31 December 2005

Extremely loud and incredibly close

I just finished listening to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on CD. I wish the main character, a nine-year-old named Oskar Schell, lived in my neighborhood. He's smarter than his years, but isn't a smart-mouth showoff. He plays the tambourine, is an inventor and spends the book looking for the lock that fits a key he found in his father's closet. (His father died on 9/11.) The flashbacks by the grandparents didn't add too much to the story for me. I wanted to read more about Oskar and his experiences. He's a character you keep thinking about long after the story is done.

The book's author, Jonathan Safran Foer, also wrote Everything Is Illuminated.I'm listening to that now on CD. It's quite intriguing and at the beginning, especially, it is hilarious -- particularly the narrator, a Ukrainian named Alex. There are flashbacks as in Extremely Loud but in this book they are more helpful. The main character, or "the Hero" as Alex refers to him, is in the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. The story unfolds slowly and it breaks your heart.

The steps aren't so bad after all

I feel like I'm just surfacing from a long, undersea swim through molasses. I've been mostly sleeping and coughing since Christmas day. This cold could be considered a form of torture. Today I could actually go up and down the steps in my house without having to pause and catch my breath. I was actually motivated to shovel the steps, do some laundry, purge the magazine pile. I'm not doing any sprints but it is nice to stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a shot.

28 December 2005

Christmas visuals

Sophie distressed as the remote-control truck heads toward her new toy.

Butter sculpture. (All those carving lessons, finally paying off.)

Sophie and Billy enjoying the spoils. I whipped around, ran into my brother and he dropped a full, kiddie-sized plate, on the floor. My other brother went in for the catch, missed, and was scalded by a flying meatball. (The injury wasn't serious.)

These Christmas lights have been up every year as far back as I can remember. The steering wheel doesn't make the best tripod. Pretend you're not wearing your glasses.

I think the out-of-focusness of this one makes it artistic.

Christmas memories

Four kids, 7 and under, seven adults, three dogs. It sure was loud! My brother's puppy, Bill, is a nut and loves to play with Sophie (the photo at right doesn't quite do it justice). They are quite loud when they play and often sound like they're fighting, even though they aren't. Nothing says Christmas like a dog fight. A couple of the kids would get freaked out when the dogs were playing so I taught them to yell "dog fight" and raise their fists in the air (instead of cowering in a corner). Seemed to do the trick That's what I'll remember from this year, along with my two-year-old niece chasing her three-year-old cousin with a play hair dryer, both of them giggling.

20 December 2005

Hobo lore

If you haven't heard the interview with John Hodgman on the Daily Show, please do. It's incredibly silly. And, you get to hear Jon Stewart giggle.

To hear the list of hobo names read aloud, click here. I like Staniel the Spaniel, Giant Batwings Roland, Salty Salty Friday, and Mr. Wilson Fancypants. I wish my name was Mr. Wilson Fancypants.

19 December 2005

Hooray for moderate religion!

I love what John Danforth said on Speaking of Faith. I was a little skeptical at first since he's a conservative and let's face it, we've been burned by a few of those lately. However, he also has a moderate faith. Isn't it sad that we now have to qualify faith that way? "I'm a Christian but not one of those mean-spirited, nasty ones." The interview is great.

From one of his op ed's, posted on the Speaking of Faith site:
By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth.

We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours.
The faith trotted out by the "Christian right" isn't anything like the Christianity I know. The Christianity I know isn't cruel or mean-spirited. It's the about loving your neighbor and standing up for the opppressed.

The last couple of weeks on Speaking of Faith has been on Einstein and ethics. Very interesting!

14 December 2005

Ya, I brought it in for everyone... or, Who's a chump?

Well today I demonstrated my chumpness yet again. I bought this beautiful Celebrate box, full of dips and pretzels -- yum! -- from a co-worker. I planned to send it to a friend for Christmas. I picked up my box this morning. Then I set it down on the counter -- the snack counter -- by the water cooler. I opened up the box and looked at the contents. Then I went to the water cooler and filled up my water bottle. Then totally forgetting the box that I had opened 45 seconds before, I went back to my desk.

A couple of hours later I was down the hall from the snack counter and noticed the box on the counter. "Hey, that's my box," I thought to myself. Several of the items inside were open and obviously being eaten. I walked back there to be sure. Sure enough. I busted a gut at my chumpness.

The people who dove into it felt really bad. I told them it was my own fault for leaving it, open, on the snack counter. And, I said, it would keep me laughing all day. I left it out in my area for co-workers to finish off. Everyone thought I was being so nice. Mmmm... yah... I brought it in for all of us to enjoy!

Here's what it looked like after we'd been at the box for awhile.


I'm not one to get all excited about household gagdets but I asked for the scumbuster for Christmas. There's something appealing about going after gunk with a cordless, spinning brush. Also, it might be a good personal safety device.

12 December 2005

You've heard this sweet story; here it is again

This story came around on e-mail the other day. I thought it was so incredibly sweet. Then I deleted the e-mail by accident. I searched for it online and was delighted to find out, via snopes.com, that it's true!

These twins were only two pounds at birth (1995). One wasn't expected to live. A nurse put them in the same incubator and the stronger twin put her arm over her sister. The sister's heart rate and temperature began to stabilize. To read more, click here.

At www.snopes.com you can check out all the parking-lot safety, latest scam, etc., e-mails.

11 December 2005

Top 10 foods

Jude and I had this list going way before there were blogs. However, we called it the "if I go to the chair" list. As in, if I go to the electric chair, these are the foods I would request for my last meal. There are 10 but I didn't number them. Ranking was just too difficult.

  • Chicken tikka masala
  • Combination plate at Jerusalem's (shawirma, hummus, falafel...)
  • Strawberries
  • Guava juice
  • Squash
  • Bananas
  • Cheese and tomato sandwich on olive basil bread from the deli in Thun
  • My grandma's rosettes
  • Red licorice
  • Dark chocolate

10 December 2005

World Cup language primer

The story below reminds me of reading about the football hooligans in the Guardian during the 1980s -- thanks to an awesome professor, Marjorie Deakin, may she rest in peace.

I keep thinking going to the World Cup, in Germany!, would be the coolest thing in the world. Then I read things like this that remind me of the tertiary goings-on.

"He puked his guts up? Nice...
, Germany
(Reuters) - The British embassy in Germany launched a new website for the 2006 World Cup on Friday that includes handy German phrases for England fans, such as "He was sick as a parrot" or "He puked his guts up."

From Reuters. Click here for the full story. To see the results of the draw, go to the FIFA site. I'm going back to my German-Christmas-song happy place now.

In praise of my bed

I'm not a big fan of poetry but this one resonates, oh so much, with me:
In Praise Of My Bed
At last I can be with you!
The grinding hours
since I left your side!
The labor of being fully human,
working my opposable thumb,
talking, and walking upright.
Now I have unclasped
unzipped, stepped out of.
Husked, soft, a be-er only,
I do nothing, but point
my bare feet into your
clean smoothness
feel your quiet strength
the whole length of my body.
I close my eyes, hear myself
moan, so grateful to be held this way.

by Meredith Holmes from Shubad's Crown (Pond Road Press)

09 December 2005

Brain in pieces

Friday -- endlich (finally)! It's been a long week and I feel as if my brain is in itty bitty chunks. Even this morning while I tried to have some devotional time it was one "Where's Pam?" moment after another. "Thank you... question... oh look, that book spine is pretty..." Close eyes. "Musing... I wonder if we're going to Fun Sisters or Sister Fun today?"

On one hand, I really like having a brain that flits about from one thing to another. Today it was just annoying. Reminds me of my five-year-old nephew who suffers from the same malady. His parents would say, "Cale, focus." His reply, "I hate it when you say that."

Fun with German

Have a hankering for a little German Christmas music? Go to Weihnachtsradio and click on the Windows Media or Real Player icon. A few too many songs in English but a good listen nonetheless. If you're really lucky, you'll get to hear an annoying version of "The Little Drummer Boy," "Weihnacht faengt an," by Wolfgang Petry. Or, "Oh du froehliche," sung by Roger Whittaker. (I never said it was all good music.)

Here are some fun things I learned at German class yesterday:
  • Man rauft sich die Haare
    tear one's hair out
  • Salat statt Kohl
    salad instead of cabbage -- a play-on-words slogan used against Helmut Kohl when he was running for re-election
  • Faules Ei
    something to call a lazy person -- literally, lazy egg
  • der Stubenhocker
    someone who always stays inside
  • der Faulpelz
    another word for a lazy person -- literally, lazy fur
  • ausgelaugt
    an adjective meaning completely pooped or stressed out -- comes from the word that refers to the part of the washing machine process when all the water is sucked out of the machine
  • Du gehst mir auf den Keks!
    you're driving me crazy -- literally, something like "you go me to/at the cookie"
  • Ich schlage mich etwas aus dem Kopf schlagen
    I drive something from my mind -- "aus dem Kopf" means "ouf of the head" and schlage means "to beat."

Jimmy Carter is awesome!

Jimmy Carter was on The Daily Show the other day to promote his new book. What a great person! He's actually done something good since his presidency. His interview is quite charming. Take a look at Jimmy Carter on The Daily Show.

06 December 2005

Big trek in a big truck

I drove out to Keeley Island in SW Minnesota for a presentation on marketing. I got there in the dark on Monday. This morning I woke up to a winter wonderland! It's a beautiful place, despite the cold (4 degrees Fahrenheit this a.m.).

Because it was a long drive I rented a car (it's cheaper for the company that way). The rental place screwed up so instead of a small or mid-sized car, I got Dodge Ram 4-door truck. It's ginormous! I'm not used to driving anything that large and it does go against my environmental bent. I'm happy to say that I didn't take out any pedestrians or mailboxes.

It's amazing what creatures of habit we are. In my car there are spots for everything. In this truck I lost so many things over the past day and a half. It didn't help that all my winter accessories are black, as are the seats and floor in the truck. Good thing Sophie has a bit of white on her. I might have lost her in there too!