Flip of the Coin?

I know this is past the fact, but I was annoyed by this Prior to the Twins/White Sox elimination game. With so many different measures the MLB could use, they use a FLIP OF THE COIN to determine who gets the home game? What about head-to-head record, in which the Twins were leading 10-8 or division record or something, not a flip of a stinkin' coin! I wouldn't be so presumptuous to say that the Twins would have won had it been at the Metrodome... but it would have been a different game and the MLB should re-look at that ridiculous rule.


Bring Back the Dump Truck!

Could we have gone through any more Running Backs last night? That game last night was ugly and painful to watch and we really owe our Defense a big hug for giving us the win. Our supposedly improved O-Line is not only Not improved this year but now even more banged up than ever. With Simmons out for the season with an Achilles injury and Marvel Smith getting banged up, Ben's got a target the size of Russia on his chest right now. We also have key injuries on our D-Line to Hampton and Keisel (both out for the Jags game). Not to mention that we only have one healthy RB on our roster (Moore) with Parker already ruled out for the Jags game and our rookie, Mendenhall put on injured reserve and out for the rest of the season with a fractured shoulder.

I guess we'll be calling the Dump Truck...

P.S. I'll be at the Jags game Sunday night (Yay!), though it might be an extremely painful game the way things are going with the Steelers (Boo...)


Let The Analyzing Begin...

It's Preseason time which means Steelers talk is back on the blog. With the help of Tivo and careful dissection, I've been able to glean these thoughts so far:
  • Our O-Line looks much improved from last year, especially with Hartwig in there versus Mahan. However, Ben's doing a Much better job of getting the ball out of his hands quicker and using his check downs more. He did throw that one bad throw, resulting in a tipped ball and ultimately an interception, but he learned from that mistake, seen by a play in a later series where he was under similar pressure and was trying to make a play out of it, but then you could almost see him stop and think and then throw it out of bounds instead. And of course, Ben still has his amazing escape abilities (shown in the picture above) that has made him such an exciting player to watch.
  • Our D-Line meanwhile looks much worse. The age of the line may be the culprit, as well as the fact that the line Cannot stop the run without Hampton in there, and even with him in there, he's showing to be a bit rusty (or out of shape). We didn't show much pass rush in the first half of the game, and I know LeBeau doesn't like to reveal his fancy blitzes in preseason, but the lack of pass rush was embarrassing for a while, but it started to come together a little bit later in the game. Our D still seems to have the "bend don't break" mentality, reluctant to give up the big plays but letting the other team move methodically down the field on us. I know Polamalu's not in there, but overall our D scared me a little. The only bright spot was Timmons who looked Fierce! Foote's getting old and could not complete a tackle last night, and Timmons seemed to be wherever the ball was tackling like a maniac! I loved it, it was great to see some good tackling from at least One of our Defensive players. Overall the tackling was sloppy and weak. Anthony Smith got in some good tackles, but he needs to be more consistent.
  • Stupid penalties on the offense better be preseason jitters and better not happen during the regular season. We lost at least two third and shorts because of them.
  • I think we'll be hearing "Ben to Santonio Holmes!" a lot this season!
  • The special teams Was looking better until that return for a TD, but I'm not too concerned about one blunder, overall our coverage was improved. Wish we could some more yards on our own returns though.
  • I'm glad Mendenhall finally learned at least One move by the end of the game, before his spin move he basically was as stiff as a pencil. Russell impressed me more than the rookie.
  • Jeff Reed, seriously? After looking like a stud hitting a 50-yarder last week (in Heinz field of all places, notorious for being tough on kickers) you miss a 42-yarder? Drink too much the night before?
I'll keep watching and keep you updated on my observations. I finished watching the game with mixed feelings... excitement about our Offense and doubt about our Defense. Watching the Vikes tonight...


How I Love Chaos In Bungal Territory

Completely out of nowhere, the Bungals savior quarterback totally disses Ohio's beloved Buckeyes.

In his own words:

I cannot stand the Buckeyes.

It's amazing to hear what those guys think about that university and
what they think about that football program and Tressel and all the
crap I gotta put up with being back there.

I just can't wait for two years from now when SC comes to the 'Shoe and
hopefully we'll have a home game that weekend and I can go up there and
watch us pound on them in their own turf.

I'm really getting sick of it and I just can't wait for this game to
get here so they can come out to the Coliseum and experience LA and get
an old-fashioned Pac-10 butt-whoopin' and go back to the Big Ten.

Now I'm not a native Ohio-ian, but having lived there for about ten years it doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that the Buckeyes are Way more popular (not to mention way Better) than the Bungals. I'm salivating imagining the Ohio-ians now turning on their beloved Palmer. This is one time that I wish I were back in Ohio just to see the Bungal fans being forced to choose their loyalties. I think it's obvious what team they'd pick. Hmm, 7 National Championship Titles or 0 Lombardi trophies? I'll say this. Since living in North Carolina I've heard people singing the Ohio State fight song twice at bars here, I don't even Know what the Bungals fight song sounds like.

Burn Bungals, burn! Hehehe.


mai wen's Top Ten Best Trip Moments

10. Getting attacked by monkeys. Actually, this wasn't one of my best moments, but it's a great story to tell despite the fact that it was terrifying while happening. Those monkeys mean business!
9. Shopping! Pearls, come to momma! Even my frugal hubby loved shopping in Thailand because everything was so dang cheap!
8. Getting cuddly with elephants.
7. Drinking Thailand "moonshine" whisky at a hill tribe while trekking.
6. Bamboo rafting on a raft that was contemplating on falling apart for the majority of the rafting.
5. Getting an elephant shitting drawn on my forehead in charcoal.
4. Hitting up the Thailand nightlife and very gracefully falling asleep at the sleaziest Thailand after hours bar.
3. Seeing my Bernie (Bernie is my college friend who I visited in Chiang Mai for those unawares) and lounging around her place enjoying her company and getting an insight on real Thai culture!
2. Getting to spend an obnoxious amount of time with my hubby, which never got old. I guess that's why I married the dude. :)
1. Finding an Australian Steelers fan in Krabi, Thailand.



Okay, so I've been home for about a week now. Sorry I didn't post a "I got home safe and sound" post! I've been catching up on my time zone as well as other things, such as housework, hair appointments, friends, family, work, etc. Eeesh, you come home and don't even have a day of rest before real life comes flying back into your face.

I'll post more about the last part of my trip and post some pictures up this weekend if I can manage it. :)

Much thanks for your comments! Loved reading them while I was away!


Old Friends and Elephant Dung Paper

I wanted to start with an explanation of my last post and why The Ant Wars was so traumatic to me, I hate no insect more than ants. Long story short, I grew up with an ant infested house when I was younger and was thus traumatized. I was just thinking about it and thought people might think I'm a finicky girly girl reading my post about ants, but I assure you for the most part I'm not. It's just those damn ants.

Anyways, I'm in Chiang Mai and have had an amazing time seeing my old friend from college here and meeting her man, Boon! We enjoyed some drinks, food and shopping at a night market last night where I got some amazing items for dirt cheap, just the way I like it. Later this week she's going to be taking me to get real salt water pearls for dirt cheap, I'm very excited! Today we went to a temple and an elephant show! Apparently the best elephant show in Thailand with elephants who have broke a Guinness Book World Record of the biggest painting painted by elephants... bet you didn't know that was a category did ya? It's a really amazing picture actually and the elephant show was so much fun, we even got to see a four month old elephant that was so freaking cute I almost wanted to take the little guy home with me. When I was feeding him bananas he looked like a little kid trying to eat chocolate cake and even proceeded to rub his face in the mashed up banana when he was done trying to eat it! My favorite item in the gift shop at the elephant show? Elephant dung paper. Recycling's great!

Tomorrow we plan on trekking through the rain forest, stopping in local villages for sleep. Just another day here in Thailand where elephants walking down the side of the road and trekking through rain forests are daily occurrences. As always, the experience of being in a place with people who live here is more rich than just visiting purely as a tourist, and we get the really great deals on stuff too! :) I've learned so much about Thai culture such as every Thai person has English nick names since many of their Thai names are too long or difficult to pronounce. Some of the nicknames? How about Guitar, Bong, Beer, Peach and Hamburger? You can't help but crack a smile, and nobody minds here with their laid back and accepting culture! I've also learned a lot about the non-profit community here and the issues that Thailand faces socially, which is great research for my future career as an International Social Worker!

I'll try to blog after our trekking adventure where I will actually get to ride an elephant! Wahoo!

P.S. There's a bar around the corner from where we're staying for sale for about $11,000 American dollars, Hubby and I are very tempted...


The Ant Wars.

After spending a night in Bangkok, we landed in Krabi two hours late due to a storm that had cropped up over the Krabi airport. After circling in the air for thirty minutes our pilot took us to a nearby airport in Puk Tu (I'm probably butchering the spelling, will correct that later, promise) where we sat until the storm cleared in Krabi. Arriving in Krabi we barely landed before the said storm started up again and we were running into the airport drenched. And so our time in Krabi was to start in pouring down rain. I was warned that it was the Rainy Season.

Our hotel, Wanna's Place, is a mix of Thai and Swiss charm as that is the combination of the owners. We can see the ocean from our patio window and it is a spotless and gorgeous room. Perfect, except for one thing... it started when I noticed a line of ants circling our sink in the bathroom (Did I mention that we get hot showers here too! A real luxury!) And then we foolishly left a cup out that I had rinsed out rather than really cleaned and a swarm was in our cup on our dresser. Next a rebel piece of beef jerky crumb that I must have let slip from my hands while munching. After many battles of spraying my high deet bug spray and pouring handfuls of water over the ants around our sink, the war is well on it's way. We've gone into stashing anything resembling food in the mini-fridge as to not attract their troops. Though I do think they have renegade troops as later when we were getting ready to kayak we got attacked by some fire ants.

Attack of the Monkeys.

We signed up for a trip kayaking through mangroves and the lagoon, to end in a cave that we'd be able to kayak into. On the way we stopped to feed some Makah Monkeys. Before we were even out of our kayaks, one of the monkeys was on the shore welcoming us and reaching his hand out for the food he knew us to have. We began the process of handing out the bananas, nuts and fruits that we'd brought with us, me being the feminist/child activist I am, giving more to the mothers and the younger monkeys than the big male that was sauntering around (obviously the boss monkey, as our tour guide put it). After giving all my food away, I decided to walk around and check out the nature around the monkeys since it was gorgeous when I cross some invisible monkey line into territory that I was not welcome in and they swarm around me, lunging at my legs! Luckily they didn't try to bite since I did not go for the $500 rabies vaccination, but I was left deeply terrified of the monkeys. After my violation the monkeys became more aggressive and irritable with the other visitors as well and I'm not ashamed to say I ended up hiding behind two of my fellow kayakers from the damn monkeys! My favorite moment of the monkeys though was when I was trying to toss a nut up to a monkey on the cliff and she wasn't catching it so it fell down and hit one of the tour guides in the shoulder and he looked at me and screamed, "I'm not a monkey!"

Would You Like A Copy?

Out of all the major cities I've visited, I'd have to say Hong Kong has been my favorite. New York City was too dirty and busy, London, about the same and I found the Tube and Subway ridiculously confusing. Hong Kong is clean and their subway system, the MTR, was amazingly easy to navigate. I mean if I can do it, a small child could, and we did see young elementary aged children using the MTR on their way home from school, all by themselves. Also, almost everybody speaks English and there's English under the Chinese characters on all the signs. So if you're going to visit China, not only is it much easier to get a Visa to Hong Kong than Mainland, but it's English friendly as well.

Sight seeing was fun but exhausting in Hong Kong and we hit some touristy areas. There really weren't many non-Asian tourists, so we still stood out where ever we went. But I was able to use my Chinese here and there, and even Tony utilized his Chinese that he knows, shocking some people along the way. :) Although he got himself in trouble once saying thank you in Chinese because then the waitress began to speak a slew of Chinese to him at which he had to shake his head and shrug his shoulders at. We also tried to hit up the non-touristy areas, which led us to a night market where I really only saw one other white person. We ate at a very authentic local restaurant that was out of meat, and although we tried to leave after we found that out, were scolded in Chinese by the waitress to sit back down and she brought us both out fried rice. It was good, but Tony wasn't satisfied, he had really wanted some meat. We also found this amazing restaurant called Taiwan Beef Noodle, it was freaking amazing. We want to start a chain in the states, although it could use a catchier name.

Other than constantly being harassed as to whether or not we'd like a "copy" handbag or watch or a tailored suit, Hong Kong was a fun experience. We also visited on of the towns on the coast, Stanley, at the suggestion of a Scottish bartender at an Irish Pub we'd stopped at. This bartender had been living in Hong Kong for 15 years and still wasn't fluent in what he called "Hong Kong Chinese" (also known as Cantonese) just to give you an idea of how easy it is to get along with English there. Stanley was very pretty, but definitely touristy.


Chinese Enough.

After landing in Hong Kong exhausted and confused about the time of day, we realized we'd missed our shuttle to our hostel and so took an $8 cab ride instead. Our hostel was at the top of Davis Peak, and by top, I mean Very top. The narrow rode was scary and steep in the night time and I think our cab driver thought we were trying to take him to the remote wilderness to rob him or something. Our hostel was alright, very rustic and outdoorsy, and for one night as exhausted as we were, it did the job. And the view of Hong Kong was amazing! I'll post pictures probably when I get home.

We decided that it was way too far to Anything for us to stay there another night, so we found another place and left the next morning for it. We had awoken at 6:00am ready to go, but had to wait for 7:30am for our shuttle to the city. On our way to our next hotel, we saw early morning excercises, some doing Tai Chi. Our new place was in a bustling city street, much more diverse then any of the other areas we'd seen, and defintely a little Shady, but we had our own room and bathroom, so it worked. It is an odd thing to see so much of one race in one place, it really makes me realize what a melting pot the US really is. It also makes me feel a lot less Chinese being around so many Chinese people at once, all looking at me as a white tourist. It's something I've wrestled with before with my family, not feeling "Chinese" enough, mostly because I was often told I was too American or that I don't look Chinese at all by my family. When I was younger I'd desperately try to point out my Chinese features to my family, "See my slanted eyes here? See? That's Chinese!" But they would just shake their head and say, "Nope, not Chinese at all." I don't believe they said it to hurt me, my family is just brutally blunt and say what they think without any cushioning, a trait I have picked up myself.

Getting ready to head to Thailand tonight... will write more later.


It Should Be Legal To Trip Kids...

And so our adventure to Asia begins with a crazy man in the Raleigh Airport making the Title comment in response to an innocent comment by Tony that there were kids running around like crazy at the terminal. He also said that kids should be leashed because they're like animals...

We're All Going To Die!

Before we left our friends who are watching our doggies told us a story about when the wife was coming back from another country recently after 9/11 and as they were taking off there was some turbalance, which in turn freaked her out into a panic attack and prompted her to scream hysterically "We're all going to die!" I had this story on my mind, not as a point of nervousness or anxiety, but humor as I boarded our 15 hour plane ride to Hong Kong.

To be continued...


She's Perfect!

If I hadn't already had a lesbian crush on Natalie Portman, this would have done it...

Natalie has travelled at least twice to Uganda to support FINCA, a microfinancing organization aimed to empower women.  Natalie is totally the ultra-ego of me, there are very few people I'd trade my life for, and she's definitely one, although I do really like to eat meat...

Check out this video of her talking about FINCA, among other things:

Also, check out this really good article on celebrities and philanthropy that mentions Portman.

I'm off to Asia tomorrow (first Hong Kong and then Thailand!)  Hopefully I'll be able to post from abroad!  Much Love!


Seriously, Damn.

My heart aches for Uganda. I just hope that the Ugandan army makes some quick and decisive moves against Kony and gets the bastard. Or I guess they could follow this well thought out analysis and plan.

On a positive note, I don't remember if I ever posted this article about my dear friend, Abramz, in Uganda and the work he's doing there. You know, I might have mentioned a Break Dance Project in Uganda once or twice on this blog...

He's still doing amazing work in Uganda and has been getting a lot of support from different organizations. Although he didn't get selected for CNN Heroes (which I nominated him for) he's undoubtedly a hero and inspiration to many, myself unabashedly included.


I Don't Think Wolverine Would Be Flattered

After a generation of a bad-ass attitude and a completely unique ability to extend claws from his hands, only to heal the wounds due to his mutant ability, Wolverine is no longer alone.

Generations of children (okay, and adults) have emulated Wolverine, who knew African frogs would beat us to his awesome mutant superpower? And the resemblence is quite unsettling:

I wouldn't want to run into that frog after it's been once again rejected by the psychic frog who is already taken by a preppy laser beaming frog, and yet said frog can't help himself but to love anyways.


Little Children: A Review

Little Children by Tom Perrotta is a witty and satirical look into suburbia. But while some parts of the novel are obviously exaggerated, the question nags, is it really that exaggerated?

Having grown up in suburbia and currently residing in suburbia, I could safely say that I'm a fairly good judge on the lifestyle. Much in the way of one of my favorite reads from last year, Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, Perrotta takes a lifestyle understood to be "boring" and shows why it's not, well, at least to the people living it.

While perhaps not as thrilling or lively as life in the city, Perrotta, as Ferris does, understands that it's the little things that consumes people's interests, and as they adjust to the comfy suburban life, whether or not you remembered your child's snack becomes as important as whether or not you'll get into the ultra-hip new club. Don't both measure your worth to some degree?

Wrought with intensity and humor, though at the same time, oddly realistic, Perrotta reveals the uglies of suburban life. The desolation of becoming lost in a marriage, the despair of having never found yourself. The fear that can infect a town, and the complexities of every character, from a loving father, to a resentful mother and finally to a pedophile. Perrotta layers each character honestly and realistically. He does not soften the blow of their ultimate faults, their selfishnesses and their insecurities. And yet he is able to show sympathy and respect for them at the same time. They come off as real people, multi-layered and whole. They are all struggling to find and accept themselves. And in the end, that is what they all have in common. That even though as adults, and parents, we're supposedly supposed to have it all figured out, that the vast majority of people don't.

Whether you judge these characters or not is up to you, but I found that I could not as I felt that Perrotta clearly did not intend for them to be judged. Or at least, he intended them to be stereotyped and then made it his purpose to pull you past the stereotype. Little Children is smart and challenges you to view people as wholes rather than by their stereotypes while at the same time making you laugh.

I also watched the movie and found it interesting. While I understood the purpose of the omnipresent narrative, it annoyed me and made the movie seem too satirical. The acting was good and I loved the casting of the characters. The ending I found both interesting and disturbing, as well as a little disappointing. The ending of the book felt right and felt as if the characters had clearly changed and understood themselves better. Meanwhile, the ending of the movie showed the characters somewhat changing but not in a satisfying way or to the extreme as in the novel. Sarah's transformation in the movie seemed really ridiculous and not at all the point, especially since it wasn't fear that transformed her in the book, but rather a true realization about herself and therefore I think that that transformation was much more powerful. And while Todd (or Brad, why bother changing his name in the movie I wonder??) followed through his transformation the same way as in the book, they left out one essential piece that had to do with his career, which was a huge issue for him throughout the novel. I found that disappointing as well because in the novel when he had his realization as a reader you're like, well, duh, yeah, that's totally what he should do for a living. Overall, I'm feeling a little so-so on the movie, but the book was just an excellent read, though I can see how it could rub some people the wrong way, sometimes I think you just need to get yourself rubbed the wrong way to shake things up. So go ahead and read it anyways.



Favorite Time of Year

I have to say that this is officially my favorite time of year... warm weather, cute summer dresses and skirts, vacations and birthdays!  Not to mention a new plus, kids are out of school.  That last fact used to be neither here nor there for me, but now that I work with kids for a living, this means I get to work with them earlier in the day which means I get to come home earlier than 7-8pm every night!  Wahoo!  And I used to bitch and complain when I'd have to leave work at 5:30pm!

My summer is completely booked, from family visiting here, to Thailand, back to Ohio for a wedding, birthday parties, baby showers... I've never had a busier summer in my life.  And right after summer's over?  School part time and work full time.  When did life get so busy.  When I think of my life a year ago, a boring ass job that sucked time away from me, to a whirlwind of a life that I don't seem to have enough time for.  Someday I will find a balance between the two, I promise.  But in the meantime, excuse me while I whirl away...

On June 21st I leave for Thailand with my esteemed hubby (mostly because I esteem him).  Pictures and blog posts (if feasible) will be up from the trip while I'm there.  I'm very excited, I've hit Europe and Africa, now onto Asia!  Then Antartica, my true dream destination despite the fact that I've grown completely incompetent in the cold having moved to the South.  100 bulls couldn't drag me back up North!

Enjoy the sun, my friends!

P.S. It is my goal to catch up with my book reviews before I leave for Thailand.


Too Passionate?

I've often been accused of being too passionate (usually by my mother). Usually my response is that there is no such thing as Too much passion. But can you have too Many passions? As a person who tries to fit in a ridiculous amount of life in as little amount of time as possible (I always used to think that I'd die young, after all), I've always been kind of intense. But it does sadden me when one passion begins to take over the rest of my life, such as my job as a social worker has right now. Sure I'm passionate about helping people, but when I come home too exhausted (or too late!) to write then I begin to wonder how can I loyally pursue both passions? Maybe I can't? Or maybe I can only do one at a time? Still figuring out the kinks in that one.

Either way, my loyal updates on the situation in Uganda has been slipping as well, although I have been keeping up on my own. In a huge disappointment, Kony did not show up to sign the hard worked upon peace agreement. The article I linked outlined where Uganda stands now and what the next steps could be for this country that hasn't seen peace for over 20 years. It is my hope that somehow in the next couple years I can become a part of this rebuilding process for Uganda.


Weapon X: A Review

Weapon X: Wolverine by Barry Windsor Smith is the classic beginnings of Wolverine story. While sometimes the art got a little bit convoluted, overall it was very effective and old school, and the added psychological thriller element to the story really made this Wolverine story an interesting read. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in the characters of this story, especially since the story of the making of Wolverine is so well known. Overall I can't say much more about this read without giving away too many elements of the plot twists. As always, with the story of Wolverine, it does sadden me what people will do to other living things. Although it is, obviously fictional, to every story there is some truth behind it otherwise it wouldn't hold any sway or pull with the audience.


A slight sidebar, I've been reading the three issue Logan series written by one of my faves, Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Eduardo Risso. I absolutely loved Vaughan's Faith arc in the Buffy/Season 8 series and thought that Pride of Baghdad was smart and moving. I have to say that I've enjoyed this Logan series. Not necessary loved, but enjoyed. The art is fantastic and the storyline interesting. It doesn't necessarily add too much depth to the dark and storied past of Wolverine, but it's been an interesting read and a view of Wolverine in a different setting with a different love other than the tired and old "I love Jean Gray" mantra. I actually have obtained the third book of this series but hadn't gotten around to reading it yet, so I don't know how the series ends... hopefully it's explosive! You can't go wrong with explosions, after all.

Also, because frankly it doesn't warrant its own post, but the Essential X-Men Volume 1 by Chris Claremont received 4* from me because it has the classic X-Men stories in it. It was black and white, sometimes difficult to get through and contained a little too much of the corny super-hero dialog, but is definitely an essential read for any true X-Men fan.

Astonishing X-Men - Gifted: A Review

The Astonishing X-Men #1 - Gifted written by my guy Joss Whedon brings back on old plot with a new fresh voice. Once again there are rumors of a mutant cure! With really great art and some added elements of character that Joss is so good at, this X-Men story has a couple of interesting plot elements and twists and is a fun read. Bringing back Kitty was pretty cool and I know a specific joy for Joss considering Kitty was one of the influences for my favorite vampire slayer. Nothing completely shocking in this first TPB of the Astonishing X-Men, but definitely a good start to the series which I hope will heat up in the next TPB.


The Sandman - Season of Mists: A Review

Hailed as one of the best out of The Sandman series, Gaiman's fourth Sandman book, Season of Mists, is a masterpiece in storytelling. In a story that takes Morpheus to Hell to rescue a past lover, whom he put in Hell, by the way, Gaiman once again tests your thoughts and perceptions of the nightmarish things in the world and turns things in a way to make human nature the scary thing that goes bump in the night.

Season of Mists is a complete story in that it has so many elements and layers to it and satisfies on many different levels. There is the love story between Morpheus and Nada and the interesting development in character for Morpheus when he admits that he is wrong. This story also explores the Sandman's family ties and the relationships that he has with the other Endless, including a lost (on purpose) brother whom in the end he chooses to respect and leave alone. The story also includes an array of interesting and new characters from many different worlds and dimensions whose interests in Hell are as varying as their appearances. Without a doubt one of the more interesting of the series that I've read so far and thought provoking as well. Again Gaiman's imagination delights and leaves me in awe.



Reaching For Peace.

As the Juba Peace Talks complete themselves and the peace agreement is waiting to be officially signed (despite mysterious postponements by the LRA), I ponder peace and happiness.

I've often reached for happiness in many different ways, my first addiction in books. Then came music, TV, friends, partying, etc. But after I learned happiness is more mercurial than that, I began to search for it in other people, in my career, in life circumstances. If only I had that perfect job, or that perfect dog, or that perfect house, or that perfect baby.

But now I feel as if I'm progressing to a new level of understanding of happiness. Real happiness at least, not just the immediate gratification pleasure happiness that our culture is so addicted to now-a-days. Happiness is that funny and kind note from a friend. Happiness is finishing a good book having learned something about yourself and life (I guess I kept that one from childhood). Happiness is a comfortable silence with a loved one. Happiness is learning something new. In short, happiness is a myriad of things bound together by one force... me. It isn't one Ultimate thing, but a million little things that make me happy. Maybe I'll never write that perfect novel, perhaps I'll never find that perfect job, but that doesn't mean I can't be happy and it doesn't mean that I failed in any way. This is perhaps one of the harder things for my overly ambitious mind to accept.

What is happiness to you?

Jhumpa is backa!

And in my favorite form of hers too! As much as my disappointment in her novel, The Namesake, I'm thrilled that she's written another collection of short stories, which is her forte after all. Eek, so many books, so little money...

A Wrinkle in Time: A Review

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle has been a warm fuzzy memory from my childhood for a while. I was fearful of rereading it because it had inspired such awe and inspiration for me as a child, I was afraid it'd lose that magic. Much to my pleasure, it was just as amazing as I remembered, and perhaps even more so with the growth of my knowledge in child literature.

To say that A Wrinkle in Time is innovative is an understatement, especially keeping in mind the time period it was written in (1959-1960, published in 1962 after nearly 30 rejections). The ideas are unique and push the limits of your mind (well, at least my mind, but my mind is quite limited when it comes to science), in such a way that as the introduction by Anna Quindlen says, I still don't completely understand the concepts of the book. The characters are strong and memorable, as well as faulty and realistic. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Meg is given the gift of her faults, what an elegant way to tell children to accept yourself, faults and all?

L'Engle created a beautiful and challenging book for children that can still strike awe and inspiration in adults as it did with me. I never read the rest of the books in the Time trilogy, but I've purchased them and they are waiting dutifully in my TBR stack. I can't wait!



The Seahawks' Spittle Shocker!

Two Super Bowls after the Seattle Seahawks poor showing in Super Bowl XL, fans are still bitter, and immature. At least he was arrested for this... oh yeah, and throw in a marijuana charge for good measure:
A 24-year-old South Kitsap man — and self-proclaimed Seattle Seahawks fan — was arrested Sunday for allegedly spitting on the hamburger he prepared for a man wearing Pittsburgh Steelers attire, according to Kitsap County Sheriff's Office reports.

Deputies said the 37-year-old man in Steelers garb took his daughters to a Mile Hill Drive fast food restaurant Saturday evening, and "began trading friendly barbs about his team and their victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL," reports said.

One employee told the man that he'd "better not say that to the guy that's making your food," but the man thought it was a joke, reports said.

That is, until he opened his "clamshell-style" hamburger container and discovered what he called a "loogie" on his hamburger.

The 37-year-old told his daughters to stop eating, demanded a refund and called the restaurant's district manager.

A deputy was informed by the manager that the person responsible may be a 24-year-old South Kitsap man who was near his quitting time when the incident occurred.

Eventually, the man confessed to spitting in the 37-year-old's hamburger container to "gross him out ... because he was a Steelers fan," deputies said.

He was booked into the Kitsap County jail for fourth-degree assault and possession of marijuana and released.
This is too hilarious to even be mad about, well, unless someone spit in my burger, of course. I think this Steelers fan can take one for the team.

Water for Elephants: A Review

Sara Gruen's story, Water for Elephants, takes readers back to the Great Depression, circus style! Alright, so it isn't all fun and games, as it might sound. Gruen bluntly relays the cruelties and ugliness of the circus during the Great Depression, and not just to the animals.

Told by a male protagonist, Jacob, in extreme old age (90 plus years, he can't remember exactly), a story of horror, romance and grief unfolds. Reeling from the death of his parents, Jacob drops out of Cornell and runs off to join the circus, sounds like a familiar plot, right? However, this circus is one of odds and ends gathered from dying circuses around the country. In the Great Depression, money for entertainment is not readily available, making circuses a dying cause that era. Jacob quickly falls in love, the catch? She's married to a man who possibly has bi-polar (my own diagnosis after analyzing his erratic behaviors) and shows immense cruelty to both humans and animals alike. Enter Rose, the elephant. A smart and mischievous and therefore utterly lovable elephant who quickly becomes the center of the story. With a violent climax, Gruen tries for the big reveal ending, which worked for some according to a couple of girls in my book club, but for me I predicted it halfway through the book.

Added to the blunt realities of the circus, Gruen does not shy away from Jacob's confinement in the "old folks home." Written with stark realism and contrasted with Jacob's younger years of freedom and independence, Jacob's present life in the home is depressing and extremely well written. I actually liked the chapters of Jacob in the home better than the exciting flashbacks because of how well written they were and also for the fact that it's easy to make a story about the circus interesting, but to make chapters about an old man sitting around in an old folks home interesting, now that's good writing. I was touched by those chapters and found extraordinary understanding and compassion in Gruen's writing. And not that I'd culturally ever do so anyways (Asian cultures tend to take care of their own elderly with reverence and respect), but I know for sure now that I'd never let my mother's feet touch the floor of any nursing home.

I wasn't exactly sure of Gruen's purpose of making the story a flashback, however. A mutual consensus of the book club was that there wasn't a "bigger meaning" easily gleaned from this book. The best I can come up with is a comparison between freedom and confinement in many different contexts. First, with Jacob having the freedom of running off to the circus with his whole life ahead of him and then contrasting that with the confinement of a nursing home where he's not even allowed to use his walker without permission. Also, the confinement of the animals and later their freedom which reeks havoc on the circus. And also the illusion of freedom with the circus folks, although many of them were trapped in the circus due to their unusual appearances or out of fear of being redlighted. And of course Marlena's confinement in an emotional and verbally abusive marriage, when she'd thought she was freeing herself from a boring and tedious marriage when she ran off with August. This does seem like the most consistent theme in the novel, however it did not strike any "aha!" cords in me or move me deeply in any way. More so, this book seemed like a light, enjoyable summer read (despite the cruelty in the book). The ending felt a little bit too convenient and tied up with a pretty red bow, and some of it was not so much believable to me, but it was fine because by the end I didn't expect huge aspirations for the book. It was more of a good story just for good stories sake, and that's just fine by me. The characters were memorable and the story was interesting.



The Sandman - Dream Country: A Review

A small break in the continuous story of The Sandman for a book of short stories in Dream Country. While losing some of the suspense of the other books that was one continuous plot line, it added texture and seemed to give life to many of the smaller interesting ideas that Neil Gaiman had been musing over but had been unable to incorporate into an entire book on its own.

Gaiman keeps with his dark and disturbing ideas in these stories, especially Muse in which a Muse is captured and brutalized by two separate writers looking for fame and fortune. Gaiman also brings fun twists of perception as he idealizes a world run by oversized cats. And of course, the charming story A Midsummer Night's Dream, that brings the world of Faerie together with Shakespeare's famed play. The last story, Facade, came off a little flat for me, but all in all, it was an enjoyable read and once again it stretches your imagination.

Where does this crazy man keep getting his ideas?



Eat, Pray, Love: A Review

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book about, well, one woman's search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia. The memoir is a brutally blunt look at Elizabeth Gilbert's "rock bottom" and her way back to happiness. The book invokes strong emotion from those that read it, so it seems, and tends be either loved or hated.

I took to the memoir without judgment, rolling with Elizabeth wherever she was in her journey. I'd been to the point in life where I was crying in the bathroom, unsure of myself and about my place and path in life. Who am I to judge her life crisis or her emotional breakdown? I found some of Elizabeth's methods of coping odd, but was okay with them because I have some odd ass methods myself.

The "eat" section of the book was incredibly slow for me because frankly, I don't care about food. I'm one of those people who if I could get through life without having to eat I'd do it. One less thing to do, after all. I'm also the type of person who can't function if I'm hungry, which really annoys me. I hate having to take care of myself overall, but having to feed myself three times a day, jeez what a pain. I also have fairly simple tastes, I'm definitely not a connoisseur of any sort of food, so in general, Gilbert's continuous descriptions of food fell flat on my tastes and I ended up skimming some of those parts, as much as I hate to admit that I skimmed, I did.

"Pray" was my favorite part of the book. As I'm a recent devotee to yoga and have been attempting to practice meditation, I appreciated Gilbert's frankness with the difficulties in practicing meditation and prayer. I felt that this part of the memoir touched me and met me where I was at spiritually, and frankly I'm more interested in developing countries such as India than any European country. I really felt touched by this section of the book and I admired Gilbert's devotion and struggles spiritually.

"Love" was entertaining and finally there was the juicy sex that everyone was looking for! Hope I didn't give anything big away, but for those frustrated in Italy that Liz wasn't getting laid by some hot Italian twin, fear not, her time will come. But this section also brings up some controversial topics when dealing with developing countries that I also had had some experience with. When someone Gilbert considers a friend begins to try to take advantage of her and get money out of her, Gilbert questions their friendship, but another foreigner to Bali explained to her that this was her friend's only chance to get anything in life and that to her this was survival for her and her daughter. I had a similar experience when in Uganda where a conference participant and someone I had considered a friend had told everyone that he had been robbed, again. Out of compassion many of the American participants gave him money to help him buy the things he'd lost only to find out months later that he had not been robbed at all but had lied to us to get money from us. I was both disappointed and hurt. But after reading Eat, Pray, Love I've thought about the situation a bit different, realizing that this Ugandan was in fact raising his two younger sisters on his own and did not have a job because the job market in Uganda is extremely sparse. It was survival for him, but on the other hand, did he deserve the money from us any more than the other Ugandan participants, all of which had their own individual struggles and family they were caring for, and yet they did not lie to us or ask for a dime from us? I always come back to my dear friend Abramz, whom I look up to and admire. He was helping children affected by the war with his Breakdance Project and paying for it all out of his own pocket, and also had not been able to obtain a job. And yet when I asked if I could purchase a copy of his CD, he refused to let me pay for it because he considered me his friend and would not take money from me. The only way I ended up "paying" for it was giving him a donation to his project in lieu of paying for the CD. So I guess I'm saying there are different ways people in developing countries can approach visiting Americans. One Ugandan took whatever he could get from them while they were there and then basically severed all ties with them since the lie, once revealed, made him untrustworthy. Abramz, on the other hand, decided to value the friendship more than the money, which was meaningful to me because although I know that I'm more well off than most of the Ugandans who were in the conference, I wanted to be seen and treated as a person, not a bag of walking money. And in return I've recently donated a large sum of money to Abramz, money I'd been saving up monthly for him, and that he'd never have dreamed of receiving. I can guarantee you that the amount of money that the Ugandan swindled out of us Americans was even half of what I've donated to Abramz, and I'm happy and feel fulfilled donating this money to Abramz because I have complete faith in his character.

Either way, I enjoyed reading this memoir. It provoked some thoughts and emotions about myself that I found useful and meaningful. Some of the ladies in my book club did not like this book because they felt that either it hit too close to home or that the author was "whiny." I guess I understand if it hit too close to home it'd be hard to read, but to call the author "whiny" and selfish annoyed me. I mean, um, hello, it's a memoir, it's supposed to be all about herself and her own thoughts. I found Gilbert extremely candid and brave and not whiny at all. Hell, I'd be twice as whiny as she was in many of the situations, so who am I to judge? Really, I had no judgment of the author's personal journey any more than I would of a friend going through a personal journey. Frankly, I'd have more judgment of myself than I did of the author because I respect people trying to figure things out for themselves and having the grace to find humor in it as well. I definitely don't prescribe to everything that she did for myself, but that's okay. Some of it was useful to me, other parts weren't, but it didn't bother me. Whatever I didn't find useful I just found entertaining and moved on.



The Life Of A Social Worker.

I realized that I hadn't posted on my blog for almost a month, and this is my quibbling explanation (or excuse, however you'd like to view it).  Not only do I owe an explanation but four whole book reviews, which will have to be done another night since this is already pushing my bedtime.

But as it is, all the rumors and talk about social workers are true... it is hard work.  Not that I'm complaining.  I've chosen it and I truly love it, but it is exhausting and out of my love and passion it takes up far more than the measly 40 hours a week of any normal job (though, in the USA, that can be argued for many jobs now-a-days).  I've been challenged and filled up more in these months in this profession then in the nearly two years as a Project Coordinator for an IT Consulting Company (god, that just sounds soooo boring and lame, doesn't it?)  There are days I've driven home in tears after sustaining an hour tantrum by a child.  I'm not sure if I've explained my exact niche in the huge social work field, but I'm what's called an Intensive In-Home Specialist, which basically means that I work within people's homes with the entire family for children who are either at risk for an out-of-home placement or are coming back from one.  So when I say that one of my kids had an hour long tantrum, these aren't your run-of-the-mill tantrums I'm talking about.  Either way, there are the stresses of the job that make me come home and tell my husband quite crossly that I don't ever want to have children.  Then there are the days that I come home and tell my husband - making it clear that there is to be no discussion, of course - that if a certain child were to be put up for adoption we'd adopt him immediately.  I've grown to deeply care for the children I work with, even those that most challenge me.  It is great and fulfilling work.

But leaves me really freaking drained and with barely any time for myself!!

Needless to say, I'm still trying to learn the balance of the job.  How much of your time, your heart, your thoughts do you give to the job without completely losing yourself?  I'm toeing the line right now, and am reaching back to those things that are important to me to pull myself back a bit.  Maybe if my loyal and very-angry-by-my-absence readers were to leave me comments demanding my attention back to my blog, I'll be more inclined to give myself the time to blog and write, which truly are important things to me.

Despite shamelessly begging for your love, I do promise to catch up on my reviews and to write interesting and intriguing blogs again about the issues that strike at my heart.  Most specifically all that has been going on in Africa as of late, with Kenya in an uprising and Uganda on the verge of peace, my eyes and ears are pointed towards the news from these countries.

And of course the huge splashes the Steelers are making in free agency... I mean, hello, Mewelde Moore!  Can the Steelers stop stealing from my other team please?  Ahh, when loyalties cross paths, what's a girl to do?


The Kite Runner: A Review

I had heard a lot of hype over this book and since the movie was coming out, predictably I made a huge effort to get this book read. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was not what I expected. For some reason I was expecting a more politically minded, look-at-how-the-Taliban-has-changed-people type of book, but in fact, all of the main characters who stay in Afghanistan stay remarkably the same (except they get older and a little ragged around the edges). The Kite Runner is a well written book with a nice story behind it. It enlightens you on life in Afghanistan before and after the Russian occupation (and then the Taliban liberation... and then the Taliban occupation). It is a sad story about the fall of a friendship and the fall of Afghanistan.

Truth be told, I really didn't know much about the history of Afghanistan, and I sure did learn a lot from this book. That might be my favorite thing about the book. There are many nice things about this book. It has some really beautiful moments and scenes in the book. The description of the kite running was, of course, the most beautiful and interesting. The story of the friendship between the boys was interesting, but got a little old after a while. Overall, I felt like all of the relationships in the book end up coming off dry in the end due to being beaten into the ground. Okay okay, I get it, the father was distant from the son! How many more little examples do we need? I guess this is the product of a story being told in flashback, if it's taking place in the present then you don't feel like the character's just continually rehashing the same point over and over again.

The "Big Scene" that took place early in the book that haunts our narrator was disturbing and sad, and there were other scenes that definitely got to you and disturbed you. While I was interested enough to keep reading and find out what happened, many of the plot twists seemed a bit too convenient to me and just cheapened the emotion of the story. I thought the ending was a little quaint and anti-climatic (following the over-dramatic near ending, if that makes sense). The mood of the book just didn't feel consistent to me.

The inelegant point I'm trying to make is that while the book had some powerfully written scenes scattered about here and there and while the story was interesting, it just didn't grab me and it didn't stick with me after I was finished reading it. I was just kind of like, alright, it's over. Next book. So I guess I was disappointed with all the raving and ranting people had been doing over the book because all in all it was just alright.



One Mango Tree.

I've been meaning to blog about this great project, One Mango Tree, for a while.  What's truly amazing about it for me personally is that I know the great girls behind this project because they're from the amazing group that I visited Uganda with!  The project is to empower the women of Northern Uganda and I couldn't think of two better people to facilitate this project than Halle (the US Coordinator) and Kate (the Uganda Coordinator).  And the products being sold are just awesome!  I know I have a bunch of purses and skirts that I'd had made in Uganda while I was there and I just love them and it's so great that now you can get these unique and beautiful items online!  I'm about to buy me a yoga bag!  You can read a lot more about the coordinators and the Ugandan women creating these products on the website, One Mango Tree.  To read an interview of one of the Coordinators, check out this link.  

And please, go online and buy buy buy!  Your money couldn't be going to a greater cause.

You'll be empowering women and helping people who have truly been through atrocious times.  

And plus, the stuff is sooo cute!  Great gift items too!  Isn't Valentine's Day coming up?


At Least I Know I'm Fertile.

According to the Chinese Zodiak, people who are born in the year of the Pig are extremely fertile. This belief and the added belief that babies born in the year of the Pig will benefit from the pig's image of being fat and happy has made this past year on the Chinese calendar a baby boom in China:

Chinese hospitals have been submerged in recent months under a tide of pregnant women; newborns are arriving in droves; and companies that manufacture diapers are upping their advertising budgets.


Since time immemorial, prospective parents have been told, children born under the pig's patronage will benefit from the animal's image as fat, happy and prosperous. Now, couples who schemed to have their babies in these blessed times are hoping for good fortune.

"My family already has two pigs, including my father, and I want to add one more pig," said a pregnant 28-year-old Beijing secretary who identified herself only as Ms. Lian.

Well this is good news to my family who are absolutely desperate (so it seems by the constant hounding) for me to have children... immediately. I am a proud Pig, but I've never heard of this extra perk of being a Pig until now. Maybe this fertileness will work out in my favor since I want to wait a bit longer to have children, so when I'm an old and decrepit thirty years old (which is Way too old to start having kids according to my family) I'll still be fertile enough to pop out a couple of kids.


Fortune Cookie.

How did I celebrate Chinese New Year, you ask? Well other than going down to visit my folks this weekend (traditionally we Do celebrate Chinese New Year for 15 days after the new moon), today Hubs and I got food from our favorite Chinese restaurant and my hubby got this curious fortune...

Every man is a volume if you know how to read him. :)

And yes, the smiley face Was in fact at the end of the fortune. Hmm, a volume, like a novel? Is it trying to say that men have a lot to them if you can learn how to read them since they don't say things directly? And what does it mean that a man got this fortune himself? Maybe it meant something else by "volume" and we have a case of Engrish.

And speaking of Engrish, I was recently enlightened to this amusing website, Engrish.com. Meanwhile, my brother got some Engrish in person while he was visiting China. I'll definitely keep my eye out for some while I'm in Hong Kong this summer...

Picture courtesy of  my brother.

Happy Chinese New Year!


What The Giants Did To The Patriots.

And yes, that is my actual dog getting humped by my friends' actual dog. Poor Vladdy...

I Should Have Been a Guy.

As I do every year around this time of year, I'm beginning to feel a bit down. Not because it's the winter and cold and dreary (especially not that since it's 60 degrees and beautiful today here in NC!) and not because the Holidays are over... but because football season is coming to a close.

I'm excited about the Super Bowl party I'll be attending tonight, but I truly, really, seriously hate the Patriots and I'm not looking forward to seeing them make history. I'm a Steelers fan through and through and if any team's going to make history I want it to be Mine and none other. Plus, I just can't stand the chauchiness of Tom Brady and the sleeziness of Belichick. I wouldn't say I'm a Giants fan whatsoever, and up until the Giants' recent run, I've been less than impressed with Mr. #1 Pick Eli Manning, but the Giants are the lesser of two evils at this point and time.

After the Super Bowl, I do have the Pro Bowl to look forward to, especially since Ben is finally be recognized for his amazing season. Although I'm still extremely annoyed that the Steelers team decided to award LB James Harrison, who had one amazing game and a solid season overall, the team MVP award when other than that one Monday night game against Baltimore I wouldn't say we won or lost a game because of him. Meanwhile Ben had his most amazing season ever, was the second best QB in the whole league, second only to Tom Brady who broke the TD passing record, and Ben pretty much carried the team through a multitude of injuries AND behind a sorry and struggling O-Line and his team doesn't even recognize him? Not to mention that he has stepped up as a leader on the team. That irks me, but I suppose that's the Defensive minded Steelers for ya...

The draft is always fun to do some research on and prepare for, but then after that is the slow slow days of summer and no football. Depression. What's a gal to do with herself?

I've come to the realization recently that I should have been a guy. I've always gotten along with guys better than girls (girls are so catty after all!) I used to play football during recess with the boys when I was in elementary school, and played with some of my guy friends when I was in high school (full tackle too, and boy could I lay a guy out!) I wanted to play hockey when I was in junior high. Of course I lived in Minnesota so that wasn't too unusual, but we couldn't afford the start-up equipment. Most of the times I don't mind being a tom boy, but around that time of month (god, I don't Need that drama) and when my hubby's guy friends invite him out to boys' night out which includes something I really want to do (like watch football, go to a hockey game or a monster car show, etc.) I get annoyed. I don't care if he goes out with just his guy friends, but couldn't they just go out and get wasted like normal guys? Why do they gotta do cool things that make me feel left out? All I get invited to do from my gal pals is shopping, and while shopping can do a heart good, it's nothing like drinking some beer and watching a game! Let the testosterone fly! I think I've scared my father-in-law while watching a football game with him. Hey, girls have testosterone too, maybe my levels are just a smidgen higher.

Anyways, I'm off the the Super Bowl party and I sure hope the other girls at this party won't be yapping my ear off while the game is on! God I hate that!


Atonement: A Movie Review

Having read the novel Atonement by Ian McEwan last year, I was eager to drag my poor hubby to the movie, though Keira Knightly was in it, so at least he had some eye candy (although she's suddenly skinny as a pencil, which is kind of unattractive to my hubby - much to my advantage).

I'm quickly becoming a pseudo connoisseur of books turned to movies (just because of my frequent reading/watching of them) and was pleasantly surprised by how well the movie followed the book (this rarely happens). The actors were well picked for the characters and the plot followed the book to a T. I felt that movie was extremely well done and the acting was great. I was impressed by the way the director, Joe Wright, incorporated a historical relevance into the movie because although the book didn't necessary give a historical relevance to the book specifically, the setting of the novel during WWI was a huge part of the novel and I felt that the historical relevance was naturally incorporated into the novel. Wright does so in the movie with class and in a manner fitting to the feel and theme of the movie. The movie was moving and powerful with a good pace and absolutely perfect editing. It's been a while since a book turned to movie (or just any movie out in the theaters recently) has been this satisfying and impressive to me.

Hopefully the Coen Brothers do as well with No Country for Old Men, which I'm planning on watching next weekend - as long as my hubby finishes the book by then...

No Country for Old Men: A Review

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy was my first McCarthy experience. I actually own All the Pretty Horses but had never gotten around to reading it. With the movie out for No Country for Old Men I was finally motivated enough to read my first McCarthy novel and finally found out what all the fuss was about!

No Country for Old Men is a modern day western story. Partly told from the point of view of an aging Sheriff, the book is not only about the actions of the story, but about how it relates to the direction our world is going. The Sheriff seems to waiver between having hope and being hopeless about our world, and his narrative sprinkled through out the book add a deeper context to the story.

McCarthy's writing is to die for, literally (at least in the novel, literally!) He brings simplistic writing to a whole new level. His writing is amazingly descriptive, but the truly amazing part about it is that he barely goes into detail about anything at all! He's a master of describing a scene or a situation by the way a character says something or by their body movement. His subtly is extremely well calculated and well thought out, and something that I personally strive for as a writer. Of course I tend to over-describe (if you couldn't tell). His writing is so articulate and well thought out that I read somewhere that the action in the movie is literally taken from the book, word-for-word, which is usually very difficult to do when turning a book into a movie because of how much descriptions of action is left out or glassed over. McCarthy not only describes nearly every action, he does so with simplicity and clarity. The book is fast paced, suspenseful and an extremely satisfying read. And at the same time it goes much deeper than that, it is a well written literary novel that ultimately connects the story to a much larger and meaningful picture. In every way that I believe McCarthy could strive for, I believe that this novel was a success. I'm pushing my husband to finish the book by the end of this week so we can see the movie this weekend!


The Sandman - The Doll's House: A Review

The second TPB for The Sandman by Neil Gaiman series is called The Doll's House. The story centers around a woman named Rose who also happens to be a "vortex." The book is as dark and twisted as the first one, and illuminates many sides of humanity both truthful and horrifying. The art in this series is more vivid and brighter than in the first TPB, but still carries that horrifying feeling with it. As I said with the first book, this is not a book I'd like to read before going to bed! It was absolutely thrilling and once again a master plot written by Neil Gaiman. A must read for anyone who liked the first TPB or for anyone who loves a twisted, horror story. Gaiman's not afraid to lay it all out there for the readers and this series is not for the weak stomached.



Snow and Stuff.

Today was the first snow fall at my new home of Raleigh, NC! My hubby, having grown up in the Midwest and thinking this snow is no big deal, is out braving the crazy roads in order to run some errands. Let's hope the roads aren't as crazy bad as all the North Carolinians make them out to be!! Especially because I was dead set on watching Atonement tonight...

Today feels like a lazy, stay in cuddly day, and that's pretty much what I've been doing all day. I'm about to clean up a little around here, but I also hope to finish (or at least nearly finish) No Country for Old Men so that my hubby can read it next and then we can see the movie next weekend. No Country for Old Men is definitely a "guys" book, but as I am, as are many cool ass women, a tomboy at heart, I love it. It's written with amazing simplicity that I'm insanely jealous over and the action is so well written that I've heard the movie pretty much takes the action scenes word for word straight from the book, which is extremely rare and hard to do when turning a book to movie!! I really think my hubby will love the book, I'm excited for him to read it...

A couple of links for those feeling the adventurous bug. This is the non-profit that I traveled to Africa with. They are a really great non-profit that are good at making the relationships and equal interactions between Americans and the Ugandans the lynch pin of their program. Please share these links with anyone whom you think would be interested:

International Art Academy Immersion
More Than A Game! Sports for Social Change Immersion

Snuggles, everyone!


One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: A Review

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is a great novel for anybody working in the mental health field to read. It takes place during the 60s mental health era, where shock treatments and lobotomies were generally accepted practices. In a book that was extremely well written and creative, it was disturbing for a mental health worker (like myself) to read. The mental health field is constantly changing and growing, and the newest perspective has moved from the "Case Management" perspective to what is called "Community Support." The emphasis on people learning to help themselves rather than having workers take care of people like they're helpless children. And inflicting shock treatments and lobotomies against people's wills is just flat out creepy.

I felt that the plot was a little slow as the plot wasn't necessarily the point of the novel, but rather the vehicle to illuminate the mental hospital and the characters involved. But it picked up near the end and the ending was inevitable. The characters, especially the narrator, Chief, were unforgettable and the story is sad on many different levels.

I also watched the movie. I liked it but felt that the book was much more powerful and effective in describing the feel of the mental institution. The way that Chief described the fog (of being on medication) and the Combine (the machinery of the government and society trying to control you) was brilliant in the book and definitely was lost in the movie. But it did pretty well overall reproducing the book, and it's unfortunate that over a legal dispute Kesey never watched the film. As if writers don't get screwed enough, stupid companies screwing them out of the movie earnings!! I mean, don't they know 95% of writers are poor as shit? At least if all they do is write and don't have another job too (which most now-a-days have to).



So I'm tentatively releasing some of the that breath I've been holding in this past month as I'm easing out of the busiest Holiday Season of my life. Work was just crazy, and again I'll have to work this weekend on paperwork (I'm hoping that this will be the last weekend I'll have to do this for a while) and of course family coming and going from my house and driving down the Charlotte to see some family has taken its toll on me. This weekend is the first weekend with no family at my home and no traveling for me! Phew!

Things I learned this Holiday Season, Rock Band on XBox 360 brings the family together, which quickly leads me to the highlight of my Holiday Season, which was getting my mom to play Rock Band and her actually enjoying it! I also learned that sometimes it's just easier to accept an HD DVD player even when you don't have an HD TV from my mom rather than stirring up the pot of controversy by thinking of returning it (eesh, that was just a headache conversation with Mom). I also learned that some of my family members read my blog and take some things I write too literally (Don't worry folks, I'm not broke! Just one month of a paycheck mix up!) and also spread it like wild fire amongst my loving family members. No wonder my aunt was constantly asking if I was okay. She's a sweetie.

It was great to see my family and I really loved it, especially my cousin whom I rarely see since he's out in California. I also really love my job even though it's been crazy busy, it should be getting better since we've got a new girl on my team now (a big Phew there) and I'm just completely in love with some of my kids. It's so hard to not take some of them home with me!! Especially the ones that I feel like I have connected with and who I feel like I can actually make an impact with. Did I mention one of my younger kids gave me a big hug (totally initiated by him) right before the holidays because we wouldn't be seeing each other for about a week? Yeah, I almost cried, it was the sweetest thing!

Glad to be back.


Read in 2007

Alright, so here's my master list of the books I read in 2007. All should be reviewed except for Stardust, which I really enjoyed and found a nice light airy kind of fairy tale for adults (there, that counts as my review, sorry, life's been crazy busy as of late!) I wish I had read more books, I definitely got caught up in the craziness that is life and slacked in the reading recently, but things are calmed down and I have substantially added to my ridiculous TBR pile with books from Christmas so I'm diving back into the wonderful world of the written word!

In 2007 I read 29 books which is roughly 2.41 books per month. That's pathetic! I'll blame moving and starting a new job for that. I'll aim for at the very least 3 books per month this year (which is about 36 books) but I want to hit a total of 40 books this year. I got my reading cut out for me, no more vegging in front of the TV! Well, except for Project Runway of course!

  • Stardust : Neil Gaiman : 4*
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Long Way Home : Joss Whedon & Georges Jeanty : 5*
  • 30 Days of Night : Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith : 4*
  • Fray : Joss Whedon : 5*
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven : Sherman Alexie : 5*
  • Atonement : Ian McEwan : 4*
  • The Collected Short Stories of Amy Hempel : Amy Hempel : 4*
  • The Sandman - Preludes & Nocturnes : Neil Gaiman : 5*
  • The Mysteries of Pittsburgh : Michael Chabon : 5*
  • Reread : The Last Vampire : Christopher Pike : 3*
  • Tales of the Slayers : Joss Whedon : 5*
  • The Amber Spyglass : Philip Pullman : 5*
  • The Subtle Knife : Philip Pullman : 5*
  • The Golden Compass : Philip Pullman : 5*
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows : J.K. Rowling : 4*
  • Watchmen : Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons : 5*
  • Then We Came to the End : Joshua Ferris : 5*
  • Reread : The Shipping News : E Annie Proulx : 4*
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns : Frank Miller : 5*
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer : Patrick Suskind : 2*
  • Hotel World : Ali Smith : 4*
  • The Night Watch : Sarah Waters : 4*
  • Schindler's List : Thomas Keneally : 4*
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring : Tracy Chevalier : 5*
  • The Sportswriter : Richard Ford : 3*
  • Suite Francaise : Irene Nemirovsky : 5*
  • Notes on a Scandal : Zoe Heller : 5*
  • The Cleaner : Brett Battles : 4*
  • Crime and Punishment : Dostoevsky : 5*

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