Sunday, February 28, 2010


Yesterday, I woke up and it looked like this outside my window:

So I was pretty surprised when I woke up this morning and saw the following:

Pretty startling, right? I spent all of yesterday indoors avoiding the rain, and would've been sad if my Sunday morning ritual had been interrupted by the rain.

On Sundays, I get up by about 8 o'clock, and do homework until 10, at which point I suit up and go for a run around Claremont. The circuit usually takes me about a half an hour, and after I'm done I head to the Village, which is tiny Claremont's idea of a Downtown area. Timing on Sunday mornings is key, and this is because Donny, the Bubble Tea Man, only ever has his boba ready by 10:30 AM.

Every Sunday morning, I show up at CK's Cafe and order the same thing--a small Thai iced tea with boba. It's a beloved weekly indulgence, which I know I'm supposed to savor but can never find the self-control to drink slowly. I reduced this puppy from full to just about empty in under five minutes today. I think that might be a new record.

Donny is often the first person I talk to on Sundays. I actually just learned his name today and was, to be perfectly honest, kind of surprised. He's an adorable old Asian man with a pushy, stuffy wife. I don't know what I was expecting his name to be, but I definitely wasn't expecting "Donny". It's a pretty neat name, though.

After getting my tea, I walk around the Farmer's Market, and sometimes I check out the produce booths (which I buy much less often than I should; I'm a sucker for samples, though). Generally, though, I make a bee-line straight for the flower vendor.

Today there were way too many options to choose from--mini gerber daisies, orchids, roses, snapdragons, tulips, sunflowers... But then I saw these and I just had to have them.

Irises remind me of my dad (they're his favorites). You really can't go wrong with them. I've always been a fan of their gorgeous color-contrast.
Notice, though, the gimpy petal on this flower! Sad! Wish I'd noticed it and picked out a different bouquet...

Irises are a snap to arrange, mostly because there isn't much arranging to do. You just cut off the extra leaves, cut them to the right height, and pop them into the vase.

There sure were a lot of extra leaves on this bouquet, though...

They're so pretty and green! It was definitely a shame to have to throw them away. I sort of feel like they belonged in a vase of their own!

Well, that was my Sunday morning. What did you do today?

Saturday, February 27, 2010


One of my favorite things about going to school in Claremont is the fact that they have a Farmer's Market that operates throughout the year. Come rain or come shine, those troopers are out there every Sunday morning with their produce and their hand-knitted hats and their used books and whatever else they're selling. I started going for the weird novelty items--there used to be a lady who sold tote purses that she crocheted from cut-up plastic grocery bags--but I keep going for the flowers.

There are two vendors who sell cut flowers, and all of last year I gazed upon those booths with envy because, you see, my roommate last year was allergic to flowers to the point that the only plants we could have in our room were of the plastic variety. Very sad. This year, however, I live by myself and as such have made it a point to buy flowers for my room every week. I think it's a good, happy way to spend a paycheck.

This semester I've decided to keep photographic evidence of the flowers I buy. They're too much of a delight for me to not document them.

Week 1:
Red Gladiolus! They barely fit in
the vase...

Week 2:

Red, pink, and mauve tulips, courtesy
of my parents who visited
that weekend.
Beautifully arranged by my mom. :)

Week 3:

Yellow Renanculae! Simply too sun-shiney to resist!

I wonder what will catch my eye this week...

Book 14: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

One of my best friends here at school insists that the Anne Hathaway movie based on this novel is "legitimately awesome", but it's still one I refuse to see. Maybe I'm being closed-minded, but I thought that the point of adapting a book to screen was to improve upon the material, not destroy it. The trailer for the film alone told me it was going to be a heinous bastardization of the book, and seeing as it's one of my favorite books in the history of EVER, I'd rather spare myself the pain and stick to the good old ink-and-paper version of this story, thank you.

This is one of those books that goes against my general rule about the attractiveness of the cover predicting the merit of the novel, since it's a cover I loathe but a novel that I love. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is one of the first books that I consciously remember reading and adoring from page one. I first picked it up in the fourth grade and can still devour it in one sitting ten years later, which is a clear indication that it has something big going for it.

Ella Enchanted is a brilliant fractured fairytale version of Cinderella (duh), which takes the basic Cinderella story and weaves in all the other exciting elements of fairytale lore that the traditional take lacks--adventure, mystical creatures, dastardly plots, true romance, and a protagonist with a real personality, among other things. Out of all the Grimm or Disney Princesses, the one I've always hated on the most is Cinderella because she actually doesn't do anything. She plays second fiddle in her own story, and that's just sad. Levine's Ella takes the reins and works hard to steer a life that is very much out of her own control.
The story is very much like the original fairytale in a lot of ways. There's the distant father, the dead mom, the evil stepmother and stepsisters, the handsome prince, and the fairy godmother...and then there's a curse that forces Ella to always obey any order given to her (see the danger there?). The curse, really, is the most interesting part because that's where the deviation from the original story comes from. It's what gives Ella much of her spunk and appeal as a character. She lives her life under this unwilling compulsion to always do as she's told and is always doing her best to fight it, which gives her strength as a protagonist. Beyond that, she's written to be witty and brave and commanding, and these are all traits that the traditional Cinderella clearly lacks (actually, the only real personality trait that the original Cinerella has is "whiny". Lame).

The plot's the part I just can't give away. It's much too much fun, so you should discover it for yourself. If you're a fan of fairytales and, of course, strong female protagonists, you'll love this book, and you'll have just as much fun with it whether you're five or fifty. I always throw Ella Enchanted at pre-teen girls, but the best thing about it is the fact that it's really appropriate for anyone at all.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Everything Is Science These Days

At the start of every new year, I always see a bunch of reading challenges spring up on the Internet. They always seem really fun and interesting, and I am always tempted to go for it and try one. I think it would be a dangerous thing to try, though, when I have so much academic reading to get done. I hardly even get time to read "real" literature, since once it's 2AM and I'm looking for something to put me to sleep after hours of studying scientific subject x, y, or z, I usually grab something that even I would tell you possesses of little serious literary merit. I turn back to the books that my parents used to give me grief for reading when I was in middle school--that's right, middle school.
I'd love to have more time to invest in carefully choosing books and really sinking my teeth into a couple serious pieces, but I suppose that will have to wait until summer.
In another way, though, I don't feel so bad. If Facebook questionnaires are any indication, I've read more books off of the "Books You Must Read In Your Lifetime" list than many of my English major friends. That must mean that I'm not a complete failure, right?

On that note, I'm going to go write a delightful chemistry lab. Ugh. Even my writing is all about science these days.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book 13: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

So I thought I posted this months ago, but it turns out that it's been sitting in my "drafts" folder since November. Oops.

Seeing as this book has been made into a soon-to-be-released film, I figure should review it.
The Lovely Bones is Alice Sebold's second novel, with the first being Lucky--Sebold's memoir about her experience and survival of a brutal rape in 1980, and how she came to bring her attacker to justice. Riffing off of that theme, The Lovely Bones is the story of a young girl named Suzie Salmon who is violently raped, murdered, and dismembered by her neighbor. After her death, Suzie narrates the rest of the novel from her own personal Heaven, observing as her friends, family, and her killer deal with their experience and move on with their lives. It also functions as something of a murder mystery thriller, because while we know the identity of the killer from the get-go, the process of the family developing their inklings and their interactions with the investigators is another thing entirely.

There isn't much to this book in the way of plot summary, since anything I say will only adulterate the experience of the book. The main strength of The Lovely Bones is the style of the narrative, which is both humorous and tremendously sad at the same time. The writing is strong and convincing, as is the host of characters. Sebold's use of sensory writing and imagery is fantastic; I adore her take on Heaven, which she describes as a perfect place created from the things one loved while alive.

At the end of the day, The Lovely Bones is really a coming-of-age story. Suzie is killed during that awkward place in life between childhood and adulthood, and spends many years trying to cope with her murder while at the same time holding on to life and the living by watching her family as they work through their grief. Her life continues through the proxy of the lives of her family members (especially her younger sister), but she remains very much a child in many aspects. Without the experiences that propel the living into maturity her soul, and therefore her narrative, remains quite childlike through much the novel. Her outlook on her situation, however, is surprisingly mature and becomes more so as she spends more time in Heaven. She reminds me oddly of Anne Frank in this way--a young person in a terrible situation who still manages to not become jaded by their experiences. It was a pleasant parallel.

Though The Lovely Bones is fundamentally a book about tragedy and loss, it deals with these themes gracefully and, in the end, is a celebration of life and faith. While the ending was a little confusing, and perhaps a bit too perfect, it gave a satisfying conclusion to Susie's story.

Grade: A-
Rating: 14+ for violence, language, suspense

Friday, February 12, 2010


I'm a devoted, long-term vegetarian, but every time I watch Hayao Miyazaki's film Spirited Away, I always find myself craving the food that's depicted in the opening scene! I wish I could eat Spirit World food...even if it is meat. That's saying a lot for me. I think meat is freaky (which makes international dining something of a pain), but I'm not sure that I would be able to resist if someone put the food from Spirited Away on my plate. Maybe that's just the bad dorm food talking...

Anyway, Spirited Away is one of my favorite movies of all time. I don't think I will ever get tired of watching it. If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing it already, you should definitely get on it ASAP. I actually recommend the Japanese subtitled version over the English dubbed version. I love the voice actor who plays Haku in the English version, but the girl who plays Chihiro in the Japanese version is so much better than the girl from the English dub.

Delightful stuff, Miyazaki films are!

Hm...this blog is becoming motley.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


So Greenpeace wants to set aside 40% of the world's oceans as Marine Reserves in an effort to save the world from total destruction.

I can appreciate that. After all, it's pretty gross that we have mega-trash blobs floating in our oceans, some of which are bigger than Texas (ew), and it's pretty un-legit to be spewing toxic chemicals all over the place and killing the fishies and stuff. Yeah, ocean pollution sucks. It screws all of us (yes, Minamata Disease, I'm looking at you).
But I really don't understand how setting aside 40% of the oceans as "no-take" zones is going to help. I mean, after all, wouldn't ocean currents blow that all to hell anyway? Unless Greenpeace is being really strategic about the placement of these reserves and taking ocean currents into consideration (which, in all honesty, I'm not sure they are), any efforts they make will be moot because, hey, for every square mile of ocean where someone isn't polluting, there are two or even three square miles where someone else is. And since we can't very well set up walls in the middle of the ocean to keep these areas discrete, pollutants can just as well pass willy-nilly across these imaginary boundaries and we end up with gunk everywhere, just like before. How does it make sense to say that people can pollute in 'x' location but not 'y', when the two places are obviously connected by current flows?

I would have asked the toolish Greenpeace representative who stopped me on my way back to campus from the Farmer's Market this morning, but he seemed a little out of sorts. Our friend was under the impression that the Amazonian kangaroos were endangered because we were chopping down their precious Nabisco trees. Say what??

Maybe pollution shouldn't be the top priority on our Worry List. Maybe...maybe it should be dumb people.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Book 12: Lucky by Alice Sebold

I'm just going to cut to the chase with this one, because I'm in class and ought to be paying attention.

I was pretty disappointed by Lucky. I'm not sure if there's a way that this book could have been written better. It tackles really ugly subject material. I felt sick to my stomach while I was reading Lucky, and while that's probably the appropriate response to such material, it's not a comfortable feeling to endure throughout a 270+ page book.

Lucky is Alice Sebold's narration of the brutal rape and beating she experienced as a freshman in college, and of her efforts to return to normal while working to bring her rapist to justice.
Delightful, no?

That's really all you need to know about the plot. Since it's a memoir, most of it is spent in introspection and there aren't really any grand sweeps of action. This would be fine if the book weren't so moody and (for lack of a better word) EMO, but because it's paced so slowly and because Sebold's recovery experience is so entrenched in terrible, negative emotion (and, seriously, whose wouldn't be?), the middle of the book becomes muddy and plods along before diving headfirst into the ending.

The book doesn't even end on a high note, though. There's a somewhat predictable twist toward the end involving a college roommate, after which Sebold's character in the book descends into a spiral of drugs and self-destruction. She waits until the very end to let shine some teeny tiny ray of sunshine, and it barely manages to save the book from utter emo destruction.

Like I said before, I'm not sure if there is a better way to write a book like this. It's rough stuff to try and address, and Sebold seems to have done her best to talk about what is obviously a difficult subject. Still, while I didn't really expect to enjoy the book (because, really, how do you enjoy a book about rape?), I don't feel like I gained much from it either. I felt bogged down by it, and really only saw it through to the end out of a sense of duty.

If you're interested in reading an Alice Sebold book, I suggest you hit up The Lovely Bones instead. While it deals with a similar premise, the writing is much better and the mere fact that it is fiction makes it easier to digest.

Grade: B-
Rating: 15+ for violent and graphic depictions of sex, as well as language.