Friday, September 30, 2005

Sorry about that

I don't quite know where last week went. I've been pretty good about posting whenever I have a minute, but I guess all systems fail from time to time.

What I do know is that The paper wave has crashed against the shore of my house.
I'm tumbling in it. Newspapers, magazines, bills, work-related reports, school homework, books, catalogues, lists, scraps of paper, more lists.

I bought plastic file boxes to put the work papers and bills in, and they remain empty on the floor of my office. Gotta do something about that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Madame Defarge

Ah. Knitting in public. So very Madame Defarge.

Went to a meeting last night--as an audience member. Oooo. haven't done that in a while. So had to bring my knitting.

But wait--I don't have a knitting project ready to go in its own little canvas bag for when I'm stuck waiting somewhere. So I dumped a bunch of yarn inthe bag with five double pointed needles and my standard pattern for basic socks.

By the end of the meeting I had two inches of ribbing and about aother inch of fairly interesting pattern for the top of the sock.

But who am I kidding???? I'm going to finish this sock? When? And start and finish another? Yeah, right.

Ah well. Hope springs eternal.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Grey gray

Cindy posed a question of spelling the other day.

I know that "grey" is the British spelling (European?) and that "gray" is the American spelling. But somehow, when I see the words, I see two different shades of whatever-that-color-is-which-is-a-mixture-of-only-black-and-white. Somewhere on this internet thingie is an example of the two shades in question. Off to go look.....

Not too bad--about 30 minutes of searching.

Edited to add: I cannot get all my pictures to line up on the left--I've taken them out and reattached them, so I apologize for the resulting mish mosh below. Carry on

First of all, if grey has another color mixed in with it, then it's blue--steel grey is definitely spelled with an "e" in my world view.
Blue grey














Whereas if gray has another color mixed in with it, then it's brown--buff gray and some gray tweeds are spelled with an "a" in my world view.
Brown gray

Edna and I may think this is important, but I agree that after a while this level of discrimination is a little nutty. But here's the thing, I read "gray" as a typo if it's referring to the wrong color in my own little obsessive world view. And typos are jaeeing, I mean, jarring.

The other generality here is that for me, gray is darker than grey. (Although if faced with a light brown gray and a dark steel grey, I think I'd still categorize on tint rather than value.) To whit:
Gray








Grey









So now that I've convinced you that I am a nitpicking loony, I will say that I know exactly where this distinction comes from. It goes back to horses. Unless it was born white, all white horses were born dark and over time turned white. The mature horse is called a "grey" and the process is called "greying out."

And here is a gray horse greying. I can describe her as being a gray color, and to me that's somehow different than her being a "grey mare." Like I can talk about a "bay horse" having a lovely shade of mahogany across his flanks, but I'd never describe him as a mahogany horse.

I learned this distinction very young, and somehow my brain installed some sort of toggle switch which differentiates between grey and gray in all things.
And if I look at this Haley Bartlett image, then I see a gray rock in the foreground and a blue-grey sky and lake in the background.

Mind you, this hardly keeps me up at night; I can label the different shades in my head within a fraction of a second. But it is one of those mucho bizarre tidbits in my personality which takes longer to describe than to experience. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Muppets!!

My son cannot bring his jackets home from school.

This week he left two jackets (his only two), his lunchbox, and his thermos full of soup at school. I don't know where the lunchbox is, but after two and a half days of soups festering in there, I don't want it back.

I went to Target to get new pants for little sister, new jacket/pullovers, new lunckbox & thermos, and came home with the boxed set for the Muppet Show.



So now, sing with me kids, I have the Mahna Mahna song in my head.

Mah na, Mah na.
Boop Boo de Boop Boop.

I want to know wrote the blessed thing--it sounds so early sixites hep jazzy. Did some Googling, and found some of its history--follow the links below.

But this I just have to share--French Lyrics to Mais Non, Mais Non.

Some more histoire:

The song
The man

Friday, September 16, 2005

Laundry list

1. Pull laundry from dryer.
2. Fold laundry. All laundry. Six loads of laundry.
3. Put a basket of folded laundry in each child's room.
4. Move pile of single socks from bedroom chair to extra laundry basket.
5. Make coffee.
6. Start on list of twelve phone calls which must be made by 3 pm today.
7. Bring coffee upstairs to sip while putting folded clothes away.
8. Answer phone.
9. Move pile of single socks from basket to son's bed.
10. Answer phone.
11. Strip son's bed.
12. Fish pile of clean but mismatched socks from tangled pile of son's sheets.
13. Put pile of single, mismatched socks in basket in laundry room.
14. Start washer with son's sheets.
15. Answer phone.
16. Read letter to the editor caller needed me to read.
17. Retrieve cold coffee from bedroom. Reheat.
18. Make first phone call.
19. Unload dishwasher.
20. Take out trash.
21. Seriously consider throwing away pile of mismatched socks.
22. Answer phone.
23. Make second phone call.
24. Look at sock pile again to wonder what I am saving them for.
25. Straighten up kitchen.
26. Discover pledge sheet from son's school which was due back at start of school today.
27. Answer phone.
28. Write email as follow-up to phone call.
29. Make third phone call.
30. Return upstairs to continue putting clothes away.
31. Answer phone. (Oh come on!!)

And at this point I realize that it's almost 11, and I have to do grocery shopping by 12 so that I can pick up kids by 12:30.

Put "Do laundry" as a task on my Palm for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bone Tired

I am bone tired.

I wish I could say that I were coming down with a cold. Or that I didn't sleep well. Or that it's a familiar depression, because it's not that.

If I were more awake I could maybe find something better than that old chiche, bone tired. But this morning, it's resonating with me. The sound of it, Bown, feels right. The weight in my back, not on it, but deep inside my shoulders and back, below the muscles, is tiring. My head feels too large for my neck. And I keep thinking, "Bone tired. Tired in the bones. Bones which make you tired. So tired it lives in the bones. Bone tired."

It's not depression, I've become an expert in ferreting out the first signs of a depressive attack. My vision goes kind of grey, and I get this weird tunnel-vision, zoom out, dolly out kind of contraction where the thing I'm looking at suddenly gets very very small and I seem to be acres away. My mind keeps telling me all the things I should be doing, but somehow everything is fuzzy. I can't decide anything, and my body feels thick and fuzzy too. I lose the ability to name things: "Can you hand me the, the thing? No. The long thing with the brushie things on the bottom? Right. The Broom." I never feel fully tired and I never feel fully awake. Just fuzzy.

This morning is not that--but in a scary way, it would be OK if it were that. I would know what to do. Obviously, if I could go back to bed, then maybe a nap would help. But I'm not sure. I think this morning is stress and fear.

I'm in a fight, and deep down I know I'm doing "the right thing." I've been fighting this thing quietly, sometimes respectfully, and sometimes cattily for two years. This week though there have been veiled threats made to a colleague, including feces and swastikas, and not to long ago I received an anonymous letter asking that I move out of town.

I don't want to make this into a mystery novel, "If you never hear from me again, be sure to use this safe deposit key and there you will find the name of the killer." We're not anywhere near that level of intrigue or danger. But it does make me tired.

Bone tired.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Work related emails

I just got the chain letter which asks me to forward it back to the sender only if you really love God.

OK, automatic delete for me.

But, here's the thing--I got it at my work email. I'm an elected official. A politician. Scurge of the earth. And I know the woman who sent it to me.

And my cynical mind goes into automatic overdrive. Is she asking me to re-examine my role with God so as to help me in my days of crisis? (Aw. That's sweet, but really it's not much of your business.) Or is this some sort of test to see if I DO love God and WILL forward the letter on to her as proof that I will do anything to make a voter love me? (Gee. I don't stoop quite that low, but thanks for asking.)

And in other news my political buddy just got all his signs graffiti-ed. HEY! Lay OFF! Grumble grumble grumble....

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd

Quick review--I liked it.

I liked it so much I'm tracking down books 1 and 3 in the series. Note: I have NEVER in 25 years of romance reading read book one of a Romance trilogy first. NEVER Not a conscious thing that I know if, but there you go.

The Earl of Kerrich is being blackmailed by the Queen of England. (You know, I think this is the plot device which proves the point that you can get into trouble making each hero more wealthy and more titled than the next. Eh, the Queen of England?? Ok, whatever.) So he decides to show her that he's actually a responsible person by getting his hands on an orphan and hiring a governess to look after the orphan. As soon as the Queen relents, then he'll walk back to his life of landed wealth.

Pamela Lockhart has started her own governess agency in London with two friends (The Governess Brides), and she takes the position. The Earl has demanded that any governess sent to his household be old and unattractive, because he doesn't want to shoo her from his bed later on. So Pamela dresses poorly, slathers on makeup, wears old clothes, and gets the job.

In here there's a totally unecessary subplot regarding forgery, disgruntled cousins, and Bow Street Runners. Badly done--I couldn't even keep track of what bank was being hit half the time, and one bank was The Bank of England. (Doesn't say much for my reading skills, I guess.)

Anyroad, Devon and Pamela have each individually decided that love and marriage is not for him/her, which kind of creates a problem when you're the main character in a Romance novel. Devon is an over the top conceited idiot at the start, but he does step off his high horse well. (What doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense is why Pamela, who must know who he is at the start, decide to go work for this guy. Yeah, I know she needs the money, but doesn't she think that maybe she'll be recognized? Oh well, plot device.)

The sex is hot, the dialogue is well crafted, and the governess' charge is not annoying. (Yeay!)But best of all--there's a rather good grovel scene at the end. Aaah.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Black Silk by Judith Ivory

Another very interesting book by an accomplished author. I liked the characters better than in Beast, but still I'm not sure I'd name this as one of may all-time best of the best favorites.

Submit Channing-Downes is the newly widowed wife of Henry, the Marquess of Motmarche. Submit was much younger than her husband; she admired and loved him and often quotes him during the book. Henry left an illegitimate son, William, and an adopted nephew, Graham, both of whom hated Henry. Both found Henry to be dictatorial, manipulative, conceited, hypocritical, and judgmental.

At Henry's death William starts court proceedings to throw Submit out of her house, and Submit discovers that Henry's will demands that she deliver a black box to Graham Wessit. Graham is currently facing court proceedings of his own, as recently a young washerwoman has accused him publicly of fathering her twins.

With that premise, the book involves uncovering layers of meaning. The meaning of and the message behind the drawings in the black box. (Are they meant to protect Graham from future embarrassment or to remind him of past embarrassment?) The type of man Henry was. (Was he a protective and loving husband or a "pompous, domineering, belligerent son of a bitch"?) Graham's relationship with his family. (Should he give William money if that money allows William to further contest Henry's will?)

Graham keeps a mistress throughout most of the book, even as he becomes more intrigued with Submit. He keeps forty guests at his summer house, plays with fireworks, and arranges boat races. He often looks to be playing the part of a dissolute lord, but then it's not clear if he's putting on the expected role or if he really is the childish man of the moment.

I really liked Graham. He seems to be flopping around in his life trying to figure out where he can fit. He'd rather not live by rebelling against the expectations of Henry, but then he can't help himself but rebel whenever Henry makes a demand. There's a period in the middle of the book where Graham is visiting Submit at a country inn, neither in London nor all the way in the country at Graham's other familiar habitat, his estate. Judith Ivory made an interesting choice, placing these characters in geographic middle ground. Neither is wholly comfortable, so they dance and weave through conversations, wanting to become closer, but reluctant to give up too much detail. There are some attempted kisses here--ones which are also gently rebuffed. This section is a delight to read. (I actually went back and read through it again before finishing the book. I've never done that before.)

The two characters do ultimately end up with each other, once Submit leaves the inn and enters into Graham's world at his estate. Graham insists that Submit doesn't understand passion or fun, and Submit insists that Graham is too flighty to be reliable. But somehow it works (mostly because of the depth of their conversations, rather than their overarching passion).

The only bit that somehow didn't click for me in Black Silk was the passion and the sex. I can feel Graham's hunger for Submit. I can see Submit's attraction to Graham. But when they finally have sex it was so over the top amazing, Oh my God, I've never experienced this before, perfect without flaw, that it didn't seem to belong to these characters. They have sex on the stairs, he chases Submit through the house while she giggles and screams. None of this works for me. The entire work up to this point has seemed to me to be about fumbling through misconceptions until you discover who you are or how you wish to behave. And then we hit the note of, "But hey, at least the free sex is great. Weee!" Doesn't seem possible to me that these characters would behave this way with each other.

Now, to be fair, as soon as the sex is over, the characters fall back into their rhythm of half truths, forced admissions, pressure and retreat. The dialogue always works, but there's something about the actions of these characters that's not quite true.

I feel as if I've just eaten a raspberry. Black Silk is a wonderful book, I liked Graham and Submit, their situations, the plot, the descriptions, the dialogue, and the minor characters. I enjoyed the raspberry, but after finishing it, there's a seed stuck between my teeth that is annoying. I don't remember finding the seed that annoying when I was enjoying the raspberry, but now it's all I can think of.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Beast by Judith Ivory

There are so many reviews of this book available on the internet, I'm not quite sure what I can add to the mix, but here we go.

Beast is centered around a hero who is convinced that he is hideously deformed. He has a limp, arthritis, and a scar on his face which has taken his eye. As in the fairy tale, the Beast is paired with a beautiful maiden who, by virtue of her beauty, the hero decides can never love him for what he is.

Lulu (Louise) Vandermeer is an American heiress on board an ocean liner to meet her parent's choice of husband in France. Charles d'Harcourt (the disfigured object her parent's attentions) is also onboard. One evening he comes across her flirting with a crewmember. He overhears her complain about his humpback and scarred face and decides to "teach her a lesson" by seducing her under an assumed persona and then dumping her. (Note--has this ploy ever worked, ever, in any circumstances? In a romance novel? In a non-romance novel? In real life? Is this a common plan for revenge?)

So Charles, who by the by has no humpback, takes on the chore of seducing Louise--in the dark. He allows her to think that he is an Arab sheik, and he demands complete secrecy and darkness. (Her parents are on board, as is Charles' mistress, which only add to the need for secrecy.) She falls for him--hard.

When the ship docks, Charles disappears, and Louise is introduced to Charles, her fiance. And now we have to deal with the reveal. When will Lulu (as French Charles now calls her) figure out that Charles is Charles?

Lulu, mourning for Arabic Charles, demonstrates her ability to dominate a situation using her beauty. She can be cutting or aloof in public, and privately she asks her husband not to touch her until she allows it. Charles knows that she will punish him when she ultimately discovers his trickery, so keeps figuring out new excuses not to tell her. But now he wants to seduce her all over again, and she is still wrapped up in her love for Arabic Charles.

The sex scenes are stirring, and Judith Ivory handles a layered conversation with double meanings and partial disclosures well. There also is a subtext regarding ambergris. Charles is a perfumer and wishes to not only cultivate floral oils, but also to develop his own perfume including ambergris.

What I come away with from this book is that I was most fond of Arabic Charles and French Lulu. Playing the Arab, Charles is poetic, honest, loving, sometimes cruel, but nonetheless an intriguing fellow. In France, Charles, unless he is having sex with Louise, falls victim to his own pride. He's inarticulate and rageful. He's vain and somehow he's so filled with pride that he loses his attractiveness. Other than sexual prowess, I have a hard time figuring out what Louise sees in him--although she likes his lavender fields. On the ship Louise isn't very interesting--an object of desire but particularly mature. However, in France, Louise becomes an interesting character with her own issues to resolve. We see Louise using her beauty to isolate herself--she becomes the master of hauteur and indimidating grace. I rather like her for that.

I find myself thinking about Beast well after having finished it--which marks it for me as a favorite. But I can't decide if I liked a single person in it. (So much for the thesis that readers read romance to vicariously indulge in a relationship with the hero.) I can't even decide if I enjoyed the relationship, the courting, the conflict, or even the sex. (Good thing I don't grade these reviews; I be lost.)

I do know that I want to find an ambergris perfume.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Friends

A friend of mine in 1987
Afriend of mine as he looks today
Some of his children












Sometimes I miss my friends.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

HelenKay has a cool public service announcement here. Sounds like a neat panel.

Now if I can just finish my laundry and get a babysitter, I'll hop a plane and be right there.

Edited to add: I'm having a little trouble with the link, the trackback, and the permalink--keeps sending me to her article on New Orleans and Anne Rice. Please refer to "Brought to you by the Smithsonian"

Does. Not. Compute.

I can wash all the dishes in my house. They can all be put away in the cupboard for about 5 minutes before the next meal dirties them again. But at least they can all be clean.

Laundry makes that obsessive compulsive side of my brain go into seizure. In a family of five, with towels, sheets, kitchen wipe up towels, bath rugs, and clothes, it is impossible to ever have all the laundry done at the same time.

And then there's the added problem of needing to wear clothes while running the loads of laundry up and down the stairs. (No, I'm not doing the laundry nekkid. My ten year old daughter would just crumple and die of embarrassment if she ever saw my bare ass.)

The laundry thing makes me grind my teeth....

Saturday, September 03, 2005

More Than a Mistress, Mary Balogh

This novel opens with an impossibly arrogant, tall, lean, and nonchalant Regency Duke preparing to enter into a duel in Hyde Park, London.

Just as the duel begins, a girl, a milliner's assistant, yells at both parties to shop. The Duke of Tresham does, but his challenger doesn't and wounds the Duke in the leg. Tresham fires into the air. Verbal sparring ensues almost immediately between the injured Duke and the girl, Jane.

She ends up late for work and is fired, which infuriates her. She goes to the Duke's house to get either an apology or a signed note that he made her late for work, and is hired as his nurse for the three week's bedrest his doctor prescribed. This is the fun, dialogue-rich part of the book. He tries to intimidate her with his icy arrogance, and she tells him he doesn't know how to be polite to his staff. She stands up to him over and over again. Soon Tresham realizes that she couldn't possibly be a working class girl--she's literate, opinionated, plays the piano, and sings. Jane insists she was raised in a an orphanage.

Jane is hiding the fact that she is also Lady Sara Illingsworth, daughter of an Earl, lately of Cornwall, who has fled to London because she was accused of murdering an Earl's son (not her brother; another Earl).

I love dialogue--strained sentences, rushed declarations, verbal hits and misses. Mary Balogh does this well and builds the tension between these characters. Tresham enjoys needling Jane, and Jane enjoys calling Tresham on his tricks. Brothers and sisters flit through the drawing rooms too, so we see Tresham display his public patter as well. One night Jane stumbles across Tresham playing piano in the library; she begins to cultivate the artistic Tresham that he is embarrassed to acknowledge.

At the end of three weeks, Tresham asks Jane to become his mistress in his own separate house. She does not want to be seen publicly, and cannot find a job with an assumed name and no references, so she drafts a contract with Tresham, and agrees.

Tresham asks Jane to call him by his first name, Jocelyn, which is a poignant piece, since he's never heard anyone call him by his first name. He begins to paint again, and talks to her about his past. (Unfortunately there's some jarringly modern discussion in here about letting his feminine side come out. I think it's possible to talk about artistic urges without falling into a masculine vs feminine argument, but perhaps not.) She however, does not tell him who she is or why she's running.

He eventually discovers who she is and why she won't be seen in public. Tempers flare, but he still protects her from public scandal (by removing her from his house) and from the evil-doers (by threats and intimidations).

Loose ends are satisfyingly wrapped up, and we can envision Jocelyn and Jane's future life together, since they already played house when she was his mistress. Regency rules come into play--now that she's titled, she can no longer be his mistress, and that former role must be maintained as a secret, so she must become his wife. HEA

I liked this book for its charcterization of the fuming, arrogant, rude, and intelligent Duke who is able to intimidate anyone by glaring at him. I liked the sexual tension which grew through the dialogue. I was disappointed by the use (sparingly) of modern psychology to discuss feminine artistic traits and masculine adherance to a code of conduct and honor. (Why are they labelled as masculine? Women doen't have a code of behavior too?)

I also have No Man's Mistress which I am looking forward too.

Water conservation

What is the point of a low-flush toilet if you have to flush it twice?

Friday, September 02, 2005

I Love My Local Bookstore

I Love my Local Bookstore, I do, I do.

And I'll say it again.

I love my local bookstore.

They have a couch and a few chairs. They display art projects above the stacks made by local kids (either in school or in local studios). They offer free cookies. They giftwrap your books for free. They have a well-stocked children's area with a few tray puzzles available for toddler younger siblings. (And the toys are not encrusted with yesterday's yogurt either.) Like most local bookstores, they have events--reading groups, the occasional author appearance, a midnight (packed to the gills!) Harry Potter release party.

But mostly I love the staff.

My son takes martial arts around the corner which his older sister (10 going on 16) hates sitting through. So she goes to the bookstore and surfs the bookshelves.

She had a plane flight last month, and the day before she left, I went to the bookstore. "I need four paperback books for her," I told the staff. "But I don't know what titles she wants." I told him that she liked Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter, but not Series of Unfortunate Events nor Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. She also likes books with animals and really enjoyed Time Cat. But she doesn't like anything too medieval with dragons and princesses. It was a delight to watch two adults scurry around the children's section offering up titles. Try this! Oooh. I dunno about that one. There's a dragon. But how about this?

Today I had a few minutes after picking her up from flute lesson and we stopped in to see if she "needed" anything. I told her she had three minutes to find two books.

I started wandering around the store and Ken comes up to me. "Looking for anything?"
"Well, something good to read."
"Try this. No this one's better. Here, you need to read this. We may be starting a readers group on this one soon."

Meanwhile, my daughter found a few picks and then asked Ken about the sequel to Regarding the Fountain, Regarding the Trees. "I don't have that one in stock. I don't even think I've heard of that one, but I've read Regarding the Sink. Do you want to ask your Mom if we should order it?"

Totally cool guy treating her with the utmost respect.

Last Christmas he also recommended Dragonology to my then six year old son, because "It was so cool, someone needs to take it home, and that might as well be you. You're cool enough for this book."

I do love my bookstore....