Sunday, February 28, 2010

At the movies....


Every year, some dear friends get together to watch the Oscars (or more accurately, look at all the sparkly attire and make fun of the fashion disasters.) Although I don't tend to be overly competitive, this addition of a ballot and voting has switched on my competitive OCD and I MUST watch each and every nominee even if all they only were nominated in the Best Song catagory.

So, this weekend I went to the AMC Oscar Showcase. I have been attending these since AMC started doing them and I always have a great time in spite of the hours of sitting that are required. This year, because the Oscars now have 10 nominees, AMC has split the movies between two weekends. Unfortunately, that means that my group of 10+ friends who spent the day with me last year decided not to do it again this year. Luckily a small group still joined me for week #1. Next weekend I will attend alone. (I think)

Avatar
was surprising good and in fact, I got a little teary during the tragically romantic parts. The dialog and story were clunky and could have used some work but the cinematography was out-of-this world. Even if you are not a SF geek, I suggest you try to make time to see this one. This just wouldn't be the same on a small screen and the idea that this might change the way movies are made is not as outlandish as I previously thought. This should be a shoo-in for all of the cinematography and special effects Oscar awards.

Up in the Air
was an interesting choice for an Oscar nomination. It was the polar opposite of Avatar. The movie is set primarily in airports, hotels and offices and the gray tonality of the film matched George Clooneys characters personality. It was interesting to explore the idea of losing the baggage and people from your life and reducing your life to a suitcase and a hotel room. This would be a good one to rent since this is a movie more about ideas than action and aventure. No big screen theatrics are needed to explore ideas about what makes a life worth living.

Precious was good but exceptionally grim. I had already seen this movie and thought this held up well with a second viewing. It is definitely a movie that celebrates literacy as a way out of an awful situation and made me want to go to Literacy Kansas City to sign up to be a tutor. Realistically, with the part-time job I would have very little time to spend two or three days a week tutoring but someday it will be on my ever expanding to-do wish list.

The Blind Side was not a movie I was looking forward to since I get very grumpy when I have to sit through a movie designed to play on my sympathies in overly sentimental ways but in spite of myself, I was charmed. I would love to have to the courage to take a stranger into my home and immediately treat them like family. This is worth watching for the feel good factor but in my opinion, not really a viable Oscar contender.

Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino at his best. Certainly it was bloody but it entertaining as only he can be. This rewrite of Hitler's WWII felt completely fresh and new and even if it was a work of complete fiction, it was nice to see the Jewish people fight back. Tarantino is not for everyone but if you can stand the violence, it was a spectacular movie.

Other movies I watched this week:

In the Loop - An Office-type movie in a British political setting. I should have liked this better than I did but I ended up getting distracted and wandering off a lot. Maybe it would have played better on the big screen for me.

Bright Star - Romance between poet John Keats and next door neighbor Fanny. Interesting setting and time period but I could not for the life of me see why she would fall for him other than his romantic poetical demeanor. This was directed by the same woman who directed The Piano, another movie with "romantic" elements I failed to appreciate.

The Cove
- a scathing diatribe against the dolphin entertainment industry and Japan for encouraging the fishing of dolphins. Not a balanced look, but a passionate one and for anyone who loves animals and finds dolphins appealing, this is a horrifying and radicalizing look at a practice that is deadly for dolphins and humans alike.

Paris 36
- I haven't cared much for any of the more musical offerings this year and this movie was no exception. In spite of the main character's rather sad life, apparently the driving force for the plot, I couldn't bring myself to care that much about the characters or want to know what was going to happen next. I do tend to like French movies but this one just didn't do it for me.

The White Ribbon
- my movie watching friend loathed this one but I found it to be oddly compelling. I had originally thought this would be a horror movie but instead it was a study of "man's inhumanity toward man". It was very dark and dour and very, very German. I do wonder if I would have stuck with it if I had been watching it at home on DVD however.

The Young Victoria
- I liked this one very much in spite of its rather slow pace. It made me want to find some good biographies on the the couple and find out if the movie accurately represented this rather charming love story.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Free e-book Friday

From the press release: "The eBook edition of Daniel Blythe’s X Marks the Box: How to Make Politics Work for You, is being given away in its entirety and completely free for three weeks preceding the publication of the print edition."

Go to the author’s site, www.xmarksthebox.co.uk, or Waterstones’ ebooks homepage http://www.waterstones.com/ebooks until March 4th.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Last night we met for Book Group and discussed Very Valentine: A Novel. Well, mostly we gossiped but we did discuss the book for a few minutes.

Very Valentine is the story of an Italian American 30-something named Valentine, who has moved in with her Grandmother so she can learn the custom shoe industry from her. At around the time she meets a good looking Italian boy she learns that the family shoe business is in deep financial trouble. Trying to save the company puts strain on all of her relationships and she must try to decide what is truly important to her. This is very much a Chick-Lit title with more focus on the main character growing as a person than on her romances.

During the discussion, there was some unhappiness with the relationship between Valentine and her boyfriend, especially from the attendees who are romance readers. However, learning that this is the first in a trilogy did seem to make a difference to a few of the people who expressed this frustration. Others found the not-so-perfect relationship to be very typical of the modern dating world and felt it contributed to the style and pacing of the story. One person thought there was too much focus on the back story and family dynamics. Everyone agreed that her relationship with her Grandmother was the strongest part of the book and very charming.

I personally enjoyed this novel very much. I liked the dynamics with her family and co-workers much more than I did the sections about her budding relationship. I love novels in which the character or characters build their own family (especially when they throw in a couple of quirky characters.) I will definitely be checking out the second in the series, Brava, Valentine: A Novel which came out February 9, 2010.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book Club

The newest book club I belong to is a "Martini" Book club. This usually means we are more interested in the martini than the book (Very Valentine in case you are interested.)

I couldn't make the martini I selected because there is a suspicious lack of lychee liquor in Kansas so I took the liquor store workers advice and made a Full Moon Martini, consisting of equal parts Grand Marnier and Amaretto with a healthy blast of lime. It was okay but not spectacular. My favorites are still the citrus martinis like the Key Lime Martini or the Lemon Drop Martini which is why I was so excited about the Lychee Martini. I should have looked at a few more recipes and I would have found I could use Lychee juice instead for the Martini.

The food, on the other hand was very good. I decided since the book was partially set in Italy I would have some good Italian olives, marinated mozzerella, and bruschetta. At the last minute I because fascinated with this blog and decided I simply must try the Crock-Pot Baked Brie. I will definitely be making this again. It was easy and really, really good.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happiest Cities

I have been hearing about Kansas City not doing well in this survey. It's good to know we don't come in at the bottom of the list.

The 10 happiest cities are:

1. Boulder, CO
2. Holland-Grand Haven, MI
3. Honolulu, HI
4. Provo-Orem, UT
5. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
6. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA
7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
9. Ogden-Clearfield, UT
10. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA

... and the 10 unhappiest cities are:

153. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL
154. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC
155. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
156. Evansville, IN-KY
157. Kingsport-Bristol, TN-VA
158. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA
159. Flint, MI
160. Charleston, WV
161. Modesto, CA
162. Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH

From USA TODAY

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Over My Head

In my excitement to get started with my new committee I may (or may not) have submitted 36 suggestions to read for the month of February. You would think that this would teach me to be a little more judicious in my choices for March....but you would be wrong. For next month (so far) I have compiled a list of 78 titles. If I keep up this pace I will have to quit both jobs and stay home to read which is clearly an unworkable plan. Therefore, I am going with Plan B which involves recruiting friends topre-screen some of the titles on my list. I already have a few victim....I mean, volunteers lined up.

Anyone else interested in reading some books and giving me your opinion?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oscar Short Films

This weekend I went to the Tivoli for the 2010 Short Film Oscar showcase.

Here is my favorite animated short film:




My favorite live action short film was The Door (not a happy film). My friend almost fell out of her chair laughing at Instead of Abracadabra. Sadly, neither of these are online right now but you can download them from iTunes.

The next night I went to A Single Man and Nine. I really liked A Single Man, a story about a man distraught about the loss of his beloved partner, even though I ended up teary most of the way through the movie. Nine, on the other hand, was tedious. Maybe it was because I was a woman, the plot, man thinking about all of the women in his life and realizing he was messing them all up, was not at all to my taste.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Free E-Book Friday

Science Fiction authors are always the first to see the possibilities of offering free literature online. This weeks offering is from a website called Free Speculative Fiction Online http://www.freesfonline.de/. I hope you find a story or two to read and enjoy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Favorite Things


So I lied. I told you that I would be reading the book, Crawl Space, last night but at the last minute this book came in. I LOVE Connie Willis novels and her newest is a continuation of one of my favorite time travel books, To Say Nothing of the Dog: Or How We Found The Bishop's Bird Stump at Last. Between dipping into this book and going to see the movie The Young Victoria, (for my Oscar movie watching marathon) I did not end up reading Crawl Space. I am sure it is a lovely book, but dude, it just can't compete with time travel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And it starts again....


I just turned in my first suggestion list (40+ books) for the new book award committee and ordered them all from the library. Now I present you with the first book I will be reading for the new award....

Monday, February 15, 2010

What I Am Working On

I spent most of last week working on a new Readers Advisory training plan for my staff. Readers Advisory, for those who don't know, is the ability to suggest books that a reader will enjoy (NOT what you think they should be reading) and it is one of my favorite library related things to do. There is more to it than that but you get the idea. Every month my staff will meet to discuss different genres of books. Our first session will be an organizational meeting and then we will jump right in and start with mysteries. During the second meeting we will explore useful tools and discuss the appeal factors of our first genre and then we will have a discussion on a book that the entire group reads together. For the third session each person will pick a book from a different sub-genre and do a short review and book talk. We will continue with the training until all the genres are covered....and then we will start over again.

The beauty of this new plan is that the basic structure of it was a gift from a librarian at the St Louis County Library. Two of the book lists were gifts from library friends on a Listserv. After consulting a Genre studies book, I contacted the author (another librarian) and got some tips from her. The collaboration among libraries is only one of the many reasons I love being a librarian.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Love

Public Service Announcement. It is important to know that pink hearts are the rejects of the candy heart world. Show them a little love and pick a pink heart next time you indulge.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! This morning a friend sent out the following tweet: "RT @kst8ter76 Was just discussing with a friend the tragedy of people not knowing how important they are to others. For V-day lets #spreadlove" To honor this idea, over the next few months I am going to attempt to highlight some of the special people in my life.

In a past post I have mentioned how important the blogger community has become during the past two years. One of the couples I met shortly after I started attending the blogger meet-ups was a couple named Bea and Logtar who have are now a big part of my life. They are two of the most loving, generous, positive people I have ever met and to know them is to love them. (Plus, Bea loved books which made me predisposed to love her.) Several months ago, they broke the blogger community's collective hearts by moving to Chicago. I know it was a wonderful opportunity for them but we all miss their exuberance and joy. Luckily, they also miss us and come back to visit as a special Valentine's Day treat. Their visit made my weekend special.
Photo of Bea and Logtar courtesy Average Jane

Friday, February 12, 2010

Suvudu Free Book Library

"With the Suvudu Free Book Library, you can read the first book in some of their most acclaimed series absolutely free! They are kicking off the library with five full-length novels for you to sample, but will be adding new titles on a regular basis."

http://www.suvudu.com/freelibrary/

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Simple Meme: What Book Are You Reading Now?












Here's a simple Meme...answer the following questions.
  1. What Book Are You Reading Now?
  2. Why did you choose it?
  3. What's the best thing about it?
  4. What's the worst thing about it?
Here are my answers...

  1. Use of Weapons by Iain Banks
  2. I am reading it as part of my paranormal romance challenge from my Goodreads.com group.
  3. Discovering a brilliant new-to-me author.
  4. The book doesn't really fit the "paranormal romance" parameters.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winterfest at the Library



I picked "Picture Wednesday" for my blogging schedule because I thought it would be an easy middle of the week post. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to remember to take pictures of anything interesting. Therefore I am going to pull a picture off my phone that was sent to Twitter last week. Here is a picture of the boss and another staff person dancing in Kirk Hall at the Central Library. (I did tell the boss I was twittering him.)

Several years ago the library decided to do away with the annual Christmas party and have something called Winterfest instead. The beauty of this approach is that you can schedule it for anytime that winter is occurring. Usually this event falls squarely on my birthday which always makes me a little cranky. This year it didn't happen until February, last Friday night to be precise. This year it didn't seem like as many staff attended which was a shame because the committee did a really nice job with the food and drinks this year. I did miss catching up with all the retirees who usually attend but it was still a nice evening.

Happy Winter everyone!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

After the award committee...

I was going through my folders on Dropbox trying to free up space for new files and came across a blog post I had started with the title, "After the award committee". I had created it a few months ago as my time on the Notables committee was coming to an end.

I guess my list of all the things I was going to do to fill up my days will once again have to wait until "after the award committee". Please note that I did start taking some yoga classes so at least one item on the list is being accomplished.


Lately I have found myself uttering the words “when I am done with the award committee I am going to….” so I thought I would start a list.

  1. Learn Italian so that the next time I visit Italy I can flirt with the cute Italian boys.
  2. Take a cooking class so that I have a few new recipes. Since drifting back into vegetarianism I have gotten bored with my few basic recipes.
  3. Learn to knit or crochet or something crafty that can be turned into a good Christmas gift (to go along with the giant stacks of books I currently give out).
  4. Start taking yoga classes.
  5. Start a vegetable (or herb) garden.
  6. Sign up for the Master Gardener classes.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Stress and Work

Today I started a series of webinars offered through work by our insurance on minimizing stress. I will be keeping a journal of "stressful moments" during my day and I also had a few assignments. The first was to take the Myers Briggs test. As always I am an INFJ. One of the INFJ key traits is that we tend to over analyze ourselves and every situation in our world. Needless to say, I love taking tests that analyze why I do the things I do. In this case, the workbook has several tips on what tends to stress this personality type out and what to do to minimize my stress. Oddly enough, over analyzing things is something I should be avoiding.

Hmmm....does this mean I should stop taking personality tests?

If you want to know what the Myers-Briggs test is or it means to be an INFJ you can go to the following websites:
INFJ Wikipedia page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INFJ
Myers Briggs Wikipedia page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

My other assignment was to do some deep breathing exercises. Unfortunately, I kept getting distracted by my email when I tried to do these at work. I have done them effectively at yoga class so I know I can.....away from the office anyway.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Room Rehab


This week my Mom came to visit and we completed one more item in the bedroom rehab project. Last time she was here we shopped for a new bedspread and repainted the bedroom a blue/gray color. This time, with the help of my fabulous handyman, we took on crown molding.







What we learned from this experience is that crown molding is hard and having a former professional was a must. We originally thought this was going to be a learning experience for us and that by the time we got around to another room we would be able to do it all by ourselves.

Hah! We might be able to do it ourselves IF we buy pre-made corner pieces. It took hours to get all the pieces just right. Taking the extra time paid off though because it looks fantastic now.

We still have a few pieces of furniture and lamps to buy, pictures to hang and a new light fixture to find but when it is done, it should look completely different. I just wish I had taken some "before" pictures.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Free e-book Friday

Mills & Boon is offering free e-books, including "Silent in the Grave"
by Deanna Raybourn. They only have ePub and MobiPocket formats.

http://www.everyone sreading. com/

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Stephen Dunn: Poet

Stephen Dunn is one of the poets selected by our committee for outstanding work this year. Below is one of my favorites.

Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry by Stephen Dunn
Relax. This won't last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines
make you sleepy or bored,
give in to sleep, turn on
the T.V., deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand
such things. Its feelings
cannot be hurt. They exist
somewhere in the poet,
and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime. Start it
in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama,
and can offer you violence
if it is violence you like. Look,
there's a man on a sidewalk;
the way his leg is quivering
he'll never be the same again.
This is your poem
and I know you're busy at the office
or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it's sex you've always wanted.
Well, they lie together
like the party's unbuttoned coats,
slumped on the bed
waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don't think you want me to go on;
everyone has his expectations, but this
is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser
is dripping from a waterfall,
deodorants are hissing into armpits
of people you resemble,
and the two lovers are dressing now,
saying farewell.
I don't know what music this poem
can come up with, but clearly
it's needed. For it's apparent
they will never see each other again
and we need music for this
because there was never music when he or she
left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer
than life. I want you to look at it
when anxiety zigzags your stomach
and the last tranquilizer is gone
and you need someone to tell you
I'll be here when you want me
like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don't give anything for this poem.
It doesn't expect much. It will never say more
than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case
or in your house. And if you're not asleep
by now, or bored beyond sense,
the poem wants you to laugh. Laugh at
yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Come on:

Good. Now here's what poetry can do.

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You're beautiful for as long as you live.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Week Four: Photo Sharing (23 Things)

I have skipped 23 Things, Online Meetings, because I am still scrounging for a headset. I have decided I will pick that one up later.

This week 23 Things is focusing on one of my favorite things, photo sharing. The services I am supposed to explore include Flickr, Picasa, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery or Photobucket. With the exception of Kodak Gallery, I currently have accounts with all of these services but I have to admit, most of photos still reside on Myspace (older) and Facebook (newer). Instead of inserting a picture into my post (the assignment), I provided a link to Flickr in the sidebar.

My family uses Snapfish because it is owned by Hewlett Packard and since my sister works for them, the family shows its brand loyalty by uploading our shared pictures to that site. I used Flickr heavily for a couple of years but now only post trip pictures there.

If you want to "friend" me on these sites I have provided links below.

Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/aahlvers/
Picasa - http://picasaweb.google.com/aahlvers
Snapfish - See sidebar on this blog
Photobucket - Link to one of my albums.
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/aahlvers

My eyes are bigger than my brain

Keeping up with my feed reader is becoming a huge problem these days because I went off the deep end and subscribed to blog feeds on every topic that interests me. Turns out, I am interested in a whole boatload of stuff. I have everything from Archaeology to Zen in my feed reader right now and sadly, much of it must go before my new award committee work begins.

Right now the technology, library, cooking and old favorites get to stay. Goodbye to the science, gaming and art.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Paranormal Reading Challenge

Goodreads.com is one of my favorite interactive book sites because it has the feel of a social networking site. This month I joined the Paranormal Romance group because the have a monthly reading challenge that I found intriguing. For the most part I selected Paranormal Romance novels although I did have to cheat a bit with the male author.

"For the month of February, we are going to show some love to the very people whose efforts have given us so much fun and enjoyment - the authors. I dubbed this month's challenge as All About Authors reading challenge."

Read a book by the following:
1. A Favorite Author - The Fire King by Marjorie Liu
2. An Author that is "new" to you - The Magic Knot by Helen Scott Taylor
3. An Author you had given up before but willing to give a second chance - Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn
4. A GoodReads Author - Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs
5. An Author born in the same year as you. If you cannot find one, one who died on that same year is also acceptable. -
Stolen by Kelly Armstrong
6. An Author whose first or last name starts with the initial of your first name - Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur
7. An Author whose first or last name starts with the initial of your last name - Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews
8. A male Author - Use of Weapons by Ian Banks
9. A female Author - Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine
10. With more than one Author (anthologies included) -Many Bloody Returns by Charlene Harris, Jim Butcher, etc...