February 2008


beah I heard of this book when the author Ishmael Beah was interviewed on The Daily Show. Looking for that clip I note that it was just barely a year ago when it aired, Feb 14, 2007, and I finished reading the book on Feb 16, 2008 while flying back east last week.

I can’t say enough about this memoir. It brings into vivid detail the horror of civil war, the near unimaginable tragedy of child soldiers, and the author’s inspiring rehabilitation by the UN. The war reached Beah’s region of Sierra Leone when he was just 12 years old. At 13 he became a government soldier, and wasn’t pulled out of the conflict until he was nearly 16.

To summarize the book’s events any further would only diminish his telling of them, I fear, so I’ll limit myself to effusive praise. It’s very well written, making shocking events accessible. Powerful, humbling, and moving, it’s surely going to rank among the best books I’ll read this year, and have ever read.

Bottom line: highly recommended. As is the above-linked video clip that put me on to the book in the first place.

Next up: The End of Mr. Y. I’m probably 2/3 of the way through it. While reading it on the plane ride back to Seattle my mind started riffing on the title: The End of Mr. Why… The End of Mister Y = The End of Mystery? Hmm.

p.s. happy Leap Year Day!

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Nearly 10 days ago, I left a cold and dreary Seattle to go visit family & friends back east for a week. I got back on Tuesday night and so far, the weather’s been lovely. It’s all “welcome to crocus town” in our front yard. I know this is just the annual late-winter tease before the next 3-4 months of rain, but I’m enjoying it.

Via the Comics Curmudgeon, today I discovered “Garfield Minus Garfield“. OMG. A taste: garfield

It turns out I did have the opportunity to make something new while visiting my mom. She had a craving for golubki, a Polish dish, and had promised my great-aunt that she’d bring some with us when we visited them on Sunday. So on Saturday, she dug out my grandmother’s recipe and we gave them a try.

Why is it with Polish cooking that the ingredients are pretty basic and humble, but the preparation is so much work? Anyway, it was fun and delicious. We made a ton of them, because once you’re going to all that trouble, you may as well make a bunch for the freezer, am I right?

The deal is this: combine ground pork shoulder, chopped onion, cooked brown rice, S&P, and eggs (essentially a pork meatball). Core, then steam a head of cabbage and peel off all the leaves individually. We used 5 lbs of ground pork and 2 heads of cabbage. Place 1/2 cup of the meat mixture inside a cabbage leaf, and roll it up like a little burrito. Repeat until you have like 40 of those suckers, and place them in a roasting pan on top of any leftover cabbage leaves and maybe some chopped celery & carrot. Pour a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes & some water over the works, and bake in the oven, I forget already for how long. Periodically re-baste them with the tomato liquid so the leaves don’t dry out on top.

Because I’m crazy, I might even try to make them on my own sometime. How great would it be to be able to pull a couple of those out of the freezer for a quick winter supper or lunch? I might experiment with making the meatball a little more flavorful – ground pork is pretty delicate. So something more than S&P. Fresh dill?

phi When I’m visiting my family, I always try to go to a Flyers game with my brother if there are home games being played. Last night they lost their 7th straight game (also losing 9 in a row at home) and boy did they look sloppy and a half-step behind all night long. I’ll put on my coach hat and say if’ you’re going to “dump and chase” the puck into the opponent’s end, you do have to do the “chase” part too.

Danny Briere has not had a good stretch lately either, and he really heard it from the fans. During one break, a pretty girl modeled some of his merchandise in a promotion on the screens in the arena, and that brought out boos from the crowd. Yikes.

That arena is lovely and the view, even from the upper bowl, is really good. We had seats in one of the corners and enjoyed the game, if not the outcome.

Well this is uncomfortable. This xkcd comic perfectly describes a major source of lifelong anxiety for me.

When you’re in the non-default group (for me, it’s gender), you often carry the unfair burden of representing your entire group. Sometimes it’s real, sometimes it’s imagined. Rational or not, I have often felt that if I failed at something, I was failing women. It is really hard to type that out and look at it and admit it.

It raises questions worth asking: is this partly why I have always worked so hard to be the best and put so much pressure on myself – more than anyone ever put on me? Is this why I’ve finally burned out at work? And has the universe/my body/whatever sent me a message, in the form of burnout, telling me to finally let go of these toxic beliefs? 

Well, maybe it’s working. I noticed the other day that I haven’t once felt curious about any of the projects I left behind. I’m in my 4th week of Unstructured Free Time and life is considerably more peaceful. It’s a process.

I finished books 6 and 7 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series a few weeks ago, and have been putting off writing a review of them.

The problem is that I just don’t have much to say. They’re sweet and charming books; I always enjoy reading this series. The books are marvelously paced, the African settings are beautifully described, and the characters are very likeable.

Even though the characters’ lives change over time (e.g. getting married), it’s easy to pick up any one of the titles and dive in. On the one hand that’s a sign that the author has created an accessible world. On the other hand it’s weird in a way I can’t put my finger on. Like, I think I may have skipped books 4 and 5 altogether by mistake, but have no idea whether that’s true. Weird feeling. I haven’t read any of them in a few years, so that doesn’t help.

Between these two books, I preferred #6, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies because the way the mysteries were wrapped up in #7 seemed abrupt and less convincing than usual.

Bottom line is that I do recommend the series in general. With a cup of bush tea if you have it.

Next up: I’m currently reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

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