Recommended

I can’t remember why I first started this list, but if I’m asked for books I would recommend, this is usually what I give people.

Classic that won’t take 3 years to read: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzcy

Fiction you can analyze to death: Watership Down by Richard Adams (but it really is just about rabbits)

Everyone should probably read: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Children’s to make you swear never to have kids: The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit (obviously it didn’t work for me)

Non-fiction you can use for trivia: The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

Children’s read-aloud: A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

Excessively surreal and obscure: Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson

One of my favorites: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

YA fiction to make you appreciate teenage hormones: Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

YA fantasy: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (and then read Inkspell)

After you read Hamlet again: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Underappreciated classic: Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Complete emotional drain: Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip

Bestseller: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (recommended with hesitation, see my blog post about it)

Science fiction, I suppose: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

If you’ve never read C.S. Lewis: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

One of my other favorites: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (recommended with caution that there is a bit of swearing)

On a grouchy day: Judy Moody by Megan McDonald

Movie adaptation: K-PAX by Gene Brewer (it’s ok to see the movie first)

Because I don’t know what genre you like: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

…and there you have it. The world according to me.


Groucharoni

Apparently I’m in a rather grouchy mood this morning.

Because I haven’t bothered to unsubscribe, I’m still on the email list for BYU’s Sociology department. That means I sometimes get notices about internships, forums, etc. This morning one of my genius former fellow students thought, “You know what, with this email list, I can get in touch with the entire Sociology student body all at once!” Which is quite true, but…well, I’ll get to that.

So I got an email from this kid who let all of us know that he’s selling the textbooks for Soc 420 for way cheaper than the bookstore, so let him know if you’re interested.

Maybe this is really not a big deal. Everyone wants to sell their books, everyone wants to buy their books from somewhere other than the bookstore, and it should be a win-win. But, as I said, my grouch meter seems to be completely full. Because what I got out of the email was that he was using a department list – where students provided their email addresses to the department secretary in order to be updated about department events and news – to advertise the books he waited too long to sell back to the BYU Bookstore.

I couldn’t just let it go, though…I wrote back.

“It’s kind of tacky to use this mailing list to advertise. Didn’t BYU make a book exchange and the Wilk board for this type of thing?”

In all fairness, he did reply and apologize for the extra spam, although he said he didn’t know about the book exchange and most people probably haven’t heard of it either, and he doesn’t trust the Wilk board. (The Wilk board is a very large cork board in the student center where students can post things for sale, items wanted, apartments for rent, and so on.)

I realize that there are probably a lot more people who pass through the Wilk every day than get the Sociology emails (and read them), but he doesn’t seem to realize that whereas the Wilk board would have let him simply put a phone number or email address as the contact information (and he could have created an email account specifically for that purpose), with the information in the email I got I easily looked up where he currently lives, his permanent address, and two phone numbers.

I want you all to applaud me for just biting my tongue this time and not writing back to tell him he’s an idiot. A tacky idiot, at that.


11-Layer Dip

I don’t really have anything new or interesting to write about, so…here’s me again, courtesy of a survey clearly meant for single high school students or something:

11 Layers of Me

Me in my outer shell.

Me in my outer shell.

Layer 1 – On the Outside
Name: Roni
Birthday: July 20
Current Location: Happy Valley
Eye Color: brown
Hair Color: blonde? strawberry blonde? It is back to natural, but I’m not sure what to call it…
Righty or Lefty: righty
Zodiac Sign: Cancer

Layer 2 – On the Inside
Your Heritage: quite Southern. Before that, Welsh and German, mostly.
Your Fears: barfing, someone hiding in the car, having my sternum cracked. Also childbirth.
Your Weakness: sweet things for breakfast – donuts, cake, cookies, Count Chocula, etc.
Goal: read 100 books next year.

Layer 3 – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
Your thoughts first waking up: No. Leave me alone. I’m sleeping. (Can you tell the Romgi was trying to wake me up?)
Your bedtime: getting earlier, since I have less energy, but usually sometime between 11 and 12.
Your most missed memory: I wish I could re-live that time the Romgi proposed. It was pretty awesome. 

Layer 4 – Your Pick
Pepsi or Coke: meh. Neither. How about lingonberry juice & Sprite from Ikea?
McDonald’s or Burger King: Burger King, no question.
Single or group dates: dates! Ha. I can see how a group date would be fun. Or really a date at all. Somehow we just haven’t gotten around to planning a lot of dates. We watch 30 Rock together, though, does that count?
Adidas or Nike: sorry, I have never owned either.
Chocolate or Vanilla: chocolate. Obviously. What does vanilla have to offer?

Layer 5 – Do You?
Smoke: nope.
Have a crush: a crush does seem awfully superficial and fleeting. Hmm.
Think you’ve been in love: pretty sure. Oh wait yes. Definitely.
Want to get married: if the opportunity presents itself, sure.
Believe in yourself: sporadically.
Think you’re a health freak: I’m eating 3 donuts for breakfast today. What do you think?

Layer 6 – In the Past Month
Gone to the mall: yes. Christmas shopping. And again today. Bleh!
Eaten Sushi: no, still haven’t wanted any since July when I ate too much.
Gone skating: sadly, no. I wanted to go ice skating, but…it did seem a bit unsafe, given my clumsiness at the moment, and the fact that I might fall and squish the Bwun into oblivion. That would be bad.
Dyed your hair: no! Are you shocked? I gave it up. I also haven’t cut my hair since last November.

Layer 7 – Have Your Ever?
Played a drinking game: …no. Not with anything other than water.
Gotten beaten up: I’m extremely likeable. Who would beat me up? Kendy bit me and gave me a blood blister once. But that’s about it.
Changed who you were to fit in: yes, I believe that was high school.

Layer 8 – Getting Old
Age you’re hoping to be married: 23? 22? How old was I? Hm. This is an awfully short layer…

Layer 9 – Perfect Mate
Best Eye Color: green with a random black dot.
Best Hair Color: brown.
Short or Long Hair: short. But not too short.

Layer 10 – What were you doing…
1 minute ago: typing my answers?
1 hour ago: waking up, reluctantly.
1 day ago: visiting the optometrist.
1 month ago: thinking about Thanksgiving turkey.
1 year ago: studying for finals, ha!

Layer 11 – Finish the Sentence
I LOVE: donuts from the BYU Creamery.
I FEEL: a little bit sick because I may have eaten one too many.
I HATE: that “I wanna start a fight” song.
I HIDE: half-eaten bags of Mother’s Cookies so the Romgi won’t know how many I’ve gone through. (I only eat 2 of the 4 types of cookies, hence the bags are half-eaten.)
I MISS: warm weather. It suddenly became winter this week.
I NEED: some milk. So thirsty after those donuts.


Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebethingsfall

You may be surprised that I’ve never had to read this book for a class. Most people I know were assigned to read it at some point. I guess in all my linguistics/family history/English/sociology majors, we never got around to it – which, I’ll say now, is too bad. I would have liked discussing it with a big group of people.

The Romgi has been recommending Things Fall Apart for a while. He told me it’s really sad. I mentioned the book to a friend recently who said it’s depressing. Naturally, I was prepared for a horrifically sad, depressing story; but with only 10 pages left to go, I hadn’t come across anything of the sort and wondered if the Romgi was thinking of another book or if the last few pages were going to be extra intense (and sad).

Actually, the book made me angry. Not sad or depressed. Just angry that there is so much tendency to force our ideologies on others whenever we feel that their ways are inferior to ours. (I will not get into politics here.) A combination of the way I was raised, my religious views, and my excellent sociological training has shaped the way I perceive the world, and I really think that for the structures of society, economics, and culture, there isn’t one “right” way of doing things. Capitalism works well in the U.S. (more or less), but that doesn’t mean it’s the only acceptable economic system or that it’s right for everyone else. Same with the type of government we have. Same with western culture. Just because it’s what We do (and, sadly, usually We = Europeans and their descendants) does not mean it’s what They should do.

Ok, that being said, Things Fall Apart is also an incredibly interesting book to read because of the writing style. Very different from anything I’ve read before. And definitely enjoyable.

I didn’t mean to suggest that I disliked the book at all – just that it made me angry. Especially because so many people have read the book, become sad or angry or depressed because of the mindset of the colonial powers, and still today are convinced that in many ways We are superior to Them and They need our help to be brought out of their backwards culture/economy/society. Wrong.


Mysterious Meat

I love ham. It should have gone on my list of favorite things, but…somehow it slipped my mind. Ham is especially good because I have it so rarely that it’s always a treat. I’d be overjoyed if we got to eat ham and turkey on Thanksgiving, ham on Christmas, and ham and lamb on Easter. I kind of think that would be perfect. You know what else is great about ham? Leftovers. Thick-cut ham sandwiches are rivaled only by thick-cut leftover turkey sandwiches. Ahh.

That being said, last night I experienced something new. It was called ham. But it was an impostor.

Dramatization. A good one.

Dramatization.

The Romgi and I went to the ward Christmas party, which promised lots of food and a nativity program by the kids. We got there on time and waited patiently for things to get started so we could eat. Sign-ups had been going around the past few weeks, and I knew there’d be many types of salads and potatoes; sure enough, when we finally got in line to get our food, there were easily 8 different types of mashed and funeral potatoes. (Luckily I sampled the best funeral potatoes. Some of the others looked iffy.)

We made it down to the far end of the serving table, where three platters of ham had been set out. The first two were too thick for my taste (yes, it is possible) and had the yucky skin-stuff on them (bleh), but the third looked beautiful. Slightly thin-cut, but the pieces were big and looked to be glazed with some sort of delicious glaze. I grabbed an extra large serving and headed back to our table.

When I have a plate full of holiday-type food, I start by eating a bite of potatoes, then some salad, stuffing, roll, fruit, potato, and finally meat. So it took a while to get to the “ham.”

It was not pleasant.

The problem wasn’t the pineapple sludge poured on top of it. That part I could mostly handle, and mostly scrape off. The problem was the texture of the meat itself.

This will probably sound disgusting, and it really was: imagine if you had some perfect ham, and for some reason you kept chewing it until the cows came home, and at that point you decided to spit it out, add a little something to make it creamy, turn it into a paste, and shape the paste into ham-shaped pieces.

I can’t think of any other way ham could be ruined so badly.

Ham is not creamy. It’s meat. Ham should not scrape off like liverwurst. It’s not canned.

Ham should not make me cry.

(It’s ok, I didn’t cry until around 1am when I wanted to barf. And that was mostly because I was really tired and grouchy and ill. Plus, I did eventually go back for a slice of the thick ham, which was a nice normal ham texture.)

And there you have it. That is the story of the pineapple ham paste.

P.S. We are beginning to consider the possibility that it was tofu or soy ham. What an abomination.


I Like These Things

You could say they’re my favorites. And I could say they’re awesome.

We’d both be right.

Restaurant: Shadowbrook. The Romgi and I frequently refer to that heavenly time when we’ll be able to afford to go back.

Drink: milk. Pretty much the only craving I’ve had is for cold, cold milk. I go through about 1/3 to 1/2 a gallon every day. (Does that sound about right, the Romgi?)

Holiday: I’m going to make my own holiday. It will be called “Not Pregnant Day” and I’ll celebrate by eating a bunch of chocolate and spicy food without having any heartburn.

Car: I actually loved my 91 Dodge Shadow…why did it have to blow up?

Place I’ve been: Pajaro Dunes. The Romgi and I were part of Academic Decathlon in high school, and as a team went on a trip to Pajaro Dunes in December of senior year. (The boys and girls stayed in separate condos.) We went back (just the two of us, I mean) for our honeymoon.

Thing to do on a warm summer day: explore the Oakbrook creek in Cordelia.

Thing to do on a rainy afternoon: cuddle up in a blanket, have hot chocolate, and watch Runaway Bride (I used to watch it on rainy afternoons in high school).

Thing to do when it’s snowing: stay inside being grateful I’m not driving, light some candles, cuddle up in a blanket, have hot chocolate with madeleines, and read a Tony Hillerman novel or Taran Wanderer.

Movie: Stranger Than Fiction. As you know, we saw this right after the Romgi proposed. Good times. Rl good times.

Song: “The Background” by Third Eye Blind.

TV Show: LOST. I sincerely hope I’m not in labor during any of the episodes this upcoming season. The Bwun will have some answering to do if he makes me miss one. (Not really. They put them online the next day.)

Flower: tulips. Hands down.

Comfort food: tie between dolsot bibimbap, a rice dish served in a sizzling hot stone bowl with lots of veggies, meat, and a fried egg, or samgyeopsal, a bacon-like meat grilled with garlic and eaten with a spicy red paste and rice. Yes, these are both Korean dishes. For some reason, my comfort food is Korean. Kind of cool, though.

Animal: the coolest animal in the world is by far the pangolin. Unfortunately, I don’t have one, but I do enjoy our two rats. They’re uber cute.

Way to relax: this is actually a joke, because I don’t know how to relax. Honestly. Ask the Romgi how many times I’ve said, “I’m tired…how do you sleep?” He’ll tell me to relax, which is kind of pointless, since, as I just said, I really don’t know how. But aside from that, when I feel the need to chill, I play a game or two of Set. Or I organize something.

Time of year: right now! This year is a little different, but usually, there’s a lot of “It’s almost Christmas/the semester is almost over” mood everywhere. We don’t ever go to campus anymore, and not many of the people we interact with are still in school, so I didn’t realize until a few days ago that we’re nearing the end of yet another semester. Huh. My favorite thing about December is having Christmas lights up. I dug up a string of multicolored lights from our closet and hung them in our living room all by myself. They glow so nicely!

Thing about Christmas: aside from the meaning of Christmas, what I look forward to more than presents (yes – I mean it) is my mom’s crescent rolls. Some of you may think this is overreacting. Some of you may even think the rolls are overrated. WRONG. These rolls are pretty much my reason for living. (Except, you know, the Romgi and the Bwun and good things like that.) Best. Breakfast. Ever. Also best snacks ever, insofar as they last past breakfast.

Fruit: clementines. Another reason I love this time of year. I got 3lb bags for $3 this week.

Vegetable: I’m not extraordinarily fond of vegetables, but I do like carrots – cooked in a particular way. I’m not exactly sure what that way is, which sadly means I can’t make them, but they used to happen magically when my mom made potatoes and carrots in her electric skillet thing. The carrots got kind of black-ish and they were superb. Hey Mom, how do you make those?

Jelly Belly flavor: this is an important thing to know. You should always know what your favorite Jelly Belly flavor is in case one of your hometown friends or relatives offers to buy you some. Mine is pink grapefruit, although a close second is chocolate pudding.

Dinner to cook: beef stroganoff. I haven’t managed to ruin it yet, so it’s nicely associated with tasty meals and leftovers.

Smell: I don’t like smells anymore. They are all too strong.

Color: through careful scientific study I’ve come to the conclusion that the most relaxing color in the world is a pale green, approximate to hex value DBFFB7.

Restaurant I can go to more often than Shadowbrook: Bombay House in Provo. Seriously, Indian food is fantastic, and I’ve never left Bombay House without feeling elated, full, and content. Plus I always have leftovers.

Thing I’ve done recently: become friends with our neighbors. They’re much cooler than we are, but they still like hanging out with us!

If you can think of more categories of which you’d like to hear my favorite, leave a comment and I’ll add your item to the list.


I Am Rembrandt's Daughter

by Lynn Cullendaughter

A while ago, when the Romgi decided it would be more fun to spend 3 months in Korea than propose sooner so we could just get married, I was driving from California to Utah by myself and picked out some audiobooks to help me stay awake. And entertained. One of them was Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I usually stay away from historical fiction – something about it just really bothers me. But I do like Vermeer, and I thought Chevalier’s novel was a rather interesting take on Vermeer’s life and paintings.

I tell you this because I only got I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter because it was basically the same book, but focusing on a different painter, and targeted towards a younger audience. And now I unequivocally reaffirm that I don’t like historical fiction.

Problem #1 with the book is that I predicted both of the major plot twists at least 20 pages before they happened. Again: if I can figure it out, it’s too obvious. I shut off most of my higher thinking powers when I read fiction (perhaps a bad idea, but I firmly believe it lets me enjoy books more easily than I would otherwise), which means that I’m not trying to guess ahead. To have accurately predicted the twists here was immense. And disappointing.

Problem #2 is that the character development went really well until about page 280 (of 320), at which point everyone (excluding the main character, I suppose) completely changed their behavior. The love interest who had been compassionate, warm, and caring suddenly became selfish; the mysterious man who had been standoffish and somewhat rude suddenly became fatherly. Both changes occured within a page of each other. That’s too much at once. I think, given the circumstances, neither change was really necessary, and only served to weaken Cullen’s characters.

Problem #3 is one of the big reasons I avoid historical fiction. Our current ways of thinking were used for 17th-century people in ways that probably aren’t accurate. It seems wrong to assume (very wrong) that society has always been similar to the way it is now, that our views on humanity have remained the same. Example: the main character felt a strong dislike towards some of her richer counterparts because of their lack of compassion for slaves and servants. When the mysterious/fatherly man offers to send a servant to check on the girl’s brother, who has the plague, the girl (sorry, I can’t remember her name) is shocked that the man has so little concern for his servant’s health. Now, they do make a point of saying that slavery has been outlawed in Amsterdam, and I could understand if an adult were passionate about the issue. But for an almost-14 year old who has clearly not been influenced by the grownups in her life to have the attitudes she does – it isn’t realistic. Just because we feel strongly today about how we treat those in poverty or slavery doesn’t mean that teenagers several centuries ago felt the same! Ridiculous!

So…obviously, I didn’t care for the book. Yuck.