June 27, 2008

Golf Lessons - Hole 2

I have now had two official golf lessons and I have learned a couple of things.
1) It is a whole lot more of a work-out than I ever thought. Our instructor spent the first 1/2 of the first lesson teaching us proper posture and stance and swing all without a club. Oh, baby. I was working all these muscles that are not used to being stressed, like certain parts of my arms and most surprisingly my abs and lower back.
2) Proper equipment makes a difference. I have a really old set of clubs that my great-grandfather (better known as Gramps) put together for my dad way back in the day. I'm pretty sure the clubs were gathered from various garage sales which would make them even older. So they're pretty old and out-dated and short. My instructor has me lean over more than normal so I can actually hit the ball when I swing. After a while she feels sorry for me and she just gives me her club to use and wow...does it make a difference.
**side-note: I pulled my putter out of the bag for the first time yesterday and noticed that it has a little label on it with Stewart Huff's (Gramps') name and address.**
3) Golf is fun! It is true that I've stayed pretty much on the driving range so I don't really know if I would like playing a round of golf. Let me clarify: Hitting golf balls is fun! I only wiff occasionally and every now and then I hit one and really impress myself. My instructor says "Those are the shots that keep you coming back" and I totally agree.
Conclusion: I'm not ready for the LPGA, but I could see myself buying my own set of clubs and heading to the driving range every now and then.

June 24, 2008

The Mother-Daughter Book Club

By Heather Vogel Frederick
2007, Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers

This was a very interesting take on the “put un-like people together with a gimmick and they’ll grow and become great friends” type book. It’s set in Concord, Massachusetts, the historical town that was home to Louisa May Alcott, so the characters in the book read Little Women. It was a really cute story and even though you knew it was going to have a happy ending it was still great fun to read. I loved that there were so many characters. It made it more interesting and fun that there were so many people interacting. I also really liked that the author snuck in a lot of history, both about Concord, Mass and Louisa May Alcott. It was a “twinkie” book where the reader secretly learns a little history. Nice. It also didn't hurt that one of the moms was a librarian and was really the coolest of all the moms...in my unbiased opinion.

Get Smart

This movie was intensely funny. Unexpectedly intensely funny. And no one else could have played Maxwell Smart but Steve Carell. He did an amazing job. There were moments when I was giggling uncontrollably and I could hear my mom and brother laughing next to me too. Yes, it’s true that sometimes we were the only three laughing that heartily, but it didn’t lessen the enjoyment.
While the original TV show relied more on campy stunts and pratfalls, the movie has a bit more sophisticated stunts and fun gadgets. But the feel of it is the same. You still watch to see how Max will screw up and then how he will inadvertently save the day. Most of the supporting characters are fun to watch as well, especially the two lab geeks.

The Incredible Hulk

I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to see this movie, but I decided to go and I’m so glad I did. You know…I did the same thing with Iron Man. I wasn't sure, but I went and ended up loving it. So I’ve decide to invoke a Linnea Movie Rule: see everything Marvel makes.
For those of you that don’t read Entertainment Weekly religiously, you may have missed the fact that Marvel, the makers of intensely popular comic books, decided they were sick of selling their characters to other movie companies so they created their own movie division. Risky, but so far it’s really paying off. Iron Man was their first outing and The Incredible Hulk was their second. Both are excellent movies and raked it in at the box office.
I really loved the fact that The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man are both full of intelligent and mature actors. They aren’t teeny-bopper media darlings, they’re veterans who have proved themselves as good, quality actors and I really believe it makes a difference. They make the stories that much better. Of course there are awesome fight scenes and lots of stuff blowing up, but still...quality.
I also love the tiny little scenes in both movies hinting at the making of an Avengers movie. Something more to look forward to in 2011.

Kung Fu Panda

I laughed so hard I just about fell out of my seat. This movie is Jack Black at his best because he’s controlled and G-rated which makes it easy to appreciate his comedic timing and unusual voice without wondering if he’s going to venture into “shocking gross out land”. I also loved the story because there’s no deception. Everyone is honest about who they are and the story deals with coming to terms with being different and accepting people that sometimes seem to “intrude” in your life. Great story, top-notch creative animation. And Po the Panda is just so cute.

June 19, 2008

Golf Lessons

I have my first golf lesson tonight. I'm a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect, but I'll let you know how it goes.

"Of our major professional sports, golf alone retains the lyrical innocence with which it began centuries ago among Scottish herdsmen slapping the gutta-percha ball around the bonny banks. Golf alone, despite huge purses, has remained immune to the violence and vulgarity that have turned other sports into spectacles of sanctioned mayhem. The game, as Andrew Carnegie believed, is an “indispensable adjunct of high civilization.” No other group of professionals is self-ruled by an honor code in which players call penalties on themselves. Golf etiquette prevails. Can football etiquette or hockey etiquette be imagined? Golf has no Charles Barkley, who has spit at fans. It has no John McEnroe, the obscenity-shouter, nor does it have enforcers, late-hitters, or self-absorbed clods who moan that they aren’t paid enough."

-Colman McCarthy

I'll try to remain civilized if things don't go well.

June 12, 2008

A Year Down Yonder

By Richard Peck
2000, Dial Books for Young Readers

When I made the list of books that I wanted to read for the A to Z Reading Challenge, I had no idea that two of them were related. I didn’t even realize I had two books by the same author. I read A Long Way from Chicago last weekend, and this week read the sequel A Year Down Yonder. While the first book was about Joey and his little sister Mary Alice on their summer visits with their grandma, the second is about Mary Alice alone. Here’s the summary from the book: “During the recession of 1937, fifteen-year-old Mary Alice is sent to live with her feisty, larger-than-life grandmother in rural Illinois and comes to a better understanding of this fearsome woman.”
I loved this book. It was just as good as the first set of stories, if not better. It has such a great feel to it. You wish the characters were real people and you could meet them and hear more stories about them. There was one story in particular that had me laughing so hard I had to set the book down to get control of myself. And then I got the giggles every time I thought about it. If you’re a fan of books like Holes by Louis Sachar you’ll really enjoy this one.

June 11, 2008

"Be nice to the archivist or she will erase you from history."

- Anonymous

June 9, 2008

Shedd Aquarium

I took a train into Chicago this weekend and met a friend (and her friends) at Shedd Aquarium. It was a fun trip for more than one reason. I feel very grown up for figuring out how to get to Shedd on public transportation. I took the Metra train from Naperville (free parking at the train station on weekends) and then walked from Union Station to the "L" (stopping for a little food at Panera on the way) and got on the right colored line to get off as close to "Museum Campus" as possible. Then I walked towards Lake Michigan, following the incredibly helpful signs until I made it there. Shedd is in a great locale because it's right on the water. There are tons of boats anchored there, there's an awesome view of the city skyline, and you can see Navy Pier across the water. I wonder if you can see MI on a clear day?
I also had fun because the acquarium was really great. I went overboard with the pictures, but I used my camera to take some videos too. If you ignore the fact that it is extremely overpriced, it's a great place to go.

And now that I'm more familiar with the different modes of transport, I'm excited to go back and see other things in the city. On the way back we walked a ton looking for a good place to eat, but we ended up passing some fun stuff, including the Buckingham Fountain, so it was worth it.

And I must have looked kind of cool and comfortable because twice I was asked directions by strangers. Once by a girl looking for the red line station and once by a good-looking guy with an attractive accent wondering which train to take to get to the Belmont Station. I think I managed to sound pretty informed and I'm pretty sure I sent them in the right direction.
These are some short videos of some of the animals. Mostly I took videos of the ones that were moving and doing something interesting. The penguins were great because they were interacting with the guy outside the exhibit and the staff that were inside feeding them. There's quite a bit of crowd noise, but it creates the right ambiance.

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes

By Maureen Johnson
2005, HarperCollins Publishers

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while now, but I finally got to it since it’s on my A to Z Reading Challenge list. I’m glad I did. This is the story of a girl from New Jersey who follows a “quest” set out for her by her aunt who sent her 13 little blue envelopes that she can only open as she completes each task. She starts in London and heads all over Europe with only her backpack and the instructions in the envelopes.
It’s one of those books that inspires you to backpack around Europe and try to have an adventure or two, but it still manages to tell the story of a girl trying to figure out what her aunt wants her to learn and who she really is.
As a small side note: She meets a family touring in Amsterdam with the last name Knapp. I think that’s the first time I ever saw my last name in print, as a story character. It was kinda weird to read her talk about Mrs. Knapp and Mr. Knapp. And they were kind of annoying. Oh, well.
Overall…great book. I read it in 2 days, less than 24 hours, it was that enthralling.

The Host

By Stephenie Meyer
2008, Little, Brown and Company

This is the first book for adults written by the extremely popular and talented author of the Twilight series. It’s long (619 pages), but it’s so worth it. It’s a “scifi” story set on earth, but aliens called souls have come and taken over the planet by taking over human bodies as their own. Not all humans disappeared, though. There are some who are hiding out, resisting the souls and there are some that won’t go away even when a soul enters their body. They are rare, but Melanie the main character in the story, is one of them. It’s such a creative story and you really can’t predict where it’s going to go next.
There were moments where I was sure it was going to go in a direction that I wouldn’t like so I had to set it down for a while, but when I did pick it up again I was always rewarded with creativity and emotion that just increased my desire to know what was going to happen next.
I also have to say that it has one of the most satisfying endings of any book I’ve read in a long time. Two thumbs up. Beware friends…I’m going to try to get you to read it next.

A Long Way from Chicago

By Richard Peck
1998, Dial Books for Young Readers

I took this book to read on the train to Chicago. I thought it was only appropriate, and it’s pretty small so it didn’t make my purse too heavy. It’s a fun compilation of stories about a boy and his younger sister who visit their grandmother every summer starting in 1929 through 1935. They are fun little vignettes full of crazy “country” characters and a grandma who takes the cake in the ‘dances to the beat of her own drummer’ awards. I loved how certain characters came back each year and as the kids grew their understanding of who their grandmother was and why she did the things she did grew also. Set in the depression era, it’s a historical fiction story that is a great read.

June 6, 2008

Barely a Boulevard

My route to and from work is almost always the same, and the main road I take is Weber Road, which has these unusual (at least to me) boulevard type dividers. The size/style of the road changes as you go along. Sometimes it’s 4 lanes, sometimes its 4 lanes with a turning lane, sometimes its 6 lanes. It all depends on what’s built around the road. At large intersections where there were 4 lanes and then a turn lane is created just to turn at the light they have these odd boulevard things in the middle of the road. In MI, they just paint yellow stripes to discourage you from driving into the turn lane too soon, but here they put in a small, maybe an inch or two high, curb thing.
This may be normal here, but it really surprised me at first. It also surprised me when people regularly ignored it. If they want to turn left, but the lane is blocked, they just hop up and drive on the median. Also, if they want to turn left before the light but the boulevard is in the way, they just drive over it. It’s an amazing thing to watch (or maybe I just need to get out more). I have to admit that I’ve always thought it was a little dramatic. Can’t they just wait for the cars ahead of them to move, or go past the turn and come back to avoid all this odd driving?
Well, today I was driving home from work and I saw that the gas station on the other side of the road was a good 10 cents cheaper than the one by my house. So what did I do? I turned left and drove over the mini-boulevard. I think this means that I now officially live in Illinois.

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

By Louise Murphy
2003, Penguin Group (USA)

This was the most recent selection for my local book club, and it was rough. It’s a re-telling of the Hansel and Gretel story originally written by the Grimm Brothers, but this version is set in Poland and the end of WWII. It’s the story of two Jewish children who are taken in by an old woman outside a village, and it also follows the story of their father who joins the resistance not knowing if his kids are alive or not.
If you enjoy reading stories about people’s lives during the Holocaust and WWII, this is a great example of that. It really does a good job a telling these characters’ stories. You can imagine what it was like to live in this small Polish town while the Nazi’s advantage was declining and they were getting more desperate and cruel. It wasn’t one I would normally read because I like to read books that don’t make me sad or make me think, and this one did both of those things. I think I would recommend it, but I’d say know what you’re getting into.

June 3, 2008

Flight of the Conchords

I have to thank Shonna for making me watch Flight of the Conchords videos on Youtube. Wow. These guys are great. They are "formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular folk parody duo" and they only get funnier the more you watch them. They have a TV show on HBO, but I haven't seen it. If their live shows are any indication, I'm guessing it's great.
I do have to add a small warning. They are clever and unique and understated, but they aren't for everybody. They kind of remind me of The Office, because they take themselves very seriously even though they're being ridiculous so if you would rather watch Adam Sandler/Judd Apatow type comedy this won't be your thing.
If you're still interested, here are the videos you should watch:
Start with Issues (aka Think About It)
Next try The Humans Are Dead
Then Albi the Racist Dragon
Then Jenny
And if you're still with it, watch Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros
"Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are."
- Mason Cooley
"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he be."
- C. S. Lewis