April 2006

Only Revolutions by Mark Z. DanielewskiOkay, so it’s not really that much of an issue, but at the beginning of this year, I told myself I would only read non-fiction this year. This hasn’t been a problem at all to date, as there are tons of books on my shelves (and a couple more that I ordered this week) that I could easily choose and stay within those boundaries. However, it was recently announced that Mark Z. Danielewski’s new book entitled Only Revolutions will be coming out in late summer (Sept 5th to be precise). Like many others, I was a big fan of his crazy debut novel House Of Leaves, so I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what’s up his sleeve with this newest tome (especially since it’s been almost 5 years since his last output.

I know it’s silly, but I’m trying to decide whether I should abandon my non-fiction plans and dive into the new Danielewski when it comes out, or whether I should just hold off until 2007 and keep on with the non-fiction.

I was eleven when the Chernobyl disaster happened. At the time, I remember hearing a lot about it, but it wasn’t something that frightened me. I was halfway around the world, and despite a nuclear power plant being situated fairly close to where I lived, I didn’t give it much thought (as seemed to be the case with a lot of things that happened to me around that age).

Over time, I read more about what had happened, and over the course of the past couple months I’ve especially taken in a lot of essays and photos about it all. Despite the waste that it creates, nuclear power is still one of the best solutions for creating the large amounts of power that the human race needs, but human errors at Chernobyl caused something so catastrophic that it’s almost hard to look past.

Of all the things I’ve read in the past couple weeks (and years even), this map, narrated photo essay, and timeline is one of the better pieces I’ve seen. It broke my heart.

In the past two weeks, TG and I have spent a lot of time out in the yard. The first couple times we were out, it was mainly spring cleanup efforts, picking up leaves that had blown into the yard and trimming back dead stuff. Lately, though, we’ve been on a planting spree, and with garden centers putting out their wares, we couldn’t resist this weekend.

After buying some lumber and dirt yesterday, I spent a lot of time putting in yet another raised bed in our backyard. Our main bed last year was slightly under a tree, and some of the things we planted didn’t do quite as well as we’d have liked them to, so we decided to just start another. After it was all put in the ground, we planted two tomato plants, four green pepper plants, one red pepper plant, two hot pepper plants, two basil plants, two rows of carrots, four lettuce plants and some more strawberries.

In addition to those, TG started some seeds about two weeks ago and we now have several sprouts growin, including pumpkins, cucumbers, more basil, and eggplants. Compost and egg shells have been mixed into the ground and basically we’re ready for stuff to take off. Pictures will be taken as things start to really grow.

With the nice weather, I’ve also moved away from exercising on the elliptical trainer and have again started strapping on my rollerblades and hitting the trail. I haven’t been quite as diligent as I’d like, but I’m already up to almost 200 miles rollerbladed for the year so far. Weight is still sitting at right around 194, and I’m feeling allright (despite getting a bit red from being out in the sun too long).

CDs Last night, I was looking through my CD collection and pulling out a few things that I decided I could sell and live without. This is a monthly ritual for me now, as I have a defined space that I have allowed myself to fill, and nothing more than that.

As I scanned past a certain title, I had a vivid memory of picking that same CD off the shelf nearly 10 years ago and saying to myself, “the day that I stop liking this CD is the day that I’m officially old.”

Oddly enough, the CD in question was one that almost got sold in this round. My reasons for keeping it were a bit more than that pang of nostalgia and wondering if I’d really gotten old. Instead, I looked through my collection and realized that I still had music that was more abrasive, more avant garde, and more downright adventurous. It wasn’t that I’d gotten soft and started liking boring music, but my tastes had definitely changed in that decade of listening.

It also got me wondering how much of my collection I’ll still have in another ten years. There are certain releases that feel more “timeless” (for lack of a better word) that I simply can’t imagine living without (Gorecki’s Symphony #3 and Steve Reich’s “Music For 18 Musicians,” for example), but there are other artists whom I love right now (like Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, and Broken Social Scene) that I wonder if I’ll still be listening to in ten years.

That, or whether I’ll be looking through my collection to see what to sell in order to afford the latest musical brainwave implant in my head.

Because I’m all about keeping things fair on this blog between the dogs, I felt that I needed to post a picture of Elsa after giving Zoey some face time the other night. So, without further ado, I present a picture of Elsa sleeping on the loveseat after a really hard day of being a puppy.

Elsa sleeping

I just realized that I hadn’t yet made mention of the newest feature of my music review section. About a week ago, I started adding podcasts for featured reviews each week. It’s something that’s been in the making for some time now, but it went live and the reaction was nice. Basically, they’re the same as regular reviews, but with yours truly reading the review and with snippets of songs interspersed. If you can stand my voice, it makes for a nice way to get a decent picture of the albums being reviewed.

The first couple that I did took me nearly an hour each, as I fiddled with the programs I was using and got used to reading aloud and editing everything together. Having done them for a couple weeks now, I’ve gotten my time down to about 35 minutes each from start to end, which is much more manageable.

Over the course of the past week or so, it has turned into that time of year where if we’re not attentively listening to the radio to inform ourselves of severe weather, we’re outside in the yard working on things. After the nice rains in the past week, everything is growing and blooming and while it makes for some sniffly days due to allergies, I also enjoy getting out and breathing it all in.

We have approximately 5 different colors of tulips coming up, our magnolia tree is about to bloom, the chives are already staking out a 2 foot diameter circle in our herb garden, and I can see sprouts coming up for both garlic and onions in the garden where random bulbs decided to come up. In addition, some planters where TG started some seeds are just poking sprouts through in places and our once dead and brown yard is almost completely filled in and lush green. Heck, even the one evergreen we thought had died over the winter has gotten all the color back and is now thriving. We have bleeding hearts blooming in the front yard, and the lilacs are flowering in back.

And yes, I realize how useless all of the above is without any pictures. They’ll be added shortly, I promise.

I made a quick mention of it in my last post, but Zoey had a bit of an accident while playing outside the other night with TG. Somehow, she caught one of her claws while running around the yard and managed to rip it clean out, making for a fair amount of blood and a trip to the vet.

After a couple days with a wrap on her foot (and antibiotics), Zoey seems to finally be getting back to normal, wanting to constantly play fetch and generally being more than a bit active. I caught her in a rare moment of repose this evening under the coffee table (her favorite place to hang out) and snapped a quick picture.

Zoey hanging out

For some reason or another, I always get just a little bit excited in the back of my head when I know that there’s a possibility for bad weather. Yesterday, the weather forecast was saying that something would be rolling in at some point during the day, and by late afternoon I could see some pretty heavy weather moving in from the south.

By the time I got home from work, there was a visible line of dark clouds moving over, so I went out and played with Elsa (TG had to take Zoey to the vet after she ripped a claw out, she ended up being fine) until the rain started coming down.

As it turned out, we got a little bit of rain, but not a whole lot in terms of really bad weather. There was a severe thunderstorm warning for awhile and a bit of wind, but nothing that sent us to the basement. Based on spring in Nebraska, though, I doubt this will be our last encounter with the green sky and storms.

Oncoming storm

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins I’d heard many people mention that The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins was a good book, and in some odd chance I actually discovered it sitting on our bookshelf just over a month ago (this sort of thing happens sometimes when your wife is an obsessive book collector as well). After reading some lighter non-fiction to start the year, I decided to dive straight in on something a little more heady.

As it turns out, it took me more than a month to read it, which was quite a bit longer than I figured it would. Part of the reason behind that is spending less time overall reading in the past 30 days, but also due to this book by Dawkins being small on the print and full of ideas that needed a bit more time to digest. An overview and defense of evolution, it’s easily the most in-depth and interesting book that I’d ever read on the subject, and far, far more developed than anything I ever got in school.

All of the above said, the book is fairly easily to digest, it just takes a little more time. The biggest thing that I took away from it was simply the sheer scale of time involved in the development of the earth and evolution. Humans (myself included) are used to thinking of large periods of times as century or even millenium, but those time periods are absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Oddly enough, instead of making me feel like some small, insignificant piece of it all, I came away in awe of the human body and how it developed.

In a rather timely bit of news, I ran across this article (which includes a quote from Dawkins himself) this evening when I got home after work. The Blind Watchmaker has a section devoted to discussing the very idea that the aforementioned article discovery negates, and it seemed like fitting timing given that I’d just read about it. I’m going to tackle a book that’s a little less intensive now, but I might go back to some more Dawkins as some point in the future.