Saturday, March 12, 2016

I'm gonna Teller story, but not with a Penn cuz we're on the Interwebs

Anytime someone mentions Penn & Teller I have to tell this story, so I'm finally writing it down. Maybe someday it will make it into a book, if I ever get around to writing the book. 

When I was in sixth grade, my mother was an executive (or maybe a financial analyst? Dunno, but seems like only the execs travel) at some vast corporation and they sent her on a business trip to San Francisco. Mom thought it was a good idea to take me with her. I believe it was summer, or somehow school was not an issue, although I feel this trip was probably a better part of my education from the University of Life.

We stayed at the Hyatt Hotel in Embarcadero Center, which stands to this day. They have an amazing atrium lobby and each floor's doors to the rooms open onto a sort of balcony hallway that's open to the atrium. In the lobby - still! - is an enormous bronze sculpture made up of circles, and a piano bar. I believe we stayed on the 11th floor (don't ask me how I know that). My mom would go to work during the day, and I had to stay in the hotel room so that if she wanted to check on me, she could call the room's phone. (No cell phones back then!) I didn't mind much as I got to watch whatever I wanted on TV, and I had my books and things to keep me occupied. Child Protective Services would have a stroke in today's world. When I got really bored, I would prop open the room door and stand on the balcony just outside to listen to the piano music floating up from the lobby. That's how I learned to love smooth jazz and piano pieces.

To make up for having to stay in the room all day, we would go out to dinner and then do things in the evening such as go to Fisherman's Wharf to shop. One of the events Mom took me to was Penn & Teller's magic show, except back then they had a third guy named Wier, and they were called Asparagus Valley Cultural Society. I think their show was probably more inappropriate for children than Mom anticipated, or than I understood, but my favorite bit was "The Mystery of the Peking Snow Duck" because it had a live rabbit* that they made disappear, and reappear, as most magicians do. The only thing I really remember about the bit now is the punchline — "That's Snow Duck!" It probably stuck because it may have been the only punchline I understood at age 10. Who knows.

After the show we were standing in the lobby waiting to buy a souvenir tshirt and Penn Jilette came out with the rabbit in a cage. Of course he was stopped by well-wishers, so I went over to look at the rabbit because I've always loved animals. I remember Penn asking me if I wanted to stick pencils in the rabbit's ears, and he produced a pencil out of thin air (of course), and I responded with a horrified, "No! You shouldn't stick pencils in rabbits' ears!" I'm sure he thought that was amusing, and he probably ruffled my hair, and that's probably why I believe in magic and faeries even at this age—who knows. That's really all I remember about my encounter with Penn. That, and I still have the tshirt. I wish we'd had it signed but you don't think about those things when you're 10, you're just happy your mom is buying you something you asked for. 

I've waited more than three decades to see another Penn & Teller show (mostly never have the time and money at the same moment), and to hopefully get my tshirt signed. I only live five hours from Vegas now. And you know, for the record, neither Penn nor Teller really looks any different than when I was 10 years old (perhaps they're slightly more stout these days because they can afford food now), so there has to be some magic going on there somewhere.

Anyway, that's my Penn and Teller story. Hopefully someday I'll be able to make an update saying I finally got my shirt signed!

*A note on Wikipedia says that the Legendary Peking Snow Duck was played by a white rabbit named Ross, and later a rabbit named Spelvin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cleaning Your Hair Brush - The Dirty Truth

I have a round, plastic-based hairbrush that is the perfect size for giving my fringe (American: "bangs") a little volume when I dry them. There's not much to my hair, so it can use all the help it can get. I noticed in the last few days that a rather serious gunk has built up on my brush over the years. I don't put any product in my hair after my shower so I can only assume this must be conditioner that has not been thoroughly rinsed out while wet. Ew. I will totally work on that.

Naturally, I went to the All-Knowing Google to find brilliant ideas on how others have cleaned their hair brushes, and I came across this page:

Clean My Space - How To Clean Your Hair Brush

Inspired, I took my shampoo downstairs, combined some with water and baking soda as instructed, then grabbed an old toothbrush I use to clean things from under the sink and started scrubbing my hair brush. I clean the hair from my brushes every morning, so I skipped the step where it suggests you rake through the brush to get the hair out first.

Here's what the page above doesn't tell you:

A) When you clean a brush in this manner, it grows its own hair. The more you clean, the more hair it grows. All on its own. No, really. And you think it's gross when the hair is dry and lying on your bathroom floor? Try picking it off a wet brush.

B) Baking soda and shampoo are no match for today's "moisturizing" conditioners, apparently. And as I thought about it whilst scrubbing away, why would you put more shampoo on the brush if shampoo is part of what's causing the gunk to accumulate to begin with? Hmm. Logic does often escape the 20-something set, brunette or not. Perhaps she meant a clarifying shampoo (one that strips your hair of chemical products that tend to overstay their welcome on the hair shaft).

C) New brushes are $5–$10 at a variety of places, and if you really want to go cheap, you can probably find one that will do at the Dollar Store (assuming you have those where you live). My Inner Economist added up how much I get paid per hour + the amount of enjoyment I get from cleaning the brush, and compared that to the time, money, and effort it would take to buy a new brush. The conclusion was: in the First World Scope of Things That I Live In, cleaning this brush was not economically efficient at all. (My Inner Environmentalist then pitched a fit.)

The good that came of all this is that I was using an applesauce jar that was conveniently soaking in the sink to combine my brush cleaner ingredients, and it occurred to me that if I bought a bulk bag of baking soda, I could upcycle some of my jars into baking soda deodorizers. Simply drill holes in the lids, fill with baking soda, decorate if you really feel that's necessary, and set them in your frig, freezer, closets, or anywhere that needs them. When it's time to change out the baking soda, just wash, dry, and refill.

I'm sure that idea is stuck on Pinterest somewhere, but for now I'm living in my own fantasy where I've come up with it all on my own, simply because my hair brush was dirty. At least this way, cleaning it wasn't a complete waste of time!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Just Get Curiouser and Curiouser

I was in the archive room at work filing a slew of copyright certificates I recently received. When I finished, I glanced around the shelves full of books, delaying going back to my desk, and I noticed two small books with interesting covers sitting on the edge of a high shelf. I pulled one down and found the title was "The Book of Wisdom"—basically, a book of quotes. I opened to a random page, and the quote was: 

"Satisfaction of one's curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life."
~Linus Pauling

I had to laugh. I love when the Universe speaks directly to me this way, even if it's poking fun at me. I also smiled because it was just several months ago I ran across Pauling's name and read about what an amazing chemist, intellectual thinker, and peace activist he was. Seems I'm in good company today in the quantum realm.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Second Read of The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth TaleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought a book at the flea market today (because I really NEED another book…). The cover and the title, "The Thirteenth Tale," caught my eye. Seemed somewhat familiar, so I opened the book and scanned a page but the character names didn't ring any bells. The first paragraph on the front flap described it as a novel about a woman unraveling a missing story and a mythologized birth, and it's set in the 20th century. That's all I had to read and I was like "I am SO IN." So I paid my dollar and walked away hugging my book. (Yes, I really do hug books.)

When I got home and looked at the book again, the spark of recognition turned into a brighter flame. Reading through the entire flap this time, bits and pieces of the story began to come back to me. Sets re-materialized in my imagination and characters bounded back into my brain. In fact, scenes played in my head as if on fast forward, emotions felt toward certain characters bubbled up, and I even vaguely remembered the twist of the ending. I've definitely read this before, and it was a really good story even though I don't remember the details (but that makes it even more fun to re-read!).

Some people may have been disappointed to purchase a book they'd already read (even if it was only a dollar), but I found my reaction was more akin to the excitement of coming across an old friend that you haven't seen for a really long time. (And don't you give an old friend a hug when you see them? See? :) I must've sold my copy or given it away before I left New Jersey—I sold a lot of books trying to lighten the load on the truck (didn't do much good and I regret some of those sales still). But here is at least one returned home to my library of favorite reads. The imprint page (which I find almost as interesting as the story these days) says it was first published in 2006 (this one is a hardcover first edition too; my favorite kind!). 2006 was a couple years before I moved to California. Not as long ago as I supposed, but easily long enough for other stories to have crowded this one to the back stacks of my neurons.

This isn't the first time I've come across a used book that I forgot I read before. I figure if it's turned up in my life again, it was for a good reason. I don't believe in coincidences. Ironically, I looked up the author to see what else she's written, and it so happens that she hasn't published another novel in the last seven years. However, she does have one in the works—Bellman and Black—and it will be released on November 7, 2013. (Yay for not even having to wait too long!) Perhaps that's the only reason this one turned up again, because although Diane Setterfield was on the NYT bestseller list, I definitely would not have remembered to keep checking for her next book. (I hope Diane Harkness doesn't take that long with the third book in her trilogy!) My mystical brian likes to think this is the ultimate marketing trick: to be able to reach your former audience after seven years absence to advertise your new release by making your debut book turn up in their path! I hope when I have multiple books out, I can manage that too!

Very much looking forward to Setterfield's new release as well as the re-read of The Thirteenth Tale.  This one and her new one should definitely be on your "To Read" list.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Review for A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing. When I started this book I didn't have high hopes. I'd heard a lot of bad reviews from friends and reviewers alike. In fact, I refused to spend money on it. It so happens that I work for a publisher and I ran across the book on our sales team's shelves so I asked to borrow it. (They gave it to me. Didn't want it back.) I'm not fond of politics and there was A LOT of character development, which also doesn't generally hold my interest when it goes on for too long. When I was still in the first half, "tedious" was the word that kept coming out when I was asked how I liked the story. However, somewhere a little past halfway I realized I was actually looking for time to continue reading, dragging the book with me everywhere. (I've always said if you're bargaining with the clock, that's a good sign.) I was thinking about the characters and Rowling's writing even when I didn't have the words in front of me. My brain was untangling knots I didn't even know I'd picked up. I found myself deeply impressed with Rowling's insight into people's innermost thoughts and personality quirks. It's so accurate it's a bit uncanny. The intertwining of the psychology of Self as well as community was yet another level that snuck up on me. In fact, I didn't even realize all the levels this book made me think on as I read it - I only started counting the staircases as I sat afterwards and looked back at all the paths I'd been led down without realizing. The more I think about it, the more I see. In the first half I thought surely Rowling had killed her career (not that it matters when you're richer than the Queen). Now - *now* I see the genius. Most novels dole out happy juice to your frontline neurons all the way through, a little at a time, and thus "a good book" is very satisfying. This story leads you along in such a way that weeds out those who can't/won't see, or never explore, the space between. If you've never been in the dark back alleys of your own brain, you won't get it. Only if you're persistent and aware do you find the rush of revelation at the end that leaves you high while your brain grasps all the truths and keeps finding more hidden in the depths. In fact, I'd say the majority won't/don't get this book (hence the reviews). It's too far above normal thought.

As I turned the last page, one ironic word replaced the original description in my head: authentic. This book is extremely authentic.

Well done, Joanne.

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