your activity and sleep. They recommend wearing it 23 hours a day. I have been wearing it for four days. (The device is the same as a bodybug.)

Results so far:
1. I don't sleep nearly as much as I need to or thought I was sleeping. (6.5 hours v. 8 hour laying in bed.)
2. We walk a lot, but not enough on the weekends.
3. I tend to eat much worse (read more carbs and sugar and refined foods) on the weekends.

You are supposed to measure your calories in v. you calories used to create a calorie deficit.

The only problem I really have with this whole set up is that I don't believe in the calories in - calories out = weight loss, but I am going to stick with this for a few months. Let's see what happens.

10.23.2010

relative direction

We have spent a lot of time on faceblindness lately. I know. I know. It still blows my mind. There are other problems people have. One is a problem knowing right from left consistently. I have this. If someone says turn right, I have to physically lift up my hands and say, "right, left." Then I remember.

The other relative directions are: up, down, forward, and backwards.

Some cultures use relative directions, and some use cardinal (absolute) directions, like north, south, east, and west. (I wonder where that leaves up and down?)

The Economist has covered this topic in a few articles, one of which can be found here: Article 1.

I have also read, and I don't remember where, that women and men tell directions differently. Women tend to use landmarks more while men use streets more.

"Go down to the Stop and Shop, then turn there towards the McDonalds. Drive until you go past the blue house and our house is the next green house with a walnut tree in front."

"Go down to the next light, go right. Then drive to the address 6377. That's our house."

These directions could essentially get you to the same place, but sound completely different. I feel this demonstrates one of the difficulties in communication in heterosexual relationships: we conceive of the world differently. (Query whether homosexual relationships have the same issues. I don't know.)

The New York Times magazine ran a long magazine article about whether language shapes how people think. (click here to read it)

I believe language does shape how we think. We just listened to another mindblowing Radiolab about language. In that article, one theorist posits that until we acquire language, we can't think. We can't think. Think about that. The show also has a story about a man who does not have language at age 27. (I told this to someone and they brought up the "your ability to acquire language ends at a certain age." I have heard that but that was not the case here. I don't know why. Maybe Claudia could weigh in on this?)

Speaking of Claudia, in German I am a whole different person. I am cuter. I am less direct. I swear a lot less. Isn't that strange? Does anyone else have a different personality in a different language? Katerina? I bet you are different in Greek v. German v. English v. French, but I don't know for sure. Marika? Hai? Laura?

Listen to the radio lab below:

10.22.2010

ebay: experiment failure

So the last two weeks I have tried selling some things on ebay. I just wanted to see how it worked and if I could make any money doing it. I have sold:

2 pairs of shoes
1 raincoat
1 bag

One pair of shoes went for way more than I expected. The purse was sold for a lot less than I wanted. The raincoat was a wash. And one pair of shoes went for a steal.

It took a lot of actual time to sell this stuff and a lot of mental time. I kept checking the things to see if they were selling. Yes, I made a few bucks, but I think in the future we will just give things to friends or goodwill. That makes me feel better...giving away the stuff.

10.18.2010

9 tips to get rid of clutter

These are from Gretchen Rubin (who has a blog about happiness and used to live in our apartment!!)

These Ideas Come from Zen Habits, where she wrote the article:
1. Does this thing work? I was surprised by how hard it was to admit that something was broken and couldn’t be fixed—say, our dud toaster or my daughter’s frog clock. Why was I hanging on to these things?
2. Would I replace it if it were broken or lost? If not, I must not really need it.
3. Does it seem potentially useful—but never actually gets used? Something like an oversized water-bottle, a corkscrew with an exotic mechanism, or a tiny vase. Or duplicates. How many spare glass jars did I need to keep on hand?
4. Was I “saving” it? Leaving bath gel in the tube, or hoarding my favorite stationery in a desk drawer, was as wasteful as never using these things. Spend out!
5. Does it serve its purpose well? For example, we have a lot of “cute” kitchen objects that don’t really work.
6. Has it been replaced by a better model? Inexplicably, I’m in the habit of keeping a broken or outmoded version of tech gadgets, even after they’ve been replaced. Pointless.
7. Is it nicely put away in an out-of-the-way place? One of my Secrets of Adulthood is: Just because things are nicely organized doesn’t mean they’re not clutter. No matter how tidily a thing is stored, if I never use it, why keep it?
8. Does this memento actually prompt any memories? Sometimes I automatically keep things that fall into the category of “mementos,” assuming that they’d set off some sort of response, but they don’t. The attendance trophy from my daughter’s pre-school sports class—out.
9. Have I ever used this thing? I was absolutely shocked to find, when I started looking, how many things we owned that we had never once used. Many were gifts, true, but I promised myself we’d either put these things into use within a few weeks or give them away.

How about you? Have you identified any questions that help you decide whether or not to keep a particular possession?


I used these tips to clean out the closet, under our bathroom sink, and to organize our kitchen pantry on Sunday. I would add a few tips to her list:
1. Is the product expired?
2. Was the thing a gift that I don't like?

10.17.2010

pumpkin patch


kids are cute. kids in pumpkin patches become even cuter. kids in striped sweaters with their parents in pumpkin patches are the cutest.

10.15.2010

keys to happiness

Sometimes when I find something really neat I will take notes about that thing. I just stumbled across some notes I took from an Atlantic Monthly article from last year or so. The article was about factors that help people live longer. The study profiled followed college age men from just after WWII to today.

Factors that help you Live Longer:
1. Mature psychological adaptations
2. Stable Marriage
3. Education
4. Not Smoking
5. Not Abusing Alcohol
6. Some Exercise
7. Healthy Weight

Factors that don’t matter:
1. Your cholesterol at age 50.
2. The Importance of Social Ease Decreases with Age
3. The importance of your childhood temperament goes down with age.

Exercise in college equates to better late in life mental health.

People who are depressed die earlier. Pessimists suffer physically more than optimists.

The bottom line of the study was:
The only things that really matter in life are your relationships to other people.

If these are the factors that lead to a long life, how are you doing? Can you change something in your life to increase your odds?

10.14.2010

slideshow of arkansas

10.13.2010

the food pyramid


Since I am doing the "lowcarb" thing these days, I decided to look up what the daily recommended intake of carbohydrates by the USDA were. It was hard to find, surprisingly. Lifehacker has a great post about how to understand and use the food pyramid to help make your food choices. Check it out by clicking here.

This was my favorite food pyramid they posted.

10.12.2010

your desk

Do you have a desk? Not everyone does. I love my desk. The image on the banner is of my desk. We found it at a store randomly, and bought it on the spot. I am not even sure I was looking for a desk then. Anyway, this is a movie about desks and what they mean. Only 6 minutes...worth the watch.

Desk - Music and Sound Design from Aaron Trinder Film:Motion:Music on Vimeo.

10.10.2010

how much salt do you eat?


This graphic is just amazing. I love how they represent the amount of salt we eat. I should subscribe to Good Magazine, where the image comes from.

10.09.2010

amazing pictures of bubbles being popped


(c) Richard Heeks, all rights reserved.

Click here to see more of Richard Heeks' photos.
They are really amazing. I had no idea what a bubble looked like when it pops. What a fun and creative idea.

10.08.2010

where do ideas come from?



Great video. Love the use of the white board too.

10.05.2010

(JOHN READ THIS) book review: The Art of Non-Conformity



(photo from this nice book website: http://readingbyeugene.com/.)

by Chris Guillebeau

“It is not the decision you make that is the most important; it is the degree of commitment with which you make the decision.” (Quoting Beau Bartlett.)

This book is very similar to the 4-hour Work Week guy’s book: instructions on how to start living the life you want to live. He admittedly takes his blog posts and rework/reorganizes the posts into a book, but it works. The book is good and offers a lot with respect to realizing your dreams.

“Whatever your dreams are, start taking them very, very seriously.” (Quoting Barbara Sher, in Wishcraft) I like this idea. Take your dreams seriously, no one else is going to do that.

Somewhere we developed a dichotomy between dreams and reality, making them mutuality exclusive. If you are in a dream, you are by definition not in reality. So how does someone go about starting to live in a dream world? One aspect that keeps me from living my dream is that it seems really selfish and self-centered. My dream is to be a writer, but how does that help anyone? How does that make the world a better place? Which then spirals into the rabbit hole of doom. Guillebeau acknowledges this problem and tackles it straight: just help people. It makes you feel better and the world a better place. Worry about the rest later. Ok.

One thing that drives me crazy is when they tell me they “wish” they could do something I have done. They can/could. I like what Guillebeau says when people say this to him: “They have chosen to prioritize other things above their stated desires.” Priorities. As my friend Maureen points out: life is just a bunch of choices. Make good choices, get good outcomes. Thus if you prioritize the things you really want, those are what you will get. (Naturally, bad luck and illness can get in the way. I don’t deny this.)

Towards the end of the book he advocates a “Top Stop Doing List” rather than a “To Do List.” The idea behind this is that here are lots of things that cut into our time. Cut those things out of your life to achieve the live you want. I would put commuting on our list of things we stopped doing. Of course we have to get to work, but instead of spending an hour in the car every day, we live where we work. Some of you will say this is impossible or impractical. I understand that is what that means is you have chosen to prioritize other things over not commuting. We have not. That is fine. ☺

The book concludes with travel tips. He likes to travel a lot.

One criticism I have of the book happens to be a constant topic of conversation in our home: being a non-conformist is hard. It takes a lot of energy to buck the culture you live in. I don't think he really give the difficulty enough discussion. More on this later though.

Even if it just a restatement of his blog posts, I really liked the book. Lots of life affirming tips to help you lead the life you want.

10.04.2010

book review: The Magicians



by Lev Grossman

Everyone seems to love The Magicians. I did not. I read the whole thing, so I suppose I did not hate it. I did, however, take a large break in the middle of it. The book is basically a piece of fan-fiction based on The Chronicles of Narnia books (which I loved). The main character is a depressed kid in New York City (popular these days...). He loves the books and really wants to believe in magic. And then magic comes knocking at his door.

I am sure there will be a second novel. They set it up to be that way. There are some lose ends left hanging. Some things don’t match up. Maybe I felt the novel was a bit sloppy.

There were some great lines and thoughts:
“The problem with growing up is that once you’re grown up, people who aren’t grownup aren’t fun anymore.” pg. 199

On pgs. 216 and 217 we are told that the headmaster at Quentin’s school thinks they are all magicians because they are unhappy. “A magician is strong because he feels pain.”

I won’t read the next book. This one just did not suck me in enough.

10.03.2010

book review: Some Day This Pain Will be Useful to You



by Peter Cameron

But for my professor assigning this book, and the fact that I respect her opinion, I would not have finished this book. Once you get past chapter 2, though, it really takes off. We finally get to the “conflict” in the book. I think this is the professor’s point: get to the conflict earlier. We will see if I was right as my class moves forward this week.

The book describes the fictional life of James Sveck, who I would describe as an over privileged, over thinking, brat from New York City. Oh and he is depressed. A lot of the book takes place in his brain. The way he analyzes and over thinks everything is excruciating and tiring. Do people really think like this? This thinking paralyzes him.

Ultimately, we only spend from July 24th to the 30th with him. A lot happens in this week, and we hear about some events that took place a few months earlier and his agonizing over going to college at Brown. There is also a postscript that I saw coming miles away. Before anything even happened I started crying.

I wonder now if the book was really as good as I think or if it just struck a cord with me, and now, I am not even sure what the difference would be? Does a great book have to speak to us to be considered great? Maybe that is why I still feel Crime and Punishment was just that; it did not speak to me.

10.02.2010

and now we explain why we can't get the New Yorker

We get New York magazine in this house. We love it. We do not get The New Yorker. And let me show you, rather than tell you why:

...

Ok, this is annoying, but since I only really have five regular readers and one of them is my husband, I will just email you the article, since it is now behind the New Yorker pay wall. How annoying. (If you want to read the article and I don't email it to you, email me. h a r k i n n a @ h o t m a i l . c o m...without the spaces.)

The bottom line though, is the story is easily 20 pages long and is FRICKEN amazing. I mean, once I started reading it, I could not put it down. I loved it. And here lies the danger: what if stories and articles arrived in my mail box EVERY WEEK that were this good? I would never do anything else. I would have to call off work. I could never keep up. The New Yorker would take over my life.

So, now you know why Brent and I will never be card carrying literati: we just can't handle it.