Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ben and Jerry's Creme Brulee

About a month ago I was scheduling a grocery delivery when I came across a flavor I hadn't seen before: Ben and Jerry's Creme Brulee.

Now you may think that I, being the size that I am, regularly snarf a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting. Not really. That sort of thing happened when I dieted and completely disconnected myself from any true feelings of hunger or fullness, but it doesn't happen so much now.

But this was a new flavor, and it was soooo good, before I knew it, the whole pint was gone. The key difference between this and when I dieted, I savored every moment of its melty goodness.

Before I actually bought it, along with another unfamiliar flavor having to do with dinosaurs, I looked at Ben and Jerry's website to find the whole scoop. (Oh groan...that's how I make people laugh without intending to.)

If you go to the Flavor Graveyard, you can have some fun with the haunted house.

The Creme Brulee? You must have some. It's the next best thing to dark chocolate. (The next time I bought a pint of it, no, I couldn't eat the whole thing at once.)

But speaking of this ice cream stuff...I am so hungry now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2.0 Extra Credit

OK, not really extra credit. It's not like I'm getting graded or anything. Once finished, I will receive a thumb drive, courtesy of the Friends of the Library. (All you grumpy taxpayers out there who think public employees are mooching off your dollar, you should know by law we are not allowed to get perks from doing our jobs, unlike you private sector employees. This is allowed because the Friends is a private entity, and the gift is available as a reward to all one is given special consideration.)

It was around 12 years ago now that I was introduced to email through work. My first husband got his first computer (paid for by the guy for whom he contracted to write jokes), and spent so much late-night time browsing and chatting, he practically growled at me if I interrupted. We speculated that the lack of blinking ignited a primitive aggression response. It was just over 10 years ago that we got a divorce (unrelated to the growling) and soon after that, bankruptcy for both of us, separately.

Imagine my surprise that when the bankruptcy went through, I started getting oodles of credit card offers. The lowest kind of credit card offers. Believe me, I did not want to get back into a debtors hole immediately, but I remembered that a little piece of plastic was the thin line that kept us from homelessness more than once in the years since college, so I applied for just one.

All those bills erased, wow. I could pay my living expenses with ease. I realized if I decided to get a computer for $1000, I could pay it off in 3 or 4 months. My friends advised against it. I knew I could pay it off quickly, but wasn't sure I could actually save the money that quickly, so I went for it. I did pay it off within 4 months.

Port Orford ocean view

In the beginning my internet access was through work, and then through the free Juno. From the time I got that first computer, my home page has been My Yahoo. Listed among the 2.1 applications were other sources of home pages.

I was briefly distracted by the simple blocks of Sputtr and symbaloo, but it was iGoogle that captured my attention. Netvibes seems similar, but I liked the look of iGoogle better, and it got bonus points for not requiring me to sign up for gmail.

My Yahoo has just been getting stale. The "new look" is annoying to me. The cool thing about iGoogle, you can add gadgets. (Widgets with muscles?) You can move them around, and change the settings. So I found the ones for bloglines,, yahoo mail, flickr*, movies, and kept the ones for weather and How to of the Day. You can even create your own gadgets. They want you to. So after 10 or so years, I am changing my home page.

Further down the 2.1 page, I was introduced to some organizing tools. A few years back, our ability to organize over long distances was transformed by FreeConference. I have participated in teleconference meetings involving people from all over the US, along with a few from around the world. I also use MeetingWizard to find the best time for a meeting that will work for the most involved. These were not listed, but are still good to know about.

I got especially excited about Yugma as a replacement or augmentation for FreeConference. One person can present their desktop to many, anywhere in the world. A team can take turns sharing their desktops, showing each other what they are doing. Those not in front of a computer can still make a phone call. The free service allows for 10 people at a time, but it is possible to upgrade for just one month at a time, in case one wished to schedule a session with more people. Participants can use chat while one is presenting. How cool is that? You can talk while the one person has the floor, and it's OK.

By this time it was the other side of midnight, but I was too excited about one more thing: TeamworkPM. No, not am/pm, but Teamwork Project Manager. As the 5th Annual Buddhist Festival in the Park looms ever closer (first Saturday in June), for which I am the lead organizing volunteer, I hope this will help more people stay involved in the planning and decision process. We can use this to monitor deadlines, keep track of who is working on what, and share and update documents. I was also thinking I could use Google Docs for faster updating as well as blog publishing, but that is a subject for another web 2.0 post.

*The photos are from my flickr gadget, which displays random images from my flickr account. Clicking on the photo takes you to that flickr page. You don't need a password, you could enter any flickr user name. Heck, you could have a whole iGoogle home page of flickr gadgets. Consider them filler.

Fun and Games

Many people spend their whole time at the library playing games. Especially kids. No wonder then that one week of our library learning web 2.0 included fun. We were referred to the Generator Blog. Want to find something to waste time? Dere it is.

We were also referred to Jigzone. That could be addictive if all that click-and-drag didn't make my wrists ache. One of the bloggers referred to a preferred white jigsaw from Gamedesign.

Here's a jigzone puzzle that caught my eye...a Buddhist kitty:

Click to Mix and Solve

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Eats Near Hollywood Library: My Canh

My Canh Vietnamese Restaurant

If you are at the Hollywood Library, it is possible to walk through the parking lot, walk through the McDonald's parking lot (I see too many Hollywoodians bringing food back from that place), look to your left, and you will see the Baskin Robbins sign. My Canh Restaurant is in that same little complex.

This Vietnamese restaurant is a dependable favorite among Hollywood staff. Is there a Vietnamese restaurant that doesn't offer the lunch special of soup, entree, spring roll, and sometimes little won ton crisps?

I chose to get the Buddhist Delight this time around. It's nice to have a choice from several vegetarian entrees, but this omnipresent one is usually my first choice. I liked having so many vegetables, and they were crisp and fresh.

I actually had a request to eat here to review the avocado smoothie. Since it was my first review request ever, of course I had to make it a priority. I wasn't too sure about this though. An avocado smoothie? Wouldn't that feel...ummmm...slimy? I'd never had one before.

Buddhist Delight and Avocado Smoothie

I was pleasantly surprised. Not slimy, but the little ice crystals gave it a sharpness that hid the smooth creaminess a little. My first taste (before any hot stir-fry) yielded a slight taste of grass. You know that green taste I mean? It wasn't too much though, not like real grass, but a good mild greenish taste. Later, as I switched from vegetables and deep fried tofu back to sips of the smoothie, then I could taste the creamy avocado. Again, not slimy. I don't know what else was in there besides avocado, yes something sweet, but not too sweet, and not heavy like banana-based smoothies.

When I returned to the branch, I blamed my requester for my feeling too full. Waaay too full. It was her fault I ate lunch and a smoothie, after all. I kidded. She asked me if it was weird, and I replied, "Not as much as I thought." I will look for avocado smoothies now. Maybe I will even try making them. Maybe this one with mango, or this one without.

She told me my next assignment is an Avocado Martini. As found at Mint. That's actually over near the library administration building. It won't work for my theme of reviews near my place of work...but maybe somebody over at Admin will pick up on this...or maybe I'll just have to check out that restaurant the next rare time my sweetie has time to go out for dinner.

Or wait, did she say Avocado Daiquiri? Because that's what I found on the menu. That sounds even better. I have completely lost my hesitancy for avocado drinks.

Oh yeah. Back to My Canh. It is also a mini-store of imports. One year I happened to eat there in December, and they were giving out those Asian bamboo calendars.

imports available at My Canh

Me Gusta Sopa

This latest exercise in Web 2.0 could be quite useful as a resource to offer people. I look forward to pointing it out to a patron when I work on the reference desk, and seeing them light up when they realize they don't have to wait for that large set of CDs or cassettes to brush up on the language they're learning. Well, at least if it's one of the six languages offered on Livemocha.

Do you like the way I combined the 2.0 lesson with a restaurant review? Of course my Spanish could not do the soup justice, so I hope the pictures will. The cool thing about Caffe Uno, it's possible to stroll out the door, get some food or coffee, and be back in the library in 2 or 3 minutes.

The original post:

I had a year of Spanish in high school from a sweet but untalented teacher. Then I had those few weeks of Library Spanish oh about 6 years ago. That actually worked out fairly well for me, because working as a clerk there are certain key phrases that get used a lot. Then I transferred to Hollywood, and there just weren't so many Spanish-speaking people to help and I lost the little bit I had. But I remembered "Me gusta sopa."

Perhaps I could catch a few minutes here, a few minutes there, with practice on LiveMocha. I was resistant to this 2.0 activity because I feel like I have so little time, and learning and retaining a language takes time. I am shy about practicing with people, or trying to use the language with native speakers. In high school I took two years of German, and the one year of Spanish. In college, two years of Ancient Greek, and two years of French for reading knowledge (not to try to speak). Now I can't remember the greek alphabet, except for alpha beta gamma delta epsilon. So, I've had exposure to several languages, but never competency in any but English, and I'm not all that competent at speaking English either. That's kind of like many things in my life...I dabble.

So, for this exercise in getting started with Livemocha I thought I'd do a Hollywood district restaurant review.

Me llamo Heidi. Quisiera utilizar español en el trabajo. Pero solamente un poco. Soy de Wisconsin. Vivo en Portland.

My name is Heidi. I would like to use Spanish for work. But only a little. I am from Wisconsin. I live in Portland, Oregon.

Me gusta sopa. Caffe Uno, la restaurante de café al lado de mi biblioteca (mi trabajo), sirve la buena sopa. El otro día yo comí una vegetariana sopa del gumbo muy buena.

I like soup. Caffe Uno, the coffee shop next to my library (my work), serves good soup. The other day I ate a very good vegetarian gumbo soup.

(I tried as much as I could to remember the Spanish before I used the translator.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Asthma Redux

I just reviewed the book Allergy and Asthma Relief, and realized I left out a couple of helpful things to know about asthma.

You might have asthma if:

  • You just spent some time walking fast or running in the cold air, and now you can't stop coughing
  • You can't seem to shake that cough and your cold was over 2 weeks ago
  • Your chest feels tight or you feel an urge to cough and you've noticed a possible trigger earlier in your day, like cigarette smoke or high pollen count
  • You get a respiratory infection and you think back and realize it started with a coughing fit

If you think you might have asthma and you've been getting some of those symptoms, but you don't have an inhaler, drink some coffee. Coffee really helps. If you don't have coffee, drink some water, breathe slowly and deeply, yoga style.

I don't have asthma episodes very often, but with my cold a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't shake that cough. I've been using the inhaler for several days, but today I decided to start my day with some coffee. It worked. That was the one thing I missed about coffee when I quit...small asthma attacks loomed more frequently.

Lunar Eclipse

I was walking home from the bus stop when I saw the sliver of a moon, and I thought, what? I thought there was a full moon tonight? oooohh, it must be a lunar eclipse. I spent some time just watching it. Steve was about to leave, but he turned around to spend a few minutes watching the moon with me. (See the flickr set for the photo times.)

Powered by

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Movies Seen

Fascinating and funny. I didn't want to watch it alone, so I waited until Steve could watch it with me. It is much better shared. It would be even better if I knew Hebrew, according to IMDB. Who doesn't know what this is about? If you've been on a deserted island, Borat is a fictional character who goes on a real road trip in the United States, presenting himself to people along the way as a TV reporter of a popular show in Kazakhstan.

Seven Days Seven Nights (Spanish with English subtitles)
Gritty look at the lives of three women living in Cuba. Death, dreams, dogfights...something different.

Weeds Season 2
Slightly darker than the first season...scary drug dealer violence. Nice touch: different bands covering the opening song Little Boxes. Another nice touch: the DVD extras include instruction on how to grow hydroponic "tomatoes."

I might have passed this by, but I noticed it is a Spike Lee production. Hmmm, an alternate history don't often see those. I started watching it without knowing beforehand the whole thing is a fake documentary of this alternate history of the Confederate States of America, including the commercials from this alternate world. Much as many in the USA are now thinking in this universe, Canada is the place to be. Particularly supportive of the satiric element: commercials for COPS, in this world all about RUNAWAY. This would be one of those rare movies in which I actually want to watch the commentary.

Reefer Madness: the Movie Musical
Hey, I almost have a pot theme going. In my last post, I forgot to mention that the madness-inducing marihuana helps alleviate asthma, according to the book. Yes it does...wonder if my HMO approves it. (Doubt it.) If you haven't seen the original Reefer Madness, watch that first, found in the extras. Also, the more people the better. Even if you can't stand musicals, you may like this. If you do like musicals, the campy nods to gay dancers and other musical essentials make this even better as a parody. This would be one of those rare movies that I actually want to watch again, with or without commentary.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Books Read

Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos by Derrick Jensen
After I expressed my fragmented feelings over visiting a small zoo on my vacation this fall, a co-worker recommended this book. Apparently I am not alone in this feeling: concerned about the happiness of the animals, yet still imbibing in the entertainment because I would never otherwise get so close to such animals. For example, this most primitive deer, the muntijac:


Interspersed with photos by Karen Tweedy-Holmes of animals in captivity, the author outlines why zoos are inhumane, even those we think are enlightened. Often we are told that zoos help us preserve endangered animals. Jensen follows the animal trade, and gives us the alternate information that often many animals in the wild are killed just to bring the zoo an animal for captivity. Also, animals need replacing, because they don't thrive in captivity.

Over and over, he fulfills the gadfly role, pricking the reader with further abuses by "civilized humans." At first I rolled my eyes at his consistent use of "[sic]" in his quotes from zoo supporters, then I realized he meant me to squirm. He meant me to notice that we humans always treat animals as things, as a "what" rather than a "who," and his pedantically grammatical "[sic]" was there to keep reminding me.

Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb by Kirsten Miller
In this second book about the Irregulars, there is more attention to Ananka and Oona, less on Kiki. Kiki has some stuff to deal with that keep her largely absent from the main thread of the story. Intrigue, secret underground city, smart girls saving the day, what's not to like? I've been watching Cities of the Underworld, and it put me in the mood for more intrigue from the Shadow City. I'd like to see the girls travel to other cities and other underworlds.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
A female ghost named Helen haunts people. She doesn't remember her life, but she knows she did something bad. Rather than go to the icy cold hell she knows is waiting for her, she clings to a living person. She whispers in their ears, becomes their Muse. There were four people she's haunted; she calls them her Saint, her Knight, her Playwright, and her Poet. She has never seen other ghosts, until now. This other ghost occupies a living person whose soul left when the boy almost died. He is convinced he kept an evil force from occupying the body, and he's sure he can help Helen enter another unoccupied body. Are these two the evil ones, or can they find reprieve for themselves and their living people? It's worth the read.

Allergy and Asthma Relief by William Berger
I often wonder if people who complain of constant colds are actually experiencing allergies and undiagnosed asthma. This book gives a thorough method of investigation for someone who may know nothing, a little, or a bit more. Years back I did some research when I realized I had exercise-induced asthma. Allergies have since become a greater trigger for me, so I decided to revisit the issue.

Two things not in the book: if you have asthma, always wear a scarf if it's colder than 55 degrees; stimulate the thymus gland by ending your shower with a cold blast to the chest. The first keeps the air warm as it enters the lungs and helps to prevent asthma; the second stimulates your immune system. While I deal almost constantly with allergies, the cold I got the other week was my first in years, and I didn't get all that sick. That said, even if you think you don't have asthma, check out this book if you have some these symptoms crop up every once in a while:

As you can see, not all of them are so obvious as wheezing or shortness of breath.

Movies Seen

(I watched alot of movies when I was home sick with a cold.)

How to Get Ahead in Advertising
A man who is fairly ruthless in the business of advertising just can't come up with something for boil-removing cream. Is it because the boil sprouting on his neck is going to come alive (wasn't this a cartoon...did this or that come first?) or because he's going crazy and is hearing voices? Something happened to comedy in the 90s, I don't know, was it Adam Sandler and Ben Affleck? They do things over the top, and you can't look away, like having to look at roadkill. This one was from '89 and the UK, so while the fashion was a bit distracting, the comedic value came more from the responses of the man and the people around him to the notion of a talking pimple than from the pimple itself.

Autism is a World
A documentary following an autistic woman who was perceived as retarded until a means of communication was devised using a keyboard when she was 13. She's going to college and plans to write and advocate. Heard about this from Rosie and her bloggers. I have a girl in my Dharma School class who has autistic tendencies, and a young woman who comes to the library that I make a point to speak to, so it helped to see the kind of struggle someone like this goes through. I've always made a point to say hi to the woman who comes to the library with her mother. One time I saw them at a restaurant, or a store. Mom couldn't quite place me at first, but by the way the young woman got excited, I knew she remembered me right away. I always assume they take in and understand more than I could possibly know.

Heavy movie by Deepa Mehta, part of a trilogy. Set in India in the time of Gandhi, it follows a girl who is widowed before she even lives with her husband. Her father wakes her in the night and asks if she remembers the wedding. She sleepily rubs her eyes and says no, and then her hair is cut and shaved off. She is taken to a house of widows, women of all ages who respond to her in various mothering ways. Another young widow, a beautiful teenager, meets a young man and elements of the tragic Indian love story follow, but it does not subsume the tragic plight of the widows.

A conversation between Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner about their days working on Star Trek together. Sweet and real.

The Magnificent Ambersons (A&E)
I vaguely remember seeing the original by Orson Welles, this makes me want to go back to compare. Jennifer Tilly was great as the soused aunt.

OK I really would not seek out a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow or Anthony Hopkins, but the plotline sounded interesting so I checked it out. I forgave the genius daughter character being filled by Gwyneth due to my dislike of the older sister character. Brilliant mathematician (Hopkins) goes "bughouse," and his daughter (Paltrow) quits school to take care of him. When he dies, she struggles with wondering if she'll be crazy too, while she presents another brilliant proof as her own, and everybody doubts her.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reading this, reading that

I am finally reading the Everybody Reads book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. How lucky I am, to live where I do and not be touched personally by bloody inhuman war. How horrible that my country's selected President lied us into one. It is difficult to read. Some say it is not accurate, story here. Of course it isn't completely accurate, the boy was a child when he lost his family and had to become a soldier or die.

I cannot read this book for more than 30-50 pages at a time. It is too graphic and bloody. I am about half-way through. My book group will be discussing it on Tuesday. I've no doubt at least a quarter of our regulars will say they couldn't finish it. I am determined. War is irrational; war disturbs me. I profoundly believe that healthy minds and hearts would never choose war. That is why I am a pacifist. I cannot and I will not close my heart to the awful descriptions of attacked villages. That is why I am a pacifist. I will finish the book.

I began reading another book, a light-hearted romantic fantasy to ease my mind. It is perfect for today, Happy Valentine's Day. For a few hours escape, I highly recommend Shannon Hale's Austenland. I have the complete (so far) Austen Masterpiece series airing on PBS on my Tivo, such good timing for me to read this book. A 30-something woman has an obsessive secret: she yearns for her Mr. Darcy, specifically as played by Colin Firth. (One of my co-workers got a pin from Wordstock that says, "Where's my Mr. Darcy?") Jane's elderly rich aunt happens upon her secret, and when the old woman dies, she leaves a fully paid Jane to Austenland, a place for full immersion into Regency England. (I didn't begin to make a connection from Jane Austen to the Harlequin Regency romances of my junior high days until watching these cliff's notes versions of her novels.)

The plan was, read a little Shannon Hale, read a bit more of Ishmael Beah. Pause, rinse, repeat. Unfortunately, I've already finished Austenland. Fortunately, I have five one-foot shelves full of other library books to provide distraction.

Back to Ishmael.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Books Read

Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation

Best read over time, pick it up, read, put it down, mull over a poem...a sample....

Homcoming by Wendell Berry

One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of old love, cultivation shows
a dark and graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distance of our faith;
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.

The Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings about Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom

The book was OK, but I ran out of time, and returned it to the library unfinished. It wasn't compelling enough for me to get it again. Many of the writers hailed from New York, and if there were two words that seemed to describe negotiations in their relationships, my impression would be "unkind" and "petty." No, not all of them, and not just one gender or the other. It made me glad for my significant lifelong friendships. Several of the men were in the position of the stay-at-home dad, and they especially seemed to live in a struggle of self-acceptance and wifely non-appreciation. One couple did have a creative solution that worked for them: they each traded places in the Ward and June Cleaver roles, their self-employment as writers allowing them this flexibility. They needed a form to let go of the resentment. Ay, there's the rub. Expectations and resentment. Where's the gratitude? Where's the willingness?

Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the End of the World by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu

Yang Erche Namu (Treasure Princess) cried a lot when she was a child. In a land where shamanism mixes with Buddhism, her mother was instructed to name her child by going to a certain place and having the first person that came along name the baby. That person was Lama Gatusa. When she had her name, the baby would stop crying. She didn't, exactly, but she did go far. She became a popular singer in China, and eventually found her way to the US. I especially liked the time she spent with her uncle on the mountain, herding animals, like Heidi with her grandfather. The wild vistas shaped her to be slightly different than her peers, even in her unusual Moso culture.

Someone sometime recommended this book to me as an example of society that practiced non-monogamy. Whereas polyamory today is usually different for different folks, this ancient form has some very prescribed rules. It is in a place so remote, nestled between China and Tibet, the anthropologists are still working on defining the cultural groups. There are many distinct cultures in this area, something I did not know.

Women run the households, with their brothers and uncles sleeping across the hall. Lovers visit the women in their "flower rooms". When communists swept through they wanted the people to live in monogamous marriages (why was that, if they were not religious I wondered). The people tried it, but went back to their old ways. However, Yang Erche Namu resisted accepting a lover in her flower room. She instinctively knew that if she let love happen, she wouldn't leave her small village. Through her singing, she did, eventually winning her way into a prestigious school of music.

Burning Book: A Visual History of Burning Man by Jessica Bruder

I've never been to Burning Man, nor am I likely to go. Flipping through this book gave me a glimpse of the creativity and images found there. There's a bit of reading too, you can get an overview of the history, some background about the giant artwork. I seriously thought about sending it to my nephews, themselves artists and tinkerers but not yet unbound by Wisconsin.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Movies Seen

After Innocence
Everyone should see this documentary. Our criminal justice system is broken. People are exonerated years after conviction, and then simply released. Parolees have more services available to them than the exonerated. See their stories, and how they are working together to change this.

Alice in Wonderland (1985 TV)
I've always tried to like Alice in Wonderland, really I have, but it always has felt to me just a tad meanspirited. I read on a blog somewhere that this was the writer's favorite movie version so I decided to check it out. Of course now it's been so long since I saw that, I don't remember who put it into my head. I did like this better than others. I liked the music and all the cameos by tv personalities of the 70s. I especially liked Steve and Eydie as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and of course Sammy Davis Jr. as the caterpillar with a hookah. The girl was especially adorable when dancing with Sammy.

Everything is Illuminated
This was a book that I didn't finish in time for a library book group several years back. I meant to finish it, but as usual I felt swamped with other stuff and didn't get to it. When I heard it was made into a movie, I decided to just wait to watch it. I'm glad I did. I thought the book was ok, interesting enough, but the movie, well, the movie illuminated the subject with a more direct line to the heart. A young man has always been a "collector." Oddly, when some significant moment happens, he takes a material thing from that moment and bags it up. Apparently it began with his grandfather's death, and a bit of amber jewelry he saved from the bedside. When his grandmother dies, he saves the dirt that he should be throwing on her grave as a good Jewish boy. He goes to Europe to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life. We know this story from his translator in the Ukraine, who has learned something about the heart from this young man's journey. Together, they find the town that disappeared during the Nazi invasion. Together, they find a piece of both of their grandfathers' histories.

13 Conversations About One Thing
I think this is one of those movies you're supposed to like because it appears to be artful, but I don't know, I just can't get into the movies that have separate little stories that intertwine with each other. Unless it's Ursula LeGuin, I don't usually like books like that either. The characters weren't very likeable, weren't meant to be, I suppose. So eh...

Life Running Out of Control
Not just about genetically modified foods, but about genetic technology, such as the race by corporations to patent human genes. In India, activists work to bring diverse heirloom seeds back to the farmers after years of disastrous corporate manipulation. Scientists study how escaped genetically modified fish will affect native species. GM foods were rushed into the market, not scientists look at just what is happening as a result.

Forest for the Trees (German with English subtitles)
A young woman starts out in life with everything arranged. She's just finished college. Her daddy helps her move in, she has a teaching job. She tries so hard to fit in, find friends. She tries so hard to apply her teaching skills with all the latest techniques. She has little gifts for all her new neighbors. Yet for all her earnestness, no one is inspired to like her, not students, neighbors, or other teachers. As the viewer you cringe for her, but you can't really like her either. The ending, though, changes the movie completely. I take it the ending is symbolic, internal, not something that actually happens. It and the title reveal the character's major life question. You're left wishing you could find out what she's going to be like next...

When Stand Up Stood Out
A look at the beginnings of Steven Wright, Denis Leary, and Janeane Garofalo among others. Interesting. Self-involved, as comedians are. They didn't think much of the hordes that came after them, after their golden years, blamed the plethora of comedy clubs for the cookie-cutter comedians that came with the rise of clubs. I couldn't help but think of my first husband, and how he missed the rising tide of comedy, and tried making something of it when it was on its way back down.

I loved this modern telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. The opening credits animation alone could be worth it. Reese Witherspoon as the delinquent child hood, well, you couldn't get better. Kiefer Sutherland as the big bad wolf aka I-5 killer, well, ok.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Now more organized with

More from my library learning 2.0 blog:

There are so many ways the internet can suck you into a vortex of obsession, providing things to read that will keep you alive until one hundred and fifty just so you can get through it all. Each time you find something new, they add another layer of usefulness but they do that in addition to the useful things you already get somewhere else, witness the email/homepage wars between gmail and yahoo.

So, when I first came across a couple years ago, adding tags seemed to me just another way to add minutes and hours to the way in which web tools just suck up time. I didn't see the merit in spending even more time typing by adding tags.

BUT a librarian convinced me that it could be incredibly useful for organizing bookmarks, and for seeing what other people are looking at that tag things the same way you do. The first bit could be a time saver, but the second bit a time-consumer. So I have a gazillion blog posts saved in my bloglines account, thinking I'd like to read that book, or I'd like to write about this. But saving a post in bloglines is clunky, spiralling deeper into a memory hole that shows up as a grey number next to the blog's name. I've begun saving some of those in my new delicious account, especially the more than 50 from bookshelves of doom.

2nd post:

This is so handy now that I have a laptop and a desktop. I doubt I will use my browser for saving links anymore. You can upload your favorites from your computer to delicious. When you do so, delicious automatically sets those bookmarks to private.

Here's your cheat sheet:

1. If you haven't already, enable your ability to make links private. Click on settings, then private saving. I'm not sure if you have to do this to keep them private, but better to be safe than sorry.

2. Under settings again, click on import/upload, under bookmarks.

3. Create a file according to the instructions, very easy. Then import, according to instructions. Voila. This might be useful for branches that have a bunch of links at their ref desks....

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Book Group: Not Buying It

Early on, the author recognizes the need to seek out Freud: "[The fetish] becomes pathological when the longing for the fetish passes beyond the point of being merely a necessary condition attached to the sexual object and actually takes the place of the normal aim."

Judith Levine goes on to say,

"I replace the word sexual with the word athletic (sports having supplanted sex in the American erotic imagination anyway),and yikes, I am looking at myself in the mirror. The SmartWool socks became necessary to the attainment of my athletic aim. Then passion for the socks replaced the aim itself--I opted not to ski rather than ski without the product purchased to make skiing most enjoyable."

Judith and her life partner decide to stop buying anything non-essential for a year. She was somewhat fed up with the shopping is patriotic meme, as well as the frazzle and the expense of holiday shopping. She didn't do it to prove a point, though it's pretty clear that as an established writer she has a deal on the book that would be her life for a year. She wasn't trying to decrease her ecological footprint, though that did factor in. She simply wanted to make it a practice not to shop for a year.

Almost to a person, the people in my book group reported thinking about their purchases as they read this book. I know I found it funny that the very day we met to talk about it, I purchased a new bed at Ikea. Considering how much the new bed helped my back, it was a necessary purchase. One woman commented that this book had sparked more conversations with people than any other book she'd read. Even by sight, the book has inspired a change of lifestyle for some people, as exemplified in this Portland Tribune article.

One of the things the pair stopped buying as unnecessary, Q-tips. If I were to do this, that would make the necessity list. I'm serious. If I were (completely unlikely) to join the Peace Corps and go to some country where I could not get Q-tips, I would pack enough for the two years.

Lest you think this was a shop-aholic going cold turkey, Ms. Levine actually didn't spend a whole lot before this exercise in restraint. They are both self-employed without much overhead. They don't even own a microwave. Still, not buying it did invoke emotional responses, notably, boredom. She tries using it, invoking Walter Benjamin, "Boredom is the threshold to great deeds."

I don't blame the author...this seems to be the trendy thing to do among non-fiction authors... she invokes Plato or some other classic philosopher, and relates the wisdom to her own words. She and many other contemporary authors do this as if whatever Plato says is easily interpreted and fits her point exactly. Ummm, I don't think so. I wouldn't dare speak with such certainty or finality about the classics, especially with such throw-off lines. One reason they're the classics is that they still provoke various interpretations. Egregious example:

"So the Left argues (alongside Plato) that a good society is one that provides everyone with his essential bodily needs; spiritual satisfaction will naturally follow material satiation. The religious Right (alongside Descartes and the tree-living extremes of the environmentalist movement) sees spiritual salvation in the mortification of the flesh."

One of the author's friends suggested a "don't buy, don't tell" policy. This created an amusing conundrum when it comes to friends, and another emotional hang-up to explore. They must bow out of invitations to dinner (they live part time in New York), or navigate the generosity of their friends. I think the author was just beginning to get the value in acceptance...there is a generosity in accepting what is offered. Middle-class Americans have issues with accepting gifts, whether it's dinner out, or compliments. We especially have a problem with asking. Judith put herself in a tizzy when she found herself at the ski slopes (a necessity I presume, or pre-paid) without needed ski wax. She couldn't buy it, and it was the hardest thing in the world just to ask the clerk if she could borrow it.

She says, "Sometimes I feel like a mendicant Buddhist among Calvinists. Other times, as a Jew, I know what I am: a schnorrer, the kind of person who always happens to drop by just when supper is being put on the table."

In the end, she says about choosing this experience,
"On the theory that you don't think about your water til your well is drained, my partner, Paul, and I vowed to go a whole year purchasing nothing but the barest necessities. If I got really thirsty, I reasoned, I might learn something about how and why I quench that thirst."

Something to try for a while, I think, but maybe not for a whole year, not for me. I've been there, bare necessities, not so much by choice.

Like any mindful vow, in my experience, what she learned was not what she expected:
"To my surprise, the transformation was not from Consumer to navel-gazing Anti-Consumer. It was from Consumer to Citizen."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Book Group: Turn of the Screw

Guests gather around the fire on Christmas eve and tell ghost stories. One, Douglas, was not so impressed as the others. He says,

"But it's not the first occurence of its charming kind that I know to have been concerned with a child. If the child gives the effect of another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children--?"

"We say, of course," somebody exclaimed, "that two children give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them."

Thus in the first page you find out why this title. The narrator claims he must send for the pages about the two children, written by his sister's governess, and dead for twenty years. He claims she was "awfully clever and nice." The story was of her first experience as a governess, and her encounter with ghosts with a strange connection to her two charges.

Debates continue to this day as to whether there were ghosts, or the woman was mad, this due to the fine craft of Henry James. I was intrigued by this question, leaning toward the crazy angle, and while reading I kept referring to a timeline of the history of psychology, trying to get inside the mind of Henry James. Long long ago, I read some of his brother's work, but never Henry til now. I imagined passionate conversations between brothers on the workings of the mind, Henry choosing explication via fiction, William the straightforward route.

I read this for my library's book group in December. (Yes, that's a long time ago, I've been busy.) Sadly, only a few people could participate just before the holiday. Still, we had a good conversation. It also happened to be the first day this library had free wi-fi available, and I brought my laptop just in case. We read the Everyman edition, which has great notes, and James' own preface to the New York edition. He referred to Bluebeard as the inspiration of the story. We realized we wanted the Bluebeard story, and we were able to find it thanks to the free wi-fi.

We had way too much to discuss in an hour. (I'm working towards a library book group that reads the classics, and in which we would have more time to get to the finer points. We will likely also have professors help facilitate and be ready with their expertise.)

I shared this image of Rafael's "The Madonna of the Goldfinch." The governess invoked it in her description of the little girl:

In spite of this timidity--which the child herself, in the oddest way in the world, had been perfectly frank and brave about, allowing it, without a sign of uncomfortable consciousness, with the deep, sweet serenity indeed of one of Rafael's holy infants, to be discussed, to be imputed to her and to determine us--I felt quite sure she would presently like me.

I was forewarned by a lover of James' work to take the ghosts seriously, as well as sexual repression. She also told me "that Oscar Wilde probably plays a greater role in the background than William James for this story. Oscar Wilde (particularly around the time of the composition of the story) was James' great rival (particularly in regard to James' failed attempt to be a theatrical success)." Also, Henry was a closeted homosexual, and the legalization of homosexuality in Italy, and the trial of Oscar Wilde no doubt influenced Henry's writing at this time.