Friday, June 28, 2013

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Martian Chronicles

Happy Friday, everyone! With my boys out of school, I've been thinking about summer reading this month. I was the kind of kid who had my nose in a book all summer long. I didn't play sports, I didn't go on fabulous vacations. And in my junior high days, we didn't have the electronic distractions that kids have now. So, I read. (Yeah, I watched bad TV too, but mostly I read.) Feeling nostalgic for those days, I've chosen Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles as my coffehouse entry for today.

Bradbury called it "a book of stories pretending to be a novel." This blurb from Wikipedia explains the format better than I can: "The Martian Chronicles follows a "future history" structure. The stories, complete in themselves, come together as episodes in a larger sequential narrative framework. The overall structure is in three parts, punctuated by two catastrophes: the near-extinction of the Martians and the parallel near-extinction of the human race."

I think I read and reread this book every summer from junior high until after college. Written in the forties and fifties, when 1999 was a distant sparkle in the future, it was dated even when I picked it up for the first time. Martians? Please. But I found the stories to be so compelling, so poignant, so understatedly sinister at times that the hokey science was easy to ignore. At their most basic, the stories examine the good and the bad of what it means to be 'human.' But the book is also a commentary on what makes a better society, what Americans (even back then) were doing wrong, and the lessons we dumb future-people might learn from the Martians. (Sadly, I suspect we haven't.) This is the book that turned me into a Ray Bradbury fan for life, and I am enjoying rereading it now more than ever.

And now, I'm off to get my coffee and read some enlightening cephalopod book reviews!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grill Your Ace Off

I'm not a food blogger, but I like to eat. I also like to support worthy causes. And where better to do it than...the parking lot of my local Ace Hardware? Yes indeedy, last weekend Clay's Ace Hardware in Fort Collins hosted a "Grill Your Ace Off" competition to benefit the Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

Clay's and a handful of restaurants put their grill skills to the test, and I don't mean with the run-of-the-mill hot dogs and brats, either. Nope, we're talking ribs, shrimp, salmon, pork tenderloin...and even peanut-butter-stuffed jalapenos with mango chutney. (Interesting combination, that.) 

The samples were free; casting a vote for the best cost a dollar. No kidding. We sampled from everyone, and we voted for everyone. It was too hard to choose a favorite, as it was all good food for a good cause. I hope it was successful enough that they will want to do it again.

About the Homelessness Prevention Initiative:
"Founded in 2001, the Homelessness Prevention Initiative provides rental assistance to members of our community who face the loss of their housing through unforeseen emergencies. For those who earn a marginal income or work in service sector jobs, homelessness is just one rent payment away. When work hours are reduced, when a job is lost or a child requires expensive emergency care, making that rent payment may not be possible."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Photo of the Week: Painter's Pants

Happy Friday yet again! Sorry I missed my Wednesday post. I was going to write about playing in my first tennis tournament (me, who has never ever ever played a competitive sport) last weekend with my younger son. But there weren't enough teams signed up in the beginner bracket, so we didn't get to play. It turned out okay though, because my husband and older son ended up playing five hours of tennis together--in the hot June sun, no less--and frankly, I just don't have that kind of stamina and/or attention span.

Anyhoo, here's my photo of the week: 

I never see anything but clouds and birds through this kitchen window, and the sight of the headless house painter up there on his ladder was impossible to resist. I had to make it quick, though, because if he'd have busted me with my camera...well, that's a tiny bit awkward, yeah?

Apologies for not visiting many blogs lately. I'm going to try shake off this summer blog-fog that's settling over my brain and get out there again. Anyone else having a hard time staying plugged in...?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Photo of the Week: You're a Grand Old Flag

George M. Cohen wrote "You're a Grand Old Flag" in 1906 for his stage musical George Washington, Jr. It became the first song from a musical to sell more than a million copies of sheet music. Not too shabby, considering it was nearly a century before iTunes.

The song has a few verses I've never heard, but many of us in the US of A are familiar with at least part of the chorus:

You’re a grand old flag
You’re a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave
You’re the emblem of
The land I love
The home of the free and the brave
Every heart beats true
‘Neath the red white and blue
Where there’s never a boast or brag
Should old acquaintance be forgot
Keep your eye on the grand old flag

(Not to be unpatriotic, but some of us could use a little work on that 'boast or brag' part.) 

Happy Flag Day!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Welcome Back, Class of 1983

My husband and I graduated from the same high school, he a year ahead of me. Because he is Normal--not an anti-social, Facebook-eschewing, couldn't-care-less-what-98%-of-my-high-school-class-is-doing hermit like me--he enjoys going to his reunions. And because I can occasionally be convinced to mingle with the Normals, I go with him. 

10 years was awful. Everyone was just the same, except they could legally drink (and did so to excess) and all called me by my sister's name. (That's a teeny-tiny pet peeve of mine.) 20 years was slightly better. People had kids and more life experiences, but they still talked an awful lot about the glory days of high school...and called me Amy. 

So when we heard from a friend that the 30th was coming up, I didn't want to go. And my husband did. 

If you watch baseball, you may be familiar with the term "playing under protest." That's the attitude I adopted toward this reunion. I didn't get a haircut. I didn't buy anything new to wear. I didn't try to lose five pounds, and, what's more, I didn't  worry about not trying to lose five pounds. (Even though, in all honesty, I could stand to lose five ten pounds.) 

Yeah, I'd go to his reunion. But I wouldn't enjoy it. (Side note: I am not normally this passive-aggressive. I don't think. Maybe I should ask.)

But, surprise surprise, I did have a good time. After three decades, it wasn't so much a high school reunion anymore. It was a gathering of old friends, who happened to attend the same high school, sharing stories about kids, divorces, jobs, even grandchildren. There were a lot of laughs, hugs, and handshakes. Yes, the weird ones were still kinda weird, the drinkers still drank, the talkers still talked. And talked. But most everyone seemed grounded, comfortable in their skin, older and definitely wiser. I was actually glad I went (shhh), and it was almost enough to convince me to go to my 30th next summer. We'll see. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Natural Areas: Mallard's Nest

Tucked between Spring Creek and the Spring Creek Trail, Mallard's Nest is a fun little natural area for jumping on rocks, bird watching, and taking in the sounds of the tumbling water and the baseball games at the park nearby. (But be sure to step off the trail to do those things, or run the risk of being flattened by a speeding bicycle.)

The area was inundated by a very damaging flood in 1997:

And, I'm happy to report, it is indeed frequented by the eponymous waterfowl:

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Colorado Disc Dogs

Last weekend, I thought to myself, what better way is there to kick off summer than with dogs? Leaping after flying discs? Why, there's no better way, I tell ya. And though my dog is very sweet, she is also old and lazy and would leap for no less than a flying disc made of bacon. (New from Wham-O: The FrisBacon!)

So it's a good thing the Colorado Disc Dogs were in town for a little friendly competition. In 1999, a few smaller Colorado dog-and-disc clubs came together to form CDD, and happy dogs and their owners have been throwin' and catchin' at their competitions ever since. 

In case you can't tell from the pictures, this is one of those events that is simply fun to watch, unlike, say, golf. (Which would be much more interesting if dogs were allowed to chase the balls. But that's just my opinion.)

Sometimes, the dogs don't cooperate exactly how their humans would like, but that's all part of the experience. Most of the canines were extremely focused, like this gal

and seemed to be having a great time. Even without bacon.