Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday With Words

I've decided that I'm going to post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week. Because of this, I want to make the most of my posts, so more often than not, I will now have a Wednesday post with words. Those of you who like my Wordless Wednesday posts, have no fear, I will still post a WW picture. There just might be some words that may or may not be related!

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: A Book Review

This is the second of two books chosen for our book club's summer reading. And, no offense to the lovely lady that picked it, but it sucked (I'm not that sorry, since I have a feeling she feels the same way).

I cannot believe this book won the Pulitzer frickin' Prize. Seriously?

Not only was it an incredibly boring story, but the writing was annoying in that I had no idea who was telling the story at any given time. The worst part, though, was the 5-10 Spanish phrases that were in the text on each page.

Now, before you start telling me that it's part of the culture of the book, and I should broaden my horizons, blah, blah, blah - I don't care that there was Spanish in the book. What I do care about is a) I felt like I missed the punch line to pretty much everything in the book, and b) it was really distracting and took away from the story (which sucked anyway). Yes, I suppose I could have had a translator open while I read the book, but having to do that 5-10 times per page would have been just a tiny bit tedious. Why couldn't Junot Diaz put the English phrase in brackets or as a footnote? I mean, shit, he LOVES footnotes.

I HATED the footnotes. The longest footnotes in history, I dare say. I stopped reading them after the first chapter, because I just didn't give a shit.

It sucked. Period. I give it a 0.5/5, because I'm sure there was some sort of redeeming moment in it. Somewhere. I don't remember, but I have to believe it.

(And yes, this book was the reason for my last post).

WW Photo

Monday, August 29, 2011

Crappy Books

I generally try to stick to a rule of finishing a book once I have started it. There have only been a couple books that I just could not force myself to continue (Little Women - I know, it's "the best book ever", so shoot me - and Alias Grace). If I find a book boring or tedious, I'll usually plod through it, hoping it will get better or that my next pick will make up for it.

I'm starting to question this rule.

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of doing things you love to do, but not forcing yourself to continue with things that become annoying, frustrating, or just plain boring. Life is too short, and, like most people, I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands these days.

Reading is supposed to be enjoyable. So, why should I force myself to finish a book I am not enjoying? The problem is we were all taught to "finish what you started". What total BS that is, am I right?

So, I'm thinking of instilling a new rule. Maybe something like, if I'm not into a book within 100 pages, I'll stop.

What do you do when you find yourself reading a crappy book?

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I Hate About Word

I've started using Microsoft Word a lot more since starting my new position. This is mostly because a) all the templates for reports, letterhead, etc. were all made in Word, and b) I haven't found a good LaTeX processor for Mac or another good alternative.

The past week has been particularly bad for Word annoyances. Here are just a few of my all-time cringe-worthy things about it (if anyone knows easy fixes, let me know):

1. Sometimes, when using the "justify" option for paragraph alignment, it will spread out the last few words to use the entire line so there are enormous spaces between each letter.

2. Bullet lists are never, ever, automatically done the same way. It takes forever to override the automatic(ally wrong) formatting; however, turning the auto-formatting off makes it a pain in the ass too.

3. Inserting figures and tables in a specific spot is pretty much impossible. This is made 1000x worse if two figures or tables need to be remotely near each other.

4. Figure and table caption numbers are never correct. Ever.

5. It will auto-correct some words, but not others.

6. Most recently, when I ctrl+z to undo something, it automatically goes to the first page of the document (WTF?).

If you use Word, what things annoy you the most?

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Birthdays

Evan's first birthday is coming up and I'm not sure what to do for it.

It would be cute to have a little party for him. The problem is, we have absolutely no family in the area, which would be ideal for a first birthday. So, if we want to go this route, we would invite a few friends over (some who also have kids), have cake, etc. But, I don't want people thinking we're inviting them just trying to get presents out of them or something. And, really, how interesting is a 1st birthday for anyone but the parents?

I'm also thinking we could just do something as a family. I could make him a small cake, take some photos, maybe go somewhere he's never been before. I mean, it's not like he'll remember it, so doing something small would be fine.

Another option is, since his birthday is close to Halloween, to throw a little Halloween party. But, then I think his birthday should be, you know, about him.

If you have kids, what did you do for a first birthday? If you've been to a first birthday party, what have you seen that you liked or didn't like?

Friday, August 19, 2011

10 Months

Holy crap - 10 months already, eh? I totally agree with the Yarn Harlot, who recently wrote about the time-warp that is parenting (some days crawl, but the years zip by).

- Evan has learned how to crawl on his hands and knees, but for now still prefers the army/Spiderman method. He has gotten pretty fast!

- He is pulling himself up to standing more frequently these days. He has figured out how to transition from standing to sitting too.

- He can finally transition easily from lying down to sitting up. This was harder for him than pulling himself up for some reason!

- He often gets into the downward dog yoga pose - we think this is him trying to learn how to stand up on his own after seeing multiple kids at daycare use the same method.

- He's starting to use really cute intonation when he "talks" - he can definitely portray things like disappointment, confusion, excitement, among normal baby things (sadness, anger, etc.).

- We just love watching him play. We wonder what's going on in his mind when he does things like this:

- My favorite thing for this month: Evan has a girlfriend at daycare! They are the two youngest babies, and apparently they play together quite a bit. She comes to the door to greet him in the morning, and blows him kisses at the end of the day when I pick him up. Way too cute for words.

Happy 10 months, my cute-opotamus!

Monday, August 15, 2011

10,000 Ways

I can think of 10,000 ways I'd rather spend 10K.

We have to replace our roof within the next year. We knew this when we bought the house, but a) we thought it would be less expensive than that, and b) it was something that future Alyssa and DH would deal with. Now, unfortunately, it is upon us.

This is one thing that sucks about adulthood and home ownership: having to make mature, responsible decisions when you don't really want too.

When we renovated our kitchen, it was also a good chunk of change. But, we were totally okay with it because it was something we were going to use all the time. I absolutely love our kitchen and don't regret a single cent we paid for it (in fact, I wish we splurged a little more and went for a more exciting back-splash). It makes me smile because the design is just totally us.

I know that, in reality, the roof gets used even more than our kitchen. I mean, it protects the rest of the house 24 hours a day. If we don't replace it, we could be in for a world of hurt and much greater expense down the road. Still, it's annoying to pay so much for something you can barely see (our house is really tall). And, it's not like the powder room where we could do some of the work ourselves to save some cash.

Imagine what else we could do with that money: landscape the backyard, put in a gas fireplace, redo the upstairs bathroom, go on an amazing vacation, buy a boat...the possibilities are endless. But, it's something we have to do.

Sometimes I curse being a mature, responsible adult.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Knocking Wood

Have you ever had a time in your life where everything is going so well that you wonder how long it's going to last?

After years of hating what I was doing during my PhD and subsequent post-docs and, at the same time, DH and I feeling like we were in constant limbo while we waited to see where we'd end up, and then suffering a miscarriage and wondering if we would be able to have a child...I feel like all the pieces have finally fallen into place.

DH found a permanent position here, and we bought a house. Shortly after that, I got pregnant again and we had Evan a few months later. During that time, I received a job offer, and now I'm doing what I really want to do --- and actually having a career, not just a job. I feel grounded. I feel happy. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed.

I know this won't last forever. I know one or both of us will want to (or have to) find a different job. I know, living with a 9.5 month old, things are always changing and I could be ripping my hair out next week. I know our roof could collapse, or someone could get sick, or we could get infested by ants at anytime.

But, as someone who has been living a rather nomadic life since moving out in 2002, I am really appreciating the concreteness of our life right now. I love that I pick up Evan on my way home from work, and we come home to our wonderful house. I love cooking dinner in our awesome kitchen, and then putting Evan to bed by reading him the same three stories every night. I love that we go grocery shopping and do laundry on the weekends. I love that DH and I get excited about going to bed before 10pm.

My 21-year-old-self would be wanting to slap me, I'm sure. But, life changes. Priorities change. Values change. Hobbies change. Even though I might bitch about things once in a while, I'm incredibly happy with life right now, and I haven't been able to say that for years.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Did It!

I went for a bike ride on Saturday morning, and it was wonderful!

It took a little convincing to get the universe to let me go though. I got on my bike and noticed the tires were flat, so we had to pump them up (we, because I couldn't figure out how to use our pump properly :P).

After that, I jumped on the bike and no less than 2 minutes into my ride, the chain fell off. It got stuck so badly that I had to walk it home and get DH to yank it out with pliers.

Third time was a charm though, and I went for a 45 minute ride. I chose to ride along the paths mostly, as drivers in this city are awful to say the least. The path system here is apparently quite extensive, and it really is beautiful. It was like being in a whole different city!

This is something I think I will enjoy doing at least twice a week. If I do keep it up, though, I will need to invest in a new bike. This one is very cheap (yes, inexpensive, but also cheap, in a piece-of-crap kind of way), and I could feel every bump. My butt was incredibly sore in the end (Ha). The gear shifting system also sucks (gears changed randomly, other times they wouldn't change properly). Any bike suggestions (not ubber expensive though - under $500 for sure)?

DH and I might also try to get out together, but have him on roller blades pushing Evan in his stroller. That way, we can all get exercise together! We will probably do a short test drive to see how Evan likes going faster in his stroller before we do a longer trip.

I've also been doing well with some of my other plans I mentioned last time, and I'm starting to feel better about life in general. Hopefully that will be enough motivation to keep it up.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lowest Energy State

I seem to fall into these ruts where I live my life in the lowest energy state. On weekdays, I go to work, I come home and force myself to make an uninspired dinner, we put Evan to bed, I watch TV and surf around on the internet, and then I go to bed. Honestly, weekends aren't that much better unless, though we do make more of an effort for Evan's sake.

There are lots of other things I'd like to be doing - knitting, reading, biking, swimming, hiking, baking, trying new recipes, etc. - but because these take a bit more energy, I tend to put them off because I "need to relax" or "I'm too tired". So I watch TV or spend time online. But then I find myself wishing I had spent my time more wisely, then I tend to fall into a slightly depressive state, causing me to want to do even less, and around it goes.

In the comments of my last post, Cloud noted that "...your online time is only a problem if it is getting in the way of something you'd rather be doing, or impacting your productivity at work." My productivity at work has not been impacted, but I definitely feel like my online time (and being in the lowest energy state in general) has been getting in the way of things I'd much rather be doing.

So, to combat this, I have come up with some ideas on how to get out of these types of ruts:

1. Reduce the number of blogs I follow. This makes me feel a bit sick thinking about it, because all the blogs I follow are written by good, nice people. It's not like they're writing about stuff that makes me angry or upset. But, following 60+ blogs is hard work and something has to give! Any tips?

2. Knit if I'm watching TV. I figure I'm going to watch TV in the evenings, given SYTYCD and Master Chef are on 3-4 nights out of the week. It's not like I'm going to give that up (let's not get crazy here). So, to make that time somewhat productive, I'm going to knit while I watch.

3. Sign up for a class/sport. I need something to get me out of the house and doing something on my own, if only for an hour a week. I'm thinking something like tennis or cooking lessons (I had signed up for kayaking lessons, but it got canceled).

4. Bike rides. I'm going to start riding my bike, beginning with just one day a week. Saturday mornings will be perfect because DH can stay home and take care of Evan (and he has soccer on Sunday mornings, so it's kind of fair).

5. Limit computer use. I'm not going to use my computer from when I get home until after Evan is asleep. Then, I will give myself time to catch up on blogs, write posts for my blog, and check specific sites. After I'm done, I will turn my computer off, and not just putter around.

I think that's a good start. Hopefully they will help!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Trimming the Fat

I spend way too much time on the internet.

I check Facebook numerous times per day.

I am a member of two online message boards (one with 3 close friends, and another larger group).

I follow 60 blogs (and read them all, and comment on a good portion).

I write about 3 posts a week for my blog.

I have a few news sites I check daily.

I now have a Google+ account (luckily I'm only following about 20 people, so I only check it once a day).

I do internet searches for work and personal purposes often.

I'm practically attached at the hip to my multiple emails.

I have to update a portion of a website for work.

It's getting to the point where I'm doing all this stuff more out of obligation than enjoyment. I get overwhelmed when I don't check FB or my Google Reader a few times a day, because otherwise it's hard to keep up with. Of course, now that I'm working, it's tough to do it during the day so everything piles up. This is also the reason why I don't want to branch out into new things, like Twitter or podcasts, because I feel like I already spend so much time on the internet that I don't want to add to it.

One of my 2011 resolutions was to cut back on my internet use, but obviously I haven't done a great job of it. How do you keep your internet use in check? Any tips on how to trim back without feeling like I'm missing something?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Beach

This weekend, we took Evan to the beach in Port Stanley for the first time (one of our summer bucket list items).

 Fig.1: Hanging out on the beach.

He wasn't sure about the sand at first, but got into it after seeing mommy playing with it.

The lake was another story. He did not appreciate us putting his feet in the cold water, and he didn't seem to fond of the waves either. We should have known he wouldn't like it, considering it took him 8 months to finally enjoy bath time!

 Fig. 2: Perhaps it was mommy's pasty legs that were scaring him, as he was okay when being held.

Oh well - we still had a great time!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Motorcycles & Sweetgrass: A Book Review

At our last meeting, our book club decided to go nuts and chose, not one, but two books. Motorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor was the first one I decided to tackle.

This story takes place on a Native Reserve in - from what I can gather from the story - somewhere in Northern Ontario. As the matriarch of a family is on her death bed, a stranger shows up and changes everything.

It was an easy, quick, and fun read. The story was fast-paced to keep my attention, but was simple enough to be able to follow without needing to make notes or go back. Although the story itself was uncomplicated, there were a few serious issues intertwined, such as residential schools, alcoholism, politics, single parenthood, and more. This book gives a bit of insight into what life is like for adults and children living on a Native Reserve in Canada - a perspective not often read/talked about.

This was a great book; well-deserving of being a 2010 Governor General's finalist. I give this book a 4/5.