Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mary Poppins Quits

Well, this isn't the whole video, but if you go to Funny or Die, you can watch the whole hilarious thing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fiction Friday: July 25, 2014: The "100 Cupboards" Series

Madame L has just re-read all three of these books by N.D. Wilson: "100 Cupboards," "Dandelion Fire," and "The Chestnut King."

"What?" Madame L's Dear Readers are asking---"Madame L has actually re-read three books? We thought Madame L didn't have time to re-read even one book, let alone three of them!"

Yes, Dear Readers, it's true, and that's how you know these are really good books. To show you one reason why --- amazing writing --- here is the beginning of "100 Cupboards":
"Henry, Kansas, is a hot town. And a cold town. It is a town so still there are times when you can hear a fly trying to get through the windows of the locked-up antique store on Main Street. Nobody remembers who owns the antique store, but if you press your face against the glass, like the fly, you'll see that whoever they are, they don't have much beyond a wide variety of wagon wheels. Yes, Henry is a still town. But there have been tornadoes on Main Street. If the wind blows, it's like it won't ever stop. Once it's stopped, there seems to be no hope of getting it started again...."
And here is the beginning of "Dandelion Fire":
"Kansas is not easily impressed. It has seen houses fly and cattle soar. When funnel clouds walk through the wheat, big hail falls behind. As the biggest stones melt, turtles and mice and fish and even men can be frozen inside. And Kansas is not surprised.

"Henry York had seen things in Kansas, things he didn't think belonged in this world. Things that didn't. Kansas hadn't flinched."
And here is the beginning of "The Chestnut King":
"Every year, Kansas watches the world die. Civilizations of wheat grow tall and green; they grow old and golden, and then men shaped from the same earth as the crop cut those lives down. And when the grain is threshed, and the dances and festivals have come and gone, then the fields are given over to fire, and the wheat stubble ascends into the Kansas sky, and the moon swells to bursting above a blackened earth."
So, yes, the writing is poetic. Kansas, which many people think of as a very ordinary and flat place, is mysterious. So when young Henry York finds a magical way through one of the 100 cupboards into a magical and even mysterious world, we go with him. And the plot equals the poetry and mystery of the writing. So do the characters.

Madame L does not have time to write much more about the plots or characters of these three books because they are overdue at her local library, and her local librarian will not let her check out or even reserve any more books until she returns these ones. But Madame L will mention this much:

Henry York finds that he didn't really belong in New York, where he was raised; or in Kansas, where is spending supposedly only a summer; and even though he belongs in that other, mysterious, land on the other side of the cupboard wall, he has to work his way there, finding courage as he meets enemies and meeting love as he finds family.

This is one of those books which, classified as a Young Adult novel, appeals to anyone who grew up reading and who still loves to read, anyone who has an imagination, anyone who has ever felt they didn't really belong where they were, anyone who has wanted to be tested, anyone who loves adventure, anyone who likes unusual and contrary and challenging and lifelike and funny and self-aware and oblivious characters.

Monday, July 21, 2014

John Oliver Does It Again

"It's a truth that needs to be spoken:
America's prisons are broken."

It's amazing that his show is making these videos publicly available on YouTube. They're all good.

I liked this one not only for the way John Oliver covers the issues and facts, and is suitably outraged by them, but also because he uses the Muppets---or something like the Muppets---to sing the song at the end.

(Just fast-forward to about 3 minutes from the end if that's all you want to watch. But you should see it all, from the woman who had a C-section "treated" by prison doctors by pouring sugar from fast-food-outlet sugar packets into the wound, to the prison director who had no idea the size of a solitary-confinement cell.)

Because who better to sing about our broken prison system than adorable puppets, one of whom can't tell the difference between a prison and a zoo. And how should he be able to? His dad, a crocodile, is in the zoo, and " looks the same to him," looking from inside the bars....

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ride Around the Sound

You know how I said I was never going to look at a bike again, after the Huntsman 140?

Hah! I've got my bike right in my house where I see it every day, so I'm looking at it. Also Jeff's bike. And I've been going to spin classes almost every day since about a week after the H-140. (And he has been riding his bike to work twice a week since the day we got back from Utah. Acrazing!)

And now I've signed up to ride the 38-mile route in Ride Around the Sound on September 13. No, I'm not crazy, because I'll be doing this one with Jeff and Cory and Megan! Yay!

This time I hope to be the one doing most of the driving instead of riding. I don't know yet how we're going to get our four bikes to the starting place in Tacoma, and then back home again, but we'll figure it out.

I'm not asking for donations, though. (So please don't send donations! This means you, everyone who is reading this!) Just mentioning the ride because it's going to be so much fun.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Best Grammar Lesson Ever!

With apologies to Madame L:

I especially love the sentence diagrams...and the difference between "lightening" and "lightning."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fiction Friday: July 11, 2014: The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood

Need a book to take to the beach? To your mountain cabin? On a cruise? To the local chlorine-scented swimming pool? This would do admirably --- especially if you are not embarrassed to be seen and heard laughing out loud.

Madame L doesn't even remember if she has mentioned P.G. Wodehouse before. If not, shame on her! If so, she should continue to mention this writer of some of the funniest and most cleverly plotted stories Madame L has ever read.

Until she stumbled upon this book in her local library the other day, Madame L thought she had read all of the Wodehouse stories. This one was new to her, though; and then she saw on the page before the title page a list of "Books by P.G. Wodehouse." The list takes up two columns, 10-point typeface, of that page. And about half of the books on the list Madame L has not read.

Unfortunately, Madame L does not have enough vacation time to read all of these 70-some-odd books. And she feels guilty for having spent a couple of hours on this one.

Jeeves and Bertie do not appear in this book, but that's okay, because they're not needed: the characters who do appear are funny enough and silly enough on their own.

Oh, you want the plot? Here's the plot: Galahad Threepwood must save a star-crossed couple, in spite of the Empress of Blandings (a prize-winning pig); the Empress's fond-to-the-point-of-pottiness owner, Lord Emsworth; the Empress's caretaker; the machinations of Lord Emsworth's meddling sisters; the woman that one of Lord Emsworth's meddling sisters if trying to foist on him; the obnoxious son or nephew of that woman; the local policeman; and of course the young couple themselves.

Wait, oh, do you mean, Dear Readers, you want to know the ACTUAL plot? Impossible. Read it and laugh. Read it and weep with tearful joy as you laugh yourself silly. Read it and laugh yourself so silly that the people around you on the beach or at the pool look at you askance. Show them the book, and know they are worthy to be your friends if they recognize the Wodehouse name. 

Happy reading!

---Madame L

What if I Don't Want to Smile for You?

Very provocative and true. We've all had something like this happen to us, haven't we!

Hey, Mister Oblivious: It does NOT help me, or any other woman, have a happier day!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Spam Poem # 1, by Anonymous

straight after ones own achieving do that handy tip. 
go and visit this below 
week in the food tracker 
and just listen in the places you could've fit in 
additional electric powered fruits. 
than task themselves now in order to create 
one or two utility trades day to day. 
chew on breakfast. 
While it may seem that's rope skipping 
lunch is a brilliant tool for discarding 
a small amount of excess excess calories 
with your day, 
it is an honest metabolism great!
proper very first thing each and every 
will also tremors entire body alert,
 and therefore with next day fasting 
(as a result the saying smash high-speed). 
Now the using up is alert, 
It is getting ready to burn them calories from fat. 
The u. s fantastic personality spreads 
to do with all of my understanding american 
because the democratic vanguard 
the fact that sweeps separate those things 
dangerous to freedom and equality. 
what is back ground?
(This was an anonymous comment on my post about dialects. Do you think "Anonymous" is a brilliant poet or a word-soup-artist or a very crazy person?)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Verruckt (Insane)

World's tallest water slide---would you ride this? Not I! I haven't even ridden a very much shorter water slide. Here the slide's designer rides. Good for him.  And he seems pretty blase about the whole experience, doesn't he.

When they were first testing the slide, they used an empty raft. It flew off. This does not inspire confidence in me, even when I read, "If it has less than a thousand pounds in it, the raft is unstable." So, how many people are they fitting in each raft? Eight 125-pounders? Or what?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Ground

(A beautiful way to wake up: listening to this music and looking at those images from nature)

(Thanks to my niece Nancy for posting this on her Facebook page where I found it)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thunderstruck (2Cellos)

Here's a refresher for the cellists on how to take care of their bows after this concert.  Or maybe they just have to buy new ones?

Just in case you're interested, here's the original:

Madame L wants me to tell you: "Please write a five-paragraph, 500-word essay comparing and contrasting the two versions."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fiction Friday: July 4, 2014: They're Made out of Meat

Madame L loves this short short science fiction story and thinks you will, too. "They're Made out of Meat," by Terry Bisson, is available in full on the author's Web site.

Madame L does not want to violate Bisson's copyright by putting the entire story here, so she hopes you will follow the link and read the story there.

Here's part of it:
That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

Thursday, July 3, 2014

More About Training: Ritual Versus Motivation

So, this year's Huntsman 140 is over, and I'm still thinking of training, every day. I'm back at the gym in cycling class and other activities, and I'm starting a running program later this month. In short, I'm going to be doing even more training this coming year than in the last year and a half.

How do I motivate myself to train, day after day, as much as I need to?

I just read this great post by one of my exercise/training gurus,  James Clear, about a consistent way to get your workouts done, a way that does not rely on motivation, which is sometimes (often, for me) on the iffy side. Citing Twyla Tharp as an example, Clear writes:
If you focus on the ritual, the next step follows more automatically.

Twyla Tharp’s morning routine is a perfect example of this idea in practice. Naturally, there are going to be days when she doesn’t feel like getting out of bed and exercising...

But her ritual of waking up and calling the taxi takes the emotion, motivation, and decision-making out of the process. Her brain doesn’t need to waste any energy deciding what to do next. She doesn’t have a debate with herself about what the first step should be. She simply follows the same pattern that she always does. And once the pattern is in motion, the rest of the sequence follows more easily.
(emphasis mine)