Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One Day by David Nicholls

I'm not quite sure where I found this one to add to my list but it was very recent, like maybe the week before I requested it from the Wake County library. I'm so glad it wasn't very popular that week (but it was one of the top-selling books of 2011, so don't be fooled by that statement) because I got it quickly from the library.

***SPOILER ALERT***
I wasn't sure how I was going to enjoy it. The premise being that the book spans the lives of two people over many years. I didn't know how many years but it would be many and it would be that these two people would probably never hook up. Yes. A man and a woman: one day, July 15th, every year, we would read about them, for years.

But. It worked. It worked wonderfully. I absolutely loved this book. It was funny. It was sad. It was sad in places that I could never imagine to be sad. It was powerfully emotional that my eyes would water reading it. And it was written by a man? Call me a feminist, if you must. I just couldn't believe a man could write such powerful words from a woman's point of view.

It was maddening. But not in the way you thing. Or, I guess, in the way I was thinking. That stereotypical "moonlighting" tv show: with the sexual tension of 'will they or won't they?' But it really wasn't like that. Not exactly.

Emma and Dexter. Dexter and Emma. This is a novel about the two of them. How they met. How they lived. Starting July 15th, 1988, when they graduate from university. It's British. So no "the university". Just "university". :)

The book is divided in sections by years: their early 20s, late 20s, early 30s, etc. Nicholls writes for Emma *and* Dexter, so we know each character. But it's really Emma that I feel we get to know more, and is, to me, the main character of the book.

Emma is sweet and beautiful. She meets Dexter at a graduation party. Dexter comes from a wealthy family and is good-looking; the 'gets-whatever-he-wants' kind of guy. Somehow, they hit it off and from that moment, sparks fly but Dexter is definitely not ready.

Their lives, fortunately, stay together in friendship throughout the years. We, as the readers, get quick, yearly summaries of what has been going on. Emma struggles through the hopes and dreams of making a difference as a writer, only to be a waitress at a mexican restaurant for most of her 20s.

Dexter, the dashing wealthy guy, travels all over the world, banging women everywhere. His hopes and dreams are being fulfilled. When his mom and dad tell him to finally grow up and find a career, he decides on several that sound good for picking up women. It's not enough to find a career that's enjoyable; it has to sound good when you say it out loud to other women.

He ends up being a tv presenter for a crap show and becomes semi-famous but also, a big time belligerent drunk and drug user. But Emma is always within reach as a friend for him, despite his asshole-ness over the years.

He gets married, has a kid, then divorced. Emma has her share of relationships over these years too and finally, finds success in writing. And then, Dexter and Emma get together. It's nice. It's a whirlwind romance after 20 years of friendship.

But tragedy strikes at the 18 month anniversary of their marriage, and Emma is killed in an accident. It was devastating although I sort of knew something terrible was going to happen after accidentally reading one of the quotes other authors write about the book. It didn't stop me from crying in a public area: the bleachers of the YMCA in Salisbury, NC, while waiting for CJ's team to play volleyball. I couldn't help it. There was no way I was not NOT going to read it and there was no way I couldn't help from crying.

The book doesn't end with Emma's death. We read about Dexter dealing with it, even three years after her death. And in the most beautiful ending I have ever read, so poignant and poetic, Nicholls ends it with the way they said goodbye when they first met.
This is where it all begins. Everything starts here, today.
And then it was over. 'So. I'll see you around,' he said, walking slowly backwards away from her.
'I hope so,' she smiled.
'And I hope so too. Bye, Em.'
'Bye, Dex.'
'Goodbye.'
'Goodbye. Goodbye.' 
The book has already been made into a movie that was released last year. I knew a movie was being _made_. I didn't know it was already MADE and, not only has it been made, but it's already on DVD.

Amazing book. Just beautiful. Well written. These are two people you won't forget for a long time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

More to Enlighten Your Eating Habits

I'm not done giving you more "food for thought".

Some more information I wasn't able to fill in with my last post.

More on cows.

You all know how badly our cows are mistreated, right? So when you buy your beef, you really should be buying grass-fed beef. Most of our beef comes from corn fed cows. And cows naturally eat grass, not corn. But because corn can come by easily, especially from the evil empire Monsanto, it can fatten up cows like no other, in crammed spaces, so cows are force fed corn to fatten them up, so they can get lots of beef to give to "us" consumers, to pile up in our big fat American grocery stores (that sentence was long on purpose).

And people who care, who have relatively small acreage of farms, for their cows to roam freely, to eat grass, and then (well, unfortunately for vegetarians) DO slaughter them for beef eaters, well, they are few and far between. Because of the deluge of mass corn-fed-cow-producing 'farmer's, so grass-fed beef is much, much more expensive. But hey, you know it is actually healthier to be a part-time vegetarian, so maybe eat less beef and spend more money supporting the healthier option (kill two birds with one stone where the healthier optionS are: healthier beef *and* eating less beef)...

Now I sound preachy but just throwing the idea out there...

...because it's really sad. Imagine someone forcing YOU to eat food you weren't naturally inclined to eat every day of your life? Of course, it's an animal and perhaps cows don't have feelings like humans but I do have feelings and the idea of an animal eating something they aren't naturally inclined to eat everyday of their life is cruel, whether they feel it or not. And I can't support that.

And the fact that the evil empire of Monsanto gains from that makes it immoral.

But on top of that, our own government (in the U.S.) does something, well, actually, nothing to support the health of YOUR children. My children are not affected because my youngest is a vegetarian, so she doesn't eat meat at school and the other is very picky. And despite NOT being a vegetarian and being less healthy, her pickiness, in this case, saves her from eating bad school food because she brings her own lunch to school.

But basically, pink slime food is being served to your children at school. What is it? It's the throw away pieces of the cow that butchers don't use but apparently, the USDA and FDA has allowed it into our food sources by washing it, grinding it, treating it with ammonia to kill the bacteria, then mixing it with ground beef, so that it can now be _labeled_ as ground beef, and then selling / serving it as ground beef.

And despite the controversy, and most fast food places removing this type of ground beef from it's menus, our schools will have the option to continue serving it to our children. See this article for more information.

Jamie Oliver did a great demonstration of pink slime.


And the other pink slime that fucked me up because I ate this shit and my children ate this shit. Supposedly, McDonald's does not make their nuggets like this anymore. But others may...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I have had this on my list ever since I saw the cover. How could you resist this, along with the title?

I was on the library wait list for awhile and when I got the book, I was just as delighted to read this book. Not only because it was a good, quirky story but the book itself is 'nice': the font and the pages (this is the hardback) are easy to read. There is a flourish to the page numbers are the bottom of the pages. And there are pictures.

Ransom Riggs (cool name, eh?) apparently created the story from actual pictures. It was interesting, to me, that this novel is a YA (young adult) novel and, originally, this novel was supposed to be a children's picture book. But if you were to see the picture's in this book, um, I don't think you'd want your children to see them because they are creepy, to say the least. If you look closely at the picture on the cover of the book included here, the little girl is floating above the ground. There are many more similar creepy pictures. MiMi enjoyed, well, in that creepy, fearful way, looking through the pictures of this book.

But the story itself is not creepy. It's quite inventive and impressive how Riggs wrapped a story into these pictures, which makes me love this novel more.

***SPOILER ALERT***

The novel centers around 16 year old Jacob, who's grandfather Abe is murdered. Well, Jacob is the only one who _thinks_ his grandfather is murdered, as he sees a strange creature in the woods where his grandfather is found. A man with tentatacles coming out of his mouth.

Everyone else thinks it was an animal and Jacob undergoes psychiatric care. After all, Grandpa Abe was also loony-tunes. He told tales of peculiar children from his childhood: children who could levitate, make fire out of the balls of their hands, were invisible. And they believed that Jacob's attachment to his grandfather led him to grieve in this manner.

As part of the grieving process for Jacob, his psychiatrist recommended that his family allow him to go to Grandpa Abe's childhood home: Cairnholm Island. Abe was an orphan and the home he grew up in was on this island. The home has since been destroyed since WWII but perhaps, closure could be found for Jacob. So Jacob and his dad travel to this island near Wales.

Jacob finds the ruins of the home. But he also ends up finding the peculiar children. How? Through a "loop". He ends up being able to go back and forth, between September 3rd, 1940 (the day the house blows up) and the present time). He meets Emma, the love of Grandpa Abe (and now his own), who can make fire with her hands, Miss Peregrine herself, Millard the Invisible Boy, Olive, the levitating girl, and so many other peculiar children. It's a wonderful life of goose dinner, lazing the day away in the sun, never really moving away from September 3rd, 1940, because it loops that day over and over. And Jacob can stay, because he is peculiar too: he can see the monsters. But he's torn between leaving the 21st century and his family, or staying in one day, with Emma.

But in the 21st century, sheep, and now people, are dropping like flies. And it's carrying over into 1940. Ymbrynes, which is what Miss Peregrine is, are those headmistresses that can turn into a bird (Peregrine!), travel through time, and make time loops, are being kidnapped by wights to create some big reactor to make them (wights) better at time-looping to take over the world (or something like that...). Needless to say, they don't accomplish this, with the help of Jakob and Emma and a few others.

It ends with the the time loop being destroyed, the day turning into September 4th, 1940, the home on Cairnholm Island being destroyed, Miss Peregrine being stuck as a bird, Jacob saying goodbye to his dad, and the children (and Jacob) searching for a new home and time loop. It isn't sad; it's a new beginning. The picture at the end is poignant.

I love how Riggs worked the story into the pictures. He's a blogger. I thought the story with the pictures was how a blogger would write. And I mean that very complimentary. I am no novelist. And I am not an amazing blogger. But I could relate to his writing.

Two quotes from the story I kept that I liked. First: the Priest Hole is the bar that Jacob and his dad stayed at (top floor) when they arrived at Cairnholm Island.

From Jacob:
I slammed out of the Priest Hole and started walking, heading nowhere in particular. Sometimes you just need to go through a door.
Also from Jacob, and this comes at the end of the novel, after he says goodbye to his father and he starts his journey with his friends:
I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Evil Empire

I can't believe I haven't mentioned 'Monsanto' before in my blog postings (I just did a search). I've been keeping up with them for a couple of years now, ever since I first heard about them after watching Food, Inc.

In fact, early in 2011, Monsanto was rated as the #1 most unethical company IN THE WORLD. I didn't know there was a category for that but there is. And it's given out, apparently yearly since 2005, by the Swiss research company Covalence that has qualitative and quantitative data in place to evaluate this. You can go to their website and figure it out for yourself. I don't need their data to get the gist of it.

One small task you can do on your own is to google "Monsanto evil" and see the number of articles you'll see, from so many various sources.

Why?

Because they greedy. And they control every piece of food you eat. Almost literally. They have patents on genetically engineered seeds for corn and soybeans. These seeds are resistant to Roundup, yes, the herbicide. And, BTW, they also make Roundup.

But they spray that shit anyway, to kill weeds but it doesn't kill the seed so it grows corn and soybeans and such. And that seed makes a whole lot of processed food. The article below that I am summarizing from states that 93% of our soybeans in the US (not the world) comes from genetically engineered (GE) soybeans. 86% from corn. And if you didn't already know this, that doesn't mean only corn- or soy-like food. Every single thing in a box, cannister, maybe even in a can, is derived from a corn kernel or soybean. It gets grounded up, processed with a lot of shit, then mixed up, then ta-da! You have a cracker. Or a potato chip. Or cereal in rice flavor, wheat flavor, or marshmallow flavor. Everything you eat that is not grown in your backyard, from the farmer's market, or labeled 100% organic comes from that GE seed.

If you think I'm exaggerating, I may be, but it would be by a very small percentage point.

The other evil genius things that Monsanto does, besides owning all of our processed food, is putting our real farmers out of business. Now, Monsanto claims they are not and I am going to put their rebuttal here so they won't sue me for slander. But according to _some_ accounts: there are those who claim that, farmers who use Monsanto GE seeds whose farm's are next to farmers who _don't_ use GE seeds...well, the wind blows, and then the GE seeds happen to blow into the non-GE farmer's fields and then voila! Suddenly, the non-GE farmer has GE seeds and well, Monsanto doesn't quite take to kindly to non-GE farmers *stealing* their patented seeds. And it's easy to prove that those are, indeed, their seeds. So they sue the non-GE farmers for patent-infringement. Supposedly they DO know that the farmer, in fact, did NOT steal the seeds, that it was really Mother Nature. And they also know that the non-GE farmer is not likely to have the funds to fight against the corporate behemoth Monsanto, so what happens is that either a deal is struck with the non-GE farmer, or the non-GE farmer runs out of money with legal fees and loses his farm, then Monsanto buys his land and now, they have more land to plant their seeds.

In this article that I pinned yesterday, I learned that Roundup is killing our soil. It is sapping the micro-nutrients out of the ground and thus, the plants that do grow are no longer absorbing these essential nutrients for human health.

On top of that, the plants grown in this soil absorb glyphosate, which is the herbicide in Roundup. It cannot be washed off. It has literally become a part of the plant so that we now ingest it, as part of the plant.

Do you understand why they are so evil? So unethical? They want to make money. They want to own all food. And at the expense of ruining the ecosystem. Let alone ruining the small town farmer!

What can you do, that's if you care to do anything? Stop buying GE / GMO (genetically modified organisms) / GM (genentically modified food. In the article, there is a link to this, a Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

I've been doing this for about two months now. Not fervently anti-GE but I will now.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Protein Bars

I recently read about, then signed up, for Pinterest. That's where I've been hanging out. Well, I haven't been hanging out anywhere lately except at "work", which is fine. I'm not upset about it.

While creating my new boards on pinterest, I found this recipe for Clean Eating Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Protein Bars. They looked, and sounded, delish. I decided to give them a try.

Let me say: EASY PEASY. They were NOTHING to put together. Well, nothing is not exactly right. They were nothing but easy to put together but they were quite sticky and messy. The recipe, at one point, said to use your hands. I recommend not to, as everything sticks to your hands. Water helps: wet your hands (if you intend to use your hands) before mixing the ingredients). But I would use a rubber spatula, which I ended up using after I was able to get most of the ingredients off my hands.

This is probably my very first "clean eating" food I've ever made. It's an acquired taste, to say the least. They LOOK amazing and delicious but they taste like something you would find from a green, earth-loving place, which is where I bought all the ingredients, except the chocolate chips. They didn't happen to have 'grain sweetened chocolate chips' that day. But everything else: agave, no sugar peanut butter (has to be refrigerated after opening), whey protein powder and chia seeds, were easily located at Harmony Farms Natural Foods.

Tim and MiMi were very excited to give these delightful bars a try. MiMi finished hers and even took one to school the next day. She is so sweet. But has since not eaten one again. Neither has Tim. I, on the other hand, have actually acquired a taste for them. I like them and would definitely make them again. The ingredients offer a lot of fiber and protein, which is what drew me to the recipe. I'm on a healthy eating kick (which is working for me) and I found that agave is quite yummy (and quite expensive).

And chia seeds are high in fiber, and also contain protein, but also are quite expensive. Seems healthy eating can get expensive when you veer off common fruits and veggies but it was fun to give these a try and I still have plenty of ingredients to make more.