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Extremely hectic (but excellent) week!  So busy, in fact, that I am woefully behind on my Sherlock finale review and won’t have a chance to post it for a day or two.  Sorry, to all 5 of you who were looking forward to that.  I saw the (bloody brilliant) episode on Monday with some friends, but there hasn’t been any time since then to type up my obsessively detailed ramblings.

On Sunday I went to hear the Hickory Grove Bluegrass Boys, who were playing in a little church in Smithfield.  It was one of the most intensely Southern experiences of my life, and the church was packed with little old ladies, who all hugged me and fed me and gave me sweet tea.  Fascinating, bewildering, but enjoyable experience!

Tuesday turned out to be fantastic for a variety of reasons, not least of which was seeing Ender’s Game at the cheap seats with a pack of friends and going out for hot chocolate and good conversation at Cup of Joe afterwards.  In the long-term, however, the most exciting development was at my day job.  Guess who will be getting a raise, an office, and a bonus?  This girl!  The office is small and windowless and I’m pathetically grateful anyway.  I’m beyond excited to get out of the cubicle farm.

Poor Lucky was an emotional wreck this week since my roommate Allison was out of town, so I spent a good bit of my evenings consoling a tiny wailing beagle who was probably convinced that I had killed her beloved person and usurped her place.  Allison is back home now, and Lucky is back to her usual slightly neurotic but happy self, which relieves everyone involved.  The rest of my evenings were spent trying to tackle overly ambitious recipes for Sarah’s baby shower on Sunday.  I’ll take pictures of anything that doesn’t poison anyone because these are some disgustingly cute-looking finger foods.

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Books: Unbelievably, I’m still working on The Worm Ouroboros.  I read War in Peace in far less time, and I liked that far less.  I’m hoping this week will feature more page-turning and less running around like a headless chicken (not that that isn’t fun on occasion).

Max, the three-month-old son of one of my friends, passed away this week from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, so I’ll be going to the funeral in Eden tomorrow.  If you would like to show your support for the family, donate to the Sisters by Heart, the Ronald McDonald House, or the UNC Children’s Hospital.  I stumbled across this NPR article today and couldn’t agree more.

In happier news, I had a wonderful afternoon with the girls on Sunday afternoon.  We got together to talk and drink copious amounts of tea, and both of those goals were certainly fulfilled.

On Sunday I’m going to NC ComicCon.  Don’t get excited–it’s not the cool ComicCon in San Diego–but NC tries hard.  I wanted to support Anne Elisabeth at her booth, and I thought it’d be fun to check out the con once, even if the focus isn’t really on my areas of interest.  (Unlike San Diego’s ComicCon, which is an excuse for any kind of geekery, NC actually seems to focus on comics and collectibles.)  I’ll be dressed as River Song with slightly (massively?) more hair.  November is turning into a nerd bonanza, since next weekend I’ll be making my annual trip to the Carolina Renaissance Festival with a crew of fantastic people.

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Books: I’m rereading Ender’s Game before going to see the movie, for obvious reasons, and I’m smitten all over again.  Such a great book!  It makes me want to dive straight into the sequels and the parallel series, but I have a long list of booksale acquisitions I should really take a few stabs at first.  I know Orson Scott Card has announced he’s going to write more Ender books, but I have mixed feelings about that.  I have no interest in a novel that’s only written to capitalize on movie hype to sell copies, but if Card has more of the story that he wants to tell, I’ll happily read it.  I adore Card’s work at the same time that I really can’t stand the guy personally; I met him at a book signing in Greensboro several years ago, and he was a jerk.  He’s good, and he knows it, and he won’t let anyone forget it…but…he IS really good.

I was back in my home state for the first time in 11 years this past weekend.  Indianapolis wasn’t half-bad, although I had a moment’s pause when I walked into the hotel and “Hotel California” was playing.  Indy is a nice place to visit, but I’d like to leave sometime.  My 18th-storey hotel room looked out over the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, so I had a great view.  In between work, I found a fantastic chocolate cafe, went on the Canal Walk, found Indy Reads Books, walked past the Eiteljorg and a slew of other museums, wandered around the Indiana War Memorial and a slew of other monuments, explored the Indianapolis library, and generally saw as much of the city as was possible on foot.

When we lived in Indiana, I only visited Indianapolis rarely, but I don’t recall the city having so many homeless as it does now.  Admittedly, I do have a spectacular talent for finding the rougher parts of town–drop me in the downtown area of any major city and I will manage to innocently wander into the sketchiest neighborhood within 15 minutes–but most of my homeless encounters were close to the fancy hotels and businesses.  I can only say no to requests once or twice without feeling guilty and caving, and I think word got around that the chick with the long hair was good for a couple dollars because I have never been asked so many times.  One gentleman named Mike asked me to buy him some food, so I was very happy to accommodate.  We sat together and talked for quite a while, and he told me all about his plans to get back on his feet.  As I was getting up to go, thinking rather well of myself for being such a good Samaritan, I managed to trip embarrassingly over a wet floor sign.  It seemed like such a blatantly Providential warning to get off my high horse that I couldn’t help but laugh, and so did Mike, which was really the perfect ending to the encounter.  I hope everything works out for him.

The trip was a little too good for my ego; I was whistled at twice and beeped at three times in my perambulations, neither of which has happened in a while.  Must’ve recognized me as an Indiana girl.

When I got home, I read that Cary, NC has the lowest crime rate in the entire US, so evidently all the crime in the town is happening at my apartment complex.

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Speaking of reading, I read Pudd’n’head Wilson by Mark Twain on the way to Indianapolis.  I don’t know what I was expecting–nothing specifically, I guess, since I didn’t know anything about the storyline–but I was surprised anyway.  While funny in parts and a detective story in parts, in the main it’s just tragic.  The novel paints racism in a negative light at the same time that it reinforces some aspects.  I was left thoughtful and slightly uncomfortable, which was probably Twain’s intent.

Right now I’m reading The Bride of Innisfallen and Other Stories by Eudora Welty.  I didn’t think I’d read the title story (I don’t remember doing so, anyway), but I think I must have, because I remembered a line word for word.  A woman is carrying a baby past a train window: “It was a red-haired boy with queenly jowls, squinting in at the world as if to say, ‘Will what has just been said be very kindly repeated?’ ”  I love Welty’s talent for description such as that.  In terms of plot, some of the stories are a little lackluster, but it doesn’t even really matter too much when you have such images.

I’m also working on a book written by an acquaintance, but unfortunately I can’t own up to ever reading it anywhere.  Yep, it’s that bad.  I feel obligated to finish it, at this point, but I’m going to need some Bradbury or something to wash the taste out of my mouth afterwards.

Very quiet week, which is probably just as well since the next one will be so hectic.  I’m leaving for Michigan on Wednesday!  I’m very excited, and I hope it’s positively frigid up there.  Summer and I are through.  I’ll report on my adventures in the north country next time.

Hoodlums ran through our apartment complex parking lot, breaking into a whole slew of cars in one night, which is rather unprecedented in our area.  There were so many break-ins, the police just went door to door taking reports.  Fortunately, my and my roommate’s cars were spared.  The perks of driving boring cars and not owning anything tantalizing!

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Books:  A friend gave me Cat-a-lyst by Alan Dean Foster, author of more scifi than you can shake a stick at, including the original novel of Star Wars (mistakenly credited solely to Lucas), the story for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, novelizations for the two most recent Star Trek movies, and a host of his own scifi and fantasy works.  I’ve been meaning to read his stuff for ages…but, sadly, I found Cat-a-lyst disappointing.  The ideas were extremely imaginative, but the execution was dull, and the characters were flat and incomprehensible in terms of motivation.  As a writer, I recognized all the signs of lazy, sloppy writing that annoy me in myself; I suspect Foster just didn’t put his usual effort into this one.  I’d like to read some of his other works to compare, because no one gets to his level of acclaim without having done something right.

Last night I had an oddly specific dream that I met a guy named Caleb Arndt from Reykjavik, Iceland.  We dated for four months (in dream time) and then broke up, so he went home.  I don’t know anyone by that name, or anyone from Reykjavik (unfortunately).  I wish I knew what my subconscious was up to.

My weekend in Charlotte was lovely!  I got together with my family on Sunday and we attempted to eat downtown–almost everything was closed, but we were ultimately victorious.  Afterwards Ed showed us his hilarious video diary from his roadtrip to California.  The boys were going by Connor and Vernon, for unspecified reasons.  Maybe the video is less funny if you’re not related to him, but I found it pretty entertaining.  On Monday I hung out with friends and an absurdly adorable chocolate lab puppy in Kannapolis, so the weekend really couldn’t have been better.

It was a bizarre, short little week, having Monday off for Labor Day and Thursday off for the Feast of Trumpets.  I have no idea what day it is now, but I’m told it’s the weekend again.  On Sunday I’m going to see my roommate act in The Spyglass Seven, a one-act play about Edgar Allan Poe.  Should be pretty cool!

Several tiny tragedies occurred this week.  My popcorn popper perished, which for me is nothing short of catastrophic.  Fortunately Target had a sturdy replacement.  Fixing my car’s CD player is going to be a little more difficult.  It’s started to skip or get stuck on a loop more and more frequently.  The CD player is odd–it’s actually set into the armrest, underneath a cover, even though the controls are on the dash like usual.  When it gets stuck on a loop, banging the armrest usually fixes the problem, which is fine except that other drivers have been giving me very strange looks when they see me pounding on my seat like a maniac.

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Books: I’m reading End of the Drive by Louis L’Amour, another of his posthumously published short story collections.  This one features quite a few shorts, written in the early days, that L’Amour later turned into novels.  Seeing how his writing developed (and how much better he became over time) is interesting, and the stories are still enjoyable even if several aren’t terribly well-written.  Nice little brain break.

It’s been a little bit of an odd week, for some reason.  I rolled out of bed Wednesday morning in a snarling bad mood that took me the rest of the day to shake, but in the evening we got together for discipleship for the first time in a month, so that improved things.  On Thursday I had the unexpected pleasure of having dinner with Sarah at Greek Fiesta–definitely one of the highlights of the week.  After church on Saturday Mom and Dad and I visited Ed at his place, and we walked around uptown Charlotte and had dinner at a schmancy sushi place and had good Ricker family times.

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Books: I fell in love with Fred Chappell during Southern American Lit class at college, and I was reassured to discover I’m still in love.  I ambled through Farewell, I’m Bound to Leave You (another library sale find) and savored every word.  The book is a collection of shorter stories, all told by the family members of the narrator, and each one is captivating.  Some people classify Chappell’s works as magical realism.  I don’t completely agree with that (and for the record, neither does Chappell)–I despise magical realism as a rule–but I do appreciate the taste of whatever it is people are trying to name when they call his work magical realism.  There is something enthralling, unearthly, and completely familiar all at the same time in his work.  Check him out and be enchanted.

I’m almost done with Dragonwitch by my friend Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and the realization that she somehow manages to get even better with every book has struck me anew.  This story is beautifully woven, and I’m completely immersed in it while I’m in that world.  The story within the story is perfectly paced so that you discover the interplay between the tales at just the right time.  Each book adds to the reader’s depth of understanding of the characters, so I feel like I’m getting to know old friends on a new level as the tale unfolds.

A little too much chaos lately!  I’ve been out of town every weekend for the past month, and evidently I’m just not bothering with this sleep thing lately.

Last weekend I went to Kentucky with my parents for my uncle Scott’s funeral.  It was a grueling trip, sandwiched between two rough weeks at work, but I was glad I went and was able to be with the family.  We’ve all agreed that we need to get together for something other than funerals.  Even though we were in that part of the country for a sad reason, we did enjoy being back.  My uncle owned a massive Thoroughbred farm in the middle of horse country, and the farms in that area are just astounding.  Having worked on small farms for many years, I know how much work is involved with even a few acres; it boggles the mind to think about the amount of labor poured into these sprawling horse farms.  After the funeral, we had lunch at my uncle’s neighbor’s house, which was built in 1860.  It’s massive, and has all of the original woodwork (constructed from trees cut on the farm) and stonework (quarried from the farm).  The amount of history on that piece of land is incredible.  Whenever they plow in the spring, they turn up arrowheads and other artifacts from an old Indian camp, and they still have the old slave quarter buildings next to the house.  If the occasion hadn’t been so entirely unsuitable for it, I would have grilled them more about the place.

Aside from trying to get caught up at work, the rest of the week has been great.  I had a lovely visit to the farm with friends and got to meet their new sheep on Wednesday, and on Thursday we got together at Sunni Sky’s for ice cream and a reunion with a friend who has been deployed overseas.

This weekend I’m heading to Minneapolis for work.  It’ll be a whirlwind trip, getting in past midnight on Saturday and working all day Sunday and Monday before leaving Tuesday morning, so I’m not sure how much site-seeing I’ll get to do, but I have a list of places I may try to visit if I can squeeze them in.  I’ve been to Minnesota before only briefly, so I’d like to see as much as possible, but oh, I would just love to get some sleep too.

For some reason I’m absurdly excited about the 4th of July this year.  I’m going with some friends to the Garner fireworks, which I highly recommend.  Last year was blissful, in spite of being rained out.  Then I’m going camping at Uwharrie National Forest, which I anticipate will be a blast.

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Books: Firstly, check out the article: Barnes and Noble: the final chapter?  *weeps*  I admit, though, that I’m part of the problem: I buy my books almost exclusively from secondhand shops or online, and I mainly go to B&N just to browse or camp out with some coffee.  But it’s the principle of the thing, dangit!

I am (and will be, for months) working through the ludicrous number of books I bought at the library sale.  I breezed through Tucker by Louis L’Amour, which was solidly enjoyable but nothing I haven’t said about L’Amour before.  I find the occasional piece of genre fiction very therapeutic, and everyone loves a good Western.

In a vast departure from the aforementioned, I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce on the way to the funeral.  I would like to state for the record that en route to a funeral is possibly the very worst time to read this book, particularly the long sermon on hell in the middle.  I keep trying to appreciate Joyce…and I keep despising him.  He’s talented, I grant that, but he’s also insufferable.  His main character is moody, obnoxious, and—I have a sneaking suspicion—just like Joyce.  Joyce smells like Proust, and I can’t handle more than a whiff of that navel-gazing, temperamental gloom.  If that makes me a shallow reader, so be it.  While writing this post, I discovered that Joyce and Proust met in real life, and whatever actually happened, the encounter sounds hilarious.

I’m a feature writer for a magazine, which sounds more impressive than it is, but one of the perks is that I basically got a free trip to Asheville for the association’s annual meeting.  My trip was blink-and-miss-it quick, but still pretty great.  On the Saturday before, I drove to my parents’ place for church, then continued up to Charlotte to spend the night at Ed’s place (he moved recently).  We hung out that evening, and in the morning I drove the rest of the way to Asheville in time for the educational sessions.  I’ve never been to that sort of meeting as an attendee, and it was so nice not having to worry about exhibiting or meeting planning for a change.

At some point I looked around realized there weren’t a lot of people there my age, and one of the first sessions was about bridging the generation gap in association membership.  The speaker talked about the typical member of Generation Y—most of which didn’t apply to me.  I don’t tweet, don’t have a smart phone or an e-reader, and I’m more old-fashioned than most 50-year-olds I’ve met.  The speaker paused and asked any members of the audience born after 1981 to stand up.  Five of us stood there awkwardly as 50 or 60 middle-aged executives looked at us as though we had possibly just come in from the moon.  “And who among you is the youngest?” the speaker asked brightly.  That’s right, I was the youngest person at the entire conference.  I won a free book for being the baby, which I had to go to the front to get from the speaker.  For the rest of the conference, people would wander by me and say, “Well hello there, YOUNG lady!”  I guess there are worse things to be known for?

On Sunday night we were bussed to a downtown Asheville hotel for a swanky reception.  The food was great, but the reception included loud music, a silent auction, an open bar, and a comedy routine, the combination of which was basically the antithesis of my interests, so I took off by myself to explore Asheville in the pouring rain.  Most things were closed, but I got to see a fair amount of the place, and I found I hadn’t missed a thing when I got back.  While perusing the small gift shop for lack of anything better to do, I found a small section of used books.  The elderly fellow manning the shop said that the hotel allowed him to put a few used books out for sale.  I was very excited to find a beautiful book of rediscovered writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I didn’t even know existed, and the sweet old man gave it to me for only $3 because he was so glad to see it go to a loving home.

After the educational sessions ended on Monday, I stuck around to go ziplining, conveniently located at the hotel.  I have to say, it was a blast, and I felt sorry for the guides on my tour for having to deal with my adrenaline junkie ways.  I was put on a trip with a family on vacation, and they very kindly got a video of me zipping.  I drove home later that night, marathoning one Radiolab episode after another until my brain threatened to explode.  I’m working on listening to every episode; right now I’m working on 2010, and I highly recommend checking them all out.

I saw the new Trek movie with a bunch of friends (actually a few weeks ago, but I’ve been busy!), and for the most part I was awfully disappointed.  This review expresses my feelings pretty well.  After reading a few quotes from the Trek Powers that Be, however… *plumber’s voice*  “Well, there’s your problem, ma’am.”  Speaking of movies, here’s a rather depressing article: At the movies, the women are gone.

In happier acting-related news, check out my brilliant brother’s new website!

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I promise I’ll write up my adventures in New  York City shortly, but in the meantime, I have far too many internet finds to share.

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Books: I picked up a little gem called Boston: Cradle of Liberty by Edward Weeks at the NC State Library book sale just a couple days after I got back from Boston, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. The book is full of beautiful drawings of Boston, and I thoroughly enjoyed going through it to find places that I had just visited.

I found Logbook for Grace: Whaling Brig Daisy, 1912-1913 by Robert Cushman Murphy (also at the NC State Library booksale), and it’s delightful.  Murphy was a scientist aboard one of the last whaling ships in 1912, and his log (intended for his new bride, Grace) chronicles the end of an era.  It’s a beautiful mix of youthful exuberance (Murphy was only 25, and rather excited by the whole thing), nostalgia for a fast-waning way of life, and wistful sighs (Murphy was madly in love with his young wife, and missed her terribly).  I read half of it on the planes to and from NYC, and I’m looking forward to the rest of Murphy’s adventures.

After Mississippi Jack, I went on to the next book in L.A. Meyer’s series, My Bonny Light Horseman: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, in Love and War.  In which our heroine meets Napoleon, manages to enthrall every male she comes across, and generally act like the most annoying of Mary Sues…and yet, still be a completely enjoyable read. I’ve just started Rapture of the Deep: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Soldier, Sailor, Mermaid, Spy.

My quiet week turned into a busy week!  We hosted the discipleship program at our apartment on Wednesday, and on Thursday I went to the NC State Library book sale, had dinner at Coffee and Crepes with a friend, and went to the Star Trek screening on Thursday.  On Friday my car started shrieking and grinding, but I tempted fate and went out one more time for dinner at some friends’ house.  I spent almost $1000 on Monday in car repairs and supposedly had my brakes replaced, but this sure sounds like more brake trouble to me.  On Monday I’ll get it checked out.

I’ve been doing feature writing for Success by Association for a year or so, and I found out that in return for my work, the Association Executives of North Carolina have offered to pay for registration, hotel, and gas money for their annual meeting in Asheville in June.  I’ve never been to Asheville, but it looks like a fascinating place.  I’m particularly tempted by the zip line tours…

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  • “Youth” by Daughter.
  • “Step” by Vampire Weekend.
  • This little speaker is blowing my mind.  I bought one as a gift for my brother, and after seeing (hearing) it in action, I went straight back out to get one for myself.  The sound is unbelievable for something so tiny, and it’s great for boosting laptop sound or for listening to mp3s in the car.  It fits in the cup holder perfectly.  (I promise I wasn’t paid for this ringing endorsement, I’m just really enthused about this little guy.)

Books:I finished In Dubious Battle on the plane from Boston.  Spoilers: my previous prediction was not wrong.  After that I read The Short Reign of Pippin IV by Steinbeck, which was billed as being hilarious.  Parts of it were amusing, but it was not a comedy…sometimes I wonder if the people who write back-of-the-book blurbs have even read the thing.  It was acceptable but not as brilliant as I’ve come to expect from Steinbeck.

After four Steinbeck novels in a row, I was ready for a change, so I’m back to L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series.  I’m just finishing up Mississippi Jack: Being an Account of the Further Waterborne Adventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman, Fine Lady, and Lily of the West, which chronicles Jacky’s adventures as a riverboat captain on the Mississippi.  The book is of dubious plausibility (not to mention historical accuracy) at times, but it’s highly entertaining and a nice, light-hearted break.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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