February 18, 2011

Welcome to the Machine

Pink Floyd, The Wall 1975

I wanted my very first e-book purchase for my Kindle to be special and so, I decided to download Abraham Verhese's novel, Cutting For Stone since the authors' parents hailed from Kerala.  Yes, when I first saw the name "Verghese" I knew the author was probably some version of a Malayali.  And I was correct.  Not only that, but in telling Manoj, it came out that his own grandfather's last name was Verghese.  No, most likely no relation, but still sort of  sweet, right?  And then, I discovered one of the characters in the book is named Anjali.  Huh.  Then, I realized the main character's name is the same as Manoj's maternal grandmother's name.  Lovely.  Apparently, I made the correct inaugural purchase for my first e-reader.

I have wanted a Kindle for a long, long time.  I have had mixed feelings about this device, though.  Want!  Yes. But still.....  What does this mean for books??  Real books with covers and dustjackets and spines and pages and texture and smell?  

When I was a little girl in Oskaloosa, KS, there was an odd little bookstore in town.  It was ran by volunteers and was only open on Saturday mornings.  Essentially their entire inventory consisted of the castoffs and excess donations from the Library System of North Eastern Kansas.  When I was little, a book could be purchased for $.10 - indeed, a single dime.  By the time I was an adult, they had raised the price to $.25 - yes, an entire quarter.   Many of these books were from the 50s and 60s - which is reasonable since they were clearing shelf space for newer books for the 70s.  So, oddly - I have a great fondness and lovely memories with books from the 50s and 60s.

Silly Mother by Lois Duncan
A cautionary tale of how little Michael’s mother was so stressed out that she was putting Michael's fire engine in the refrigerator and the baby’s bottle away in the toy box.  Michael’s father suggests that he start helping out around the house which he does to full effect because Mother all of sudden has time to bake a chocolate cake.  Perhaps, her "nerve pills" started to kick in?  How much you wanna bet that Michael grows up to be an emotional eater?

Katie John by Mary Calhoun
Growing up, I didn’t just love Katie John, I wanted to BE Katie John.  She was so fearless, spunky, and just plain COOL. I was so jealous that she got to live in a big, spooky house.

Double Wedding by Rosamund du Jardin
I just adored the 60s teen romance books - they rode around in jalopies and wore dungarees!  How daddio was THAT?  Although, I was always wondering why they couldn’t go on dates because they had to stay home to “wash their hair” - what boy would believe a lame excuse like that?  How long could it possibly take to WASH YOUR HAIR?  It wasn't until years later that I would unravel the mystery (and time commitment) of the Shampoo n’ Set.

Ah yes.  Long ago, I swore a Kindle could not replace a book.  And yes, that is true.  I will keep a healthy number of my current collection of books.  And I will continue to hunt down vintage books at garage sales and thrift stores. I will still purchase special new releases.  Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series? Definitely.  The Power of Six?  Most certainly.  I want these books for my own kids to discover in our shelves.

Before the Kindle purchase, I had looked at other readers, other options (such as the iPad) and I realized that I did not want something backlit and I did not want to buy another toy or gadget - I have a Wii, a smartphone and a computer.  I simply wanted to read without distraction.

I have done my fair share of user acceptance testing in the past and my hat is off to the Kindle folks - they did an amazingly perfect job of creating a satisfactory reading experience.It is crazily comfortable to read - there are a jillion settings that allow you to get the font, the size, the spacing down to whatever fits your visual need.  The buttons are exactly where they should be.  I can read in any position (most importantly, the critical While Lying In Bed position.)  But damn, y'all - I could have used this thing when I was nursing mama.  I still cringe at the memory of trying to protect Anjali's newborn head as I precariously perched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the side of my chair during nursing sessions.

So. There you have it.  The Kindle doesn't smell and is a spineless sort of soul.  No matter.  Against all odds, I am in love with this Kindle thingie.

Have I not already mentioned my penchant for crow served warm and smothered in Cholula sauce?

Knitted Kindle Cozy/Sock/Glove
My new baby needed a bootie, so I whipped this up over the weekend. Pay no mind to the fact that neither of my human babies received knitted booties from me.

In Progress

Knitted Kindle Cozy, Finished

February 14, 2011

Your Possible Pasts

Pink Floyd The Final Cut, 1983

"If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around." - Love Actually

For Valentine's Day, Manoj bought me a Kindle, a long lusted-after gadget. I bought a few e-books, including a cheesy romance novel. For him, I bought some nice whiskey and his favorite expensive cheese. Essentially, everyone wins in this scenario.

We are a not a gushy, romantic couple.  And I am fine with that - I have had romance and it was nice.  Sometimes even sweet.  One of my favorite Valentine's Days involved a surprise romantic meal at the now defunct Fifi's Restaurant in Lawrence KS.  It involved red roses and wine and whispered sweet-nothings.  Truly it was a beautiful, simply lovely Valentine's Day.  However, I really do not miss that relationship, without going into too many details, let us just say that it was not healthy for anyone involved. 

 To be sure, I really prefer what I have now - a relationship that is honest, faithful and solid. Even if it includes geeky gadgets instead of roses.

Tonight, I am going to pick up some pizza and salads from Spin!, a fun bottle of wine and we are going to snuggle in at home with the Team of Chaos.   We will probably watch some TV and play Donkey Kong Country Returns as a family.  

I would rather be nowhere else.

February 10, 2011

Run Like Hell.

Pink Floyd, The Wall 1979

A few weeks ago, I skittered through the Kansas City Groundhog Run 5k with Dee (speaking of Dee - today is her birthday! Happy birthday, Dee!)  When I mentioned I was doing this 5k, more than one person  expressed shock that I am a "runner".  Um.  No need to be shocked.  I am not a runner.  I just need to exercise and signing up for a 5k was a great way to force my flabby rump out the door at 7am on a bitter, frigid Sunday morning in February.  In that same vein, I will be signing up for Lawrence's Shamrock Shuffle.  There are also a few runs in April that look interesting - the Kansas City Trolley Run and the Dorothy Dash 5k here in Olathe.  Although, it might be reaching a bit, linguistically, to use the word "dash" any time I am "running".

This is one of the narrowest passages - this is an industrial, underground complex that can accomodate rather large trucks.  The hardest part of the run was mental - the tunnels are quite mindless to run through and I was pretty bored by mile 2 (besides tired. Ahem.)  Thank goodness, Dee was there to keep things interesting!

Before the "race", I went to pick up my running packet at the Ward Parkway Mall and we came across a special event held for Harvesters.  Folks doing HUGE sculptures made out of cans.

Angry Birds?  How about Hungry Birds?

Seriously, amazing.  The birds.  Not my "running".

February 2, 2011

Wot's... Uh the deal?

Pink Floyd, Obscured by the Clouds 1972

So, the Midwest got slammed by a wee bit of snow.   Again.   My part of the Kansas City Metro got 12 inches.

That's what she said.

In the Jan 19th round of snow, a few weeks back, I had done groceries beforehand, but as I was unpacking them, I realized I had forgotten sunflower seeds.  My heart sank but at that point, it had already started snowing, I had trouble getting into our driveway as it was and I did not want to drag the kids back out.  Truly - my sunflower seeds are serious business.  I have mentioned my addiction to seeds, but it is hard to explain. First, it began when I was about 8 years old - one of my fondest childhood memories is a Saturday afternoon spent with a new packet of Fisher sunflower seeds, a newly checked-out library book and a tall glass of orange juice.

There are a few rules of sunflower seeds:

  1. I only eat them if they are in the shell (no kernels!  bleh.) 
  2. Over the years, I discovered they store best in the freezer, so they do not go rancid.  
  3. I have a special set of bowls for eating at home, I have another set of bowls specifically for travel (say, if I go to a tea shop and hang out for awhile. Or, if I go on vacation.  Yes, vacation.)  And yes, I said "set" - one bowl is for the seeds, the other for the shells as I am eating.   No one else and I mean NO ONE ELSE is to use either of these sets.
  4. My favorite brand rotates as the quality is not always consistent - for a long time, I was a Fisher girl, for awhile I was into Frito Lay, then into David's.  Lately, I have found Dakota Style seeds to be consistent in their quality.  

When I went to Pakistan in 1993 for 6 weeks, I carefully packed 5 pounds worth of sunflower seeds.  My friends laughed at me, but even with 5 pounds worth of seeds, I ran out before the trip was over.    The country of Pakistan did not have sunflower seeds in 1993.

Trust me.

When I have a lot of intense reading to do, my seeds are a must.  And with this new job, I am doing a lot of research and am plowing through more seeds than usual.  During that January 19th storm, the thought of having no seeds just before a snow day?  Had me desperate.  Near tears, I called Manoj and begged him to run through a convenience store to pick me up some - anything - David's, Frito Lay, anything.  Sweet baby Buddha, the man did not question me and brought home seeds.

Good grief.  I just wrote an entire post about my ardent love for the sunflower seed.

Wait - there is hope. This can post can be saved!  Let us talk about garlic. Something else I am serious about.   Because that was the other thing I ran out of in the January 19th snowstorm.  I normally buy 2-3 bulbs of garlic at a time and keep it in my special Franciscan Apple garlic keeper (the other thing I am serious about - my Franciscan Apple dishes.)  During the last snow storm, we ran out of garlic.  Folks, life is too damned short without freshly pressed garlic.

Needless to say - this past Monday, I grabbed several bags of sunflower seeds and a few bulbs of garlic.  Because I have priorities.

What are you serious about when it comes to the thought of being stranded in your house for a few days?

Mid-Storm - Norm the Gnome is holding onto his hat.

Norm's valiant efforts are in vain.

Snorkle masks, not just for coral reefs.  Surf's up, DUDE.  (Make note of the fact that we have TWO red flower pots. This is important later.)

Snow is so pretty, witty and wise from the inside of one's house, no?
We are down to ONE red flower pot now.

We used to have front steps.  Huh.