May 26, 2010

Friday Fun Adventures!

This summer I have been blessed to be able to work a modified schedule. Basically I work longer on Monday through Thursday and then work a half day on Friday. So awesome! I'm telling you, it makes it feel like every weekend is a three day weekend. Lovely!
The only drawback is that when I don't have something planned to do within a large block of free time I have the tendency to do nothing. I don't want to sit on my butt watching daytime television every Friday afternoon this summer so I needed a plan.
In comes my buddy Shonna who is a teacher and has the summer off. She and I got to talking and decided that we needed to devote our Fridays to going out (or staying in) and doing something fun. We're calling them Friday Fun Adventures, or something like that, we haven't quite solidified the title yet. And really, what's in a name? They're going to be fun no matter what we call them.

Here's my brainstorm list so far:
* Watch Season One (or more) of Doctor Who
* Visit Used (and New) Bookstores in Chicago
* Hancock Observatory / Willis Tower Skydeck - somewhere high with a view
* Taste of Chicago
* Museum of Contemporary Art
* Wicker Park / Bucktown Shopping
* Science Storms at the Museum of Science and Industry
* LOTR Marathon
* Indoor Game Day
* Lincoln Park Zoo
If we do half of this list it will be an amazing summer.
A couple of things:
1) If you know of a fun Chicago thing (restaurant, art gallery, store, whatever) that you recommend we add to the list, let me know.
2) If you see something on this list that you would like to do and want to come to Chicagoland to hang out with me and participate in a Friday Fun Adventure Day, please let me know. The more the merrier.

"In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Here's to longer days and Funner Fridays!!

May 25, 2010

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

by Kelly O'Connor McNees
2010, Penguin Group (USA)
This book is a mix of fact and fiction centered around a summer during the young life of Louisa May Alcott, the well-known author of Little Women. For one summer the Alcott family lived in Walpole, New Hampshire and the author, Kelly O'Connor McNees, creates a fictional romance for Louisa during that summer. She weaves true facts about the family; their poverty, their personalities and their family dynamics with fictional friends, lovers and events. It was great fun to read. It was like being able to see into the past and get to know these people that lived long ago, but in a much more exciting way than a dry textbook or biography. I don't know enough about Ms. Alcott's real life to know what's true and fact, but I don't really care. I feel very satisfied thinking of the people as they were in this book.

I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction, but I picked this book up because it was written by someone I grew up with. As a librarian I spend my days around books and am constantly looking at new titles and authors old and new, so I was totally psyched to see Kelly's name on a book at our library. It's a wonderful mix of my young life and my current passion. And Kelly definitely has talent. I may not have picked up the book if I didn't know the author, but I'm really glad I did. It was a well written book and I'm looking forward to reading more by her in the future.

May 10, 2010

Me 'n Fred

I have a borrowed body form in my office that I keep forgetting to return. Unfortunately, he blends in to the surroundings now so I easily walk past him every day without noticing my headless co-worker. I've named him Fred, which just adds to his permanence (not good).

Here's a photo of the two of us. And the bonus is that it's a jigsaw puzzle. Click on the photo to put us back together.

I promise I'm going to return him this summer. I am not a body form thief.

May 4, 2010

Classic Reads

This past semester I took a class called British Literature: 1700 to the Present. We read a number of things (including more poetry than I would have liked) and I'm just finishing the final papers for the class. I thought I would include some book reviews here of the novels we read.

Essay on Man - Alexander Pope
Not really a novel, but interesting nonetheless. Pope was a big name during the Age of Reason and wrote Essay on Man as a way of expressing his ideas on the universe, the individual, society and happiness. It's not very easy to read, but if you take your time there is some great stuff in there. It's not necessarily new and earth-shattering ideas (Pope was of the opinion that there wasn't anything new to be said, just newer and wittier ways to say it), but the way that he expresses his thoughts show how truly intelligent and creative he was.

Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels was written as a satire on the travel-log books that were becoming quite profuse in the late 18th century. As new lands and peoples were being discovered more and more men were publishing their tales of exploration and encounters with the "natives." Swift used this trend to create Gulliver, a pompous doctor who takes to the sea and discovers four separate and unique worlds. He also uses the stories to express his opinions about the political happenings of the time. I really didn't like Gulliver so it was hard to read along and hear him talking on and on about his trips. And the places that he visited kept getting more and more crazy and hard to believe. By the end of the book I was shaking my head very ready for it to be done.

Hard Times - Charles Dickens
Dickens did not like the changes that the Industrial Revolution brought to the country. He saw the squalor and poor working conditions of the people and used his books to complain, making villains of the rich and unfeeling factory owners and others in power who he felt didn't do what they could to help those in need. Hard Times is a very harsh indictment of the industrial society, but is also a very interesting story. Like most of Dickens' books it is overly descriptive which can take away from the plot a bit, but by the end you really know the people and the settings because of the abundance of descriptions. There aren't as many characters as in most Dickens' novels, but that makes it easier to follow and to be invested in the lives of the few you meet. It's also one of those books where you are a bit bored up until the last third and then you can't put it down because you have to know what's going to happen next.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
I have to say this book was rubbish. It was another book where I did not like the main character so I did not care what he did or didn't do and by the end of the story I just wanted him to get out of his head and grow up. Stephen Dedalus is a young boy growing up in Ireland. The book starts with him as a toddler and quickly moves to his time in school. I did like the way Joyce creatively wrote it as real life interspersed with memories and dreams. It was almost like trying to capture a stream of consciousness which was slightly confusing, but also an interesting way of writing. In general, though, the story was too intellectual for its own good. There were tons of allusions and motifs interspersed with poetry and grumbling. I know it's considered a classic, but I would give it a pass if I were you.

There you opinions on a semester worth of reading (minus the poetry because I haven't quite recovered enough to write about that yet).