Thursday, January 19, 2012

On reviewing

My first book review appeared on ERB this week. Here's an excerpt:
When I read a book, it’s as if I’m on a date. Some dates go well. We discover common ground, and the book and I stay together into the wee small hours of the morning. Other dates are like early scenes from a Hollywood romantic comedy, where the evening twists and turns and misunderstandings create distance.
Words to Eat By: Five Foods and the Culinary History of the English Language by Ina Lipkowitz made a great first impression. The book promised to explore our Jekyll and Hyde attitude about what is good to eat by examining the history of five types of food: fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, and bread. It would explore human history, church history, the Bible, linguistics and modern examples to make its case.
Based on all this, I said yes to the date. The introductory pages reinforced my decision. The author revealed herself as witty, a little self-depreciating, self-aware, knowledgeable about history, food, and the culture at large. Then we got into her thesis.
(You can read the rest here.)

Writing a review was harder than I thought. A friend of mine who has reviewed Bible software in the past put it well when he said that you have to show why you hold your opinions. That's what I tried to do in the review of Words to Eat By: share a digested experience (ahem), not just (double ahem) spew opinion.

For more of my book-related writing, please check out To Tame a Friend at Curator Magazine.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Keep February Short

If you know me, or if you've read this post, you know how I feel about the coming month. I've come up with a new plan to deal with my hatred of February. You can read about it at Curator Magazine. Here's an excerpt:

I will go to great lengths to ward off the February blahs. In years past, I have decorated my home with tropical flourishes, distracted myself with games and group trips, tried to embrace winter with snowmobiling and “Doctor Zhivago” weekends. I have done all I can think to do, and February still comes… and stays. 
My pain is prolonged this year, as it is a Leap Election Year. This is when we make up for time unaccounted for in the solar calendar, and make it seem longer still by adding the torturous political primary season. It’s an extra day to campaign; I know the politicians will never give that up. They are too busy twisting truth. But perhaps we don’t need the politicians to help us Keep February Short (™). 
That’s right. I’m doing it. My New Year’s resolution: instigate calendar reform. ...

To whom do I address my plea? How will I respond to my critics? Will I use math? Discover the answers to these questions and more at the source:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Starting and Stopping

I am a wuss. Example: I claim that I like to have my errand-running all planned and efficient, but this somehow leads to a billion different reasons to delay the running of the errands:
Am I sure this is all the dry cleaning?
Surely there is a coupon somewhere for that.
It would be better if I waited until I was going out anyway, that way, I will waste less gas. Besides, it’s awfully unpleasant out there.
With these and other thoughts like them, I stay home for days. Stuff piles up at the door. The pantry contains only dried kidney beans I once used for pie weights and Jell-o.
That was 2011. This is 2012.
January 3rd, 2012, I am conquering you, I thought. I will go to the dry cleaners with the two items I want cleaned. I will fill up my tank with gas. I will relish the cold. I will pick up groceries at the most consistently inexpensive store and not worry about the coupons.
All this before 10 a.m.? Victory! I turned west toward home, the day’s battle against lethargy won. But a new war awaited.
A creature appeared in the distance, walking in the eastbound lane. A single car sat near it, then sped  from shoulder to shoulder, swerving around the animal.
I was a little miffed. Surely the dude (I assumed it was a dude) could have stopped to let the poor thing by.
As I drove closer, I realized the poor thing was a wild turkey. Unlike the dude, I, the conqueror of the errands, could offer a little benevolence. The turkey ran toward the ditch, so I stopped and gave him (I assumed it was a him) some room to be sensible.
The turkey froze. He turned and looked around. He looked at me. And then, he ran … directly at the grill of my car.
Now I looked around. I wasn't sure what to do, so I treated him like a distracted driver and honked my horn. The turkey turned out to have a case of road rage. He stopped momentarily, then charged my car and disappeared.
I honked again. A greyish-white head popped over the hood of my car, gave me the eye, and then vanished.
I imagined him pecking at my bumper with demented fervor, or reenacting that scene from Cape Fear. I checked the rearview mirror. The nearest vehicle was far enough away: I put my car in reverse and eased back a few yards. Retreat only angered him more. He charged me again. People were now coming eastbound, so I put the car in drive and tried to sneak by on the shoulder. He headed me off like a sheepdog.
I slowly returned to my lane and hit the brakes as the jake once again disappeared. Eastbound traffic paused. The turkey head shot up again. The driver opposite went wide-eyed. I was playing chicken with a turkey.
Now a line of cars formed behind me. I realized that from their point of view, I was merely a crazy woman impeding their progress for no obvious reason. So I honked again. The eastbound driver moved, and the westbound drivers took their turns staring at me, first in disgust, then with disbelieve.
Finally, all traffic cleared. I threw the car into reverse and aimed for the shoulder. As the turkey came my way, I threw the car back into drive and — like the dude five minutes before me — gunned it. I swerved and flew back into my own lane, leaving, I’m sure, a distant motorist with the same temptation as me.
To her (I assume it’s a her) I say, it’s easy to rush to judgment, but for 2012, I’m quitting that. Cold turkey.