Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not Just Hiking - February 2012

Want to see what I am reading and have read before I post my complete list at the end of the month? Want to know when I read a book or what I am going to read? Check out my Goodreads page. Want to see a list of every physical book in this house? Want to know what my husband read? Want to know what my kids own? Visit LibraryThing.


The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
This was a strange little book. I didn't like it and I didn't hate it. I was indifferent. I just felt sorry for all of the characters. Two lessons I wanted to scream at them throughout the whole story ... "LIVE your life" and "if you want someone to know something, TELL them for goodness sake." By the way, this was the 6th of 16 books from the Tournament of Books. I haven't been all that impressed with their choices.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I loved it. I never, never wanted to sit down to read it and I often dreaded the moment when I would open its pages, but I was drawn to it all the same. Having picked it up, I found it often difficult to put down. The language! Oh, Ishmael, I will miss you.

The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books by J. Peder Zane
Fun way to see how your likes stack up against some of your favorite authors. My all-time favorite (and the one book I would take with me to a deserted island), Lolita by Nabakov, was voted the top book of the 20th century.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This 2009 Man Booker Prize winner did not disappoint. (I didn't think it would - too many people whose opinions I trust, including my brother and my book club friend Amy, said they loved it.) Despite being well-read in Tudor history, I still found this fresh and inventive. Cromwell as a hero? Why not? Every once in a while I would get confused by who was speaking, but a quick re-read of a passage or two early on helped me grasp Mantel's style. Although it is a big book (my second straight such undertaking) I was so caught up in the world of Cromwell that I never found myself bored or tired.

Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
This is one of the funniest books I have read in a while and exactly what I needed after two "serious" books. DeWitt is clearly a genius. Disclaimer ... It is bit shocking and I would not recommend it for everyone. The 7th of the Tournament of Books novels I have read.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
I haven't read a lot of YA fiction lately. My older son has moved into the adventure/spy/save the world books a la Alex Rider and I don't really enjoy that. My younger son is starting to read more, but he doesn't enjoy it like the first one did so I am a little pickier about what I put on his reading list. I have actually had this book for a few years now, it was a Newberry finalist the year the Gaiman's The Graveyard Book won. I just never have had the courage to read it. Because this book took courage for me. At times it was painful to read and I found myself in tears. Then I was angry and scared. Then I was alive with joy. I have heard this described as poetical, but I think the language is more musical. I have spent some time in the East Texas swamps she describes and as I was reading I could hear the music the swamp makes - the people and the water and the animals coming together in a sound I haven't heard anywhere else. A lonely melody but not without hope or love. A good dose of desperation with forgiveness thrown in. Southern Baptist mixed with Blues and some Country. I remember a purely Texas sound. This book is that for me.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
I have read a lot of histories and biographies in the last few years so I have quite a few books to compare this too. If I am judging the book, I would have to say I was not overly impressed. I didn't think the writing was very crisp and it tended to plod. However, I was impressed by the story of the man. I am ashamed to say that I didn't know much about President Garfield, and now I can only wish we had more men like him in Congress and running for the Presidency. Holding all of the current candidates up to Garfield for comparison leave them woefully lacking. I would have loved to see what a great historian like McCullough could have done with the same story. I think Garfield (and Bell and Lister) deserved more than Millard could bring.

King Lear by Shakespeare
I finished this one just in time to add it to my February list, which means I did not give up after only one month on my attempt to read 12 of Shakespeare's plays this year. King Lear is great, but it is especially good if you need to insult someone. For example:

Act 4, Scene 4
"You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in you face."
or Act 2, Scene 2
"A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave...a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch..."


The Way
I loved this movie. The scenery is beautiful and the director take full advantage of it. It was a bit sentimental, but I would find it a bit strange if a story about losing and then finding what is important wasn't a bit on the mushy side. It didn't hurt that Martin Sheen starred.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
A reward for M who read the third. These keep getting better and better.

Books in February: 8
Books in 2012: 19

Other Notes:
I started People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks but I didn't finish it. I didn't even get past chapter 4. Bored.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

For Dad

This may be the best day my dad will have all year.

Happy Birthday Johnny Cash!

Go Little E!

You know it seems funny sometimes the way a life can turn out. And I have to remember that someone you don't really know might surprise you. Take me for instance. I have a passion for the music of Mahler, the books of Nabokov, and the fine art museums of the world. I ski. I hike. I travel. I despise Wikipedia. I have lived on 3 continents and I listen to NPR.

I also love John Wayne, Johnny Cash, the Houston Astros from the cheap seats, and NASCAR.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fullerton Loop

If you followed me last year, you will remeber that we hiked quite a bit in the five months of the year we were in Canada. (Now you see why my monthly book wrap up is call Not Just Hiking?) Sixty-nine miles to be exact. We love to ski here, but we love to hike more. Skiing is the same just about anywhere you go (it is actually better in Colorado), but the hiking in Banff National Park and surrounding areas is like nothing else in the world.

So it was with a light step and joy that we started out on our first hike of the year. Usually you don't hike in Calgary in February. This year, however, has been exceptionally warm and snowless. We were told about this hike many months ago as a good place for beginners - well, since we never considered ourselves beginners, we never tried it. But a cloudy, warm day in February seemed like a good time to get our hiking legs back in working order. They are different than skiing legs. We needed to start off a little slowly since we hadn't trained and we wanted to take the dog.

Now this was his first hike. He is older (10) and suffers from arthritis in one leg. But this was only 4 miles so we thought he could make it. He ended up doing better than the rest of us. I still don't think we will take him often because when his leg starts hurting he just quits and you can't quit 5 miles out in the middle of the forest. Isn't he gorgeous? By the way, he has more frequent flyer miles than many people and this is the 3rd country he has lived in.

Fullerton Loop isn't in our go-to hiking guide books, but we knew the area and had a map. It was pretty straightforward with a little snow and ice on the way up but clear on the way down. We didn't get a view until we stopped for a lunch break, but it gave us something to look forward to later in the season.

Soon we will be hiking there!

There seems to be a bit of discussion as to how long this loop is. All the maps we have show different distances. (I know! It is a MAP!) The most reliable seems to be the guy with the GPS who clocked this at 6.5 km and 364 meters of elevation gain. Seems about right.

Miles hiked in 2012: 4
Miles hiked as a family since arrival in Canada: 73

Another by the way ... I have currently booked 6 days of hiking in Glacier National park this summer. My favorite place In. The. World.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I don't think I have ever participated in one of these, but now I am doing two.

Bleak House
The Woman in White

We shall see if I am cut out for this? I was able to acquire both books for free on the Kindle so if I fail miserably at least it won't have cost me anything.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The General

From the USA Today comes a story that NASCAR has decided to cancel the General Lee's lap at the Phoenix International Raceway. They are worried having the Confederate Battle Flag on display might offend some of the fans. Have you been to a NASCAR race?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Call for Machete Control Measures

Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed at machete-point while vacationing in the West Indies according to a story in the Washington Post.

I wonder?

Did the assailant acquire the West Indies Machete Registration Study Guide?

Did he attend mandatory machete safety class?

Did he have the proper machete storage safe?

Did the police run a criminal background check on him before he purchased his machete?

Did he register his machete?

Did he pay the $369.50 in fees required to own the machete?

Was he fingerprinted?

Did he wait 10 days before obtaining the Approved Machete Registration Certificate?

Did he have the machete "slice" tested so that his machete could be identified scientifically in case it was suspected in a crime?

Didn't he know he is only allowed to take the machete home or use it at a machete range?

Probably not. I guess the National Machete Association would fight that kind of thing.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Moby Dick

It is finished. The battle is over.

That is how I feel.

Yet I am sad that after 14 days of hearing his voice in my head, Ishmael and I will be parting.

I'm not yet certain what to say about this (less than an hour after finishing the book), but I wanted to mark the moment. I just know I am glad I read it.

What other people have said about this book that I agree with: is a great lesson in "how to pursue a pointless battle to its bitter, violent, inevitable end." By which we meant, in part, reading the book.
The level of language is like no other.
I think I developed a complicated relationship with this book. On the one hand, I never sat down to read it thinking, "Ooh, boy! Let's read!" It often felt more like a task or quota to fulfill than enjoyment. But, when I did sit down to read it, I usually, at some point, felt a large swell of joy and greatness that I rarely feel these days, often from the sheer complexity and beauty of the language.

NPR's piece on Why Read Moby Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mental State and Reading Books

I wonder how much your mental state at the time you read a book affects how much you like a book? I read two books in January that I did not particularly care for, Swamplandia! and The Sense of an Ending. I did not like January and was very happy to leave it. It was cold. It was dark. It was depressing. We didn't ski. We rarely went outside.

However, two people who I usually (not always) agree with on book choices liked them both.

Girl Detective on Swamplandia!
New Century Reading on The Sense of an Ending.

Looking back, I have better feelings about the books. I wonder if I unfairly judged them because I was feeling like crap. If I read them know, when the sun is shining and I spend part of every day out in it, would I like them better?

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Want to know why I am not reading as much in February as I did in January?

(1) Sunnier
(2) Visitors
(3) Downton Abbey

I am obsessed. I watched the entire first season in one day. I bought the second season on iTunes and watch each episode as soon as it is released. I re-watch episodes each week while I am waiting for new episodes.

I am not quite sure how I am going to pass the time once this season is over and I have to wait for the next one.

Added later:
Flavorwire has an interesting article on the language of Downton.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Glorious Day

Have you missed them? Those glorious photos of the Canadian Rockies bathed in brilliant sunshine? Were you starting to think that all I did was read? Were you wondering if I ever went outside?

How is that for proof that I go outside?

I may have mentioned it before, but in case you missed it I will state it again. I love to ski.

The opportunity to ski every weekend in the winter was one of the reasons I said "yes" when my husband asked if I wanted to move to Calgary.

We drive 90 minutes, put on our gear, ride the gondola and we are here:

Sunshine Village in Banff National Park.

And yesterday was one of those EPIC days in the Rockies. The sun was shining in the blue sky, the winds were calm, and the snow was almost perfect (a little powder would have been nice).

We branched out from our comfort zone and skied the whole mountain. We skied all three peaks, tackled every color run, and made it down the mountain in one piece. I could talk forever about yesterday, but I could never do it justice.

First lift of the day - freshly groomed.

First Run of the Day - We were the only people on the hill

I sometime have to pinch myself ... I live 90 minutes from here.

You won't see many posts about our skiing for a couple of reasons. It is usually too cold for me to take my hand out of my glove to take a photo. The weather is not always this nice. Sometimes I am too busy skiing to even think about taking photos. But until we start hiking again and you are treated to weekly photos of our adventures, this will have to tide you over.

Just don't forget to watch for explosives:

I don't just read. I ski.

Ski days in 2011-2012 season: 7
Ski days in 2012: 4

Friday, February 3, 2012

I Am A Book Snob

You might as well know it now before you read any further.

I am not a stuff snob. I am not a clothes snob. I am not a car snob (I drive a Subaru Outback covered in grime from the Calgary streets, for Pete's sake).

But I am a book snob.

I openly admit it and embrace it.

As part of my snobbery, I rejoice in the fact that I have never read the Twilight Series. I am not sure I believe it should even be allowed in our school libraries.

And don't give me that crap about "well it sure does get young girls reading." Sure it does, but then they stop. The don't read that and then move on to something else. Garbage.

I feel the same way about Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Do you want to know why there were a few people at the boys old school who didn't like me? It may have had something to do with the fact that in 4th grade, when the kids were doing book reports, I told Warren's mom that I didn't think picture books should count for 4th grade book reports. Warren did his report on Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

In 4th grade.

He did not have a reading disability.

He did have a parenting disability. But that is another story.

J did his on A Wrinkle in Time.

Does that make J better than Warren? Possibly.

So when I visited a new blog and the book review was on "The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife" published by Harlequin Romances I knew I could close the page and never go back.

To each his own and all of that. But if you want a romance? Pride and Prejudice. The Night Circus. Anna Karenina.

*I get that when there is a reading disability involved there are different rules. I am not cruel. Just a snob.

**Before you get all pissy with me. I have come around to the idea that if you can get kids reading at an early age (and it might take Diary or Captain) then that might develop into a life long love. I'll buy into that. But if you never give them anything else beside Captain or Diary then you are doing them a disservice. We own Diary. M read them for about a month then moved on out of boredom. He is my non-reading child. He can read quite well, but he doesn't enjoy it like J does. My theory is that in the limited time he reads, it better be something worthwhile.

***I am NOT trying to tell you what to read. Read whatever you want. It doesn't matter to me. I am just not going to discuss it with you or read your review.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Think He Might Be Spoiled

Child: I Have a confession.
Me: Yes?
Child: I was going to run away on Saturday, but I changed my mind.
Me: Where were you going to go?
Child: XXXX's house.
Me: How were you going to get there?
Child: I was going to call the car service to pick me up.