Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pat Conroy books

I have not read all of Pat Conroy's books, but I did enjoy Lords of Discipline and I did make it through Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and most recently, South of Broad.
One thing I like about his books is how realistic they are. His descriptions are long, sensory experiences. The plot is frequently saddening, but not in an overly tragic way, with a glimmer of hope at the end of each. For the most part, they are compelling reads, too. I didn't want to stop reading the last one, and, even though it took me a couple tries to get into Beach Music, I ended up liking it too.
There are some things I don't like about Conroy's books. Each one starts with a long monologue that is about the most depressing reading in print to be found anywhere. Every book starts with this downer! Sometimes, it puts you off the whole book. Another thing I don't like is the dialogue...because it is too good. It always has the feel of a witty, snarky, new-york-style play. Every line is a zinger. No one ever stutters or fails to say exactly what they mean. It is too perfect. And I don't like it because it is such a contrast with the realism of the rest of the book. The plot is intricate but believable, the twists are easily conceivable, but no one I know speaks like a character from any of his books. No one I know is that cutting or cruel or dead-sure. So, while I am reading, I am taking in these verbose descriptions, getting a real sense of things, and then people speak, and its suddenly brought home that this is fiction. And I do like to get lost in the story, wondering how true everything I am reading is, wondering how much is autobiography. But I know these conversations are not the truth. They are honed, sharpened, distilled essences of the truth that we rarely ever meet in our daily lives. Its what we say in our heads hours later, usually preceded by, "what I should have said was...". The characters in Conroy's books are either too good or too evil, and rarely a mixture of both. The main character is always a wonderful person. In fact, almost too wonderful. Maybe that character is always supposed to represent our better selves. It is our selves if we did always make all the tough decisions correctly. The main character of a Conroy book is never fatally flawed, and that is usually what keeps the book from being a tragedy.
One of the reasons I love the Harry Potter books is, that HP is NOT perfect and he makes some stupid mistakes and errors in judgement in each book. He does learn from them, but it makes him more likeable to see him pay for his errors, and grow.
I never get the sense that the main character of a Conroy book is growing, learning or changing. Its more like he is weathering, enduring, and hoping against all hope, but he is a complete person in the beginning and a complete one at the end, and ultimately, I find it hard to identify with!
So while I like reading Pat Conroy books, I find that I don't love them, I wouldn't reread them, and yet they are all memorable and haunting.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Barbie - Fever

My dear daughter has a wicked virus that has given her a fever yesterday and today, so I relented and played Barbies with her. It is so sad when kids get sick because they are so energetic otherwise, and they get brought so low when they are feeling badly. I just felt so sorry for her, but we did get to watch a lot of Studio Ghibli films. She was feeling better this afternoon, so I got to sew blue jeans for her dolls (the third try looked a lot better than the first two. She has decided that most of her dolls are high school age and they must comply with the dress code. Daughter's dress code is denim, so jeans must be worn. This is the same girl who literally did not own a pair of blue jeans in kindergarten or first grade. However, since she has been horse-back riding...denim is now the must-have fabric of the season. And, sad to say, I am getting old eyes. I cannot see as well trying to hand-sew snaps to these tiny seams.
The fever seems to have broken, but not the passion for fashion!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And we're walking

I forgot to tell everyone...I am torturing my dear daughter this year by making her walk, yes walk on her two legs, walk to school (just one way for now - still way too hot in the afternoons). So the first day went well...we made it in about 25 minutes. The weather has been very cooperative in that it has been cool, and we leave early enough (to get there on time) that the sun is still not up. So I don't start sweating until I make the return trip home. She only complained five times the first day, and each time I started a lecture on the benefits of walking for health, evolution of walking people, etc... No surprise she shut me down each time, but she also quit complaining! The second day went well too - took a little longer because there was a gecko to catch and release. She complained only twice and only at the end, but begged to bike ride on the third day. Still, she asked to run around the block this evening, so she cannot be too bad off. Meantime, I walked to the voting place and made the long trip home...about four miles total, and I was SORE. So, we will both be complaining tomorrow...but we are walking!
Please tell me you voted, people. If not this time, promise you will in November!

Monday, August 23, 2010

more computer issues

I was reading over my old posts from this year, and realizing that I have yet to tell 'the rest of the story' (thank you Paul Harvey) about my computer problems. So for six months, my desktop worked fine. I reloaded all the software, most of it available by download. I had replaced the mother board, power supply, hard disk, and upgraded the RAM, and all it was all working well. Until my computer just shut off again in the middle of web searching. So, obviously I had not fixed or replaced the correct component, even after all that trauma. Back to the drawing board. I figured that it was fairly unlikely that one of the new components failed, mostly because the main symptom (computer just shutting off) was the same. Still, I kept the possibility of inadequate power in my mind. So the only things I didn't replace that had to do with power and computation were: the power strip connecting the box to the wall, the AMD chip (the processor) and its cooling fan, and the video card with its cooling fan. My stepdad reminded me that a hot chip will shut down a system fast, and so, after replacing the power strip, I ran the desktop with the side panel off to watch the fans. And there was the problem...the cooling fan on the AMD chip was not spinning. And the chip could take some heat, but when I was doing a lot of intense processing, it couldn't cool off, and it shut down the system. Good news was that everything on the hard disk was still okay...because I hadn't tried to reboot right away with a processor that was still hot. If it shuts down while trying to load Windows, that is when you get those nasty 'hive' errors.
Still, it was time to fish or cut bait, and I decided to quit cutting bait and start fishing for a new desktop. So now, I have a bunch of computer parts to build up dear husband's older computer, and I have a new computer with an AMD Athlon II, Windows 7 (making the switch wasn't bad at all), 5 Gigs of RAM and a Terabyte of hard disk space. Oh and a beautiful new monitor. You may envy me now.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We met the teacher

We met the teacher and also carefully scanned the classmates list. The verdict is not yet in, but the signs are good! The teacher is older, has been at the school for a while, and one of her former students came by to give her a big hug (always a good sign!). The roster is also a lot better than last year's, and I know so many of the moms already...one of the advantages of going to the same school year after year. So I can't wait to see how it unfolds for my dear daughter. I will also be keeping closer tabs, having volunteered to be a folder mom - that is, I come in on Mondays and stuff the folders of each student with the homework assignments. So I will be in a position to keep better track this year than last.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

real quick update

I cannot believe the summer has flown by, but it has because tomorrow is MEET THE TEACHER day for my dear daughter entering second grade. This is a big deal day for us, and more so because this is a big deal grade, I think. School starts out easy, but it does get harder each year, and I think this will be the first year that my daughter and her peers will be really put through some disciplined learning. Sure back in the ole days, as soon as you went to school, you had to behave and pay attention, but I swear last year was just more practice and not real school. The discipline problems alone wasted half of the learning time. The kids did NOT cover money in larger denominations than dimes. They did NOT cover telling time at all. They did learn to read, and they did learn to add and subtract up to twenty. So I think it is possible that some kaka will hit some fans for these kids in this grade. If they are coddled again this year or bogged down again by discipline problems.... Well I don't even want to think about it, but I will turn into THAT MOM. You know, the one who complains, the one who meets with the principal... Don't make me do it, people, you don't want me to get my grump on.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

this was my trip journal from July 7th

The drive into YELL from the northeast entrance road was undoubtedly the loveliest of the five
entrances. The national forest up there is cut by only two roads, both well maintained by the
state of Wyoming, and both smoothly winding. The towns outside the park are very small one-street,
no stoplight camping villages, accessable from Cody or Billings.
Within five minutes of paying our user fee (25$ for the week for those folks not of senior age)
we saw a brown hump on the edge of meadow, and my first thought was 'bear'. Well, it was one!
I had never before seen a bear in Yell, although I had seen them in GRSM. We turned around and
clearly saw the classic teddy-bear ears. He spooked and we didn't get a picture, but the luck
had begun.
Our next stop was Lamar Valley, where we found people eagerly looking up the North side
at a fence-enclosed forest in the middle of a sagebrush covered hill opposite the river and valley.
They had seen wolves, including pups, but the canids were hidden. After finding bison fluff on
the valley side, I got into the car and thought, 'hmmm, how did you get a radio signal out here"
when my mom pointed out that it was a howl! So melodic! It sounded like a woman singing a
country song, and really did give me chills.
We saw hundreds of Bison in Lamar. When we saw the first Griz, it was busy digging something out
of the ground, and where we parked, it was the required 100 feet away. I watched it through
the long lens of the eos and tried to get pix when it popped its head up. However, when I turned
around, the car was no longer there! They had driven up to get a better (closer) view and left me.
So I had to go closer to the bear to get to the safety of the car. The ranger was not amused, but
since I was on the far side of the road, allowed me to pass and get in. He would not allow mom
to stay out and take a picture, though. It would have served them right if they'd had to find a
turnout to come back for me, if I hadn't been allowed to walk toward the car.
We had our first Bison in the road. Fortunately, its eyes were calm and mellow, not rolling, and
he stared right into our car. I thought I got the picture, but perhaps the eos (camera) jammed,
because it couldn't be reviewed. I am hoping photoshop will be able to resusitate it.
Lastly, on the way out of the park to Gardiner, MT, I saw the famed stone arch. I thought it
was at the Northeast entrance, and I was vexed not to have seen it. Turns out the Roosevelt
arch is right outside the pay station on the North entrance. I was so close the prior to visits,
and I never knew, because I had the wrong info. So the next morning we stopped for the pictures.