Saturday, February 26, 2011


I woke up at 6am, I was in the office by 7:30, on the road to Olympia by 7:45, shoveling snow and salting pathways by 9:30, singing the national anthem at (and with) anti-union protesters by 11, and rallying with 2,500 fellow Washingtonians at my state's Capitol by noon.

My favorite picture:

I also liked a sign that said "Raise your Wisconsciousness," but I couldn't snap a photo in time.

There were also so many firefighters and firefighters' unions! I was hoping they'd march to the rally playing bagpipes like firefighters in Madison did last week, but (alas!) it was not to be.

More pics here. Video with my coworker being interviewed here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Easy wind and downy flake

2011 might be my sportiest year yet, if the past few weeks and upcoming plans are any indication.

The first weekend of the New Year, I went snowshoeing for the first time. (And in the process of renting snowshoes at REI, I discovered it was way cheaper to finally become an REI member. As a native Seattleite, perhaps it was destiny. At any rate, because the outdoor activities I've played all my life generally involve cleats, balls, or bats, I've always felt a little out of place in outdoorsy-themed stores. Maybe I can remedy that.)

I was expecting the appropriate gear to look like the tennis racquet-like items that Grandma has displayed in her basement den.

However, much to my delighted surprise, snowshoes actually look pretty sleek these days. Who knew? Clearly not me - somewhere in the back of my brain, I obviously thought they wouldn't have changed in centuries.

At any rate, it's always very cool to try something new and learn that you like doing it.

Snowshoeing is fun!

This weekend marked my second-ever snowshoe trip. The trail wasn't as challenging as the first, but there were great views. If Mt. Rainier had only been out, the view would have been even more spectacular.

For half the hike, though, I had "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" echoing in my head.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's the good of scheming

The second book in the latest mystery series I'm reading was better than the first. Mainly because half of it took place in Boston. And in my old neighborhood!

Ghost of a Chance, like Million Dollar Baby, played out like a Depression-era film - but instead of the hat tip to luxury that the first book was, this one largely took place in seedy bars. The love triangle from the first book was finally resolved as well; it was obvious how it would end up, but what's a good mystery-cracking team without a little internal drama?

I did, however, figure out the identity of the murderer halfway through the book. If the book's detectives don't suspect someone, and the character happens to mention something vaguely tied to the case but it's phrased in a very different way (in this case, "Argentina" instead of "South America," where the imported poison was from) then it's kind of a giveaway. Oh, well. There are usually a few books in a mystery series where the reader catches on before the characters do.

Books 3 and 4 await.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Order oysters and cancel the ersters

On a friend-of-a-friend's recommendation (in a Facebook status comment, no less) I read Amy Patricia Meade's Million Dollar Baby. Since I finished my now-favorite historical mystery series ever, I've been looking for another one. Only requirement: plucky female protagonist.

The first of three Marjorie McClelland books, Million Dollar Baby takes place in a sleepy Connecticut town during the Depression. The heroine herself is a mystery writer, and naturally stumbles upon a cold case. To help her solve it is a fabulously wealthy Englishman who has just bought a mansion in town and a dashing police detective (foreshadowing the triangular drama was not difficult).

The charm of the book is that it plays out like a film straight from the era in which it takes place. In fact, I had visions of Top Hat and Bright Eyes in my head while reading the whole thing. At various points, I found myself identifying several potential anachronisms (mainly speech patterns and slang). But I wanted to finish the story, so I didn't double-check. And in the end, none of them mattered to the story anyway.

Though it wasn't a gripping, suspenseful page-turner, I still couldn't put it down. Maybe it was the often comical dialog between two of the main characters, but I think most of it was that the background stories of the townspeople was so real and tragic. Meade did a good job of painting a picture of a town with colorful, caring, or tragic characters during some of the worst economic times in history. The book is presented as a light-hearted period caper, but there are darker, pathos-ridden elements brimming under the surface. I liked that.

And of course, it all takes place between the Wars, so I'm partial to it anyway (see below).

Books 2 and 3 are in queue at the library.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Speak the speech, I pray you

What's the perfect mid-day sanity break for a history major whose focus was "Between the World Wars"? Going to see The King's Speech, of course.

(Colin Firth as the star had nothing maybe everything something to do with it.)

At any rate, I really liked it. Even though I tend to agree with the local paper's review (they sent a Marxist critic to a movie about King George VI), as a story about a protagonist with a stammer and the relationship he forges with his Shakespeare-quoting speech therapist, the film was quite good. Historical inaccuracies abounded, but overall it was captivating.

But the movie appeals most to raving Anglophiles, particularly former nerdy tween girls who spent much of middle school obsessed with Edward VIII's abdication and would dramatically roll their eyes when classmates blinked and said "Wallis who?"

(Twenty years later, those girls dive into a matinee to temporarily escape the madness of legislative session. And then they geek out for the whole movie because they recognize all of the film's minor characters as major historical figures from their pet era.)

Ahem. I digress.

Geoffrey Rush was good as usual, but really his role didn't really differ drastically from any other role of teacher or coach in any other film. Colin Firth (and I realize I'm biased) had the more difficult role of mimicking a well-known voice in a particular accent as well as acting out the stammer itself. But the character I was fascinated by the most was the future Queen Mother: Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Mary. For starters, she was the only major female character, even if she basically played the aristocratic version of the stand-by-your-man gal. We got small glimpses into the personal life of the speech therapist and certainly the king - but of the one character who lived to most viewers' lifetimes (she only died in 2002), we got virtually nothing.

One theme that didn't get played out as much as I had hoped was the way in which radio and newsreels changed the relationship between Britons and the monarchy. (Buckingham Palace has a youtube channel now, and first announced Prince William's engagement via Twitter, so the idea of technology changing royal communication - and why - is certainly prescient.) Though there were many fleeting references to the role of the Royal Family, I think that the connection to the rest of the realm (or lack thereof) - and how radio changed it - could have been emphasized more. Without it, the climactic scenes where subjects throughout the world are inspired and comforted by their king's wartime radio speech just didn't seem very convincing.

Ay, there's the rub...