Archive for April, 2010

April 30th, 2010

» 24 Books: April

I picked up The Fox Woman, by Kij Johnson last month at Magers & Quinn, which is probably my favorite used book store in the Twin Cities. It is packed full of wonderful, but I don’t feel like I’m about to be swallowed alive by towers of books. Not that I don’t love the shops were there are books crammed and stacked in every available nook, but I get overwhelmed trying to look at them all, and after a while I glaze over and just wander around running my fingers over all the spines and making sure the books are lined up flush on the shelves. (I also fold messy shirts in clothing stores. I can’t help it.)

Anyway! The Fox Woman was wonderful. It’s the story of a fox who falls in love with a man, and turns herself into a woman to seduce him. Sort of. (I’ve read it’s based on a Japanese fairytale; note to self: look up original fairytale.) It’s a beautiful book, about self and poetry and illusion, and Johnson creates complex characters; I found myself rooting for and against them all at different points. Thumbs up. (Paws up? I never know how to end these reviews.)

I also read a romance novel, which turned out to be mostly a treatise on the food, clothing, and customs of early 16th century England. It wasn’t bad, exactly, just not what I expect out of my romance novels. (I also found it difficult to get over the main character becoming a wife “in every sense of the word” at age 12.) It was, at least, quick and relatively entertaining.

2010 Book Count: 11 (+4 fluff)
January: 2 (+3 fluff)
February: 4
March: 3
April: 2 (+1)

April 22nd, 2010

» now here

I spend a lot of time dreamy and far-off, thinking about horses. Window-shopping for horse stuff online, reading forums, watching videos. In the saddle in my head. But they are, in the end, a call to now. When it’s good, how it should be — which it is most of the time — you’re there with the horse, and you’re there. Present.

It’s about you and the horse, and it doesn’t have quite the same centering self-aware-ening as yoga, say, but when I’m riding — even when I’m frustrating us through a failed leg-yield, or trying Yet Again for that left bend I just can’t get — I can promise I’m not thinking about that problem at work, or what I’m going to have for dinner, or the dishes waiting in the sink. I’ve been riding Everett a couple times a week, and he is especially a call to the big wide world. It’s been beautiful, a fairytale April, all warmth and sunshine and tiny blossoms and things coming up green. We walk and I remember to breathe deeply and look far.

Baron Baptiste is in my head this morning. “We are either now here, or we’re nowhere,” he says. “Be present.”

April 6th, 2010

» 24 Books: March & April

Simon Prebble is one of my favorite audiobook narrators. I was reminded of him somehow a few weeks ago; after a quick search of my library’s catalog, I requested his reading of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet and The Adventure of the Speckled Band.

Joe just finished reading the entire Sherlock Holmes collection, and had already told me about the switch halfway through A Study in Scarlet: the narrative jumps from Holmes solving a murder mystery in London over to the settling of the Mormons in Utah. It all ties in at the end, but it’s certainly not what I would’ve expected for a narrative choice. I didn’t LOVE it (Prebble’s Watson is older-sounding, which made it harder to imagine him as Jude Law), but I liked it well enough. I did find myself getting distracted while listening to it, especially at the beginning, so it wasn’t entirely a fair crack.

I did better with the short story The Adventure of the Speckled Band; maybe I was in a better frame of mind, or the pace was snappier, or..? Regardless, I was quite delighted with myself when I guessed how the crime went down before Holmes revealed it. Not that it was especially difficult, but I’m not one for actively trying to solve the mystery.

So, that wrapped up March. Last night I finished reading The Pru-Bache Murder: The Fast Life and Grisly Death of a Millionaire Stockbroker, by Jeffrey Taylor. It’s the true story of Michael Prozumenshikov, a man who immigrated from Russia to Minnesota in the late 70s; he became a stock broker in the 80s, during a very strong bull market, and built his fortune largely churning clients’ accounts, placing unauthorized trades, pushing unsuitable stocks, etc. The market crashed in 1987, and many of his clients (many of whom were — and shouldn’t have been — heavily margined) lost their life savings — including one man who took the loss especially hard, and killed Prozumenshikov in 1991.

I found the book absolutely fascinating. I live and work where the events took place, so I knew all the towns, the street names, the buildings. Though I haven’t met anyone mentioned in the book, I recognized a lot of the names from conversation around the office. I keep thinking about what a strange, different time that must have been in the industry, that surely Prozumenshikov would never get away with all that now — but then I remember Madoff, and I have to wonder. Different situation, but still. Anyway (before I get into a whole thing about different investment philosophies) — it was an absorbing story, though (fair warning) it’s suddenly very gruesome at the end. Thumbs up if you’re local, have any interest in the industry, or like true crime novels.

2010 Book Count: 10 (+3 fluff)
January: 2 (+3 fluff)
February: 4
March: 3
April: 1

April 6th, 2010

» 5 million dollar home

I love National Camera. I went there last night with my mom and sister for a photo class. We arrived a little early so I could look at camera bags — I’ve had one on my 2010 Spring Binge Shopping list for a while. An adorable sales guy gave me some very sound advice about which bags were cute and which were tragic (my words, not his; I wish I could remember exactly how he delicately described the fanny packs, though, because it was hilarious). I ended up spending a ridiculous amount of money on a Crumpler bag that I adore. It is excellent, and definitely $35 more cute than the Lowepro. Plus it’s called the 5 Million Dollar Home. (I was going to link to a picture of it, but none of them do it justice. Maybe I’ll take one later. And maybe I’ll write a novel! And post those Peru pictures!) (The bag, if you were wondering, did not cost five million dollars.)

Okay, breaking for a second — this is so awesome. I just got my company’s Weekly Digest email, and there was a little article in it about shortening the length of time a particular alert shows on our system. The title of the article? “They Only Have One Week to Live.” I wish I knew who’d come up with that, and who okayed it, so I could thank them. So fantastic.

So anyway, confession time: I don’t have a budget. I kept a really nice one for a while, using Microsoft Money, and all the pie charts and line graphs and tidy reports made my little accountant’s heart glad. But then the ‘horse’ slice of the pie started looking depressingly large, and I got a couple months behind, and I came to a realization that none of it was helping me figure out what was an appropriate amount to spend on anything. I spent all this time entering data and staring at the results, and wandering around the internet looking for rules on spending, trying to find something that would tell me Yeah, you can get that nice couch, or You should really skip the fancy cheese this week.

Apparently spring is the time when I wonder a little bit about money and then go on some cathartic shopping binge: two years ago I mulled over Lasik. (And wow, I totally forgot my Lasik anniversary this year! As an update to that post, I did get the surgery, and life is really better. I can see, it’s a miracle!) (Okay, maybe spring isn’t exactly the only time I whinge about money [see December 06], but I’m going to stop trolling through the archives now, because this is all getting so very far off course.)

My point was, I think, that I don’t budget any more, and I’m a happier person for it. I’m frugal most of the time, skip coffee shops and bring my own popcorn to movies and don’t get my hair cut for seven months, live in kinda low-income housing and work a little side job — all so I can buy a ridiculous bag that I will (hopefully) still be smiling about years from now and get a laptop because dammit I want to use it on the couch, and et cetera.

And I’m starting to feel weird, now, talking about money when I really meant to talk about my cute bag. But I also feel weird deleting this, because I hate the whole money stigma. And I can see from here the circles I’m about to ramble in, so instead I’m going to stop here, with the thought that I am lucky, and life is good, and my new bag? My new bag is very cute.

April 2nd, 2010

»

It’s humid.

Let me say that again: IT’S HUMID. It’s April, and it’s humid! No snow. I spent the morning on the couch in my summer pjs (I love days the market’s closed!), sweating. In April! I think the weather’s mocking me for that time a couple weeks ago when it was really pretty nice, like a brisk fall day, and I told Joe I wished it was maybe 85 or 90, 95. (Dear Weather: I meant hot, not humid.) But I love it! It’s good. I’ll take it, and months more.

I think I’m also paying for having fallen off the exercising bandwagon. I’ve done a little step aerobicizing over the last year, in fits and starts, but mostly I’ve been larking around on my horse. (If you’ve never ridden a horse, let me clarify: they’re work! Just generally not as much work as step aerobics, at least not at my skill level.) So I’m trying to clamber back on the wagon, and just finished an hour puffing on and off the step, and bunny-hopping, mamba-chachaing, clean’n'pressing. I would like to once again be the person who can get up a half an hour earlier to do this before work.

Mr. Poe-face has been amazing. (Guess it might be time I consider banning that word from my horse vocabulary — I think I say that every time I talk about him.) He’s just so fun and generous and sweet, and I cannot. wait. to gallop the hell out of a Novice xc course with him. I mean, that’s years away: he’s not quite four yet. I imagine we’ll start jumping lightly later this summer/fall, and spend summer 2011 at Beginner Novice. I can’t make any other predictions until I’ve actually had him out cross-country, gotten some field trips under his belt and all that. (But who am I kidding: I have my secret hopes that we’ll be ready to move up to Novice in 2012. I also have secret hopes that I will grow a pair and be able to do Training in a few years, and maybe even run Prelim at some point? That is how much I like this horse: I have actually thought about Prelim.)

And now, before this rambles any further, I’m going to find some lunch.