Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Report: Technology Wins and Fails

I spent a good portion of the last couple of days on my computer.  You always do a little bit, getting set up in a new place, because you have new internet service.  But I have done a lot more than that.  Let's take a look at my recent technological wins and fails.

Internet - I got this set up last Saturday, and it went pretty smoothly.  My modem turned out to be out-of-date, so I had to go get a new one, but once I did that and called the set-up people, I was on-line!  Technological Win.

Wireless - I also had to get a new wireless router, go figure.  I have two technological Fails for this one.  First, the internet set-up people tried to get me to set up my wireless their way, and it didn't work.  I finally got off the phone with them, and tried following the instructions that came with the router.  Tried being the operative word.  These are the worst, most inaccurate instructions I have ever seen.  I gave up for a few days - maybe I'll try again later today.  This time, I'm just going to call the router support people.

Blogs - You may have noticed a few changes here on the blog.  I added an 'Art and Faith' page, which takes you to my other blog, and added a 'My Author Blog' page on that one that takes you back here.  I also added some 'gadgets' on the right - if you scroll down past my little profile summary, you'll see them.  I only needed a little help from this Blogger Hints and Tips blog - I figured most of it out myself.  That's a Win, folks.

Communications - This morning I went and got a headset with microphone and tested out my built-in webcam.  The headset took a little fiddling, but it all works!  I can now video chat.  Or make vlogs.  Or get into online gaming.  Another Win.

I think that's it.

Yeah.  Yeah, that's it.  So, let's have a tally.  Three Wins and two Fails.  I officially win at Technology.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Review: Best Board Game Ever

I found it difficult to pick a subject for review today.  Should I do the latest episode of Doctor Who?  A book I read recently?  A board game?  A restaurant I had lunch at?

Doctor Who was certainly tempting.  In the Forest of the Night was an interesting episode.  There were quite a few positives aspects to it, not least being the fact that they got great actors to play the kids.  Unfortunately, the negative aspects pretty much exemplified everything I haven't liked in an otherwise entertaining season.

So I decided not to do that.

So how about a book?  I've read several Middle Grade children's books recently: The Castle in the Attic, a growing-up adventure story; Touch Blue, a quirky growing-up story; The Cay, a growing-up historical-fiction adventure story; Among the Hidden, a growing-up adventure story; and The Royal Ranger, an adventure story about growing up, and a little bit about loss.*

But I've done a few book reviews recently.  Might be time for something different.

How about a game, then?

I have the classic Milton Bradley version.

Introduction: Axis and Allies is a World War Two strategy board game for 2 to 5 players.  These players command either the Axis (Germany and Japan) or the Allies (the UK, the US, and the USSR).**  Beginning spring of 1942, the board's initial set-up is representative of these nations' actual military positions at the time.

Game play is turn-based.  The first to play is the USSR, followed by Germany, then the UK, Japan and finally the US.  On each country's turn, they can try to develop new technology, buy new units (ground, air and sea), attack enemy territories, make non-combat movements, and place their new units, in that order.  At the end of their turn, they are given money according to how many territories they control.

You win by capturing two enemy capitals and holding them for a round.  The Axis can also win by making a combined 85 'dollars' or more - once they've got that kind of money, it's only a matter of time.

My Review: I love this game.  I've been playing it since I was in sixth grade, I think.  This game is fun whether you win or not.  (I should know - playing against Dad, I've lost more often than I've won.)  Every game has the potential to be very different from the last, as you and the other player(s) try out different strategies.  It's quite possible for either side to win, which is nice in a board game.

Overall, this game is excellent.  Although the outcome of combat is determined by rolling dice, it's much more strategy-based than Risk.  I play a lot with my dad, and his only real complaint is that Heavy Bombers, one of the optional weapons developments, gives too great an advantage to whomever develops it.

The 50th anniversary version of the game alters a few rules, adds Italy as another Axis nation, and adds two new units: artillery and Cruisers.  This changes game play considerably, and makes combat more realistic than the original.

Warning: This is not a quick, half-hour game.  I wouldn't recommend starting a game unless you're prepared to invest some serious time and thought.  This is not, in my view, a negative, although you will need to commit significant table space for the duration.

Manufacturer: Hasbro, via Avalon Hill, formerly made by Milton Bradley
Genre: Strategy game; board game
Players: 2-5
Game time: Depends on the game and the players. Hours, not minutes.

My rating: 5 stars

*I'm sensing a common theme in these books...

**I'm sensing a common pattern in Allied country names...

Monday, October 27, 2014

An Unexpected Adventure

Hello!  Long time, no see!

So, for the first time in the short history of this blog, I missed posting on Friday AND Saturday.  But it wasn't entirely my fault.  Let me explain.

No.  There is too much.  Let me sum up:*

- I didn't write Friday because I couldn't think what to write about.

- On Saturday Dad and I drove to my new apartment, got my keys and unloaded everything.  We ran a couple errands and got my internet set up, then Dad went home.  I was in the middle of setting up my wireless router when the power went out.

Yep!  The power went out my first day in my new apartment.  We had a storm blowing through, but storms in the NW can be a little deceptive; there wasn't a whole lot of rain, so I thought, it's no big deal.  Then I drove over to Aunt M and Uncle B's to borrow a sleeping pad, card table and folding chairs, and found out that the wind was a bit stronger than I thought - the streets were strewn with debris, some of the traffic lights were out, several massive trees had crashed to the ground... It was a mess.

I made it to my aunt and uncle's safely, got the stuff, had a piece of pear pie, chatted for a while, then decided to make for home in case it got dark early, like it did a few days before.

Back at home, I went into night preparation mode.  First order of business: find my flashlight.  Second order of business: make sure the milk is put in the freezer before the fridge loses too much of its chill.  Third order of business: get my bed and sleeping bag set up.  Fourth order of business: unpack and organize clothes so that pajamas and warm clothes are near at hand in case it gets cold.

Having completed my unpacking triage, I spent the rest of the evening putting unpacked boxes in the closet and reading.**  It didn't get dark early after all, so I was able to read quite a while before having to use my flashlight.  The power came back on a short while later.

And there you have it!  A lovely adventure for my first day in my new apartment.  :)

*That move is just so quotable.  (The book is a lot of fun, too.)
**The Royal Ranger, last of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John A. Flanagan.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Review: God and Horses

Alright!  It's Wednesday.  We are back on track with the blog schedule after yesterday's anomaly, so that means that today is Wednesday Review day!  Here we go.

Disclaimer: I was a little reluctant to read this book.  It was given to me by my mom, who is a friend of the author's, and I was a bit worried: What if I didn't like it?  Thankfully, that was not the case.  In fact, I was so impressed, I decided to review it here on my blog.

Introduction: This book is creative non-fiction.  It explores the relationship between the author and God through the parallel relationship between the author and her horse.  Because both relationships develop in concert over time, it also tells a coherent story.  Written in the form of narration about the situation with the horse mixed with letters representing conversations between the author and God, the chapters are organized both chronologically and thematically, as both relationships go through various stages.

So what happens?  The author, who has finally realized her life-long dream of owning land to house her own horses, has just purchased a new horse (her previous mount no longer being in any condition to ride).  She thought she had done everything right.  She'd been in communication with the sellers for some time, and as far as she could tell, they were a reputable business.  Finally she gets the horse delivered, and he seems fine.  It's only after the delivery trainer has left (and the drugs he gave the horse wear off) that the truth comes out: this horse is completely out of control.  What follows is a long, long process of working to train this horse and deciding whether or not to keep him, but it's not just the horse who has lessons to learn - his rider does, too.

My Review:  So, I'm not a big reader of non-fiction.  Not that I don't like it or anything, I just don't tend to seek those books out - I'm plenty busy reading children's books, classics, poetry, plays, etc.  When I do read non-fiction, though, it's usually biographies or autobiographies.  Trust is basically an autobiography of a very specific item in the author's life (the saga with this horse, Mr. Paladin).  Since I like horses, this story works for me, but even if you don't, this is an excellent book about the relationship between us humans and God.

Now, I usually hate letters in books.  I mean, really.  Anne of Windy Poplars?  Barely got through that thing.  The letters in Trust, however, don't have that correspondence feel to them.  They read like a conversation instead.  They're also not long-winded.  If you don't like the idea of 'letters from God' 'written by' a person, just remember that they're representational of what the author was 'hearing' from God.  It's actually a very effective device that should get you thinking about how communication in this relationship actually happens.

There is a bit of repetition in the book, as the author struggles to learn certain lessons, but there are always slight differences to what's going on - skipping over a section because it looks like something you've already read at first glance would be a mistake.  Besides, aren't there things in all of our lives that we struggle with, time and time again?  Marie Timm is no different.

The characters and their relationships in this book are dynamic, and there's a definite story arc with the opposing themes of fear and trust.  The story Marie Timm tells about her relationship with God should resonate with any Christian, and that's really the main thrust of the book - the story of the horse is what gives it tangible context.  If you read this book with an open heart, you will learn something about yourself and God.

All in all, it's very readable.  More importantly, it's worth reading.

Copyright: 2014
Publisher: WestBow Press
Length: 116 pages
Genre: Creative Non-Fiction

My rating: 5 stars out of 5.         --Highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We Interrupt this Program...


Hello, sorry.  Sorry, I know this isn't one of my normal blog days.

Just wanted to drop in for a quick moment.  You see, I haven't really talked about the new season of Doctor Who since the second episode, and I have some opinions to share.

Don't worry, don't worry - I'll make this quick. (And spoiler-free.)

1. Deep Breath - Ok episode, see my review.

2. Into the Dalek - Good episode, see my mini-review.

3. Robot of Sherwood - What a lark!  This is a really fun episode.  If you're looking for something light but really well put together, this is the one.

4. Listen - One of the best episodes of the season.  It's a creepy one, and it's fun, adventurous, and has some What!? moments in it that are just incredibly great.

5. Time Heist - Ocean's Eleven meets Doctor Who.  This is another lark of an episode.  It's not quite as slick as Robot of Sherwood, I'd say, but the trade-off is that it's a little more twisty (i.e. complex).  Very enjoyable.

6. The Caretaker - My least favorite episode of the season.  Like the first episode, it has some really good moments.  Also like the first episode, it has some really contrived moments.  Unlike the first episode, it doesn't have the introduction of a new Doctor going for it.

7. Kill the Moon - Not my favorite.  The plot is extremely iffy, in my opinion, but it does manage to deliver a pretty good emotional punch in the end.

8. Mummy on the Orient Express - My favorite episode since Listen.  Actually, this one may be better than Listen.  Yeah, yeah I think it is.  This is a great adventure from start to finish.

9. Flatline - Another favorite.  This one is a great concept episode with surprisingly good visual effects.  There are some really funny bits, and lovely character stuff.  Also, the most intriguing hint at the season arc to date.

And that's it - next week's episode doesn't look very interesting, but we'll see.

Whew.  Ok.  Thanks.  Just needed to get all that off my chest.  On balance,* season 8 has been pretty good.**  Feel free to comment on your own take on the episodes.^

*See what I did there?

**Also on balance, 12 and Clara...oh, forget it.  Nothing to balance.  12 and Clara have been awesome this season, due to some fantastic character writing and incredible acting by Coleman and Capaldi.  If you judged the season just by the four of them, it would be 6 stars out of 5.

^By the way, if you watch DW videos on YouTube (like behind the scenes stuff), you've probably noticed the so-called 'reaction' videos.  Most are rubbish, but Redbeard's DW reactions are actually really fun to watch (and have good production values).  If you're toying with the idea of checking out one of those reaction videos, watch his.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Apartment Preparation

I'm moving into my new apartment soon, so today was the day I got everything set up (aside from renter's insurance - I did that last week).

So what all is involved in getting a new apartment?

1. There will probably be some preliminary paperwork of some kind to be signed.  Mine was called a 'welcome packet'.  It reserved the apartment for me, so nobody can swoop in and grab it before the move-in date, and outlined some basics - my address, the fact that I have no pets, my first month's pro-rated rent, etc.

2. Get renter's insurance.  Some apartments will include this in the lease, some won't.  Mine doesn't, so I called up the insurance folks and got a plan.

3. Sign up for power.  Most apartments (perhaps all!) do not do this for you - you need to call ahead and tell the power company your move-in date, address, etc.  That way, when I walk into my apartment, I'll be able to turn on the lights!

4. Get internet and/or cable service.  Technically, this is optional.  For me, the internet part is mandatory.

When you call around for internet service, be sure to ask if they have any specials running.  If you're military, lots of companies will waive the installation fees.  If you have your own modem, tell them - no need to rent one every month from them.  Let them tell you about all their deals, even if they include services you don't want - in my case, it turned out to be cheaper to get a basic internet and cable package than just internet,* so guess what?  I'm getting that plan.

5. Talk to your apartment folks a few days before move-in, to make sure you have everything you need when you show up.  I had to give them my insurance and power numbers, decide if I wanted to sign the lease online or in person, and make an appointment for move-in day.  I also found out I need to bring some documents with me, so I'm glad I called to ask.

6. If you have stuff in storage (as I do, since I just got out of the Air Force), be sure to get them your address and move-in date as soon as you have it, so they can get you your stuff as soon as possible after your move.

7, Make a plan for moving in.  For me, it's pretty simple.  I have my appointment in the morning, the cable/internet guy coming after that, and only one car load of stuff to move in.  Of course, I also have to check around for a mattress to sleep on while I wait for my storage stuff to arrive...  And I'll need to make a run to the store to get some basics.  See?  Even a simple move has many components.

If I missed anything, let me know in the comments.  After all, I haven't moved in yet - there's still time to act on any tips you give me.  Otherwise...see you Wednesday.

*Be sure to know your internet speed needs.  If you're not an enthusiastic online gamer, you don't need the fastest internet and biggest bandwidth the company offers, even if you stream a lot of videos.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Off the Shelf: Artwork

Welcome to the second edition of Off the Shelf!

Since I'm not moved into my new apartment yet, I don't actually have anything on any shelves.  I do, however, have a cool piece of artwork from Hong Kong that my brother Ben gave me.

It's an oil painting, and as you can see, it's very colorful.

I'm looking forward to getting this framed.

This painting is from an Asia tour Ben did a couple years ago with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, if memory serves.  He got some great souvenirs on that trip - he has a painting very like this one hanging on his wall at home.

So there's a little fine art to brighten your day!  You're welcome.  :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Report: The Wilds of Fremont, Seattle

So, apparently my Friday posts are sometimes 'reports'.  I don't know why.  Just had a nice ring to it.

So what do I have to report?  Let's find out, shall we?*

Back on Tuesday I had my second full day in Seattle.  Ben and I went to Fremont to see the Troll, Lenin, and Theo Chocolate.  Observe:

Living under the bridge, the Troll has an actual VW Bug in its left hand.

Found in a field in Eastern Europe, this controversial
display demonstrates that art outlives politics.

They've got taste-tests for most of their chocolate bars.  Definitely worth
a visit.  Pretty much impossible to leave empty-handed.

Oh, and apparently Fremont is the Center of the Universe (sorry Boston).

And that concludes our report for this morning!  Hope you enjoyed it.

*It was meant to be a miscellany.  It turned out to be all about Fremont.  Which is, itself, sort of a miscellany, I guess...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday Review: I'm Gonna Need a Bigger Blog...

Welcome to another edition of The Wednesday Review!  What's on the menu today?

The very first 'summer blockbuster'.

Introduction:  It's summer on small, east-coast Amity Island, and a young woman is dead.  Since tourism is what fuels the economy, local politicians and businessmen bristle at the conclusion that she was killed by a shark.  Using their considerable powers, they basically make sure the reports are falsified to protect the island's livelihood.

Unfortunately, the girl was killed by a shark, and it's chosen Amity Island as its feeding ground.  As the death toll rises, Police Chief Brody, shark-hunter Quint and oceanographer Hooper set out to find and kill the man-eater - before it kills them.

My Review: This film has been around for a while.  It's a classic - legendary, even.  But this is the first time I'd ever seen it, and it made an impression.  It stands up surprisingly well after nearly 40 years.  Yes, some aspects of the film are dated, but not as many as you'd think, and they don't really detract from its impact.


1. My goodness.  Apparently PG-13 didn't exist back then, so don't let the PG rating fool you.  This movie is surprisingly gore-tastic.*

2. The level of suspense through much of this film would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.  The scene on the beach after they decide not to close the island for swimming is a wonderful example, as is the next beach scene.  I was pretty much yelling at Hooper when he got into his dive gear to investigate the boat they found.

3. Because the mechanical shark didn't react well to salt water and couldn't be used much, there is tons of perspective footage with that menacing John Williams score.  This is hugely effective.

4. There are some truly golden moments in this screenplay.  Pretty much any scene with Hooper in it has great dialogue, and the reminiscing scene in the boat is phenomenal.

5. The overall effect of the film is pretty lasting.  I saw it Sunday night and I'm still thinking about it.  Not bad.


1. Every time Richard Dreyfuss laughed, I heard Dr. Leo Marvin.  Not much of a negative, as it kind of made those bits funnier, but it definitely takes you out of the film for a moment.

2. Some dated elements in the acting, sound and filming.  Minor annoyance.

3. The mechanical shark.  It looks great when Brody first sees it, and most times when it appears off the boat.  Any time it breaches the surface of the water, however, it's pretty obviously fake.  Especially the end footage with Quint: Captivating? Yes. Repulsive? Yes. Realistic? No. Not even a little bit.

4.  The ending, and I mean the very ending - the denouement, after Hooper resurfaces.  It's a little bit 'I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship', but badly done.  It felt very rushed.

All in all, despite the fact that everybody says so, I have to admit that Jaws really is a must-see movie, even 40 years on.  It's the kind of film that's pretty much mandatory for a movie buff to have in their library.  It truly is a classic.

Release date: 1975
Rating: PG (*snort*)
Run time: 124 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg

My Rating: 4.5 stars (out of five)

*Not really a positive, I guess.  Just a general warning.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Spectacular Seattle


I haven't been to Seattle since, I don't even know.  1998?  Something like that.

Let me tell you: Seattle is awesome.

I've only been here about 28 hours, but the weather's been nice (we could see Mt Rainier and the Olympics at times!) and my brother Ben and I have done a lot of walking.  Yesterday, I walked to Benaroya Hall (home of the Seattle Symphony) from the train station,* then he and I walked around in search of dinner.

We spent the evening watching Jaws (which I'd never seen before!! - look for review on Wednesday) and some home movies.  And when I say 'home movies', I mean movies that we made at home.  Two Christmases in a row when we were all in college, Steven, Ben and I first recreated scenes from movies we liked, and then made our own original movie western.  Needless to say, we spent that part of the evening cracking up.

This morning, we set off for the famous Pike Place Market for more walking.

This is the place to go for taste tests.  We sampled dungeness crab, three kinds of apples, three types of pears, a persimmon,  two German cold cuts, and Greek yoghurt.  For lunch, we ate at Piroshky Piroshky and Mee Sum Pastry.  We got Kassler and Weisswurst from Bavarian Meats for tomorrow, and some fun fruits and vegetables from the produce stands.**

We also swung by the original Starbucks, and watched the Pike Place Fish guys throw fish (and whatever else people bought).  These guys are entertaining.

Be sure to move in close for a good look at its awesome mouth.

We returned home with our treasures, then went down to the historic Ballard Locks and watched a fishing boat get moved into Lake Washington.  We saw a baby harbor seal, a sea lion, a rat, some jumping fish, and possibly an otter (it was too far away to be sure).  Unfortunately, there were no late salmon jumping up the ladder.

All in all, visiting Seattle has been great, and I still have a another whole day!^

*Yep, I took the train up from Vancouver, WA.  Cheaper than driving, if you're traveling alone, and you get to read/write/sleep while you travel!

**Pike Place Market is sort of like a Saturday farmer's market on steroids, and it's open every day of the year.  Going to the Market is an experience, and I highly recommend it.  Just don't expect it to be cheap.

^Have you been to Seattle?  What are your favorite spots?  If not, what's your favorite city to visit?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Read Any Good Books Lately?

I have!

Since I just moved back to Portland, I wandered over to one of the best Barnes & Noble* bookstores I have ever had the pleasure to visit - the one at Bridgeport Village.

Now, my travels are far from exhaustive, but I have been to a few B&Ns in my day.  I can give you my top three right now: Ashville, N.C., Topeka, KS, and this one.  I liked Ashville because it just seemed to have a good selection of everything.  I liked Topeka because it had the Mabinogion and lots of Doctor Who** stuff.  And I like Bridgeport because it has an awesome children's section.

Yes.  I read children's books.

When I was in middle school, we used to go to B&N, and I'd go over to the Young Readers section, pick out a stack of books so large, I could barely see over the top of them, and Mom would force me to whittle it down to five or six books.  This happened every time.

Still does!  (Except the Mom part.)

The other day I went to the Bridgeport B&N and picked out a few books to bring home.  I read one that very day: Wanderville, by Wendy McClure.

Now, I have to say, I really enjoyed reading Wanderville.  It's a very interesting piece of historical fiction that reads like regular fiction ... if that makes sense.  At any rate, it takes a nice look at an obscure item in our country's historical record: the so-called Orphan Trains that took children to Kansas.  I was unaware of this until I read the book - I'll be doing some research in the near future to find out more.

So I read that one a few days ago and ruminated on it for a while before starting the next one.  The book I'm currently reading is Darkbeast Rebellion, by Morgan Keyes.  This book, unbeknownst to me at the time of purchase, is actually a sequel.  That said, you really don't need to read the first book in order to understand what's going on in the second.  Rebellion is a really, really interesting book.  Fascinating concept, bonding people to animals that way.  Makes me think of The Golden Compass, although the details are completely different.  I haven't actually finished this one yet, but so far it's been, as I said, really, really interesting.

And that's what I've been reading!

I think when I've finished my new small pile of children's books, I'll read Hamlet.

Why, you ask?  Long story.

What have you read recently?  Let me know in the comments!

*I know, I know.  But Powell's is downtown and I'm not ready to go there yet.  Besides, not having lived in Portland since I was 6 years old, B&N is my Happy Place.

**And by the way, I'm really looking forward to Mummy on the Orient Express.  Still not sure what I thought of Kill the Moon.  Creative, certainly.  Great Clara-12 scene at the end (well done, Coleman and Capaldi - well done).  But the episode itself?  Not a favorite.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hassle-Free Apartment Hunting

No review this week - been too busy!  Instead, welcome to Rachel's Self-Help Guide to Hassle-Free Apartment Hunting!

Hate moving?  Detest driving to a zillion different apartment complexes, walking through model after model?  Does the mere thought of spending days in such activities give you an acute case of Life Procrastination?

Then you need my seven easy steps to hassle-free apartment hunting.  And here they are, for FREE!!!!*

But wait!  THERE'S MORE!!!

Read now, and you'll receive a bonus offer of Advice Everyone Moving Should Take.  Absolutely FREE!!!  Must read this blog post within the first 30 seconds of it being posted.  We feel that is a generous interpretation of 'now'.

Here are the steps:

1. Know your budget (your actual limit, as well as your preferred rent).

2. Spend a few days looking online at ALL the apartment listing sites.  This will give you a good idea about what's available, and what you can get for how many $ in different neighborhoods.

3. Decide your must-haves.  It's important to do this after step 2 to ensure realism.

4. Get in touch with your top picks (phone or email) to see what they have available to rent in the time frame you need to move.  This will whittle down the list a bit.

5. Read the reviews for the complexes you're looking at.  Pay attention to the dates of the reviews, and keep in mind that you can't please everyone.  But if 90% of the reviews from the past year are scathingly bad, you may not want to rent there.

6. Pick a spot that's not likely to work (due to being overpriced for what you get, not due to being out of your league) and look at an apartment.  This sets the bar low.**

7. Don't forget to drive around your top picks to see if the internet missed anything, but when you find an apartment complex that doesn't depress you (or is pretty), a floor plan that you can make work (or you like), and a price that's reasonable (or what you were hoping for), take it.^

Then go home and enjoy contemplating all the unexpected free time coming your way that was formerly set aside for more apartment hunting!

You do not qualify for our FREE offer of Advice Everyone Moving Should Take.  You were too slow.  Thank you.

*Limited time only.
**I know it sounds pessimistic.  But trust me.  I did this step by accident, and it was a fantastic way to start the apartment hunt.  Instead of every apartment having something wrong with it, every apartment after that first one had something right with it, and it was a much more pleasanter [sic] experience.
^My theory is that we sometimes shop for apartments like we shop for houses, as if we're locking ourselves in to a mountain of debt and the rest of our lives living there.  It's an apartment.  You can always spend your lease looking for 'that perfect place' at your leisure, and move to said place when your lease is up.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Marvelous Monday

Ah, the Pacific Northwest.  Home.  The land of my youth.

I haven't lived in Portland since I was six, although I grew up visiting relatives in the area, so it's kind of surreal to contemplate making a life here as an adult.  It should be considerably less surreal once I find my own apartment and get settled.

So, here's the run-down of my Portland experience so far:

1. I'm not actually in Portland yet - I'm crashing at Mom & Dad's in Vancouver while I look for a place in Portland.  But you know what?  Close enough.
2. It's warm and sunny - amazing!
3. I've eaten at Beaches.  Twice.
4. I had lunch with Aunt Mary and Aunt Debbie (and Mom).
5. I got to catch up with two of my best friends from college, Erica and Hillary, and met Erica's 3-month-old baby, Nathan (adorable little guy!).
6. I got to go for an evening walk with Hillary!!*
7. My To-Do List is well in hand - I already have a list of apartments to look at this week, and multiple plans for the weekend.

So, yeah.  Feeling pretty productive.  :)  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an apartment to hunt.

*If you lived at Trinity House when I did, you know that The Evening Walk is a big deal.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Report: Mountain Country

We've spent the last few days in mountain country, which is pretty much my favorite type of topography.

You see, I grew up in Central Oregon (Sunriver and Bend), where the Cascade Mountains are pretty much your backyard.*  So it's nice to spend some time up here at elevation.

First we were in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, at 6700 feet.  Now we're in Park City, Utah, at 7000 feet.  Since I've been living at sea level for the last few years, the lack of oxygen has taken some getting used to.

The drive from Denver to Steamboat Springs was pretty awesome; lots of rushing mountain streams and fall colors.  If only Steamboat Springs wasn't so far out of the way.  The drive to Park City was a little less amazing, terrain-wise.  You go through a lot of desert area, but we drove past Dinosaur National Monument (didn't have time to stop, unfortunately) and later pulled off to check out a nice cliffy viewpoint.

Park City seems more beautiful and fun than Steamboat Springs, although that may be because it poured down rain the entire time we were in the Colorado Rockies.  Except the morning we left.  When it snowed.

Yep.  To get from point A to point B we drove through snow, snow mixed with rain, just plain rain, a freak hail blizzard, sunshine, and a lot more snow mixed with rain.

Drove through the small ice blizzard that left this hail behind like a BOSS!**

Good times.  I guess it's good practice for me, moving back near snow country.  We are driving to Sunriver for family Christmas, after all.

Hey!  Maybe there'll be a snowstorm on the way to Sunriver, and I'll have to put chains on my car for the first time!  Makes me think back to the time we waited out a spring blizzard at the old cafe on Santiam Pass.

Ah, the memories.

Anyway!  Tomorrow we're headed back out of the mountains and farther west.  Can't wait to get home.

And, you know.  Actually find a place to live.^  Like an apartment or something.  Because privacy.

*Basic rule of thumb: If there are trees on top, it's not a real mountain.
**Photo by Penny Lulich, because I was driving!
^Crashing on Mom and Dad's couch does not count.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Review: Little-Known Tolkien

For this week's Wednesday Review, I'm happy to present to you another story in text format: Smith of Wootton Major, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The dragon, regrettably, is in the second story.

Introduction: I stumbled upon this volume, containing two stories (Smith and Farmer Giles of Ham) while looking for Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I found Sir Gawain, as well, but being between jobs, I can no longer buy every book that strikes my fancy.

Since I've already read Sir Gawain in another translation and know I will remember to look for it again later, I chose Smith and Farmer Giles, which I had never heard of before.  I just finished reading Smith last night, so I haven't actually had time to ruminate on it very much.  This will be a first impressions review, as was my last review, about Out of the Silent Planet.

So what's it about?  Smith of Wootton Major is a tale of two men; Alf, the Cook's Apprentice, and Smith (the town's smith, you see?). It starts out mostly about Alf, then transfers to being primarily about Smith when he, as a boy, swallows a star from Faery.  The story chronicles his journeys into that magical land.

My Review:  Smith of Wootton Major is a great story if you like medieval stuff or if you are a Tolkien fan.  There's a lot in there reminiscent of his better-known works about Middle Earth (Smith takes place in medieval England, as far as I can tell).  It is not, however, a particularly good story if you are interested in plot and lots of character details.

Although the content is certainly interesting, there's not a whole lot that actually happens in this story.  In addition, no reason is presented for the star's legacy, and Alf's motives are completely unknown.  It could be that the whole story is meant to establish the Elves of Faery as the benefactors of men, gifting a fortunate few of them with great skill and creativity.  Not sure.

Anyway, I found it an interesting read.  It's not long, so the lack of plot isn't such a big issue.  If you enjoy reading and have any interest at all in medieval literature and/or Tolkien, you'll probably enjoy this story, such as it is.

Original copyright date: 1967
Length: 59 pages in pictured Del Ray edition
Genre: Fantasy

My rating: 3 stars