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Archive for July 17th, 2007

Have you ever heard of A Complaint Free World?  Some pastor somewhere had the idea of how to help people get out of the habit of complaining all the time. He shared it with his congregation, and they started giving away these nasty little purple bracelets. I HATE the nasty little rubber bracelets, but I thought, you know, I do complain an awful lot, and I sent off for one. They sent me three. That was probably a good thing. I’ve been wearing it since Sunday, and haven’t even gone 6 hours, much less 6 days, without complaining.

You put the bracelet on your wrist. Doesn’t matter which one. And if you catch yourself complaining, you put the bracelet on your other wrist and start counting your days over again. Ideally you want to go 21 days eventually, because that forms a new habit of not complaining, yadda yadda.

So I have switched it back and forth ad infinitum, although I will say that about 75% of my whingeing is done silently. But I still know I’m doing it.

Here’s what I’m annoyed about today:

  1. One of my best friends got scammed out of a large sum of money. That really has me angry. I’ve been angry ever since it happened, and I’m still angry.
  2. The apartment of that same best friend was broken into, and her laptop and last bit of cash was stolen. I’m even angrier. She has been searching hard for a job, but has yet to find one. She’s one of the coolest, nicest, most whatever superlative you can think of people I’ve ever met, and it pisses me off that people hurt her like this.
  3. My sister is sick. I know what you’re thinking, but I honestly don’t think she caught what I had. I’ve been over the infectious part for a couple of weeks, even if I still am hacking up a lung at least 10-15 times a day. Nope. She’s got something different. And this is the last week before tech, and we open a week from Thursday. She doesn’t have time to be sick, and she’s so frustrated by the whole thing. And of course there’s nothing she can do; it’s not her fault she got sick. Please. But I’m pissed in her behalf. Because I was so sick for so long, and it really sucks. Of course, she is blessed in that she has reasonable bosses and reasonable sick leave policy.
  4. Work is driving me abso-frickin’-lutely insane!!!  There are people who request credit bureau reports from me, only to delete them as soon as they’ve worked them. Lo and behold, they need it again. Do they tell me they need me to repull a report that was pulled on a certain date? Nope, they just do a brand new request. My job is hellish from July through December anyway, and this just makes it worse. I caught myself today furiously noting an account that I emailed the July/XX cbr to Soandso “because I don’t already have enough work to do.” Of course I spaced it back off and just noted that I’d emailed the reprint to Soandso. But you get the picture. What is even more maddening is this particular Soandso was coming in my office every day the first week of the month wondering when I would get to her credit bureau requests. I explained that I do them in the order in which they’re received, and as I’m currently doing over 100 a day, it might take an extra day or so.  I finally got to the bottom of that stack, and realized that Soandso had never even submitted any credit bureau requests to me. When I told her that, she wondered what had happened to her requests, and printed new ones. Of course, as I’ve pulled them, I’ve searched the account and, as I suspected, she’d never requested them to begin with. I’M NOT STUPID!!!
  5. Molly is apparently traumatized about Joe’s absence. I came home yesterday to the ripe smell of dog crap in the house. I checked the pad I leave by the back door. Nothing. I check the bathroom (her other favourite place when she’s punishing us). Nothing. I check the bedroom. Nothing. I finally thought she must just be really gassy. But no, the smell was just as ferocious when she was outside. I finally stuck my head inside our home office, and she’d left two gigantic piles of crap on some papers Joe’d left on the floor and the rug. NASTY!  I cleaned it up, and had a talk with her about it. Apparently she’s still stressed about Joe’s absence, though, because when I woke up this morning I found that she’d peed on the floor, right next to the pee pad, by the back door during the night.  I swear she flipped me off when I asked her politely to either come get me or use the pee pad. I know she’s traumatized, poor baby, but there’s nothing either Joe or I can do about the situation.
  6. Joe was going to come home this weekend, but he’s decided to wait until next weekend. I think that’s a good idea. There’s a lot of music for him to go see in Saint Louis next weekend, and I’ve got a billion things going on this weekend. Plus, if he comes home next weekend, he’ll be here for opening weekend of the show and can also escort me to our end of season banquet.  So I’m glad in a way, but also bummed.
  7. My back hurts. And I’m still coughing frequently, and my voice still comes and goes. And I’m still not off book. And we open next Thursday. Oh, and my house is still a disaster zone and I’m having a bunch of friends over Friday night for the Harry Potter party. And we’re getting out of rehearsal late on Friday night (which is a bad thing) because a reporter & some photographers from the paper are coming (which is a good thing).

I suppose that’s enough complaining for one gripe session. Pretend like I just moved the bracelet back and forth 7 times, and I’ll start all over again. :p

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Book Review Day!

Over the weekend and into last night, I did a lot of reading of good yummy books that left a satisfied taste in the mouth.

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We’ll start with The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart. I can’t say enough good things about it.  The characters are charming, except, of course, for the evil rotten nasty gits who are trying to take over the world. Four children, backed by their team of assistants, are all that stands between the evil Mr. Curtain and the world.  Two of the children are orphans, one has run away from home, and the other was abandoned by her father years ago.  Why children? Why, to be more precise, unattached children? The benevolent Mr. Benedict explains: “Oh, yes. All alone. Let me tell you why that part matters. For one thing, children without guardians happen to be in a peculiar kind of danger that other children are not–this I shall explain to you later, to those of you who join my team. For another, it would be simply impossible for me to put at risk any child who wasn’talone. No matter how important the cause, parents are disinclined to send their children into danger, as well they should be. As it so happens, however, I now find myself in the presence of the best possible team of children I could ever hope for–indeed, have long hoped for–and with not a minute to lose.  In other words, you are our last possible hope. You are our only hope” (p. 82). After discussing the matter amongst themselves, the four children decide to become a part of Mr. Benedict’s team. They are sent to infiltrate Mr. Curtain’s school, discover his fiendish plot, and put a stop to it. Will they succeed? With such an intrepid band of adventurers, how can you doubt it?   I highly recommend this book.

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Next we’ll look at Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes.  Rapunzel (not her real name, as she quickly reveals) is writing to the mysterious owner of Post Office Box 5667. She knows of his–her?-existence only through a portion of a letter addressed by her father to that box number.  Her father is under an Evil Spell, and she is reaching out to #5667, as she affectionately calls her correspondent. Her letters are wildly entertaining and sorrowful at the same time, as she struggles to find help for her father. The Evil Spell is something called Clinical Depression. She never receives any response from her correspondent, and temporarily thinks of quitting writing, but finds that the act of writing in itself is somehow helping her. 

Rapunzel is an intriguing heroine. She’s passed a test to show whether she is gifted with flying colours, but mulishly resists participating in the Gifted and Talented Program until she is forced to do so. For her regular classwork, she puts her own unique twists on the assignments. When asked, for example, to write about the most influential person of the last millennium, she decides instead to look ahead to the most influential people of this millennium:

RENOWNED PSYCHIC TELLS ALL!!!

THE MYSTICAL AND MARVELOUS

MADAME REEPUNZEEL PREDICTS WHO WILL BE

THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE OF THIS MILLENNIUM!!!!!

  1. The person who discovers alien life and/or communicates with alien life for the first time. Hello, Universe!
  2. The person who discovers how to tap into the 90 percent of our brains that we don’t use. What in the heck have we got all those brain cells for?
  3. The person who invents a way to eat chocolate even when you’re in Homework Club and the Witch is staring right at you.
  4. The first female U.S. president–don’t you think it’s about time????
  5. The person who discovers the secret of why teachers assign homework on weekends. And makes them stop!
  6. The person who discovers how time works, who explains why I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I try to imagine eternity.
  7. The person who discovers how dolphins think, who understands the intelligence of animals.
  8. The person who revolutionizes the way we humans learn. Maybe this person discovers how to link our minds so that we don’t all have the same body of knowledge, but can share as needed, like a hive. There’s so much stuff to know; we can’t go on each holding all of it inside ourselves.
  9. The person who discovers how dreaming works–why we have good dreams and horrible ones, why everything seems to make sense while we’re in them and no sense at all once we’re not.
  10. The person who figures out how to undo Evil Spells.

You can’t go wrong with this book.

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Hidden Talents, by David Lubar, follows Martin Anderson from his home to an “alternative” junior high school. We’re never told specifically why Martin has been sent to the alternative school, only that he has been expelled from multiple other schools. Martin has quite a mouth on him, and immediately becomes incredibly unpopular with all of his teachers but the unique Mr. Briggs. Martin’s circle of friends include Torchie–a budding arsonist who insists he never started any fires–, Lucky–a sticky-fingered thief who gets very resentful if he is accused of stealing–, Cheater–a brilliant boy who is constantly accused of cheating on his exams and classwork–, Flinch–a seemingly spastic boy who’s always jerking this way and that–, and Trash–notorious for throwing things at any time and with no visible provocation.  He also makes some enemies, including the vicious bully Bloodbath.  As he gets to know his friends better, Martin finds they all have unique talents. He helps them to identify and control their talents, all the while feeling sad that he has none himself.  But at the end of the day, Martin’s own gifts help to save the school from those who would have it closed down. 

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fast read, and very entertaining.

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The Looking-Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor, tells the story of Alice in Wonderland. Already heard that one, you say?  Well, not so much. See, what you heard is Lewis Carroll’s take on what he thought was a wonderfully imaginative story by Alice Liddell. She was furious when she saw the book. First of all, he’d spelled her name wrong. Her name is actually Alyss Heart, and she ended up in this world when she was escaping a bloody coup in Wonderland. Her mother, the queen, and her father were both killed in the coup, and the only hope for Wonderland was for Princess Alyss to escape, so that she could come back stronger and defeat the new evil queen. But when she landed in this world, her bodyguard didn’t make it into the same place. She was alone, amidst people who refused to believe her mad stories about being a princess.  For a while her imagination still functioned, and she used it to help feed her ragtag bunch of friends. But her imagination gradually failed, and she was taken to an orphanage and later adopted by the Liddell family, who constantly strove to excise her silly stores and help her to become a presentable young lady. Their efforts worked, and Alice was noticed by Prince Leopold, a son of Queen Victoria. They plan to marry until on her wedding day she is taken back–very much against her will–to Wonderland. Things have reached a critical stage in Wonderland, and if it is to be saved at all, it must be done under the guidance of Alyss.  But she has lost her imagination. Can she regain it in time to save the day?

Once again, I truly enjoyed this book. It is cleverly done, and the characters and settings are just beautiful. I heartily recommend it.

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 Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett, is reminiscent of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler but definitely stands on its own. Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay have a one-of-a-kind teacher. Instead of sitting them down with books and lectures and pointless homework excitements, she pretty much leads them where their fancy takes them. Petra and Calder aren’t friends at first, but as they bump into each other under some very interesting circumstances, a friendship quickly grows between them. They are fascinated with the theft of a Vermeer painting, and the thief’s insistence that the painting will not be returned until the works not actually painted by Vermeer are noted in all of the museums.  They study the suspicious characters around them as they search for the painting.

The story is quick-paced but quite intricate in detail. Calder corresponds with his friend Tommy, whose stepfather Fred moved him and his mother away, using a code they invented from his favourite pentominoes.  The letters to and from Calder and Tommy are written in code, and the reader has to decipher them to find out what was said. Very fun. And there is also a secret message in Brett Helquist’s delightful illustrations.  I loved the book, and believe it definitely deserved its 2005 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile.

A sequel is out, called The Wright 3. Tommy is back in town, and perhaps a little envious of Calder’s friendship with Petra and their solution of the crime. Because everyone knows he’s a much better detective than Calder. I’m looking forward to reading this one as well.

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