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In Which I Have Literary Angst


I can't tell a lie - I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight in one six-hour sitting last year, fulling engrossed in her love story of the everygirl Bella and her vampire love, Edward. There was something about that first book - the desire of a writer to have her story read, to create a world that hadn't existed before - that propelled me through the mass of pages. I kept up with the series as Meyer introduced new characters and plot twists in New Moon and Eclipse; these books weren't as engrossing but were entertaining all the same.

When Breaking Dawn, the last book in the Twilight Saga, was released, I was in Norway, Michigan, hanging with the family and managed to snag one of the copies at my local K-Mart the day it was released. I had just finished Edgar Sawtelle and was ready to begin something lighter, thinking Breaking Dawn would be exactly what I needed. After Craig and the boys had gone to bed, I curled up on the couch, book in hand, and began. Then I stopped. And I couldn't pick the blasted thing back up.

In the quest to bring a satisfying conclusion to the Twilight Saga, Meyers totally loses that which made her initial trilogy so readable: the tensions that Bella faces as she navigates her life. There's the push and pull as Bella struggles between her love for Edward and her love for Jacob, the shape-shifting wolf from up the coast. There's the anxiety Bella faces as she attempts to make sense of and fit in a world filled with extraordinarily beautiful creatures and unbelievable happenings. Bella is an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances and it tends to make for decent reading.

By the end of Breaking Dawn, all is well. There are no losses, there are no choices made. Everything comes easily, which left me feeling cold, stale, as though I didn't recognize any of the characters I had come to enjoy over the course of the first three books. I believe I actually threw the book several times as I made my way through it, always hoping there would be some redeeming quality to it all by the end. Alas, not so much.

Turns out I'm not the only one disappointed in the conclusion:

Don't Burn It, Return It!
- an discussion encouraging people who read the book and hated the lack of quality to return the book to bookseller from whom they purchased. Whether you agree that this is appropriate or not, the discussion is filled with hilarious commentary, some seriously flawed logic, and the ramblings of some insane fans.

LA Times - Why did Breaking Dawn fall so flat? This writer does an excellent job outlining the reasons why this book failed to resonate with me in any way, shape, or form.

NY Mag - While I'm unhappy, there are those who are happy with those final pages. NY does some looking at whether or not the entirety of the series was ruined by the faulty installment. My thoughts: I won't be rereading the series any time soon.

On of the interesting pieces I don't see noted anywhere is my feeling that this book was a morality tale, that Meyer was pushing really specific beliefs in this story. There were issues of abortion and education throughout the book as well as some other concepts I haven't quite fully hammered out, but I definitely felt as though Meyer was attempting to sell a way of being, a code of ethics with some of her writing here.

It's probably the last, if not one of the last, fun books I will read before the semester starts. I feel cheated and want my time back.

In Which I Make a Laptop Sleeve

My last laptop sleeve was definitely a learning experience: I figured out where the pattern needed to be changed and what I could go to make the end product better. Learning to sew somewhat consistently was definitely up there. Anyway, when I convinced my friend Clara to make her first personal computer a MacBook, I decided to take up needles and make her a laptop sleeve, keeping in mind everything I learned from the last bag.

This is a lot of stockinette stitch. The nice thing about this project was it used up a lot of scrap yarn I had lying around. I used the random stripe generator to come up with the stripe pattern and, despite the size, it only took me a good week of knitting at random times to put everything together.

All the notions: I really liked the flannel liner I placed in the last laptop bag, so I went with another vintage owl print from Joann's. This one is a little brighter, more 70's, and matches with the general vibe of the bag.

I sewed up the bottom seam and the side and it's ready to go into the wash.

Something went awry with the felting - the bag came out of the wash felted but misshapen. Additionally, one of the yarns I used didn't felt... at least not very well. This totally reaffirms that I need a better way of tracking those loose balls of yarn and what they are good for. Thankfully, the yarn, while not felting all the way, felted enough so that it would not fall apart when cut through. I ended up cutting the bottom and the top to even them both out, leaving me with a tube and whole lot of thinking to do about how I was going to put it together.

Initially, I attempted using a sewing machine to sew the bottom seam together and, in the process, broke Margi's sewing machine needle. (And proceeded to lose it... oh, yes, I am the master sewer!) I gave up and brought it with me to Wisconsin, where Joanna's ability to sew bravely would hopefully yield results. After playing around on her sewing machine, I finally hand-sewed the bottom seam, going over it several times with several difference stitches. Then we sewed the edges of the liner together and began to sew the liner into the felted sleeve until we realized that we had laid the liner in the bag incorrectly:

Oops. After a lot of stitch ripping, I got the liner sewn into the sleeve with the fun print facing the correct way, leaving me to think about how to seal it up. I attempted to create a flap, eliminating the need for buttons or Velcro, by cutting slits along each edge and cutting one side along the top of the liner. I sewed the sides of the remaining flap to the sides of the laptop sleeve and flipped it over. The end result wasn't perfect, but functional. I attempted bias tape but haven't figured out how to make it look presentable rather than clumsy.

All in all, it turned out pretty well. The sewing skills need work - not all of us can be sewing geniuses like Adam, but they're coming along. When I attempt the next one, I'm going to try to figure out a way to construct it so it felts with the flap. I would need to make a slightly longer piece of knitted fabric with a different orientation... still wrapping my head around possible ways to accomplish that.


A Saturday Morning Out and About


There's nothing quite as nerve-wracking as returning home from a morning of running around buying groceries only to find out that your power, and hence your refrigerator, is not working. It wasn't so much the fridge I was worrying about, but the freezer, which I needed in order to save my Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches from melting completely away.

But I get ahead of myself. My Saturday morning actually started at a decent hour, hoping to check off a few items from my grocery list at the Bloomington Farmer's Market. Farmer's Markets are one of the joys of summer, despite the early morning-ness of them. There's not a ton of produce available, the season just getting under way, but I did manage to leave there with lovely heads of lettuce, fragrant green onions, and eggs from happy chickens (at least according to the cartons). They also had a nice little art section this weekend, but nothing I absolutely needed. It's summer, I am poor. My stepdad asked me about that over the phone as I left the market: If I am poor this summer, what the hell am I doing shopping at the farmer's market when I live close to a Wal-Mart where I would be able to buy perfectly acceptable produce? I shop at the Farmer's Market within my budget and get produce that is superior to that in the aisles of Wal-Mart. I know where this produce comes from, invest in the local economy, and, perhaps most importantly, allow an independent farm producer to continue doing what they do. It might be a little more expensive, but I build that into my budget. Additionally, there's just something lovely about spending a morning wandering around the Market, chatting with strangers and running into people who aren't. Perhaps I've read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle one too many times.

After the Farmer's Market, I dropped my goods off at my car and walked to the library to return a slew of CDs, books, and movies I had borrowed, only to pick up more that I had requested. Nothing too heavy, although I'm excited to listen to the Allison Krauss and Robert Page album. Yeah, I'm a little behind on the music front.

I also paid a visit to my local yarn store to stock up on colors for a few upcoming projects. I'm slowly but surely knitting scarves for my loved ones for the holidays (way to plan ahead, right?) and needed to replenish my supplies. At least that's what I told myself. Knitting is a tricky hobby, as it is one of those that actually encourages being a packrat with the yarn, always building the "stash," as they call it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that knitting appeals to me so: I like storing things, grouping them together by project, and then looking at how nicely they are organized. But it takes away from the actual doing... I need to keep that in mind. Must keep doing... (as I look at the half-completed scarf that sits on my desk, waiting me to return to it.)

I rounded out my morning out with a trip to the grocery store to finish my shopping list. Marsh is one of those grocery stores that, in order to appeal to the poor college students in a large college town, offers a 5% discount for said poor students on Saturday mornings. I've found they carry actual brands, which is nice for certain things like bread baking. I need King Arthur flour when I bake bread, not the store off-brand. It can be harder to find than it needs to be. So, yeah, I throw a bunch of things in my cart, check out, and go home only to find that the power is out. thirty minutes later and it was back up and running, but annoying all the same. This is the third time this spring that power has gone out in my apartment. I'm not looking forward to the summer.

Insights from a morning out and about:

When in the grocery store and a song you do not like comes over the speakers, changing the song on your iPod will not work. I spend way too long with earbuds in my ears.

I read somewhere that aging is something like a copying machine. Our cells copy themselves over and over a lifetime and, much like copied worksheets copied over time, they begin to look aged. Thus, death can be looked at as running out of toner.

Lansing, I'm Yours


Last Saturday, I was in Lansing, Michigan, home of my undergraduate years. Okay, so the more suburban East Lansing was home to my undergraduate years, but I spent quite a bit of time in Lansing proper through the course of my schooling. I'm unsure if it's the diverse architecture of the downtown; the mixture of people from various locales, backgrounds, and economic statuses; or simply the fact that I spent some really wonderful time there but there's something about Lansing that absolutely charms me. After the conference last week, I had some time to wander around the downtown area a bit, which has changed dramatically since Joanna and I first took the #1 from campus to the capital building.

The Hollister Building is the oldest building in the whole of downtown, having been built in 1893, and one of my favorite buildings to stop and stare at. The mixed-use lowrise looks amazing, having been cleaned up and repainted, but still isn't fully remodeled on the business floor. The facades of the lower two floors are going to be redesigned to their 1950's glory - definitely one of the better decades for this particular building.

The Boji Tower is the tallest building in Lansing, at twenty-five stories, is an iconic landmark. Built in 1929 and financed by R. E. Olds, the man behind the now defunct Oldsmobile, it housed the Michigan National Bank and was known by locale residents as Michigan National Tower. Above the art deco clock, the Michigan National Bank neon sign used to provide something of a beacon for the city; it was removed in 2001 when the Michigan National Bank merged with Standard Federal and the building needed to be re-branded. Ron Boji, who had owned the tower since 1998 and owns the above Hollister Building, renamed the building in 2005 after his father. He maintains his name will not manifest itself in neon above the clock any time in the future.

Despite the massive GM plant closings in Lansing, there are signs of growth, like this mixed use space across from the baseball field named the Stadium District Building. Businesses will occupy the bottom floor of the building, which is spread across an entire block, while the second floor will contain a mix of office space and apartments. The remaining floors will have apartments save for the top floor, which will house 18 condos with rooftop patios. This project is somehow connected to the Cool Cities initiative, which has funded some pretty lame projects, like the park in my hometown of Norway, Michigan on the corner of two of the busiest roads in the city and the Hipsilanti PR campaign in Ypsilanti. (Seriously, who could take Hipsilanti seriously? Who thought that was a fundable idea?) On one hand, I'm excited to see the downtown area revitalized with new spaces for people to live and participate in urban living; unfortunately, these changes continue to cater to a very specific demographic: those with the money to purchase condos with rooftop patios.

No trip to Lansing is complete without a stop into The Peanut Shop. Originally a Planters store, The Peanut Shop opened in 1937 and encountered some initial business troubles. Enter Floyd Melser, a manager for Planters from Indiana, who was asked to relocate to Lansing in 1947 to sort out the store there. Planters offered him the store in 1960 and he operated it until 1994, when he retired. Two of his daughters continue to operate The Peanut Shop, offering up a variety of special nuts in a great, small, crowded atmosphere. Almost as famous as the store itself is the peanut roaster, original from 1937 and still in use.

Apr. 18th, 2008

So, yeah, we had an earthquake this morning. In Indiana. An earthquake in Indiana. Craziness.

Listening Love: Because I Can Dance Again


And because I can't get it out of my head...

Git Along Little Doggie

So I've kicked the crutches habit; at least I have for the moment. The ankle is stiff, having not been used for five whole days, but is slowly getting some movement back. Aircast is on, elevator shall be ridden to and from class, and I will be okay with moseying for the next few days.

No running races this week.

And a guy walks down the stairs...

So, yeah, I was checking email on my iPhone this afternoon on the way down the stairs to drop the brownie pan in my car when I missed a step. Caught myself, but my ankle is the size of a small bulbous fruit - no bruising yet. Will be heading to the clinic in the morning to get it checked out - could I have broken my first bone as well? Are there a pair of crutches in my future?

It hurts like Donatella Versace's face to walk on, so I'm certainly hoping so.

(The crutches part, not the broken part.)

Things I Want: Crayon Physics


I might almost be willing to buy a PC for this one.

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August 2008


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