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Archive for March 2012

Reading suggestions

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I tend to neglect writing online when I get into a good book. It’s the end of March and I’m almost finished with my third reading of Blood Meridian, one of the few books I can see myself reading over and over as I get older. I have a few books in mind for the rest of this spring, and then I want to explore “great novels” written by American authors; Twain, Hemingway, Melville, Steinbeck, etc.

I’d like to make a list of at least 10 books, one book per author, preferably the best and/or most well-known work from each author, and only books I haven’t read before or have read before but don’t remember much about. So it would be Huckleberry Finn for Twain, The Sun Also Rises for Hemingway (which I read in high school but, alas, remember almost nothing about), and Moby-Dick for Melville. I’ve read The Great Gatsby and I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember being nonplussed by it, so I’m ruling it ineligible.

What other books should I read? Which other authors should I consider? I welcome any and all recommendations.


Written by camcarlson

March 30, 2012 at 6:29 AM

Posted in Literature

Grindhouse goodness

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Hey, I went to high school with this guy! I remember Elijah from his “I Smell a Farce” days on CFCT… I wonder if there are copies of those episodes out there somewhere. Good to see him spreading the good word about quality films…

Written by camcarlson

March 23, 2012 at 9:36 PM

I before E, Erin go Bragh

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The grammar nazi within me insists on making the following announcements:

1. It is Daylight Saving Time, not “savings” time. We are saving daylight, not savings daylight.

2. The proper abbreviation for St. Patrick’s Day is St. Paddy’s Day, not “Patty’s”. Patty is short for Patricia, whereas Saint Patrick was a man. (Patty can also refer to a burger, but that still doesn’t make any sense.)

post script — Paddy, like Mick or Taig (Teague), has been used for centuries as an ethnic slur—a common form of disrespect referring to an entire body of people by a stereotypical name—but it’s not an insult if it’s actually your name. Just an FYI.

Written by camcarlson

March 18, 2012 at 6:59 PM

Out on the trails

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The weather has become much more springlike these past couple weeks, and I have taken great advantage of it. Last week I got in my first outdoor run of the year – a simple 5K along the nature trail. I didn’t go too fast, not wanting to push my legs too far too early (as I did last year), and I still managed to finish in under a half hour. Not too shabby. I’ve also had my windows open for much of the past several days, welcoming in some much-needed fresh air into the apartment.

I picked up my bike from Bike Tech last Saturday and took it for a quick spin. I reset the odometer and made a few adjustments to the spoke magnet and logged my first official mile for 2012. Yesterday I took it out for a real ride, along my usual route through the trail system – riverside trail, George Wyth, Big Woods Lake, Black Hawk Park and Island Park/downtown. An enjoyable 17-miler. I passed dozens of other bicyclists, joggers, walkers and pets along the way.

Early Sunday morning I was beset by a sudden, painful upper back/neck injury. I fell asleep on the couch watching a movie and when I awoke at 4am I could barely move my head in any direction without experiencing a sharp pain. I guess I slept in a funny position. Try as I might, I could not fall back asleep in bed, so I returned to the living room and watched a couple movies while the sun rose and the morning progressed. By the afternoon I had downed a handful of ibuprofen and muscle relaxers, which helped a little bit; I was able to lie down a bit for a short nap. Otherwise I spent most of the afternoon and evening lying on my back in the living room, the only comfortable position I could find.

Monday I was still in pain, and the muscle relaxers made me so incredibly drowsy at work that I had to resort to downing a bottle of Mountain Dew just to stay awake. Ugh. It’s been years since I’ve drank soda straight-up like that and it gave me some nasty heartburn, but it did keep me awake at work… just barely. Yesterday I felt a bit better; I could move my head around and tilt it back (but not forward) and could lift my hands over my head without wincing in pain – motor skills useful for putting on a shirt and shampooing my hair. Today the pain has downgraded to a persistent, annoying ache located around my right shoulderblade. My guess is that I strained a muscle or tendon and it’s slowly healing.

With the forecast calling for temperatures in the 70s through next Monday, I forewent bicycling today and got in a run, my first since Friday. Another half-hour 5K. Dozens of people out on the trails with me. I even noticed some buds on the trees and bushes outside the Mandalay… the groundhog was wrong this year!

Once it’s warm enough to consistently be outside during the week, I’m going to adjust my workout schedule to incorporate 2 runs a week and weightlifting at the gym twice a week. As much as I love cycling, I want to maintain a variety in my workout routine, lest I become bored doing the same thing day-in day-out.

On that note, I was reading the editor’s letter to the October 2011 issue of Cycling magazine last night… I was amazed to learn that editor-in-chief Peter Flax had driven1 100,000 miles in his adult lifetime (that is, he “is closing in on” that mark, at age 40). Assuming he’s been consistently bicycling since the age of 18, that’s over 4,500 miles per year. Good lord! I’ve logged somewhere around 4,500 miles since taking up bicycling in mid 2008, not counting stationary miles at the gym. If I cycled 4,500 miles per year between now and my 40th birthday, I’d still be shy of half his mark. Granted, he probably lives somewhere where he can cycle year-round, whereas I’d have to break out the studded tires and zip-ties to maintain my mileage.

1 yes, I am using the word “drive” when referring to cycling, as the person sitting on the bicycle is driving it, not riding it. A driver operates the vehicle; a passenger rides e.g. he is just “going along for the ride”. A cyclist is not a passenger on a bicycle in the same regards that a rider would be a passenger on a horse (which is one of the more ornery members of the animal kingdom, in my honest opinion, but I digress…). Many grammar sites suggest that straddling a moving object, such as a bicycle, a motercycle or a horse/camel/donkey, constitutes “riding”, but I would say that you can’t really force a horse to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go. Trust me on this. However, you fully operate the bicycle; that is, if you are not moving the pedals, the bicycle goes nowhere. The horse is free to go wherever it damn well pleases, which it can and often does. Oops, I’m digressing again…

Written by camcarlson

March 14, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Spring cleaning ideas

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Spring cleaning is an ideal time for uncluttering. Wise Bread offers some good suggestions when going through the house –

Bedroom: clothing and shoes you haven’t worn recently or no longer fit properly; old underwear, socks and bras; jewelry, perfumes and colognes; linens, towels and excess/broken coat hangers in the closet.

A tip for purging clothing: rearrange the hangers in your closet so everything faces the same direction. When you wear an item and put it back, turn it so it faces the other way. After 6-12 months, examine the hangers that haven’t been turned. Do you anticipate wearing these items in the near future? If you haven’t worn them in the past 12 months, you probably won’t in the next 12 months.

Bathroom: expired medicines and vitamins, makeup.

Kitchen: excess cups/mugs and dishes, mismatched plastic containers and lids, spices (generally only good for 1-2 years), spoiled/rotten food in the fridge, stale/outdated boxed foods in the cabinets.

Paper items: old receipts, paychecks and bills; unread books and magazines, old greeting cards.

Usually you only need to keep year-end income/bank statements for tax purposes, but if you feel compelled to keep a specific statement or receipt, consider scanning it and then shredding the paper copy. Saves on filing.

As far as books go, consider this: how many books do you have on your shelves that will never be read, or read a second or third time? Chances are, you’ve got plenty. Go through them today and donate them, so that someone else will get enjoyment from them. If you read a book and fell in love with it, but you know you won’t be re-reading it in the near future, donate it so someone else can fall in love with it. Why let that unrealized love collect dust on a bookshelf?

Greeting cards are like postcards — they are supposed to be a fleeting message from a loved one. They are not all keepsakes to be stored or framed. You aren’t throwing away someone’s love by throwing away a Hallmark card that they spent 30 seconds picking out at the store. Unless the card had something particularly sentimental and meaningful written inside, throw it away. “Happy Birthday, Love Mom & Dad” does not count.

Electronics: unused DVDs, VHS and audio tapes, CDs and video games; power cords, old cell phones.

Around the house: old paint, contents of the “junk drawer”, children items (toys, cribs and car seats), “fix it up” projects, rugs.

“Fix it up” projects refers to all those little odds & ends you keep telling yourself to take care of on the weekend but, well, life gets in the way. You know which things I mean: sewing a button back on a shirt, fixing the blender so the cap stays on, replacing the torn screen in a window, staining wood trim around a door…

Written by camcarlson

March 12, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Posted in Simplicity

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Well here’s a sad fact: the top ten movies at the box office last weekend were all certified duds according to I have no confidence that this weekend’s releases will do anything to liven the landscape.

Looking over this list, I should point out I saw “The Secret World of Arrietty” last weekend. The first truly good movie of 2012. I liked “The Artist” and really liked “The Descendants”. “Hugo” was rent-worthy (it is out on DVD now, by the way). I am curious about “Chronicle” but will wait to rent it.

Written by camcarlson

March 8, 2012 at 9:33 PM

Posted in Cinema

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2012 GOP primaries

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As we approach Super Tuesday, this just about sums up the current state of the race for the GOP nomination:

[W]e might see a third Gingrich surge or a third Santorum surge.  And then another Romney surge.  All of this is going to be accompanied with discontent.  It is like the Republicans have three cartons of rotten milk.  They’ve already taken a taste out of each carton and, on some level, know the milk is bad in all of them.  So they take out a carton, pour a drink, gag, put the carton back in the refrigerator, and take out one of the other two cartons that they’ve already gagged on.  And they keep doing it over and over again.

Written by camcarlson

March 5, 2012 at 10:34 PM