November morning walk.

My week off afforded a morning walk when it was actually light out. I’m having a bit of trouble with the darkness and cold this winter. Highlights:

Long before I lived in North Portland I used to bike here a lot. I’ve always loved the small house/big lot combination that flourishes here. This is a nice example.
Oh my, what a pretty craftsman house. I love it!
Except from this direction where they have decided to add a carport-cum-drive-in. If the zoning changes, they can make a killing serving hamburgers and root beer floats. What were they thinking?
What would this hole be doing in this fence?
Ah, a hole left over from the days when the meter reader actually had to read the meter.
This fence surrounded this very box-like house. The very rectangular house takes up the whole lot and is surrounded by a tall fence. The roof is pretty flat. U-G-L-Y It don’t need no alibi… It was for sale and the flyer said, “Must see inside.” Judging from the outside, I think that was all they could say.

Tall Bikes

Portland is such a bike-y city that there are subsets of cyclists in town. One of the subsets is people who never refer to themselves as cyclists. Another is people with tall bikes.

Tall bikes are cool. They are cool because you pretty much have to make your own tall bike, or be friends with someone who does. They are cool because you get to ride far above cars. They are cool because small children gleefully point when they see them. I would love to ride one.

I had the chance. One of the parents of a first grader at my school has a tall bike. I was exclaiming over it, and he offered to let me ride. I automatically said, “Oh, no. I couldn’t,” and then kicked myself later. Next time he offers, I won’t be so quick to say no.

This tall bike was locked up outside school on Friday. It’s being a tall bike makes it cool, but most of them are better crafted than this. Still, can you imagine riding one?

More fun comics

The reason my tattoos are not in a visible place. It’s going to be fun in the nursing home playing guess the tattoo. (Sorry it’s a little blurry)

Get Fuzzy is one of my favorite cartoons. When I describe it (a somewhat loser guy and a cat and a dog) people say, “You mean Garfield?” But Garfield isn’t funny and this is. This is from the week that Satchel was eating a lot of stuff. Darby Conley draws expressions so well.
ps. Who are these people who write entries on Wikipedia. Does the world need 9 paragraphs on Satchel. Do these people vote?

Read in November

I read 10 novels this month, which isn’t bad. As usual, most of them were novels, with a few non-fiction thrown in for good measure. This month saw me very picky with my books. It was hard to settle in, especially early in the month. There were a lot that were started and not finished. In compiling this list, I realize that I read more books that are just so-so than I would like. I’m not sure how to fix that. I think I need some good recommendations, but I don’t seem to be tapped into any book recommending network. Maybe I’ll go back to my tactic of looking up the titles I like on Amazon.com and seeing what books other people bought. That might not work so well for fiction. It’s a very good tactic for non-fiction. I never buy from Amazon; I get the books from the library instead.

I’ll happily take any recommendations. I like good historical fiction a lot, but only if it is well written. I like modern realistic fiction, the better written the happier I am. I even like science fiction and fantasy, but it has to have a good plot line.

Read:(see the individual reviews)

Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Tyagi

Soon I will be invincible.
Austin Grossman.

The Invisible Circus
Jennifer Egan.

The god of animals.
Aryn Kyle.

Don’t Die, My Love
Lurline McDaniel

Eleanor Rigby
Douglas Coupland

Rattled
Debra Galant

Storage & Shelving Solutions: Over 70 projects and ideas that fit your budget, space and lifestyle.
Reader’s Digest

Metropolis: A Novel
Elizabeth Gaffney

Venus Envy
Shannon McKeldon

Started and didn’t finish:

England, England.
Julian Barnes.
I started this after finishing Soon I Will Be Invincible and I think the happy glow of that book interfered with any small spark of interest that this book might have given out. I couldn’t get into it.

My Life, Starring Dara Falcon.
Ann Beattie
See the England, England entry. Same deal.

Almighty Me.
Robert Bausch
And this was the third book I just wasn’t into. Good premise, man gets the powers of god for a year. Execution? Not that interesting.

Oy pioneer!: a novel.
Marleetn S. Barr
I checked this out of the library and began reading it only to discover I had already read it. I must really like the title.

Mainlines, blood feasts, and bad taste: a Lester Bangs reader.
Ed by John Morthland.
I would like to say I knew who Lester Bangs was before I saw Almost Famous where Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed him as a slightly manic semi-gonzo Rock Journalist who delivers my favorite line in the entire movie: “The only true currency in this world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.” However, I was in elementary school when he died and I had no idea who he was.

So this book introduced me to his writings. He is an electric writer, although I feel like I can see the drugs behind the words on the page. The book is all about music, some of which you will know, some of which you will vaguely remember and some of which you will have no idea what he is talking about because the bands have not stood the test of time. He died in 1982 a lot of bands have faded into the unconscious since then. This is a great book for a rock music lover (aware of music before 1982) to have around to dip into and read a bit of and then set down. I’m not really set up for dipping into right now, so I’m not going to finish this. But it’s no reflection on Lester Bangs.

Mozart’s Sister: a novel.
Rita Charbonnier.
I’m just not into this book about, well you can guess from the title. I suspect it will make me mad, the way she, a talented musician got shunted aside for her genius brother. So I’m not going to keep reading.

The complete idiot’s guide to gluten-free eating.
Adamson & Thompson.
I’ve been eating gluten-free to see if it will solve my health problems. I picked this up to get some tips.

So simple window style.
Abbott & Burren.
I didn’t read this book, but I copied a few ideas. I really want to do Roman Shades in the front room. Maybe this summer.

Smart Shelving and Storage Solutions.
Danny Proulx
This book was eclipsed by the other storage & shelf book I got. Sorry Mr. Proulx.

Checked out and didn’t read:
American Diaspora: poetry of displacement.
Ed. by Suraez & Van Cleave.
I got this book for a project for youth group and then forgot to bring it the day of. It went back to the library unread.

Intoxicated: A novel of money, madness, and the invention of the world’s favorite soft drink.
John Barlow
I wasn’t in the mood for this. So I didn’t read it. I think I couldn’t get past the fact that it seemed to be about Coca-Cola, but began in England. I know it could have gone anywhere from there, but I kept thinking, “Coca-Cola is from Atlanta, Georgia! What are we doing in England?”

Venus Envy. Shannon McKeldon

In this book Venus/Aphrodite angers Zeus and he punishes her by making her be a fairy godmother. She’s been doing it for 1000 years when she lands her next assignment in Rachel Greer, a 30 year old woman living outside of Seattle who has sworn off men after 3 disastrous relationships and has overfilled her time with volunteer work. She’s not much interested in meeting prince charming, much to Venus’ frustration.

This was mostly an annoying book and my finishing it had more to do with it being cold out. Because of the cold, I didn’t want to get up and find another book to read, so I just finished this one. It’s a nice beach read.

What I did on my Thanksgiving Break.

I had the entire week off, which was very welcome. I had great plans, and spent the week in a happy combination of work and sloth. A lot of little projects got finished around the house. The biggest one was painting a wall in the living room. It was pretty exciting to see how the color changed the room. I’ll get an entry about it up on the “ours” blog soon.

I spent Thanksgiving with the BroMAunts (Brother, Mother, Aunts.) I’ll get an entry up on the “ours” blog about that too. Thursday night, I stayed over at my mom’s house so we could go with the Aunts to the Rickreal Christmas Bazaar. The town of Rickreal is outside of Salem, so we had a nice drive there. The Bazaar was great, though had mostly nothing I wanted or needed. Do you have a need for crocheted booties to keep your feet warm? Do you long for booties in U of O or OSU colors? This was the bazaar for you! There were three or four booths with your choice of booties in a vast array of colors. There was also a huge booth with many, many, many decorative toilet seat covers. Do you long for a “roll in the hay”? Then the booth with the plastic bag with some hay and a toilet paper roll was for you.

In the car afterward, we were reviewing the highs and lows. They did have some nice stuff, especially some handspun yarn and more than a few quilts I would have liked to have. But there was some pretty bad stuff. The cruelest use of craft items? The room fresheners that were really cute craft teddy bears that some delusional woman had dipped in scented wax. The poor things were strange colors and just looked sad, all covered in wax like that. We laughed hard about them. I found the most useless item to be “Table Leggins.” which were decorative covers for your table legs. You could get them to match your table décor. They were the biggest waste of money that I have ever seen, aside from those poor bears.

Saturday and Sunday were mostly slothful. I walked to the library to return a boatload of books, and found “Friends” Season 6. I wasn’t sure what season that was, and you can’t tell from the case, but I got it anyway. While I was cooking my first ever brisket, I watched most of the whole season. I finished it the next day. It turned out to be the last season I watched in its entirety, but it was still funny. It’s the one that starts with Ross and Rachel getting married in Las Vegas and ends with Monica and Chandler’s proposal.

Because of my work/sloth combo, I was ready to go back to work on Monday. Yay for an entire week off!

Metropolis: A Novel. Elizabeth Gaffney

Frank Harris is an German immigrant in post-Civil War New York City. His name isn’t really Frank Harris, but it becomes that after P.T. Barnum’s stable, where he works as a stableman, burns down. He escapes the fire, but is fingered as the arsonist. To avoid that charge, he falls in with the Whyos a New York City Gang. He’s not the hardened criminal the Whyos think, so how will he survive in the gang?

This was a great novel, very full of historical detail. I particularly enjoyed the Whyos and the Why Nots—the corresponding girl gang—as they used their musical talents to carry out their crimes. Frank Harris is a great main character. He is a bit idealistic, but also fairly canny. There’s a great bit of socialism and feminism mixed in. I loved this book. I rank it in the top 10 this year.

Storage & Shelving Solutions: Over 70 projects and ideas that fit your budget, space and lifestyle. Readers Digest.

This book rocks! It is so cool that I took it over to show my brother on Thanksgiving. By the time I finished pointing out all the cool projects, he suggested I buy the book. Which I will, if I don’t get it for Christmas. You will most likely see a project or two from this book appearing in my house. For instance: floating shelves. You know how they get them to float? By using hollow core doors. They also have several projects for adding storage between the studs in interior walls. Which is very cool. You don’t know how cool it is until you see the pictures. Very ingenious stuff in here.

Rattled. Debra Galant

I can’t read the entire blurb on the front of this book–part of it is being covered up by a library bar code–but the part I can read says: “…of New Jersey what Carl Hiaasen did for the swamps of Florida.” Because I like Carl Hiaasen’s swamps of Florida, I picked up this book. I am very guilty of judging books by their covers, and I went for it. The fact that Tom Perrotta said it clinched the deal. I really like his books.

So Debra Galant doesn’t quite do for the whatever of New Jersery…etc. It was a pretty okay book. Heather and her husband buy a McMansion in rural New Jersey. One day while her handyman–a lifetime resident–is working in her backyard, Heather sees a rattlesnake. She screams for the handyman to kill it. He does, and it turns out to be endangered. Heather is arrested and hijinks ensue.

The book follows Heather, the handyman, the head of a local conservation group as well as the developer of the subdivision as they all react to the crime. In a Hiaasen way it is supposed to show the silliness of the rural/suburban divide. Mostly, Heather comes off as shrill, stupidly entitled and demanding and thus, the last 5 pages of the book when she is supposed to be a good and normal person ring a bit false. It was a good diversion, though.

Eleanor Rigby. Douglas Coupland

I came across Coupland’s Miss Wyoming in the Cambridge library early in the century and quickly read all of his books. I love his writing style, his quirky characters, his sometimes supernatural plot lines and the fact that he loves to set his books in Vancouver, B.C.

This book is about Liz, a person so settled in her loneliness that she has the email address EleanorRigby@something.com. It is also about Jeremy, a young and troubled man. What do these two people have in common? I’ll leave that to you to find out.

This was more of a caring, Microsurf-ian novel than a sci-fi Girlfriend in a Coma-ian type novel. I liked it, though.