Showing posts with label nerdy things. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nerdy things. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I read 500 pages today.

I don't think I've done that since... Well, actually, since the first time I was reading the Harry Potter books; I read each of them in one day when they came out. Quite reasonable then, that that's what I was reading today. Four hundred pages in Order of the Phoenix and now I've started The Half-Blood Prince. I wonder if I'll ever be able to read another book the way I can read this series?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fun with Flags

A couple weeks ago I downloaded a trivia app called QuizUp, and I am addicted. It has quizzes in just about every category you can imagine, from the educational (like geography, history, and literature) to the frivolous (like TV shows, internet memes, and food). For the past few days, I've been really into flags. But as I take these quizzes, I've been noticing how many countries use just the plain three horizontal stripes in different colors, which is super boring—somehow even three vertical stripes seem slightly more interesting—but especially in contrast to some that are really cool.




Bosnia and Herzegovina




Hong Kong




South Korea




Papua New Guinea

Saudi Arabia


Vatican City/Holy See

Several of my favorites actually are three-striped, but with just a symbol or design that makes them about a million times more interesting—or, as you may be noticing, different shades of green and blue. I have noticed that I'm a lot more inclined to like three-stripe flags if they have green in them, and I think those lighter shades of blue are just more unique (besides which, blue is my other favorite color).




Barbados (I think this one's especially cool because of the history—the old colonial flag had a full trident on it, and this new one with only the trident head symbolizes the break from the past. That just seems so... defiant. :) )


Norfolk Island




I spent all my free minutes at work last night on the CIA Factbook website, looking through flags and finding the ones I remembered from my quizzes. Is this the nerdiest thing I've ever done in my entire life? I think it is, but I am legitimately having so much fun learning about flags. (I said this to Mike and he said, "There's a YouTube channel you should watch..." If only there really were!) 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Black Swan

I finally watched this movie a couple days ago. Since it came out, I've been in an agony of indecision—wanting desperately to see it, and pansying out every time I checked it out from the library, because I'd heard some things and I was nervous. This time I was determined, though, and when Mike agreed to watch it with me, it finally happened. 

I was right to be nervous. But I was also right to watch it. I was floored by this movie. It's nothing outside the realm of imagination if you know the ballet, but it was just so powerfully done (and I now fully understand the foolishness of judging Natalie Portman's acting based on Star Wars). I thought about it all day after we watched it in the morning before work. I created a Swan Lake station on Pandora, but it was largely disappointing. Then I ended up watching the ballet on YouTube later that night. It was also a little disappointing, mostly because... Man alive, did everyone else know how boring the non-famous musical themes in that score are? I hate to hate on Tchaikovsky, but I feel like 90 percent of that ballet is just Prince Siegfried frolicking around with his friends to really repetitive music in a major key (the entire first half hour is, anyway). Even the black swan's music is mostly unmemorable. (Although now, after having watched this collection of scenes from an obviously much-more-interesting production, I wonder if some of that may have been the fault of the company I watched.)

Have you ever seen a ballet, though? This was the first for me—I've always, always wanted to see The Nutcracker but still haven't—and I'm hooked, for the moment. I rewatched several scenes from the ballet the next morning, and even having disliked most of the music, I would love to see Swan Lake performed live. There's just something mesmerizing about the way their bodies move; the beauty, the graceful power... And yet it's also macabre, in a way, because the things they do to their bodies in order to achieve that beauty are pretty horrific. Really, ballet is fascinating.

This movie is not for everyone, which I'm sure you know if you ever saw any trailers for it. It's a psychological thriller, and it's intense. There are sex scenes, and there are several disturbing moments involving graphic physical injuries. Also, frankly, it employs several cliches and sexist stereotypes, and I'm trying to decide why that didn't bother me. Feminist friends, if you want to help me analyze that, I'd really appreciate it. I might actually watch the movie again today, since it's my day off, and I've been wanting to see it again since the moment the credits started rolling; I wonder if a second viewing will help me see the sexism more objectively.

Have any of you seen the movie, or wanted to? What did you think?

Monday, September 24, 2012

I have always imagined that paradise will be some kind of library...

Two weeks ago I got offered my dream job. It doesn't pay enough for us to live on it alone, even now while we're paying no rent, so it isn't perfect. But it's perfect for me. It's exactly the job I would have chosen if I could have picked any job in the library. I'm at the reference desk, so I'm the one people come to if they can't find something. I give recommendations, help with research, choose the books that go on the displays, straighten the books on the shelves, help people figure out what the name is of that one book they used to love. And when I'm not helping a patron, I can sort and shelve books—which is one of my favorite things to do at the library, and the reason I also would have been happy if they'd hired me for the page job (I applied for both), even though it pays minimum wage and really wouldn't have been enough of a source of income for us.

But the funny thing is that they put me in children's, which is probably the area where I have the least expertise (and I even told them that in the interview). I have read some junior fiction that I really love, and I've read more children's books than most people who don't have children have read (example: I created this list on Goodreads several months ago, long before I got a library job). But the vast majority of my reading is adult and YA, and after just a couple days working in children's, I realized that I need to start doing some research. So, in the last week, I have read 65 books checked out from the children's and junior sections. I thought I'd share my favorites with you. 

I started, for no particular reason, with junior nonfiction—children's biographies. On my second day of training, one of the librarians showed me that section and said it was one of her favorites. Just at a glance I saw several books that looked really interesting, so I decided that was where I would start. And guys, if you didn't think children's biographies could be interesting—well, I wouldn't blame you, because neither did I—but we were both wrong. 


Galileo and Charles Darwin were done by the same author, Peter Sís (who also has a couple autobiographical ones), and I was really struck by their style—not just the lovely illustrations, but that they included quotes on almost every page from Galileo and Darwin themselves, which is something that children's books often don't bother to do. Some of these books are notable for their absolutely stunning illustrations, like Saint Francis, Mermaid Queen, Odetta: The Queen of Folk, and John Muir: America's First Environmentalist. And some I thought were amazing just because of the variety of subjects you can find now. When I was a kid, children's biographies were pretty much just former presidents and civil rights activitsts. Now you can find beautifully-illustrated books on Pablo Neruda, Hypatia, Frank Baum, Vivaldi, Charles Dickens, Marcel Marceau, Sarah WinnemuccaSarah Breedlove Walker, Noah Webster, Shakespearethe prophet Muhammad, Maria Anna Mozart (Wolfgang's older sister who was a child prodigy before he was), Black Elk, John James Audubon, Sequoyah, Margaret Chase Smith, and Ida B. Wells—and these are just the ones I've read in one week.

I've also picked up some picture books, with no particular pattern here except that I've been looking for ones with really fantastic illustrations. Many of them are ones I saw on the reshelving cart and looked through before putting them away (which, it turns out, is a pretty good way of doing things). I didn't include a picture of The Conductor because the shape wouldn't fit with the others here, but it's an especially beautiful one.



These three that I found while straightening the junior nonfiction section are some of my favorites. World of Faith is a book written by Peggy Fletcher Stack, religion writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, in cooperation with the Inter-faith Roundtable of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Games. It's essentially a dictionary of important world religions, with lovely illustrations depicting things that are particular to each faith. Red Sings From Treetops is a poetry book by Joyce Sidman, who is one of my favorites right now because she has several of these books of poetry and they are all just gorgeous (each done by a different illustrator, and they all won the Caldecott). And Remember: The Journey to School Integration is Toni Morrison's first children's nonfiction, I think. It's full of huge, fantastic photographs of schoolchildren in the 60s, and each page is written as if from the thoughts of the child in the photograph next to it. It's so, so brilliant. 


Kind of mixed in to each of these categories are the 2012-2013 Beehive nominees I've read (some picture, some nonfiction, some junior fiction). The Beehive Book Awards are done each year by the Children's Literature Association of Utah, and the winners are chosen by children who vote as they read them.

The last category—and, I have to admit, my least favorite—is junior fiction for second and third graders. I think this age group is probably the hardest for adults to read, because it's not beautifully-illustrated like the picture books are, and it's not as well-written as teen fiction. This age group is where we're talking about things like Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and so on. But based on the number of times it's come up with patrons, I decided this was a category I needed to do some research in. So I am. I'm not going to do the book covers because I've already spent probably an hour writing this post, but so far I have read:
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming (not at all like the movie)
The Capture by Kathryn Lasky (book one in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series)
Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger (the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, which I actually read a couple months ago just for fun, and which is actually really great)
Trouble Magnet by Nancy Krulik (book two in the George Brown Class Clown series)
I Was a Third Grade Science Project by Mary Jane Auch
How to Survive a Totally Boring Summer by Alice DeLaCroix
Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
and up next on my shelf I have (yes, at this point you don't even get links anymore, because I have to go eat lunch (and by lunch I mean breakfast) okay?):
Moon Pie by Simon Mason
From Russia with Lunch by Bruce Hale
Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight
The Forests of Silence by Emily Rodda (book one in the Deltora Quest series)
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Mr. Mysterious & Company by Sid Fleischman
Leprechauns Don't Play Basketball by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones (book four in the Bailey School Kids series)
Starting with Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
So there you have it. When I'm reading books at this pace, I'm not going to be doing full reviews of them here (you're welcome) but for most of them I'm trying to include at least a quick sentence or two in my review on Goodreads. If you have any suggestions, let me know, and if you want to know more details about a particular book, feel free to ask! Cause, you know, that's my job now.


Friday, August 31, 2012


So you know how you get when you read Harry Potter, and it sucks you in and you just read and read until you've finished the series for the umpteenth time and then you almost want to start it over again RIGHT NOW because you got so wrapped up in it that it's hard to imagine reading anything else?

You know how sometimes you get a little starstruck and so you pick up those celebrity magazines, or read the red carpet fashion blogs, or write too many blog posts about actors you like because sometimes it's just a fun thing to think about?

And you know how when you used to be part of a performance group of some kind—in a play, a choir, a band, a team—and then you stop doing it, you sometimes really, really miss it? The excitement, the tension, the cohesion, all the hours of practicing together, the nerves before a performance, the beauty of making music and the sense of being part of something?

This book is making me feel all of that. And it's kind of ridiculous.

It's sort of like the experience I had when I was reading Dramarama, only magnified, because it's HARRY POTTER, and a movie, with real life actors who I have serious crushes on (Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Emma Watson, Maggie Smith). I've never really done acting, but I have been in plays (as a minor character/choir member in a madrigal a couple years ago, as George Washington in my fifth grade school play, in various silly skits at Girls' Camp and church activities and talent shows) and when I read Dramarama, I really wished that I could have the experience of being a teenager and going to theater camp. Because I really do love being in plays, but I was always much too shy to do it seriously, and I think something like theater camp could have helped with some of that.

I also really miss high school band, and I do not care how nerdy it is to say that. I was in band from sixth grade through twelfth, and I played the bass clarinet for five of those seven years. I loved the bass clarinet. I am dying to buy my own, and one day I will, even though they cost thousands of dollars and are not so much solo instruments. I'm kind of hoping to join a community band or orchestra at some point. And anyway, maybe to you this doesn't seem very connected to the HP book, but in my head it is. It all just makes me feel kind of angsty, like there's so much I wish I could be doing in my life but can't because I would've had to have gone totally different routes several years ago.

Aaaand it sounds like I'm having a mid-life crisis, I know. I kind of am. It's sad.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beauty and Belief

We went to the BYU Museum of Art today. It was Mike's idea; he's the one who always thinks of these things, and that is why I'm glad to have him around. We literally have one dollar in our bank account right now, so we'd been "looking forward" to a weekend of sitting at home before he thought of the museum. We actually tried to go to the Bean museum first, but it's closed for construction until school starts again this fall—which ended up being totally fine with me. There are two amazing exhibits at the MOA right now, and I can't imagine a better way to have spent our afternoon.

The main exhibit is called Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture (and if you click that link, you can see an official summary of the exhibit including lots of photos and background information). Just inside the museum there's a small room with more of a kid-oriented mini exhibit—lots of things for kids to touch, spiroscope drawings, astrolabe rubbings, a corner full of children's books, and beautiful wooden puzzles that Mike and I put together.

The puzzles were my favorite part of that section, followed closely by the tree of good wishes, where people wrote their wishes on leaves and flowers and stuck them to a paper tree on the wall. I was just struck by the beauty, simplicity, and sometimes pain of some of the wishes I read there:
"I wish to visit India."
"I wish I had a tree in my yard."
"I wish all my kids could attend BYU."
"I wish my daddy a happy birthday."
"Come now, and let us reason together."
"I wish I had more video games."
"I wish I could have a puppy!"
"I wish for the drought in Texas to end."
"I wish my kids didn't need dinner every night."
"I wish for humane health care for everyone."
"I wish for my dad to be healthy and not in pain."
"I love my mom."
I added my own to the tree, and then we moved on to the main exhibit—which opened with an amazing, several-feet-long scroll all stretched out on a ramp that slopes upward toward the ceiling, where one section of the scroll was reproduced by a projector on the wall. The artifacts in this exhibit are really fascinating, and in some cases, as old as the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. There are beautiful scrolls, leatherbound books decorated with gold foliate, sculptures of mythical creatures, prayer rugs, gorgeous calligraphy, paintings, poetry, and all kinds of bowls and plates and cups that would have been used in mosques and in daily life.

One of the points this exhibit makes is that there's a common misconception about Islamic art, that it never includes representations of people or animals. This is only true for pieces that were made for sacred spaces like mosques; in fact, it seems that outside of those circumstances, they specifically covered much of their art with both kinds of figures. Even simple bowls and plates were often intricately carved or painted with birds, flowers, leaves, and other animals.
This is a take-home card with a photo of the pot from the exhibit.

Finial, one of a set of ninety-nine, each inscribed with a different one of the names of God. 
This one is "Originator"  like Creator.

The thing that I thought was really lovely about this exhibit was how it pointed out the love that Muslims have for showing patterns and connectivity in their art. The leaf engravings are so intricate that you can't tell where one branch ends and another begins; the geometric patterns are often circular, in patterns that have no beginning and no end, representing the infinite nature of God.

There's also a great focus on "the word". The Qur'an is, of course, intensely sacred to Muslims, because it is believed to be the literal word of God. No matter where they live, Muslims are taught to read the Qur'an in Arabic, the language of the Qur'an. And calligraphy is a favorite art form. Because this text is so important, calligraphy makes its way into all forms of artistic expression—it is carved into bowls and doors, painted on vases and plates, stitched into clothing, inscribed onto the faces of buildings like the Dome of the Rock, and even made into sculpture. I think that's such a beautiful idea, to surround yourself with the actual words of God in everything from your dishes to the walls of your home.

If you have the opportunity to go see this exhibit, I really think you should. It's beautiful, and (at BYU, anyway) it's free. After it leaves Utah, the exhibit goes to Indianapolis, Newark, and then Portland, so if you're in any of those areas, I would definitely recommend it. Some of the photos here are nice to look at, but they're really incomparable to seeing these objects in person. In fact, my very favorite part of the exhibit was the figure within the figure, which you see through a small square in the wall, and which can't really be captured in a photo. When you look through a slightly larger rectangle in the wall just next to the square, you see drawings of various animals and people suspended from the ceiling on cables—and when you look through the small square, you're at just the perfect angle so that all of those figures line up to form the larger figure of a horse. It's really fascinating to see, and just one more brilliant part of a truly beautiful exhibit.

There was another exhibit downstairs called Object of Devotion; it's a collection of alabaster carvings from medieval England, and it is also really fascinating. I don't think I would have loved it so much without the music, though, which was some kind of choral piece in Latin—not a Gregorian chant, but softer and more melodic, with both male and female voices (I asked the woman at the information desk afterward if she knew what it was, but she didn't, and just guessed Gregorian chant because of the time period). I kept getting chills as I walked through that room, with that music and the different medium, and the knowledge that many of those panels were over six hundred years old and had hung in medieval churches and been rescued by people who were risking their lives to defy the king... I happen to be listening to an audiobook right now about that exact period in history, and it was just all a very moving experience for me. If you're in northern Utah and you get to go check out the Islamic art exhibit, make sure you stop in downstairs and check this one out as well.