Saturday, August 02, 2014

August 1st, outsourced

It's Friday, ack! My HTs are going to be spotty this week, sorry.

If I had a smart phone, I would load it with these Prince George emojis immediately.

The Onion takes on some semi-botched executions in the US.

Being a foreigner in Nepal sometimes means being treated like Justin Bieber.

Gaza in poetry. [HT Andrew]

NASA made an underground water map to show just how bad the drought in the US is. [HT Kathy]

This 5-year-old is heartbroken that her cute baby brother will grow up someday.

"My wife didn't want to take maternity pictures, so I hired a photographer and took her place." Do not drink liquids while looking at this photos, because you will spit it out all over your keyboard from laughing.

I can't explain why I love this post making fun of life hacks. I just know that I love it so. much. [HT Andrew]

I cannot stop laughing at these awful baby photos. The second one kills me every time. [HT Crys]

Jeremy and I have been following this bizarre case of a US couple being held in prison in Qatar for allegedly starving their adopted daughter to death so they could harvest her organs. This is all a huge misunderstanding and I hope it gets resolved so so soon.

A map of the introvert's heart. Mmm, looks about right! [HT Nancy]

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 2014 books

Ah, July, that most productive reading month (because vacation).

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First reading 2009.

Second reading July 2014.

Jeremy read this series last month, so I thought I'd give it another go. I remembered thinking that the author's mind's eye and my mind's eye worked differently enough that it was hard for me to picture the scenery and action. That was still true the second time around. I also felt like the book's manner of presenting the story was disingenuous. The first-person narrator hides things from us that technically I think we should hear since he is our only point of access to the story.

Still, it's a good story and an enjoyable book, as long as you don't mind the fact that you can't always tell exactly what's going on.

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First reading 2009, rating 3 stars.

Second reading July 2014, rating 4.5 stars.

It's been five years since I read this for the first time, and what a difference it has made! I liked the book so much more this time and I can't wait to re-read book number three.

The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #3)The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First reading 2009.

Second reading July 2014.

My opinion didn't change so much on a second reading five years later. This was good, but I like The Queen of Attolia better. Attolia and Eugenides are some of the most interesting characters I've ever read.

A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief, #4)A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. If I didn't already know and love these characters, I could not have handled more than five pages of this book. It would have worked better as a few chapters in a book about someone else (Gen or Attolia, please), rather than following Sophos the whole time.

Still, some Gen and Attolia is better than none, so I'll take it.

Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & ReflectionsCockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & Reflections by Patrick Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a charming book - "everything you need to know about air travel." Its format allows you to pick and choose the parts you read. I was more interested in the consumer side of air travel. (Not so much the "How much do planes weigh?" variety.)

Plus, dude (a pilot) speaks truth. I loved his manifesto about the things every airport should have - free WiFi! sufficient seating at the gate! seamless international transfers! And he and I are on the same page regarding the loveliness of Emirates airlines, especially compared to American carriers. I said it here; he says it much better on page 254:

"None of those things [small niceties listed in the previous paragraph, including some of the things I mentioned in my blog post], you'll notice, was especially luxurious...and that's all right. What the [US] airlines haven't quite figured out yet, is that satisfactory service doesn't have to be elaborate. The average passenger doesn't expect to be pampered. What he or she expects and deserves are convenience, respectful employees, and a modicum of comfort...What he yearns for is a clean, halfway comfortable space to sit in, something to watch or listen to, maybe a sandwich, and for God's sake an occasional bottle of water. And something else too: workers who are polite and professional."


Paradise Interrupted: Romantic Adventures Backpacking Across the Philippines, Baby in TowParadise Interrupted: Romantic Adventures Backpacking Across the Philippines, Baby in Tow by Sarah Bringhurst

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A charming mini-memoir of a trip through the Philippines by the author, her husband, and their tiny baby. I loved how the author was very open about how foolish and naive they sometimes were. It was fun to read about their misadventures, even though I'm sure it was very stressful at the time. I'm also impressed that the author somehow got us to laugh with her, never at her - we are always on her side.

I enjoy traveling with my kids, too, so it was a treat to read someone else's travel stories from the comfort of my (overseas) living room.

Fire and HemlockFire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the old-fashioned awkwardness and mismatched love interest ages of Summer of My German Soldier and Daddy-Long-Legs, plus the nightmare-you-can't-wake-up-from feeling of The Magician's Nephew, with a cover straight out of LABYRINTH. I even considered scrolling through the covers here and finding a more respectable one, but no, I'm going to keep Perky Breasts Woman Riding a Horse for authenticity's sake because this is the actual copy I read. Jeremy made fun of me every time he saw me with it. The weird thing is that this book is by and large about a 10- to 13-year-old girl who doesn't have perky breasts and at no time rides a horse, so it's doubly mystifying. There is also very little fire and/or hemlock in this book.

And yet. I really liked this book, especially once I accepted that the enjoyment would be in the journey of reading it, not in the destination. I carried this book with me everywhere in hopes of a chance to read a few pages or even a paragraph. Yes, carried it with me, in public, even with that awful cover! There are things that happen in this book that you will not understand, even after you've read all the way through, but I found that I was OK with that.

You see, I think this book is not so much about magic and mystery and the answers to our questions as we'd like to believe. I think it is rather more a story about Polly growing up. Seen that way, as a coming-of-age story, the book works better, at least for me.

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

After I loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I purposely stayed away from anything else the author had ever written. I did not want to know anything about her or find out about any other characters she had created. I was worried that my beloved book would be tainted by anything less than genius from the same mind.

Five years after I first read TDHOFLB, I have lifted my embargo on all things E. Lockhart for We Were Liars. And it was pretty good, I guess. Spookier than I thought at first; sweeter than I thought at first. A worthy entry, but it pales in comparison to TDHOFLB.

Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1)Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The perfect Jeremy-is-out-of-town book. I loved this book's main character and its (and her) big heart. An excellent twist on the "normal kid finds out she actually has special powers" theme.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of EnglishOur Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John H. McWhorter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. I can never figure out if I like mainstream language-y books like this one more or less because I'm a linguist. This one comes off as a bit of a diatribe at times - what is he so worked up about? Some of the chapters were a review of stuff I already knew, but I did appreciate his take on the current state of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Ah, but I do enjoy a good, meaty debate about linguistics of an evening, and this fit the bill.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

(Not) walking to the beat of a different drummer

Sterling turned 10 months old on the 28th. I've been looking forward to this age because it's when my babies tend to learn how to walk. Miriam and Magdalena both were walking at 10 months + 10 days. Motherhood is a lot more fun for me when I can put my child down and have him walk on his own two legs (plus, the other developmental milestones that come around soon after walking are fun, too).

But Sterling doesn't seem that interested. He's stood up on his own without help a few times, but he prefers to get down and crawl. He finally fixed his form and so now he is quite speedy on all fours.

I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that Sterling will probably not be walking in 10 days. The girls were so similar in their development that I just expected little brother to follow along.

Have your kids been on different schedules for achieving milestones?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jeremy at the Chiemgauer 100k (26 July 2014)

(I mentioned that we went to Catholic mass on Sunday because we didn't have a car, because Jeremy was out of town. He was out of town because he was running his first ultra marathon - a 100k in Chiemgauer, Germany. Here is his (very long, but no apologies!) account of his first ultra marathon. I am so proud of him!)

On Friday July 25, 2014 I left Königstein for Ruhpolding in southeast Germany to participate in a 100k ultra marathon race. I signed up for this race after we bought plane tickets to spend our summer here. I have never run more than 50k in one day, and that 50k was just a few weeks ago here in Germany by myself at a leisurely pace on multiple hiking trails in the area. In preparation for this event, I ran a total of 270k in May and 370k in June. This race is called the Chiemgauer 100. You can read about it here.

The home page has a map showing the whole 100k route in red. The cost was only 50 Euro. I am happy that I chose this as my first ultra. The organizer avoids a large media presence, sponsors, and other frills. There isn’t as much pageantry or giveaways as would probably be elsewhere. It’s almost like a local event that a few outsiders join each year. The problem with choosing this event as a first-timer, though, is that the elevation change is considerable and the cutoff times for each stage are not generous. The total elevation change for the 100k is about 4,500 meters (nearly 15,000 feet).

Before leaving K√∂nigstein, I entered into our GPS the address of the farmhouse in Ruhpolding where I was planning to stay for two nights. The GPS showed that it would take some 3 hours to get there. I started off in our nice affordable rental car (Seat Ibiza from Spain). After only 10 minutes of driving I picked up a stout young man dressed in what I thought was traditional German festival clothing. The young man asked for a ride to the next village, Plech (Yes, it sounds like you have some sort of a phlegm problem when you say it). We first determined that his English was better than my German and off we went. (Side note: the other night I was on a long run and tried to hitchhike home but no one stopped for me (it was dark), so I paid this one forward.) I asked the young man if he was on his way to a festival – which showed my lack of local cultural tradition. It turns out that he was a carpenter going to an interview for a new job. His duds were pretty cool and they were the uniform of his trade. When I dropped him off I asked his name – Bieber, he said. I replied: “Oh, like Justin Bieber?” He gave me a courtesy laugh and said, “zat is an owld choke.” I like this guy. Here is a random photo of the carpenter’s traditional clothing.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Catholic for a day

Jeremy has been out of town for a few days, if one can be out of town on vacation. He took the car with him, which left us without a ride to church this morning (the Mormon chapel is a 30-minute drive away).

So we decided to be Catholic for the day. The handy thing is that most villages here have the worship times posted on a sign as you drive into town, so we knew when mass started. Bright and early this morning, the kids and I walked down the hill, through the main part of town, and back up the hill on the other side to make it to St. Michael's, the Catholic church.

The Catholic church here has the more modern-looking building (1965, above), while the Protestant (Evangelische) church inhabits the building that dates back to 1817. I guess it used to be the other way around, but they switched some years back?

The bells started ringing just as we were walking up the stairs to enter the church. The girls were so impressed - seriously, in awe! (Note to the Mormon church: look into bells.)

My maternal grandparents (and mother) were Catholic, so this wasn't my first time attending mass. But it was certainly my first time in a long time, so the girls and I read up on protocol the night before. This morning, the first thing I asked the man we sat next to in a pew near the back was if it was OK that I had the kids with me - there wasn't another one in sight! To my great relief, he said it was "kein Problem" - no problem. To my even greater relief, a young boy walked in with his mother just a few minutes later.

We did all the sitting, standing, and kneeling during the mass, though I hadn't seen where to pick up the hymnals, so we couldn't join in the singing. And of course, beyond the Alleluias, I did not know the proper responses to some of the things the priest said. There was a reading from 1 Kings, which is interesting because we just finished studying that in Sunday School. Another reading was from one of the Pauline Epistles; not sure which because German. The main sermon from the priest was about treasure, which I know because I just barely learned that word from a billboard that is all over the place here (something about driving safely, but it uses the word Schatz, treasure).

I was just getting nervous about the part where we'd have to perhaps awkwardly sit out communion, but Sterling started making a lot of noise - just happy, cooing noise, but still noise in a very quiet, very acoustically gifted room. We slipped out and left a little early.

Those of us who belong to churches know that we are very welcoming to visitors, and we want them to come, but this morning's experience reminded me how intimidating it can be to not know the ins and outs and behavioral expectations for children, etc. Even though it wasn't what we're used to, I'm so glad we could be Catholic for the day and get some worship in.


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