Monthly Archives: March, 2012

Beware the Players, Beware the Game (Review: “The Westing Game”)

photo by dave

Although many adults shy away from reading books written for kids, most recognize that Newbery Medal winners are exceptional by definition. Dicey’s Song, Jacob Have I Loved, and Holes definitely have crossover appeal. A lesser-known companion of theirs on the Newbery list is The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. It won in 1979, so I almost missed out because it was before my time, but I’m so glad I wandered across it in a real, honest-to-goodness bookstore one day. It’s a mystery that isn’t even over once you’ve solved it.

Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.

Friday Five: Music

This post is late, and my 7 Quick Takes will be late, too, but I’ve had such a great week that I don’t really care.

  1. How often do you listen to music? I probably listen to music every day, but that’s a happy accident more than an intentional life choice. I overhear so much music throughout the day: in stores, at work, and what I play myself.
  2. Do you ever listen to the radio? What is your favorite station?I listen to the radio all the time! It’s usually on when I’m in my car. I listen to Mix 94.7 because I like their morning show best—they play news headlines for one minute at the top of the hour and actually play entire songs as well. I listen to Kiss-FM for more pop music, Spirit for Austin Christian music, and our K-LOVE affiliate for more Christian music. At work, I listen to Air1 or Big R Radio online. I also have the cable package I do because I like to run Music Choice in the background sometimes for DJed commercial-free music.
  3. How do you find new songs, albums, or artists to listen to? I hear a lot on the radio. Occasionally I’ll get a recommendation from a friend or student.
  4. When was the last time you bought a CD? A digital music file? My last physical CD was Vice Verses, because I love Switchfoot. My last song download was either a free song from Air1 or K-LOVE (which they offer every week), or “Captain Jack Sparrow,” which I love, because it’s awesome and I felt a hole in my life fillable only by owning that song.
  5. Do you think any of the technologies and distribution methods mentioned above will still be around in ten years? Why or why not? CDs have been popular since the 80s and mp3s at least since I was in high shool, so I don’t see them disappearing anytime soon. The radio might be dead if not for cars. It’s just so much easier to let the radio DJs work for you for only the cost of your radio.

Here’s the hilarious but not family-friendly video for “Captain Jack Sparrow.” I defy you to not burst out laughing.

The Friday Five

Booking Through Thursday: Lessons

A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Ted asks:

Have you ever used a book to instruct someone of something or is there anyone for whom you would like to do that? (I don’t mean a text book for a class, but a work of fiction or non-fiction that would get a certain message across either through plot or character). What is the book and what do you wish to impart?

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to teach someone a life lesson by way of a book. In my experience, it’s better to teach people things after building a relationship with them. That way, they know you actually care about them and are not just “selling.”

I have definitely learned lessons from books, though. That’s a huge chunk of my training as an English teacher: identifying and explicating themes and teaching high school students to do the same. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chosen, “The Euphio Question”—there’s something to be learned from almost any story.

That’s a pretty vague answer, but it will have to do for now.

Top Ten Tuesday: Dystopias

I like that Top Ten Tuesday gives me such flexibility in choosing my topic. It’s just the right amount of structure to keep me from getting stuck with a question I can’t answer (a debate which occasionally flares up at the Friday Five). I only read a few specific genres (Catholic/religion and YA), but I already write my ACNM column mostly on Catholic books, and YA has so many subgenres. I do love some dystopia, though.

Top Ten Dystopias

  1. The Hunger Games: Duh. The premise is based on a dystopian United States. It’s a no-brainer. It’s also just futuristic enough to be not too far from reality, I fear.
  2. The Giver: Also duh. I think I learned what a dystopia was from this book. It’s definitely more far-fetched than The Hunger Games, but it holds a special place in my heart. It even made my top five.
  3. A Canticle for Leibowitz: I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. It takes dystopia to a while different level by making it span the course of centuries. That’s a nice change from the ordinary (which, for me, is YA).
  4. Feed: Now, back to the YA. This is the most technology-driven of my favorite dystopias, one in which an ad-driven Internet feed is implanted in people’s skulls. Not even your dreams are safe from ads and the government.
  5. “The Euphio Question”: This one’s cheating a little bit since its a short story and not a novel. The ending is my favorite part, though, since it has such a unique ending. Constant happiness through constant technology is not always the answer.
  6. Now I’m stretching even further since I can’t rennet the title of this short story, but it was one in which people could get as much free sweets and ice cream as they wanted, then use free booths to suck away all the fat and extra weight. They got a tiny blue mark on their wrist each time, though, and the protagonist speculated that it was to distinguish between who had self-control and who didn’t. Creepy.

Well, I’m four short, but that’s all I’ve got for today. Clearly this means I need to catch up in my personal and ACNM reading so I can squeeze in some more genre fiction.

Friday Five: Bedtime

For your information, I am starting this post draft in Office Depot while waiting for a bear of a print job. I recommend neither posting from this location nor waiting for print jobs (sending it out is faster but must be done earlier, of course), but you work with what you’ve got.

  1. What do you wear to bed? Pajamas. I have a couple of cute matching sets, but mostly just hodgepodge t-shirts and pants. I rarely wear shorts, to bed or otherwise.
  2. What side of the bed do you sleep on? Both, but not spread-eagle. I have a double/full-size bed, but only I sleep in it, so I alternate which side I sleep on to keep the mattress from wearing out. I think it’s working.
  3. Are you [a] back, side, or stomach sleeper? Side, always. I have to sleep on my right side so my weight won’t rest on my bad knee. Sleeping on my back makes me feel like I’m on a doctor’s table or dead (or both).
  4. How many layers of bedding are on your bed? Two? Fitted and flat sheet, plus a comforter. It’s usually too warm in Austin for another blanket. I had to add one last night because it was freezing, though. I was so toasty and comfortable that I could barely get out of bed this morning.
  5. Are you a bed hog or a covers-thief? I don’t think I’m either, but I usually sleep alone, so I don’t know for sure.

The Friday Five

7 Quick Takes Friday: Vol. 165

Maybe Jen realized her numbering was off. Whatever it was, I don’t control the meme, I just participate.

— 1 —

I will be on a mission trip with my students all next week for spring break. If you are the praying type, please pray for us. If not, we could use your good wishes that we travel safely, do good work, and enjoy our trip.

— 2 —

I don’t use Twitter. My little brother does, so I occasionally scan his Twitter feed. Most of it consists of one side of Twitter-based conversations (which is today’s equivalent of having a chat with someone on a billboard) and information I wish I didn’t know and he probably shouldn’t share with the public (his school, our hometown, and his name, for example). He did retweet this a while ago, and I think it’s the smartest and most genuine thing I’ve ever seen him (and the original poster) write.

— 3 —

I live in Texas, which is right above Mexico, and it’s currently avocado season. I have made guacamole so many times in the last few weeks that I am almost (almost!) sick of it. The last time I made guacamole, it got brown and gross-tasting before I had come even close to finishing it, but only on the top. When I dipped my chip in, everything below the top layer was bright green and in fine shape. Apparently, leaving the seed in does not help. This week, I decided to try slicing an avocado to put on my turkey sandwiches rather than mashing them all so I would lose less otherwise usable material.

I Googled and found out that the browning is due to oxidization: air exposure. After awkwardly slicing the first half on Monday, I covered the second half with plastic wrap until yesterday. I was pleased to find that, although the exposed surface had indeed gotten brown, presence of the seed notwithstanding, all I had to do was skim that part off the top with my knife and I had a perfectly good avocado half. That was my greatest discovery since I started covering pots of water while I waited for them to boil. I have conquered easy kitchen science!

— 4 —

On Saturday, I woke up ten minutes before our RCIA retreat was supposed to begin. I said some words I don’t often use, then threw myself into speed mode. I knew I was facing a no makeup day (which I usually only do when I’m staying home), the epic adventure of frozen Stouffer’s lasagnas (why do they take so long to bake from frozen?), and a very short timeline, but I tossed up a few prayers to Mama Mary, stayed focused, and made it happen. I completely forgot the garlic bread in the freezer, but all my ovens were full anyway. I’m not doing so well on giving up my snooze button, but I won’t give up yet.

— 5 —

In other work news, we celebrated confirmation on Sunday with Bishop Joe. It’s always nice to have him around, even though we do have to put on our company pants. I had forgotten he’d be coming, but even in my morning grumpiness I managed to create one of the most fashionable Sunday work outfits I’ve worn so far.

— 6 —

In other photo news, I was cutting through campus last week when I noticed an incredible smell as I walked under a tree. Lavender! I don’t think I’ve ever smelled it in nature, just in manufactured lotion and shower gel. I don’t even remember it from last year, and I feel like tree-planting would have messed up Drag traffic enough for me to notice. It definitely made my dreary walk a little more beautiful.

— 7 —

I’m pretty sure everyone and his brother has seen OK Go’s breakout video for “Here It Goes Again.” I was reminded of it when my link to it in an old post broke, so I went to rewatch it and discovered a group of adorable high school students recreating the whole thing for their talent show. In the end, I don’t care if it’s not really that hard with practice. It’s still awesome and totally authentic.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Booking Through Thursday: More!

A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Ted asks:

Which non-series book would you most like to read the sequel to? Do you have any wishes for what might happen in it?

Hey, look, a male book blogger! They do exist!

One of my literary pet peeves is the idea that a great book must have a sequel. Does anyone really want a sequel to something like, say, To Kill a Mockingbird? No. Great books can just be. Some stories will take a long but defined time to tell (Harry Potter). Some stories essentially hint at something more (The Hunger Games leading into Catching Fire, although I was disappointed by Mockingjay)). Some stories that are fine in just one shot (The Giver was way better than Gathering Blue, and I’m not eager to read Messenger).

The short version is that I’m pretty happy with the books I have. I would love to read more about what happens to Harry Potter, but I’m okay with what I have. Some things are best left unwritten.

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