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!