February Stone Mountain Hike

March 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Time: I probably should have written them down somewhere…
Weather: sunny

Our monthly hike up Stone Mountain for February took place on my birthday, February 24th, just two days after the Nerd & I finally got married. It was a glorious, sunny day and I left my sweatshirt in the car. Even after spending two winters down here, it still amazes me that it can be warm enough on my birthday to go around without a jacket.

This month, we were joined by friends who were in town for the wedding.

And there we are...along with the shadow of some guy's thumb.

And there we are…along with the shadow of some guy’s thumb.

The walk up was easier than last time, though I’m not sure if that was because the group of us rested more than usual or because it actually got easier. Soon it will be time for the March hike, so we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

2013 Book List

January 29, 2014 Leave a comment

1. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley
2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World by Bryan Lee O’Malley
3. Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O’Malley
4. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O’Malley
5. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley
6. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley
7. Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems by David Rakoff
8. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
9. Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World by Vicki Leon
10. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
11. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders By VincentBugliosi
12. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
13. The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage
14. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
15. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
16. Darth Plagueis by James Luceno
17. First Light by Rebecca Stead
18. Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams
19. The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin
20. The Hutt Gambit by A.C. Crispin
21. Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
22. The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson
23. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner
24. Rebel Dawn by A.C. Crispin
25. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
26. I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman
27. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
28. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
29. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
30. American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics by Dan Savage
31. Children of the Sea, Volume 1 by Daisuke Igarashi
32. Star Wars: Tag & Bink Were Here by Kevin Rubio
33. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
34. The Shining by Stephen King
35. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

January Stone Mountain Hike

January 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Time: 32:54 up, 28:46 down
Weather: 46°F, sunny

Somehow, I got it into my head that the Nerd and I should “totally hike up Stone Mountain once a month” and that it would be “a really fun thing to do” which I started regretting about two yards past the sign at the base of the walk up trail. I mean, it’s not really a New Year’s Resolution if I just randomly suggested it one day and then back out the next, right? Right?

I pretty much moped my way up the trail and triumphantly skipped my way down. It’s amazing how much of the out of breath panting you forget once you’ve gotten to the top.

Scenery...scenery as far as the eye can see...

Scenery…scenery as far as the eye can see…

But I’m told we’re committed now, so I guess I should practice on other hills this month so that February’s climb is less me clutching my chest and more I-got-this.

Edit: Oh, and I forgot to mention the acoustic guitar dude who was walking his way up as we were walking down. He was strumming his guitar and singing Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” Dude had to be in his late 40s, early 50s. A+, sir. A+.

Book Review: The Book Thief

September 17, 2013 2 comments

I love starting a book I know almost nothing about. There’s a delicious sort of anticipation as the story unfolds because I have no idea which way it’s going to twist and turn. Every page is a new surprise. My boss recommended The Book Thief to me because she had watched the trailer for the movie that’s being made. It’s one of her most beloved books, so she was worried because the trailer starts being narrated by the young girl protagonist, Leisel Meminger, and not Death like the book is. I hadn’t read the book, so I couldn’t totally commiserate, but I could empathize because when they finally made The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy into a movie, I had the same fears.

So, the sum of my knowledge about the book going into it was comprised of two points: a) The narrator is the embodiment of Death and b) the protagonist is a little girl. I didn’t even read the back of the book.

As I read, I was given a new picture of Nazi Germany–one where a street of poor people are trying to get along as best they can despite the war around them. The book opens with Leisel’s mother taking her two children, nine-year-old Leisel and her six-year-old brother, to an orphanage so they can be fostered with someone who can take care of them. The little boy is sick and dies before they reach Munich…he is buried without much ceremony at one of the stations on the way. As they are leaving the graveside, Leisel notices that one of the gravediggers has dropped a book–The Grave Digger’s Handbook–which is the first book she steals to earn her title as the book thief.

Ultimately, she is fostered with the Hubermanns, Rosa and Hans. Rosa is a surly and foulmouthed laundress; her husband is a gentle man who paints houses and plays the accordion. Leisel starts school, but the teachers quickly realize that she can’t read, so she gets pushed back to Kindergarten. Meanwhile, she has been waking up with horrible nightmares about her brother’s death. Thus begins the early morning lessons by Hans (who states himself that he’s not a very good reader in the first place) on how to read. He paints the walls of the basement so that they can write on them what words Liesel doesn’t know so they can learn them together.

But the book is less about her learning to read and more about the power of words.

Which is probably why I liked it so much.

My parents constantly read to me as a child. It got to the point where the only way my mom could get any housework done was if she sat me down with a book-on-tape that came with the book and made a special noise when to turn the page…which is something I can’t seem to find the current version of at the toy store, but I digress. One of my happiest memories is of my dad reading me The Great Mouse Detective which, now that I think about it, probably contributed to my love of Sherlock Holmes.

Digression over with, suffice it to say that this is a word book. Each word is chosen for exactly what it means. Definitions are given when necessary. Language and its power are given prominence.

And then there’s the one who collects them–the book thief.

The Ultimate Question

September 13, 2013 Leave a comment

About two weeks ago, I took a pre-qualification survey from my local market research company that asked me about my pets–how many I had, what I fed them, how old they were, etc. Then, the survey specifically honed in on my dogs. It wanted to know if I fed them dry food and how often they are fed dry food. Seeing as, besides Vienna sausages when they need to take medicine, all they eat is dry food, I easily qualified for the survey.

At the end of the survey, it also said that I may need to bring my dog(s) into the office, which I thought was pretty cool. Alice loves going for a ride and meeting new people.

A week later, I got a reminder e-mail that had highlighted in yellow DO NOT BRING YOUR DOG(S) TO THIS STUDY. Which, honestly, is probably for the best because if I had to bring Nova, too, handling the two of them is hard enough when we’re just going for a walk and meet another dog, let alone to a place with many other animals. I did feel a little sorry for Alice because ZOMGPEOPLEAREHERFAVORITETHING.

Once I got to the research center, I was directed around the corner from the main reception area to a secondary reception area just for people participating in the PET STUDY.

The receptionist gave me another, abbreviated version of the survey I had already taken and informed me that it had been Nova that qualified me for the study. I had to answer the first two questions about myself (age and gender), then answer the rest of the questions about Nova. I glanced at the check-in sheet that she had and it had Nova’s name printed on it. Every other qualified person had their dog’s name printed next to their name on the receptionist’s list.

As she checked in the several people that came in after me, she laughed a little because there were two Rustys, then three Hersheys all in a row.

The questions on the new survey were pretty much a rehash of the ones from before–do you have dogs, do you feed them dry food, how often do you feed them dry food? I filled it out and gave it back to another lady who verified that I did, in fact, have a dog that eats dry food and that I am one of the ones who feeds it to him.

I went back to my seat and opened my book (The Book Thief, if you’re curious). A heavyset woman across from me was telling a lady with perfectly coiffed hair about her two dogs and how she has to feed them two different foods because one’s an adult and one’s a puppy.

Managed to get a few sentences read before a Latino man who looked to be in his mid-forties sat down next to me. A few sentences after that, he turned to me and asked the single most awesome question that could have been asked considering where we were.

“So,” he said completely seriously, “do you have a dog?”

“Yes,” I said, continuing to look into the pages of my book and trying as hard as I could not to laugh.

The voice of the Comic Book Man echoed through my head saying, “Worst. Pickup line. Ever.”

Now, okay, I’ll admit that he probably wasn’t trying to pick me up and he was probably just trying to make conversation, but in a room full of people who obviously have dogs otherwise they would not be in this room, the best he could come up with was “So, do you have a dog?”

That’s the kind of irony that keeps me giggling for days.

Categories: various and sundry Tags: , , ,

Book Review: The Geography of Bliss (via Eat Pray Love)

August 28, 2013 Leave a comment

A few years ago, a coworker of mine handed me a copy of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and said to me, “Oh, you’re just going to love this!” I assume she thought that because she had loved it and it has Italy in it. For some reason, people assume that if something is slightly Italy-related that I’m already an expert on it or that it will automatically titillate my senses.

Unfortunately, when I handed the book back to my coworker a few weeks later, the best I could do was say, “Well, she is a good writer” and luckily, that was enough to pacify her.

Let me see if I can explain what I found so repulsive…the book starts off with Gilbert having gone through some sort of existential crisis that involves her crying on the floor of her bathroom while her mean, awful husband sleeps the Sleep of the Ages in the next room, blissfully unaware that his soon-to-be-ex-wife is miserably huddled in a ball, her face pressed against cool tile. Her life is one big pile of suck and it is all his fault, so she insists upon a divorce and ends up giving him EVERYTHING just so she can escape the marriage. She moves in with her sister, then gets an idea to go travelling for a year–to Italy, India and Indonesia–in order to rediscover and reground herself.

At this point, you are probably thinking, “But Amadei, you just said that she gave her ex everything. How will she ever afford to spend a year not working?”

Easy peasy, she’s going to use the money she got as an advance for writing a book about her journey to self-discovery.

Record scratch.

And that’s the short story of how she lost me less than a chapter into the book. I could no longer suspend my disbelief. The entire book felt disingenuous. How could she take money for a book about her own personal discovery without having first had the discovery? What if she had gone on this yearlong trip and learned absolutely nothing about herself?

I spent the entire time wondering, “Did she really learn anything about herself or did she just write the book she thought people would want to read?”

Why am I bringing up Eat Pray Love now after reading it so many moons ago? Because, as I was going through the books on my wishlist, seeing which ones I could get from the library, I came across The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner. I just finished it and it kinda reminded me of Eat Pray Love in the way that seeing a ball of yarn might remind you of a scarf, but actually having the scarf is so much better than just having a ball of yarn (unless you’re a knitter in which case you make a scarf out of the yarn, so you get to have your cake and eat it too and I’m digressing again, aren’t I?).

For one thing, Weiner doesn’t go on a vision quest to find his own happiness, though that is part of what prompts his journey. He knows he’s a grump. He knows he’s generally sad and dissatisfied. He’s not looking to change that, exactly, but maybe to discover why he’s that way…if he happens to find that answer as he goes along.

He started by looking at different places and what makes the people in those places happy (or unhappy in the case of Moldova). At the start, he went to Rotterdam where the World Database of Happiness (no, really) exists. He interviewed the scientist responsible for the WDH and spent some time examining the results, smoking a little Moroccan hash, and deciding that even though the Dutch are very happy, but it’s not the type of happiness for him.

From there he examines happiness in Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, and India before finally coming back to America, all the time trying to examine what those places have in common.

What I liked best about it is that he didn’t have any overarching epiphany about how he should live his life to be happier. Ultimately, he decides that there are no concrete rules to what makes people happy:

Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.

To venture any further, though, is to enter treacherous waters. (322)

So he asks a happiness researcher (again: no, really; that’s someone’s job) for an explanation and is told that there’s more than one way to be happy. “Of course,” writes Weiner and you can almost imagine him smacking his forehead. “How could I have missed it? Tolstoy turned on his head. All miserable countries are alike; happy ones are happy in their own ways” (322).

Because there was no pressure to have an epiphany, the whole exercise in searching for happiness felt more genuine. He researched happiness. He didn’t necessarily get the answer he wanted, but he did figure out a small part of it–that it really does depend on the path that you chose, one of the many to happiness or one of the many to sadness.

As for me, my huge takeaway was to skip over Italy, India, and Indonesia and head to Iceland, cold but happy.

Book Review: The Humanity Project

August 19, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m going to be uncharacteristically brief to start this review: I didn’t like The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson.

Which really bothers me because the person who suggested it normally gives good recommendations AND the premise of the book was really intriguing. From the blurb on the book, I thought the book was about a girl who moved halfway across the country to live with her estranged father and a rich old woman started The Humanity Project to answer the question, “Can you pay people to be good?”

What I got was an attempt by Thompson to interweave a bunch of characters together and not succeed particularly well. I also never got an answer to the question, so the entire novel felt like Thompson took a premise, then tried to write about it, but never got around to actually dissecting the problem itself–some of the characters literally stage a conference to discuss the question as a way to avoid actually trying to answer it.

A conference. What could be more boring than a conference? Well, I’m about to get spoiler-tastic after the jump, so you might find out.

Read more…