Monday, 29 April 2013

Indoor starters week 4 - my urban garden

Like watching the proverbial paint dry, doing a weekly update about the growth of my indoor starter plants seemed like a less than exciting offering to you, my fine readers.  So as you might have noticed I haven't done an update since week 1 in order to give the plants a bit of time to really get started, and so as not to bore a ridiculous amount.

At any rate, here we are at week 4!  I would like to say spring is sprung but that would be the filthiest of lies because I walked from the bus stop to work in near blizzard conditions this morning and got thoroughly soaked by the snow/rain.  So nothing is going in the ground anytime soon, I can't even dig the garden beds as they are once again made into mudholes.

So indoor gardening continues to be "where it's at".  Behold the plants at the end of week 4:

There's an intruder in the plant room too!
So as you can see there is LOTS more happening now than there was at the end of week 1.  Everything is up with the exception of a few pots that never sprouted a thing.  Even the peppers, which I had not seen hide nor hair (nor leaf nor root) of since the beginning finally broke the soil at the end of week 3, after I was beginning to doubt they were ever coming.  True leaves are beginning to form on the tomatoes and parsley, which means soon they will have to be thinned.  The strongest will be left to take over the whole pot for themselves and the other seedlings will be pulled to make room. 

In an effort to reduce the presence of mold in some of the pots I've cut down a bit on watering.  Rather than using the watering can I'm now misting the soil with a spray bottle.  I'm hoping to see much better performance from the shasta daisies because of this too, I feel like I've probably over-watered them a bit and they aren't growing very well as a result.

My unemployment commences on Wednesday, so hopefully the yard will dry up and landscaping can commence!  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Re-reads: the few and the powerful

It is a very rare occurrence that I will re-read a book.

Primarily, this is because life is short and books are many.  My to-read list (AKA, the wait list) is seriously long and overpopulated with many wonderful, exciting and worthy works that I very much want to read.  And I'll never be able to read them all, but at the same time don't want to miss out on a new experience by re-reading an old favorite.

Yet they are favorites for a reason.  And favorites are the only reason I re-read in the first place.*

*sidenote: actually not 100% true.  One time I accidentally re-read Crabwalk by Gunter Grass thinking I had never read it before.  The book was so boring and unmemorable that I actually got 3/4 of the way through before I realized that I remembered how it ended.  :|


For me, favorite books are actually quite rare.  I have read many books that I like and have enjoyed immensely, but there is a certain quality to those that are re-readable that makes them almost demand a second look.

I think that quality can best be defined as a sort of complexity which requires a second reading in order to develop the fullest possible appreciation for the work.  This complexity in itself is a very delicate balance.  The book has to be complex enough to require a second reading, but not so complex as to be initially off-putting in the first place, or so complex that I don't feel I would really "get" the book even if I read it a second time.

So here I would like to discuss two of my all-time favorite re-read books, and give a bit of an explanation for how they managed to pull me in a second (or third) time.

Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake

Just so good.

 I am actually re-reading Oryx and Crake right now.  It is the seed for this blogpost.  Prior to reading this book, I was very much NOT a reader of Margaret Atwood.  I remember being force-fed some poetry in high school, but generally speaking I was quite ambivalent about reading any of her novels.  But Oryx and Crake pulled me in; I could not resist the surreal, dystopian future and hopeless reminiscences of Snowman.  It is just such a good book, and it's an even better book the second time around.  The first time it is profoundly interesting, but I feel like all of the details and subtleties were lost on me.  I needed to read it a second time to really pick everything up in full detail.  Another reason why I am re-reading Oryx and Crake is because for a couple of years now I've had the sequel/prequel The Year of the Flood on my bookshelf, beckoning me to read it.  And I couldn't very well do that without first revisiting the book that started it all.  If you haven't read it, and especially if you generally dislike Atwood, I urge you to give Oryx and Crake a try.  It is such a marvelous book in so many ways.

Haruki Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World

I love this book more than chocolate.

In addition to possibly being my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE BOOK, EVER, Haruki Murakami's End of the World also has the distinction of being the only work of adult fiction that I have read three times.*

*sidenote: Now is not the time to discuss how many DOZENS of times I read (or had read to me) Art Cummings' There's a Monster Eating my House, an absolutely riotous children's book which is sadly out of print, but which I am grateful to have a copy of.  Another blog post, another day.

End of the World captures the exact essence of what makes a book re-readable for me.  It is an amazingly detailed magical realist novel (my favorite genre) which is at once thoroughly engrossing but also highly complex.  The first time I read this book I loved it.  The second time I read it I understood it.  And the third time I was able to relax into the book like the most comfortable of old sweaters.  It is a brilliant story about the nature of the mind and reality, and is my favorite out of many great works by Murakami.  To say I recommend this book would obviously be an understatement... I practically go around giving out copies of this one (actually have done this on people's birthdays).  It is simultaneously challenging and fascinating.  And the alternating dual-perspective chapters come together in such a brilliant way to culminate in a frustratingly wonderful cliffhanger ending.  READ THIS BOOK.

I'm somewhat hard-pressed to think of many more books I've re-read.  The re-read is a rare title in my reading universe, reserved only for those works that I hold in the absolute highest regard.  May there be more of them in the future... but not too many...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Getting screwed, or, why kitty-mommy drinks too much.

This post is brought to you by the word #&%*!...
EXPLETIVES, they're not just for sailors anymore.

I already ranted and raved on a previous occasion about how I am a temp, and therefore my life is a type of heinous purgatory spent forever treading on eggshells because you never know when the ax will fall and you'll be living in a refrigerator box, doing unseemly favors in exchange for half of a stale peanut butter sandwich. 

Be it ever so humble...
But the fever has finally broke, so to speak, because I found out that I'm not getting renewed, and I'm not even getting an interview for the new positions that were created at my workplace.  So now I have nothing and everything to worry about.  I have a distinct end date, but I also have no plans as to how I am going to fill my time and my bank account as of the end of the month.

DH says not to take it personally.  And I can't even get into that without making this a really ugly scene so I'm just going to leave that part alone for now.  Let's just say there are a whole lot of people around here who can't even look me in the eye after ruining my future.

Consequently, the big question remains the same as it was before: what's next?  Despite having paid a shit-ton of cash for two degrees that aren't actually paid off I join the great unwashed masses in the unemployment line?  Maybe... because I've used it before apparently that makes it OK for Harper-bot and the Decepti-Cons to exclude me from the program, so here is yet another wait-and-see for me to ruminate on as I spend endless hours dicking around on Facebook and Pinterest because nobody actually assigns work projects to the person who's leaving anyway.

And that's why kitty-mommy drinks too much.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Jonas Jonasson's "The 100-Year-Old Man" (book review)

"If you've ever stepped in a heap of sticky, very fresh elephant shit then you'll know it's virtually impossible to keep your balance."

I am a complete sucker for a comedy.  I absolutely love books with a good sense of humor, and if they are able to literally make me laugh tea out my nose, all the better.  I think the reason I love humorous books so much is because they are one of the very few types of books that actually manage to elicit an emotional response from me.  As I've mentioned before, I'm not the kind of person who gets "scared" or "moved to tears" by books.  They just don't trigger those kinds of reactions for me.  But a truly funny book has the power to make me actually laugh out loud, and that is why I love them so much.  Christopher Moore and Neil Gaiman are among my favorite authors for these reasons.  And while Gaiman is probably considered fantasy before comedy, if you've read Good Omens then you know exactly why I classify him as a humor writer as well.

It's been quite a little while since I've read anything truly humorous.  I've been on a bit of a teen drama, adult drama, too much drama tilt as of late.  Which is why I was thoroughly, truly glad to read Jonas Jonasson's The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared.

Great cover too, in my opinion.

In order to obtain a copy of this book from my local public library, I actually had to wait over three months to get to the top of the holds list.  There were literally dozens of people waiting to read this recent bestseller.  Conveniently for me, book club this month picked bestsellers as our genre, so 100-Year-Old Man ended up pulling double-duty in that regard and as comedy relief.

In the 100-Year-Old Man, centarian Allan Karlsson decides to start over and climbs out the window of his retirement home on his 100th birthday.  The highly idiosyncratic senior citizen then proceeds on a romp across the Swedish countryside which comes to include stealing a suitcase full of money, accidental murder, and a motley crew of accomplices including a thief, an evangelized fraudster, and a farmer and her elephant.  Obviously, mayhem ensues.

100-Year-Old Man does not proceed in a strictly linear fashion.  Episodes from unpolitical Allan Karlsson's life are all highly political, as he plays a role in some of the 20th century's key events and gains the ear of many prominent figures across several continents.  The total ridiculousness of both Allan's overly lucky history and his current adventure is part of what makes the book very enjoyable and outrageously funny.  Yet Allan's frank and honest nature makes his tales seem believable.  With child-like honesty Allan blows up his childhood home, insults Stalin and nearly causes multiple international incidents, all without a hint of malice.  The overall result is a book that is just pure fun; one that cannot be taken too seriously or analyzed too deeply.

I would highly recommend Jonas Jonasson's The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Dissapeared to anyone who enjoys literature in translation, or a good solid laugh.  It is a highly joyful, exciting book with a tidy happy ending.  Most of all, it is perfect light reading if you're experiencing a bit too much seriousness in your life or literature.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Indoor starters week 1 - my urban garden

Last Friday I planted my first ever round of indoor starter plants.  The goal is that they will be able to go into the ground once I am able to dig up a corner of my backyard to serve as a garden plot, and after the last frost.

And looking outside today, it is hard to believe that last frost (roughly May 17 here in Edmonton) is only SEVEN weeks away.

This is winter, month EIGHT.

UGH. Obviously there is just a TINY BIT of warming up and melting that needs to happen before the plants can go outside.

But at any rate, here is a shot of how the starters are doing, now that they are well set up in a south-facing spare room for the last week:

Much potential...

I know there isn't really a whole lot to see at this point.  Most of the seeds require several days to germinate at all, so I'm not surprised that this is how things looked at the end of week one.  What is actually kind of surprising are the two trays of marigolds:

Quite a bit going on here!

I was very surprised that the marigolds starting popping up after only THREE DAYS!  This is how they looked a week in.  I'm happy that I have multiple sprouts in most of the pots, once they get true leaves I will pick off the weaker ones and the strongest seedling will take over the entire pot in time.  This eventual step is very important, each cube or pot can only have one plant in it to prevent over-crowding, which is detrimental to the growth of the plants.  But we are still quite a ways from this right now.

You can't see it in the picture, but both the forme de coeur and early annie tomatoes are also starting to sprout, but just barely.  I'm sure I will have a great deal more to report next week.

Happy (indoor, preseason,) gardening everyone!