Postcards: SKS and one from Alaska


I got a very fun postcard invitation of Cindy’s parents’s anniversary.  In strange happenstance, they are also expecting their first grandchild this year.   Here’s a delightful post from 2013 where Matt and I attended Cindy’s wedding.

I also got a fun postcard from Sara.  She got it at the Red Balloon Children’s Bookstore because she LOVES Jane Mount, the illustrator.  I was not familiar with Jane Mount, or Ideal Bookshelf, but it seems to be a good way to celebrate books.

Miss Joan Gunnuss

Miss Joan Gunnuss died today. I know her because her husband John is one of my former co-workers. She died of cancer, and like probably all cancer deaths, it’s a shame.

Joan was one of those good people that there should be more of.  She was kind and curious and was always glad to see me.  I’m guessing she was always glad to see hundreds of people.

My first encounter with her was an observation.  It was back-to-school time and everyone was getting into the swing of things.  For me and two other teachers, it was the first time we did the back-to-school thing at this particular school. It was hectic and tiring and there were so many new faces.

One of the new teachers, Ariel, was going out of the school, passing through the vestibule–a passageway I could see from my desk.  A woman was coming in and Ariel and the woman locked eyes.  There was some sort of recognition and exclamation and hugging before Ariel continued out the door and the woman came in.

The woman was Joan.  She had taught Ariel dance, or possibly yoga, when she was a girl.  Ariel was glad to see Joan and Joan was thrilled to run into a former student all grown up.  They had a connection, even after all the years had gone by.

I officially met Joan later that day and we had a connection too. Because Joan wasn’t the type of person to give you a cursory once-over and a “nice to meet you,” then slot you into a category and be done with the meeting.  She really looked at you. She was genuinely happy to meet you.  She remembered things about you.

Joan was a hippie in the best way. She taught yoga. She had long hair.  She was full of joy. She lived in a tiny old house on a blueberry farm that was surrounded by a huge suburban housing development.  She was long and lean and moved with grace and purpose.  She loved her dogs, her children, her husband and seemingly everyone else.

I remember at her and John’s wedding watching her walk to the alter.  She took time to look everyone attending in the eye. “It was like she was thinking, ‘I want to remember everyone who was here,'” my co-worker said later when I remarked on it.

Aside from movement, Joan loved music.  She was always up for a sing along, played guitar and loved to have at least a couple songs where the choruses were whistled.

She will be missed by many.  I’m glad to have known her.

Books read in April 2018

A big month of YA.  And a great YA month.

Picture books: Baby Monkey, Private Eye
Young Adult: I mean, everything?  Except the Hazel Wood.

They Say Blue
Jillian Tamaki
Read for Librarian Book Group
Beautiful illustrations and a meditation on color.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye
Selznik & Serlin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Hilarious easy reader story of Baby Monkey solving important cases. You’ll love Baby Monkey’s expressions, his difficulty putting on pants, and how his office decor changes to match the case. Don’t forget to read the index!

Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship
Latham/WatersQualls/Alko
Read for Librarian Book Group
Good poems exploring race and other topics kids bring up.

Island Born
Diaz/Espinosa
Read for Librarian Book Group
What to do when your assignment is to draw a picture of where you come from, but you have no memories of that place? Lola asks people to tell her their stories and they do, giving her lots of things to put in her picture.

The illustrations are delightful. I could easily frame every one of them.


The Story of Owen
E.K. Johnston
Read for Family Book Group
While my second reading of this book was just as delightful as the first, the Family Book Group discussion was very polarized with about half of the group disliking the story intensely.  Reasons for their disinterested: nothing happens (so not true!) and the dragon slayers are the bad people (missing the dragons=climate change connection, and actively rejecting it when presented with it). Our ratings were siloed at the zero level and at the 9-10 level, with only one participant giving the book a seven.  Overall this is our worst reviewed book thus far.  Sigh.

Speak: The Graphic Novel
Anderson/Carroll
Read for Librarian Book Group
I have not read the non-graphic novel version of this story, so I can’t say how well the story translated to graphic form. I can say that all of the swirling feelings were deftly illustrated and the book had great resonance.

Thunderhead
Neil Shusterman
Read for Librarian Book Group
And so our story continues.  This book picks up Rowan and Citra’s story one year after Scythe ends.  We re-acquaint ourselves with people from the first book, meet a new person, and spend time with the Thunderhead.  The pacing is unbelievable.  This 500+ page book goes down fast and furious. It left me panting for book three, which–alas–has no release date.

The Hazel Wood
Melissa Albert
Read for Librarian Book Group
I found the dark fairy tale/mystery/weird-things atmosphere intriguing for a good chunk of the book. But by the time Alice set out for the Hazel Wood, things turned trippy in a way that reminded me of some subsets of 60s cinema.  And not in a good way.

I Have Lost My Way
Gayle Forman
Three strangers have all lost their way, but they find each other in New York City’s Central Park. Forman weaves the present day narrative with episodes from the characters’ past and a complete picture of their lives emerges.  This book also fit into the “famous” category of book I’ve been enjoying for the past few years.

I happen to think it has a terrible cover.  The story inside the cover was much better.

Zenn Diagram
Wendy Brant
I loved the premise of this book:  when Eva Walker touches a person, or objects that they own, she gets insights into that person.  This comes in handy in her job as math tutor, because when she picks up a person’s calculator, she can tell exactly where they are getting stuck.

This is a good first-relationship book and also a good changing-friendship book.  I liked how Eva’s father is a minister, and Eva is not religious, but that never became a fractious plot point.

Overall, I thought the great premise was slightly spoiled by a little too much of everything: feelings, reactions, drama, quadruplet siblings.  But it was an enjoyable read overall and I look forward to Wendy Brant’s next book.

The Poet X
Elizabeth Acevedo
Read for Librarian Book Group
A novel in verse that is very readable! Xiomara is doing the things that her mother wants her to, including attending confirmation for a religion she doesn’t really believe in, and ignoring the attention her curvaceous body brings from the neighborhood boys and men. She writes poetry, but doesn’t share it.

As her life grows more complicated, Xiomara’s poems capture the conflict she has with her mother, her observations of her brother’s problems, the interest of a classmate and other parts of her daily life.

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart
Jenn Bennett
Beatrix Adams wants to be a medical illustrator. A chance meeting with Jack leads to a summer romance. There are complications, but my favorite thing about this book is that the complications never have to do with the question of whether Beatrix and Jack will be together.

One week with the Roomba

It’s been a week of Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! taking care of the floors and I can say that it has never been so clean under my bed.  Under the couch is probably looking good too.

Rudy takes a long time to do his job. He’s supposed to run for an hour and then return home, but most days he runs for an hour, I get a notification he’s done and then he runs for another 45-60 minutes.  I don’t love this.

I have to do about 5-10 minutes of prep work for Rudy.  Here you see the most extreme version.  He tends to get caught on the Ikea chair, though–report from the future–in about another week I will realize I can prop the back legs of the chair up on 1-cup mason jars and he will be fine.

Reading all the reviews on Amazon, I was worried he wouldn’t clean this carpet.  The sensor that keeps him from falling down stairs might have interpreted this as a void, but he is not deterred.

Antares mostly still hides while Rudy is doing his cleaning, but Sentinel will sometimes keep an eye on the vacuuming process.

And Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! still spends a goodly amount of time trying to figure out how to get out from under chairs.

While I am not completely in love with the robot vacuum cleaner itself, I do like the clean floors.  Perhaps my affection will grow.

Three sentence movie reviews: Lost in Paris

I knew from the trailer this was going to be a movie I would love as it included striking colors, an engaging main character, and a moment that made me laugh out loud. The movie delivered, with a gentle humor that kept going throughout.* The physical comedy** was a treat, as was Fiona Gordon’s French accent that was so bad even I winced, and I look forward to other movies by Abel & Gordon.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

*In the DVD extras, Abel & Gordon comment on how much of modern humor is sarcastic and mean, and that they work to avoid that in their comedy.
**The DVD extras also include a primer on the type of comedy Abel & Gordon do, which is called Burlesque. This is not what we in America think of Burlesque, but a comedy tradition with a long history in France.

I include the trailer so you can see if it’s a movie you would love:

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2017/paris_pieds_nus_ver2.html

Progress on the backyard project

In two hours, we got some good work done on our backyard. Here you can see Matt smoothing out dirt we’ve moved to bring the grade up. We put strings on our stakes and made things level. Also, this is the widest part of the yard we have to grade, so that means that the work from here on out will go even more quickly.

I couldn’t bear to kill off the asparagus that has performed so well for me for so many years. So my job was digging up the old crowns and putting them in the trench I dug to plant the new crowns.

The old crowns are huge, especially in comparison to the spindly new crowns.
Here you can see one of the new stalks poking its head above the ground.

Once again the rain part of the day started after we finished our work. Good job, weather.

Highlights from the Avenue of the Roses Parade

Friends Mark & Amanda live at the end of the Avenue of Roses Parade route and host a party. I love a good parade, especially a good small parade, so I went. Here are some highlights.

While 82nd Avenue does have problems with prostitution and I certainly support this group’s efforts, I kept imagining the questions posed along the parade route, “Mommy, why don’t real men buy sex?”

Who doesn’t love a good scary dragon?

I was intrigued by these characters, and unfortunately, missed capturing the group’s name.

Gotta love returned Peace Corps volunteers.

I also loved this cool holder for the saint carried by this Catholic church. It allowed for smooth carrying and left room for waving.

These puffy air-filled dinosaurs were delightful. I’d never seen puffy characters before.

Some cool parade goers make some noise and wave the flag.

It became apparent that the classic cars were turning right off of 82nd, and we were to the left, so we missed them, but we did get to see a lot of the parade. Thanks to Mark & Amanda for hosting.

Song of the month April 2018

“Bill Murry” Matt Nathanson

This is another from KINK Sunday Brunch. Which, now that we’ve started working in the yard on the backyard project, I don’t get to listen to.

This is the kind of song I really love.  Weird theme, the kind that makes me look up from my cooking and wonder what in the hell I’m listening to.  I think I made Google tell me. There’s a Portland reference.  The video is also wacky.

The chorus is a good one:  I won’t only love you when you’re winning/Other fools pretend to understand/Come on take my hand, we’ll go down swinging/Let me be your man, let me be your man.

YouTube and Wikipedia also inform me that this artist also covered James’s “Laid” for the American Pie movies.  He’s aged a little since that song was recorded.  And haven’t we all?

My second song was the song from the end of Outside In.  I liked it.  The Internet is not telling me who sang it.