Friday, July 30, 2010

Driver's License & Books

Driver's License--

Last Friday, I got mine renewed.  And as far as the state knows, I still weigh a modest 115 pounds.  The woman* I dealt with handed me a printed slip (like a receipt) and asked me to review my information and sign at the bottom if it was correct.  I hesitated, then "admitted" that the weight wasn't quite accurate.  I got the impression that she didn't really care and would probably prefer if I just signed the darn thing, since otherwise she'd have to go to the trouble of entering the new information and printing out a revised slip for me to sign.  Very well, then!  As I don't see how it makes any real difference one way or the other, I shall remain 115 pounds-- at least for the next four years. 

*Or should I call her a girl?  She was probably younger than I am.  This is something I still have trouble coming to terms with-- that so many of the "service people" I have cause to interact with in the everyday world are actually younger than I am, now.  Of course, this will only become more common as time goes by, but it still feels strange, when I think about it. 


I finished reading Don't Look Now (Daphne du Maurier) a couple weeks or so ago.  I think "The Birds" was my favorite story in the collection.  "The Blue Lenses", "Kiss Me Again, Stranger", and "Don't Look Now" were also a cut above the rest, in my opinion.  "Indiscretion" and "La Sainte-Vierge" felt like they didn't quite belong with the rest of the stories... "Split Second" is an interesting concept, but left me frustrated and disappointed.  And "Monte Verità"... Well, I found it to be a bit of a snoozefest, to be honest.  Anna and her whole "no possessions / truth quest" thing was mostly irritating and left me ice cold.  (Obviously I'm not one of the sacred Chosen Ones. Oh well.)  All in all, though, worth a read if you like tales of the macabre.

After that, I read Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.  I can't recall where I originally heard about it, but the title and blurb intrigued me.  I found it an absorbing read-- one of those novels where not a whole lot seems to happen (apart from a few notable exceptions), yet you're still compelled to keep reading.  The "twist" wasn't much of a surprise.  I think most readers must at least consider that possibility, even if they aren't certain about it.  Fortunately, it doesn't seem to suffer from the lack of a startling revelation.

I've never been an avid reader of poetry (even less so now that no-one "makes" me read it), so maybe my opinion on this is skewed, but I feel this story has a poetic atmosphere-- poetic prose.  It's partly that the narrator, Merricat, has a vivid (often morbid) imagination and an odd way of looking at things.  It's also Constance's appreciation of and attention to little things (gardening, preparing food) that makes them seem so vital and all-consuming and beautiful.  Whatever it is, it's an unusual concoction-- a mix of uneasiness with cozy comfort-- the familiar mingling with the bizarre. 

I've since read that the author suffered from agoraphobia, which (if true) explains a lot about the novel.  Almost all the novel takes place within the confines of a carefully fenced property, and as the story progresses, their world gets smaller and smaller.  I can sympathize, as I am something of a homebody-- usually happiest when not out in the world, not having to interact face-to-face with many strangers-- generally content to stay in my own little place, walking the same paths, following the same routines.  However, by the very end...

Um... There will be some spoilers in this next paragraph...


As I was saying, by the very end, even I found their circumstances cramped and sad.  Cardboard over the windows?  Junk piles as barriers against the world?  Resorting to wearing tablecloths-- being afraid that one of their two whole teacups might break-- rather than taking some of their (apparently plentiful supply of) money into town and buying the necessities?  They profess their happiness-- the last words of the novel-- but I felt sad for them. 



Ok!  Done with spoilers, now!

In the meantime, I also listened to an audio versions of The Hunger Games and read Catching Fire.  (I'd seen them mentioned a couple of times in different places, and then Rachel started tweeting about how great they were, so I had to check them out.)  They're YA novels-- kind of like a more violent, frightening version of The Giver-- about a distopian future in which children/teens are forced into a fight-to-the-death for the amusement of a "Capitol" audience-- and as a reminder of the Capitol's dominance of the citizens of territories that once attempted a revolt.  It's an action-packed series with a gripping storyline.  I'm looking forward to the last novel in the trilogy, due out this month.  (This is one of the benefits of waiting a while before you start reading series.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cheerful Tunes ;o)

I haven't embedded music in a while. (And sometimes I can't find the song I want for my little Playlist widget in the sidebar, so YouTube it is.) So... This entry will be a boring bunch of music-themed rambling. Sorry, something else next time.

This entry's title? Chosen because this first song isn't exactly cheerful, yet I still find myself playing it a lot lately:

(The video itself is kind of pointless-- just a few photos of the band, I guess.)

The Rosebuds have been a bit of a musical obsession lately. I'm also enjoying "Life Like", "Border Guards", "Cape Fear", and (to a lesser degree) "Another Way In".

(Incidentally, I feel obliged to comment that I don't necessarily endorse the lyrics of these or any other songs I may link to in my blog. (g) I'm usually listening for melodies, harmonies, etc.-- not so much the words. I know, lyricists everywhere simultaneously give me the evil eye-- but sorry, it's still true.)

This next one continues the cheerful theme. With a name like "Apocalypse Lullaby", you know it's cheery! ;o) However, since I can't find the version sung by The Wailin' Jennys, here's one of some man I don't know playing it on his guitar-- so it's lacking the lyrics... so you can just pretend it's about something nicer than the apocalypse. (g)  "Fluffy Baby Bunnies Lullaby", perhaps?

He did a good job (especially if he figured it all out for himself)!

One more, then...
Despite the title, "Terrified", it's a love song.

Favorite things about the song-- the lush (somewhat Asian-sounding) background and the main repeat in the melody.

Well, enough of that for a while.  Something a little more real next time, as we agreed earlier. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Matter of Great Importance

I have to renew my driver's license this month.
This has brought up something of a mini-dilemma.

No, it's nothing to do with how to make sure the photo is decent this time.  I've long since given up on that.  I will look chubby, round-faced, remarkably unremarkable, and probably oily, no matter how carefully groomed and posed I am. But I guess that's ok.  I hardly ever have occasion to show the horrid thing, and practically everyone's driver's license photo is awful, right?

No, the thing that's got me worried (or okay, not "worried" so much as "perplexed"... and not "perplexed" so much as "idly curious") is a weightier issue altogether.  (Ha ha.  "Weightier".  The wit continues to sparkle.)  You see, it's my weight.

As far as the great State of Alabama knows, my weight hasn't changed since I got my first driver's license at the age of eighteen.  (I was a late bloomer, automotively speaking.)  However, as far as I (and my clothes... and those who've been around me the last 10+ years) know, my weight actually has changed.  That's right.  I know it's hard to believe, but I don't really weigh a mere 115 pounds.  (I hope I didn't shock any of you too much just then...)  Honestly, I may not have weighed quite that little even at eighteen.  Back then, I foolishly expected that they would weigh you and measure your height at the DMV, like they do at the doctor's office, so when the time came to fill out the paperwork, I had to guess. 

I've had my license renewed a couple of times since then, but unless I'm remembering incorrectly, no-one ever comes right out and asks, "Is this your real weight?"  They may ask if the address-type information is still correct, but they've never looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and said, "Um, ma'am, it says here you weigh 115 pounds... and since that's obviously not the case..."  In brief, no-one has called me out for allowing the state to keep believing I'm skinny.  It is perhaps unlikely that anyone ever will.  (I wonder, though.  At what point will they come out and gently suggest that maybe you weight closer to 400 pounds than 120?)

However.  I don't see myself ever being 115 again.  It probably wouldn't even be a healthy weight for me, at this point.  I'd like to work my way down 20 pounds or so-- see where in that range is a good, healthy, maintainable weight for me, but that's going to take time.  More than the week or two I have left to renew my license, certainly.  (Darn it.  Too bad it's not that quick and easy!)

So my dilemma is this-- Do I come right out and say something about it, this time?  "Oh, by the way, my weight is wrong on the old card.  I'm actually XYZ pounds, now."  (And hope they won't notice what a big jump in numbers that is... (g))  Or do I keep quiet and let Alabama go on thinking I'm supermodel thin? ;o) I'm sure the workers (most of whom are women) can tell when a woman weighs more than her information says-- and most of them probably fudge the truth a little, themselves.  (Doesn't everyone?)

Also, if I do decide to correct the number, how far should I go?  I mean, I am trying to lose a little weight.  If I tell them the exact number I am now, and then I succeed in losing 10 or 15 pounds (or more) in the next four years, I'll have to get them to change it again.  (And I wouldn't want to create too much extra work for them, you know.  That's the only reason I'd ever want to not tell them precisely how much I weigh at this very moment, of course.)

One way or the other, I'll have to decide soon.  The old (hideous photo) license expires August 1st. 

P.S.  Oops.  Accidentally hit "publish" before I was done.  Sorry if you RSS-feed readers got this one twice!

How Lazy Are We, Exactly?

I understand the appeal of convenience foods-- I truly do.  I've made Hamburger Helper, instant pudding, mashed potatoes from flakes and so on.  I don't turn my nose up at a box-mix cake.  Trust me-- I get it.  Sometimes you need something quick and easy (or you're just not confident enough to cook or bake without the safety net).  However, there are limits-- or at least I thought there were.  Now... I'm not so sure:

Why waste a whole two or three minutes measuring out spices when you can get them pre-measured?  (This is going to save me so much time!  Think of everything I'll get accomplished in the time I used to waste rummaging through my spice cabinet and fumbling around with measuring spoons!  It's going to change my life.)

You get a recipe card, too, but these days, you can find a hundred different recipes for practically any dish you can imagine, for free, online. 

I have a feeling these won't be around for long. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Recent Happenings and Doings

Monday, after leaving the first load of laundry in the washer, I discovered that it would fill and agitate as usual, but refused to drain (and because it couldn't drain, I didn't try the rinse or spin cycles).  To put a long story short(er), Donald removed a broken lid switch (a safety feature that causes the machine to automatically stop agitating and spinning when the lid is opened), and (because we didn't feel that this particular safety feature was vital for us) he hotwired it, if that's the word I'm looking for. . .   Anyway, he bypassed the lid switch, and that did the trick.  (Though we did have to start a whole new washing cycle to get the thing to realize that all was well.)  Thanks to my heroic handyman (and a bit of electric tape), I was able to wash clothes again.  (And there was much rejoicing.)  I just have to be very careful to resist the powerful urge to stick my arms into the machine while it's moving.  I may have to tie a string around my finger to remind myself.

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Entertainment...  (film, TV, books)...

We've been watching all three Lord of the Rings movies with the RiffTrax commentaries (because the third one just came out).  It was funny, but I think I've had enough super-long movies for a while.

We've finally caught up to season three of Chuck.  I'm enjoying this season less than the previous two, so far.  I don't care for the whole Shaw storyline, and my patience with Sarah/Sam is growing thin, too.  There's still plenty of time for it to improve, though. 

The last two books we've read together:
Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde
Thoroughly enjoyable.  The first in a series (a trilogy, I think), though, so there are unanswered questions/unresolved conflicts at the end. It's difficult to categorize-- somewhat fantasy, a little sci-fi, definitely mystery.  Most of its charm (for me) was its sense of humor and the fun of trying to figure things out from the tidbits of information the author doles out a little at a time.

Something Fresh, by P.G. Wodehouse
This was the first non-Jeeves/Wooster Wodehouse we'd read-- or at least the first I'd read.  Donald may have listened to some on tape back when he had a long commute.  This book introduces a different set of characters-- the Blandings Castle set.  So far, I prefer the Jeeves and Wooster set, but this group of characters is entertaining, too.  (However, I did find that my favorite parts were those that could just as easily have been set in a Jeeves and Wooster book.)  I didn't care so much for the slightly more serious, "romantic" parts of the book.  I turn to Wodehouse for humor; anything else is a bit disappointing.  I realize that this must not be much fun for an author-- being pigeonholed by an audience that is displeased when s/he ventures into new territory-- but there it is!  And since Mr. Wodehouse has been dead for quite some time, now, we need not worry about hurting his feelings.  ;o)

The last book I finished:
Mapp & Lucia, by E.F. Benson
It took me a little while to decide how I felt about the Lucia books.  (This is sacrilege to the true Luciaphile, I know.)  However, by now I know that I find them curiously interesting (particularly now that Miss Mapp's in the story).  I've seen this series described as a mixture of Wodehouse and Keeping Up Appearances, and that's the best explanation I've come across.  They're very much comedies of manners-- cozy, tangled webs, full of one-upmanship and friendly (?) rivalry-- small town/village stories about a handful of characters who take very careful note of one another's comings and goings.  Some of the characters behave in the most horrifying ways, yet you find yourself still interested in them, even if you don't always like them.  They all suffer occasional downfalls, which may be what keeps you from simply despising them. 

What I'm reading now:
Don't Look Now, by Daphen Du Maurier
I'm into the fourth story in this collection of short stories (some of which are fairly longish).  So far I've read "Don't Look Now", "The Birds", "Escort", and most of "Split Second".  ("The Birds" was creepier than the movie version, I think, by the way, and it's my favorite in this book so far.) 

Every so often, I'm in the mood to read macabre, spooky, suspenseful stories, but I usually end up feeling that something's missing from them.  I'm not sure exactly what I want that I'm not getting from these stories. . . Resolution?  That's frequently left out in favor of something "artistically" open-ended.  (Either that, or everything just falls apart at the end, as with the bulk of what I've seen from Stephen King, who can spin a scary story but hardly ever brings it all together in a satisfying conclusion.)  However, sometimes there's a definite end/resolution-- as in "Don't Look Now" and "Escort"-- but it's still not quite there, up to the level I'd hoped it would be.  Generally, short works are not as satisfying to me as full-length novels, and most of the creepy things I read do tend to be short stories. . .  Or maybe I'm just too picky.  I'm enjoying these stories well enough, though I think I'll be ready to return to a more cozy, prosaic genre by the end of the book. 

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The bunnies (wild rabbits) are a little crazy this year.  I guess they've decided that the entire yard is theirs, now, and frequently the dogs get to do a little bunny-chasing when they are let outside.  Twice the other morning a bunny was just a couple of yards from our house, right where Trixie could see it-- and growl a low, throaty growl-- and bark-- and continue to bark, at intervals, single, startlingly loud barks-- long after the offending bunny had decamped and the yard been declared "all clear".  This was not good for my nerves.  (I hope it isn't a sign that I'm turning into Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.)

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After a first attempt at knitting, a week or two ago, I haven't picked it back up again.  The casting-on part (long-tail cast-on) was ok, once I knew exactly what I was supposed to do, but the first row after that was awful. Trying to get the needles to do what I wanted-- ugh, it filled me with disgust, even though I tried to remember that when I first started crocheting, the crochet hook didn't immediately bend to my will, either.  I think part of the problem may have been the yarn I was using.  It was a partial skein I had only because it was bundled with some other yarn I wanted to buy at a thrift store.  It was nasty, nasty stuff (and I use almost only acrylics when I crochet, so if I say it's nasty, you may believe me that it was).  Scratchy, catchy, yuck.  Next time-- assuming there is a next time-- I'll use something a little nicer, even if whatever I make is likely to turn out ugly because I'm a rank amateur.

I suppose I still would like to learn to knit, if it doesn't turn out to be too much of a pain to get the hang of it.  The problem is that what I really want to knit is lacy fabric, and from what I gather, that's the type of thing that many even fairly seasoned knitters view with trepidation.  I wonder know how much of that is exaggerated-- or just people overestimating the difficulty of knitting lace / lace knitting-- or if it really is that much more difficult. . .  I have a lot of confidence in the idea that if you want to do something badly enough, you can make it work, but I'm not sure if I do care that much.  Especially when there are so many lacy things I could just crochet, instead.  It's not exactly the same look, but it's beautiful in it own right.  . . .We'll see.

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I'm forgetting some things (probably some things more interesting than the stuff I did manage to remember), but this entry has been "in the works" for long enough, as it is!