Friday, February 27, 2009

book comments 13

"Brisingr, or: The Seven Promises of Eragon Shadeslayer and Saphira Bjartskular -- Inheritance Book III" by Christopher Paolini

--Okay. So in this post, I complained about a book I hadn't enjoyed, and I mentioned looking forward to "Brisingr" as being a story I could read without getting "tied up in knots."
Unfortunately, my powers of prognostication proved inaccurate.

--Don't get me wrong. "Brisingr" is a great story: action, adventure, fantastical creatures and cultures, despair, flawed-yet-triumphant heroism, etc.


--wordiness (the title is only the beginning), lengthy descriptions, generous use of adverbs, occasional grammatical errors
--Paolini has created multiple languages for his "Eragon" universe. No problem there--I appreciate very much the linguistic skill that takes.
--There's a word in Paolini's dwarf language that's composed of thirteen letters. Only three of those letters are vowels. Impossible for me to pronounce in my head, let alone try to sound out aloud. That "dwarven" word dwarfs everything else that's going on. Can we say "interrupts flow of story"? Yes, we can. Uffda.
--the forging of Eragon's sword: highly important to the plot
--NOT important enough to describe it for 14 PAGES
--Paolini seems to be taking advantage of the fact that he *knows* the book will sell, no matter what he puts into it, so he's giving himself free rein to write about something he's personally interested in (his "Acknowlegdements" even mentions his interest) instead of what the reader is interested in, namely the characters and the moving-on-with-the-story-already.
--Still, I enjoyed the read. Eragon's story is a great epic, and I'm amazed at some of the plot twists Paolini comes up with. He's a master at world-building, that's certain.
--recommend, but only to die-hard fantasy/Eragon fans

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry
--Oh, how I love love love love love this book.
--story of Jonas, a boy in a perfect society who discovers that his society is perfectly hideous--and he is the only one who knows
--Anyone who enjoys and marvels at George Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm" needs to read this one.
--Lowry takes your preconceptions and dismantles them one at a time--in such a subtle, innocent way that it leaves you talking out loud to the book, begging it not to be so.
--I read this once as a teenager; this was my first re-read as an adult. --> so much more understanding now! such a greater emotional impact...
--I both love and hate the ambiguous ending.
--HIGHLY recommend

"Star Trek: The Next Generation -- Triangle: Imzadi II" by Peter David
--first time I've read a ST novel in probably ten years
--second reading of this one
--great plot, interesting twists, David takes the TV characters and translates them perfectly to the page
--especially interesting because scenes from the film "Star Trek: Generations" appear in this book
--too many adverbs, a little too much "telling" instead of "showing" (as in: telling me what the characters are feeling instead of showing me through their words & actions)
--great read for any ST:TNG fan

"Leap Before You Look" by Mary Stolz
--This one's been on my shelves since I was a teenager, and I'd never read it before. Why? Dunno.
--story of a girl named Jimmie who watches her parents' marriage fall apart into divorce
--The novel was published in 1972, so the dialogue contains a lot of great slang that's no longer in use today.
--also a fascinating look at American culture of nearly 40 years ago: connections to the Women's Liberation Movement, the racism of the times (some of which is still very current, unfortunately)...
--a great read for teens --> an interesting challenge to try relating to, since the culture of then was so very different from today's

"Mark of the Lion II: An Echo in the Darkness" by Francine Rivers
--sequel to "A Voice in the Wind", continues the story of the Valerians, a family of 1st-century Romans who come into contact with Christianity
--Anyone who has ever struggled with faith will relate to this novel.
--Marcus's anguish and journey toward faith are heart-wrenching and uplifting. --> I cried pretty much throughout the whole book.
--again, a challenge to my own faith
--I'm amazed at how Rivers takes real, spiritual struggle and translates it into fictional characters who face the challenging questions we all answer at some point in our lives.
--Rivers does a little too much "telling" instead of "showing."
--Still, this one was even better than the first one.
--HIGHLY recommend!!!

P.S. I gave "A Voice in the Wind" to my mom for Christmas; she read it and promptly bought this second book AND the third one. So I'll start the third one soon!

Courtney's 2009 Book Total To-Date: 8

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

le fou, i'm afraid i've been thinking...

...but not about wacky old men.

Well, maybe I have. But I don't want to embarrass them by mentioning any names.

Anyway, another thing I've been thinking about (and at this point, I could use the word "pondering," which invites reminiscing on Pinky and the Brain) is the fact that I am not the prolific blogger I once was.

I've now been blogging for 4 & 1/2 years, and it's been an interesting experience. A predominantly positive experience. A good enough experience that I have kept up with it, posting at least once per month for 54 months, minus October and November 2004, when I inexplicably and temporarily lost interest, and October 2006, when Ed's dad had three heart attacks and we were in the States for a month.

Sure, I've never blogged multiple times per day, so I guess I'm not prolific at all, compared with some people. But I'm not comparing myself with some people, I'm comaring myself with me, and me says that I've blopgosted consistently for 4.5 years now, and that makes me prolific. So there.

However, I don't blog nearly as much as I used to, and I think that's a direct result of my novel-writing. I'll let you in on a little secret: I am not witty. You know those people who come up with the perfect puns and terrific turns-of-phrase on the spot, so much so that others tell them, "Hey, you should be writing this stuff down!"? I'm not one of those people. I have only so much brain power to go around. So when I stumble upon one of those literary gems that sparkle in the dark recesses of my brain's Spare Oom, my first thought is not "blog this."

Actually and unfortunately, my first thought usually is, "How can I turn this into a Facebook status update?" But then I take that impulse and beat it into submission so that I might use that sparkly gem not for the evils of FB-status-updating...

...but for the good of The Story.

When you're a writer and you're writing (which is what you should be doing, if you are a writer), everything is for the good of The Story. Snatches of overheard conversation are for the good of The Story. Every weird dream is for the good of The Story. Every attractive fellow human who has an asymmetrical facial feature is for the good of The Story. Every interesting way of saying something is for the good of The Story.

I think that's why I haven't been blogging as much. I've been pouring all my creative energy into The Story--which, of course, is exactly where it should go!--and letting the blog catch whatever happens to be left, which generally isn't much. I'm not bemoaning or bewailing or becomplaining. Just stating facts--and getting out the thoughts that aren't related to wacky old men.

Another pondering has been what will happen to the blog once I start publishing books. Not that I expect to be overrun by rabid fans scouring the intarwebz for snippets of info about me. However, I do keep in mind that there is enough personal information on this blog that someone could find me if they really wanted to--and connect my name on a book with all the personal info on this blog. So, writer that I am, as I ponder this, I begin having visions of stalkers, and weirdos showing up at my door at 11pm, and identity theft, and manic car chases down I-35, and is there Another Story in here somewhere?

Seriously, I could really scare myself with all these potentialities if I carried on. It wouldn't take much. Not much at all.


Anyway, I'm having thoughts about encryptions and passworded blogs and high-tech security and other fun what-ifs. I guess if I had to, I could delete the blog. All I would lose would be the comments; I back up everything else. But I wouldn't want to lose the comments. I like the comments. I adore the comments. If I were the obsessive type, I would print out the comments and wallpaper my bathroom with them.



Saturday, February 21, 2009

interesting music

If this were a Facebook status update, it would read as follows:

Courtney thinks you should check out the links below to listen to the musical artistry of one Zoe Keating. She does this really cool thing with a cello and playbacks of her own various riffs. I don't have a clue how to describe it clearly; you'll just have to go listen and watch... and here and also here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

typing woes

My computer does a weird thing when I write comments on people's Facebook pages: As I type, the words take a loooooooong time to appear on the screen, and they appear one slow letter at a time. So, as I'm typing away, I can't see what I'm actually writing until the computer catches up to my fingers. This has some odd results, including the following tidbit:

themv lnbt uIdknwhow to g bolengtkin ovunerbindincy argeale...

I don't even know what I was trying to say!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

oh, and in case you were wondering

That hour of step aerobics I did on Monday?

Yeah, I have been in agony since yesterday around 9am. Jennifer and I went running at 7:30 yesterday morning, and I'd hoped that would be enough to work out the major sorenesses before they made their appearance.

Um. So, that didn't work at all.

Stairs were like an obstacle course yesterday.

Today, I spent most of my time shuffling around like an old woman because I couldn't straighten my legs. The BACKS OF MY KNEES hurt.

Why the backs of my knees? What normal person has muscle soreness in the backs of their KNEES, I ask you?

And no, DON'T answer that question, because I KNOW that the backs of my knees have been out of shape for most of my life, and intellectually I accept this, but I am trying to have a good rant here, so don't get in my way, dig?


Thank you.

I feel much better now.

Actually, painful and walk-inhibiting though it is, I have been enjoying the physical proof that I did some pretty intensive exercise.

I am already excited about next Monday's aerobics class. :o)

what i ate today, day 3

What I Ate Wednesday, Feb. 4th

1/2 cup oatmeal, 140 calories
2 tbsp. Smart Balance soy butter, 100 cal
1/4 of an apple, 10 cal
2 tbsp. Splenda
1 cup tea, 2 cal

2 cups bean soup, approx. 450 cal
1 slice Smart Balance cheese, 40 cal
4 pieces Wasa crispbread, 140 cal
1 cup tea, 2 cal

2 cups veggie stir-fry in extra virgin olive oil, 250 cal
1 cup tea, 2 cal

6 ounces plain Activia yoghurt, 130 cal
1/2 cup tuna, 100 cal
4 pieces Wasa crispbread, 140 cal
1 Airborne, 5 cal

Total calories: 1511

I had an obsession with Wasa crispbread today, for some reason.

I ate a lot of fiber today. I think I'll pay for that tomorrow. I know, I know. Totally TMI. ;o)

I enjoyed the tea today, but I sure did miss my coffee. We're out of soy milk, and I can't drink coffee black. Yea verily, the tea was jolly good, but still not the same as my good German coffee (courtesy of Aldi, thank you muchly). I enjoy a mixture of coffee and tea throughout the day--though not in the same cup, of course! Don't be silly. ;o)

I'm not totally thrilled about my calorie total today, but c'est la vie. I said I wasn't going to change any habits this week and would merely track my intake, so that's what I'm gonna do.

Fare thee well for today!

P.S. I am paying for the large amount of crispbread with a mild case of heartburn. FAIL. (The bread, not me. ;o)

more "food" for food-thought ;o)

"The average American is wolfing down 460 calories from added sugars every day. That’s more than 100 pounds of raw sugar per person per year (enough to make 3,628 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!).

"What’s at risk with all this sugar intake isn’t just another cavity; refined carbohydrates cause spikes in your blood sugar levels, tell your body to store fat, and put people at increased risk for diabetes. That's another way of saying that it puts people at increased risk of blindness, sexual malfunction, heart attack, and premature death.

"All that from a simple candy bar or soda? Consider this: A dollar will buy you about 75 calories' worth of fresh broccoli, but food manufacturers can use that same dollar to purchase 1,815 calories of sugar. And thanks to government subsidies, high fructose corn syrup, the synthetic sweetener found in so many of the foods in our grocery stores, is even cheaper. It should come as no surprise, then, that added sugars are sabotaging nearly every packaged and prepared food we put in our bodies—pasta sauces, smoothies, even whole grain breads."

--from this by Matt Goulding

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

what i ate today, day 2

What I Ate Tuesday, February 3rd

1/2 cup oatmeal, 140 calories
2 tbsp. Smart Balance soy butter, 100 cal
1/4 of an apple, 10 cal
2 tbsp. Splenda
2 cups coffee, 8 cal
2/3 cup soy milk, 50 cal
4 tbsp. Splenda

IHOP's Garden Scramble, 430 cal
extra butter, 100 cal?

1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese, 80 cal
1/2 tomato, 15 cal

1 piece of bread, 125 cal?
1 apple, 60 cal
1 clementine, 35 cal
3 cups tea, 6 cal

Total calories: approx. 1160

And I drank more non-coffee liquid today than I did yesterday.

AND I did an hour of step aerobics yesterday evening AND ran 20 minutes this morning. It has been oodles of time since I last did aerobics, so everything hurt today. Stairs--both up and down--have been torture. But, masochist that I am, I enjoy every tiny little muscle pain because it shows I finally *did* something. Uffda!

I actually am a teensy bit hungry right now--but it's more that my stomach is saying "I just emptied--don't you think you need to fill me again?" rather than genuine I-need-sustenance.

About that Garden Scramble at IHOP for lunch: It consisted of two pancakes with butter and fake scrambled eggs (Eggbeaters, maybe?) with mushrooms, tomatoes, and green peppers. *smack* Absolutely delish. The calorie content was fairly low, which pleases me. What does not put the cream in my coffee is my suspicion that the pancakes were packed with--you guessed it--partially hydrogenated oils. I have no basis for this suspicion other than my knowledge that restaurants habitually use them in everything.

However, I didn't use any syrup on my pancakes, so at least I avoided the corn syrup. Oh, by the way: Pancake syrup is made of corn syrup, unless you're buying the expensive real maple syrup. And that's your free food fact for the evening. ;o)


P.S. I *thoroughly* enjoyed that IHOP lunch. And not just because of the company, either. ;o) Hugs to Pam and Jennifer!

Monday, February 02, 2009

some general thoughts on food

I don't believe in dieting.

Diets are bad for you.

Diets don't work.

Diets are inadequate and will make you miserable.

I am into changing my eating lifestyle.

This is not a diet. It is a lifelong habit.

For the record, if I can avoid them, I don't eat foods containing corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils.

Corn syrup is just bad and bad and bad for you all around. And I do mean AROUND. And it's in everything: soft drinks, snack bars, granola bars, peanut butter (unless you're buying all-natural brands), many canned goods, Gatorade, fruit drinks, many breads, most sweetened cereals, ad infinitum ad NAUSEUM. Gag me.

Partially hydrogenated oils are in everything, too. Dr. Oz says that if Americans quit consuming part. hydr. oils, we'd each lose an average of 35 lbs. in a year. 35 pounds!!! That's the size of a small child! In a year!

Like corn syrup, part. hydr. oils are bad and bad and bad for you and in everything: Burgers, chips, potato salad from the deli, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, COFFEEMATE, deep-fried food......and generally most pre-made or pre-packaged food.

This stuff will screw up your arteries and give you heart disease, among lots of other fun things like slowing down your metabolism and making you crave more and more food (because your poor body is still desperately trying to get the good fats it needs).

I have banned corn syrup and part. hydr. oils from our home--which means that we don't keep snacks or desserts anymore, much to Ed's chagrin and my occasional craving-panic. But it's worth it: As far as eating habits are concerned, we're both healthier than we've ever been. I snacked on an apple and a clementine tonight...

...and I liked it. ;o)

P.S. Most European countries have banned partially hydrogenated oils from their food industries.

P.S.S. Products labeled "0 trans fats" can still contain part. hydr. oils--basically the same thing.

P.S.S.S. I didn't drink enough water today.

what i ate today, day 1

I was talking with Celia the other day about keeping a food journal. I don't know that I'll do this on a long-term basis, but I thought it might be interesting to journal my food intake for a week. I won't be changing my diet from what it usually is, so this is a look at my general eating lifestyle. I feel as though I'm generally well aware of what I'm eating, so I wonder if this week-long project will reveal any surprises.

What I Ate, Monday, February 2nd

1/2 cup oatmeal, 140 calories
2 tbsp. Smart Balance soy butter, 100 cal
1/4 of an apple, 10 cal
2 tbsp. Splenda
1 cup coffee, 4 cal
1/3 cup soy milk, 25 cal
2 tbsp. Splenda

1 1/2 cups fat-free cottage cheese, 200 cal
1/2 tomato, 15 cal
2 pieces of bread, unknown calorie content
1 Airborne, 5 cal

3 eggs, 240 cal (total)
2 tbsp. olive oil, 240 cal
2 slices Smart Balance cheese, 80 cal (total)
3 slices Hormel Natural Choice smoked turkey, 60 cal
1/4 cup soy milk, 17 cal
1 apple, 55 cal
1 clementine, 35 cal

Total calories: 986 calories + unknown number in bread = approx. 1200?

No big surprises today, I guess. But I wasn't around any temptations, either. Plus, I am a social eater: When I get around people, I tend to overeat. Also, when I'm not the one preparing my food, I can't know exactly what I'm eating.

Also, today I did an hour of step aerobics! Yay, my heart is happy. But, oh, I'm going to be sore tomorrow. :o)