Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Say you want to go on a ecotourism trip to Haiti. Or you want to contribute something so that young people in Haiti will have bird knowledge and the ability to keep their watershed clean and get jobs leading bird tours. In either case, you should definitely contact Debbie Baker through her Zwazoyo Blog.
If, on the other hand, you need rangering services in Britain, Stephen Mason could bash your rhodies, help plan your restoration, or lead a fantastic ethnobotanical hike. (I've heard he also has a charming accent but that is neither here nor there).
Need an eclectic collection of really good short stories? Daniel A. Hoyt's Then We Saw Flames should fit the bill (Amazon link here).
Need some recipes utilizing plants from the semi-arid West? Check out Alma Snell's A Taste of Heritage (note that the editor and photographer does not receive any royalties from sales of A Taste of Heritage, she just thinks that, seeing how she spent four years working on the book, it should stay in print a while).
Know a musician in the Denver area with joint pain? Massage therapist and bassist Brock Chambers specializes in massage for musicians.
She's booked at least through the holidays, but in the new year Prairie Quilter could use her long-arm quilting machine to transform layers of fabric into an artistic three-dimensional quilted masterpiece.
Harpist and composer Phala Tracy (a friend of a friend, or, more precisely, the unrequited high school interest of my college interest) sings and plays harp on Critter Songs, a collection of silly ditties with lovely music.
If you just happen to have a small business owner needing branding and graphic design work, Stephen Weis Illustration is who you should contact to talk about giving the gift of good design.
And if you need something translated English to German or German to English, I have two fabulous sisters-in-law to recommend. If I've misssed you, let me know. In the meantime,
happy gift giving and happy huntin' week.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Rascal the book, is, of course, a sentimental story of a boy and a raccoon. It's an autobiographical account of 11 year-old Sterling's year living with an adopted raccoon in a small town in Wisconsin, and I can totally see how fourth grade me read the book as a raccoon story. While Rascal, the raccoon, does drive the "plot" of the book, the book is about so much more. It's about the end of the carriage era and the take-over of the automobile. It's about World War I. It's about a middle aged man coming to grips with his family: long-lived absent-minded father, mother who died when he was 7, hard-working aunt and uncle fulfilling traditional farm roles and relatively conventional siblings. It's about growing up (to the point that the wikipedia entry calls Rascal "a prose poem to adolescent angst"). The me of now at age thirty seven read it as a book about wildlife conservation*.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Had I not had a 2 1/2 month old on my lap, the first book of the series Magician: Apprentice, would have made fine plane reading. As it was, however, I didn't finish M:A and the accompanying Magician: Master until I returned here. Overall, I enjoyed the set: not enough to dive into the third and fourth book of the series, but enough to think that I will someday read them. Potential readers should be forewarned that Magician was written as a single book, and starting it means committing to both volumes. They should also be warned that the pacing is, well, unusual at best. At least two thirds of the book feels like it is set-up, and there are at least fifty pages post climax, post reasonable denouement, most of which are outlining a political intrigue that doesn't materialize. Having said that, the voluminous set-up is interesting and the worlds described are fascinating (if the full history in the middle of the second volume a bit unnecessary). I was bothered that there was a bit too much "European-like world good: Asian-like world bad" until I realized that one big point was that despite superficial differences, people and governments are all alike and all both good and bad.
I was reading Magician during unsympathetic character week at Wuthering Expectations (starting here), and noted that as soon as one character became a demi-god, the reader stopped seeing his story from his point of view, I assume because at that point he was unsympathetic. His story was then given from the point of view of one of his past small-town acquaintances (Martin), and we could feel Martin's keen sadness at the demi-god's loss of humanity. Unsympathetic Week highly recommend, Magician recommended only for those who already enjoy fantasy series.
At the Mister's influence, I recently re-read all of the Harry Potter series. I actually like it much better upon the third reading, which is saying something because I am a fan. One aim of unsympathetic character week was to push readers beyond stating "I liked the characters" and "I didn't like the characters" although several commenters mentioned that likes and dislikes are a great starting point for more thoughtful analysis. Applying this to Harry Potter, I honed the reasons for my preferences. One aspect of Harry Potter I like is that each book ends and is a self-contained story. Interestingly, the exception to this is Half Blood Prince (6), which remains my favorite. I think I like 6 the best because it has a wonderful mixture of levity, romance and fighting of evil. While reading recently, the Mister commented as to how wonderful the Felix Felicis scenes are, and I couldn't agree more. 6 also contains the only true plot twist in the series, and, even though I knew it was going to happen, I truly felt kicked in the gut when I first read that S killed D. I was surprised to learn that Order of the Phoenix (5) was the favorite of a colleague of mine (6 is his least favorite), as it is my least favorite. I've always thought that 5 is just one long dark rant of Harry whining that nobody understands him, while my colleague liked it as it showed the students united with Harry. Plot-wise we are both right, but, as I realized with this re-reading, I read much more quickly at the end of books, so the whining, which really only fills the first third, probably filled two-thirds of my reading time. A full series re-read also reminded me that I think the epilogue is brilliant. I know some readers hate it, but I feel that the speech to Albus Severus and the mention of Scorpio are essential to the resolution of the book's theme of the power of love, and don't hurt from a plot standpoint either. Anyway, readers can contact me if they ever want to chat more about H.P.
While I think that Amateur Reader's idea that one sympathizes with, or at least develops a relationship with, the author of a book is great, I realize that I sympathize with Harry, Hermione, Ron, Minerva McGonagal. Luna, Neville, Snape and even Draco, but I prefer to leave J.K. Rowling, who, for some reason, I really don't like, out of my reading experience.
*I almost re-read Inkheart so I could add "and a book about the magic of books", but it seemed like too much work just for a line in a blog post. Besides, I watched the movie on a plane over the summer more time needs to pass to prevent me from seeing Brendan Fraser as the father.
Image is of Dianthus and his first snow, Oct. 22 in Colorado. Nothing to do with fantasy books except that he happens to own a "magical hat".
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The common complaint about all of these things is that they are only useful for a short period of a baby's life. I'll let you know as Dianthus outgrows them. These photos, by the way, are not all current. Below is the newest of the bunch, taken last week and some date back to Labor Day (2/3 of his life ago).