Monthly Archives: January 2008

Wrestling again

My son’s wrestling team remains undefeated after victory over the only other undefeated team we play. It was thrilling. I did a lot of cheering and jumping up and down. Who would have guessed that I, an avid hater of all things sports related, would get so into this one?

The best part? When Andrew got home after the JV meet, he was pleased I’d ordered a pizza. We toasted his victory with a bottle of sparkling apple cider. He looked at me and said, “Thanks mom. Really. Thanks. (But I won’t be thanking you on Saturday morning.)” Then he went downstairs to do homework and thanked Clare for going to the meet.

Wow.

Homeowners’ Brawl Meeting

Just returned from one of the most uncomfortable (non-work related) meetings I’ve ever attended. It was the annual membership meeting for our neighborhood and I’d been asked to help out with collecting dues and giving a 1 minute speech about the email list and web site. Other wise I might have not gone.

I’m glad I didn’t miss it. Things went pretty smoothly until just before the vote, then a woman stood up and wondered if the election was unfair because she’d previously been told that there was not a formal nominating committee, yet the nominating committee spoke at the meeting. In addition, the list of names that were in the newsletter was different from those mentioned by the allegedly non-existent nominating committee. And the newsletter said that the bylaws called for a nominating committee. This caused other people to speak up and for the original protester to become even more shrill than she usually is. One normally professional board member said catty sounding things and the nominee who was named in the newsletter, but left out of the nominations at the meeting shouted that she didn’t want to be on the board anyway, so take her name off. (um, they already had hon).

I gotta say, I agree with the woman who protested. The nominations should have stayed the same as in the newsletter, unless someone died or something. They could have made a case for the other person they ended up choosing over the one in the newsletter, but allow four people to run. This particular board seems to think it is our elders and does things in our best interest. Normally I don’t mind. They do all the work to save us from the big bad hospital and I don’t have to do a thing to help with that. But sometimes I get tired of them telling me what I should think and how I should vote.

I actually dislike one of the people on the committee. He is a smooth talker — almost in the revival sense. It makes me want to do everything the opposite of what he says.

After we finally got a chance to vote (I say we, but I was too disgusted to vote — as if my vote against any of those running would have done anything) the protester from earlier protested again, and this time suggested we re-write the bylaws. Again I agreed with her. I know those bylaws intimately. I typed them for the web site before the board got paranoid that someone we were fighting got their hands on them. She gave two examples of how she would change the bylaws:

  1. Make it less ambiguous regarding elections.
  2. Restrict our meetings, membership and voting to homeowners who had not signed agreements with the hospital.

At that point I shook my head, glad that this woman had re-confirmed my years-old opinion of her. She’s always reminded me of one of those little tiny dogs, that yap yap yap yap and nip at your ankles. Even though I agreed with what she said twice tonight, that last point shocked even me.

When I told Dean about her suggestion and wondered, aloud, how we’d even know who was a renter or who had signed an agreement with the hospital, he replied, sardonically, maybe the association would make those who rented from the hospital or had signed agreements to not oppose the hospital (for $25,000) sew S’s on their clothes so we could tell them apart from the rest of us.

That’d do it.

Grapeseed

It is Restaurant Week in Bethesda. I didn’t know it existed until reading a blog post about it and then getting a reminder about it in an email from Bethesda Urban Partnership. A good deal – a 3 course meal for $30. (not including wine).

I looked around at restaurants I wanted to visit – we had to do it tonight because I have a meeting tomorrow and Dean’s gone for the rest of the week. I’ve wanted to go to Grapseed for a long time, but didn’t expect them to have any seats left at the time we wanted to go. I chose Visions because I’d just found out about it, and corresponded with one of the chefs. (I complained about their pop-up on their home page.)

When Dean got home we talked about where we wanted to eat. I told him about Visions, but said I’d like to go to Grapeseed if they had a spot. Dean called and we got a reservation at Grapeseed at the “chef’s table”.

fire.jpgThe chef’s table, in case you didn’t know, is a bar overlooking the kitchen. It is probably the last to go because it isn’t very romantic, but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed watching the chefs cook. And it was warm, by all that fire.

Our meal was delicious. The wine was wonderful. The chefs were entertaining. The bill wasn’t bad, considering this is probably the best restaurant in Bethesda. Although if you add the parking ticket to the top of the bill, it was kind of expensive.

Crash and Burn(s)

Friday morning I turned on my laptop to begin my day’s work. Windows loaded, but I could not access anything. I could click things, but nothing would load. I tried to start in safe mode, but all I got was a list of drivers that loaded, then it stopped. I tried in other configurations, but it either did the same as safe mode or it gave me a brief ding and an error and shut down.

After several hours of this I took a big breath and located my recovery disks and “recovered”my hard dive. I lost everything on the C: partition, but as I had backed up the most essential files within the past month (photos to Flickr and work files to a flash drive), I was pretty much ok. I’m sure there are files that were lost that I will, on some level, miss. But I now have a much faster and more empty computer and while the recover process is taking a bit of time, I think I’ll survive.

And speaking of surviving. The Burns Supper was a lot of fun. I’ll post photos and videos as soon as I have a few moments to spare.

Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

While Christmas shopping I came upon a book with an interesting title and cover in the teen section of Barnes and Noble. Reading the description on the back intrigued me so much I felt I had to buy the book and read it. Here is what the back cover says:

If you start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old by named Bruno. (Although this isn’t a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.

Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope you never have to encounter one.

The Boy in the Striped PajamasBecause the book cover illustration was a simple striped pattern of sky blue and a paler shade of sky blue and a fence was mentioned, I assumed the book was about the Holocaust. I also assumed it was about a concentration camp. I also assumed the main character, mentioned in the title was a Jewish boy in the camp.

I was partially correct. The book is about the Holocaust. And a concentration camp. And there is a Jewish boy in it, but he is not the main character mentioned in the title. Instead he is the son of the Nazi who runs the concentration camp.

When I realized that the book was about the son of a Nazi who runs the concentration camp I thought to myself, “What a brilliant idea! I wonder how the author, John Boyne, is going to carry this off — especially since this was a book found in the teen section of Barnes and Noble and not in the adult section of Barnes and Noble.

How John Boyne carries it off is interesting indeed. But not interesting in a good way, really. He writes the book in a voice that becomes kind of annoying after a while. If you’ve ever read any picture books that repeat themselves over and over, you might understand what I mean by annoying after a while. In fact if this review is annoying you right now, you’ll understand what I mean by annoying after a while. I think this is a writing rhetoric called repetition. Repetition is good when you are first learning how to read and repetition is good when you really want to hammer a point home. Repetition is not good when you are using it to make a nine-year-old boy sound unbelievably naive.

Boyne seems confused about who he wrote this book for. According to Boyne himself, when he handed it to his editor he said he thought he’d written a children’s book. The voice seems to agree with that, because it is repetitive and the language is deceptively simple. However the text on the back of the book warns that the book is not for nine-year-olds. The subject matter of the book — Nazis, concentration camps, the Holocaust — is not subject matter I’d want my young children to learn about quite yet.

Because the book was in the teen section of Barnes and Noble, one would think it an appropriate book for teens — and yes, I think that the subject matter of the book– Nazis, concentration camps, the Holocaust — is subject matter my teens could handle. After all, they’ve both read Number the Stars. My daughter has also read a number of other books about the Holocaust including The Devil’s Arithmetic (my personal favorite) and Night. However this book, with its repetition and simple language might put off teens that attempt to read it. I’m pretty sure my son would be put off by the repetition and simple language, however my daughter might not be put off by the repetition and simple language because she’s an aspiring writer and understands the use of voice to convey a certain feeling in a book.

It is obvious that Boyne was using the repetition and simple language to create a voice of innocence and naivety. If this book were about anything other than the son of the Nazi who runs a death camp during the Holocaust, then the use of that voice would have been believable, but I could not get over the fact that the children in the story spent a year living at the camp and neither knew what was going on.

Another thing about the book that annoyed me was Bruno’s consistent mispronunciation of two words. He called Auschwitz “Out-With” throughout the entire book (thinking the former occupants were told to “get out”), even when told the correct pronunciation by his sister. He also said “Fury” for Führer. I kept on thinking, they speak German, not English and I’d bet the German words for “out with” and “fury” are not the same as in English. (Ok, I was wrong about “out with”. According to AltaVista’s Babelfish, the German for “out with” is aus mit. But the German word for “fury” is Wut.)

But do I recommend this book? Even though it is repetitive, carries an unbelievably innocent voice and has characters who are much more naive than they should be for their ages and situations? Yes. The basic idea is really very interesting and thought provoking. That I’ve spent the last few days dissecting it verbally, mentally and in writing is proof that it affected me more than I want to admit. Yes, I recommend it with the caveat that the reader suspend belief (about the character’s innocence) for a while and just get into the lyrical sound of the words. I recommend it to teenagers and adults, but not to anyone younger than, 12.

Pass the haggis

Robert BurnsUntil recently (like two days ago) I didn’t know that Robert Burns’ birthday was January 25. I also didn’t know he wrote Auld Lang Syne. Nor did I know that some Scottish folk celebrated his birthday with a dinner in his honor.

Now I know all of this because our Scottish friends, the McBride / Weatherers (or McWeatherers as some call them), have invited us to a Burns Night tomorrow.

According to the Internet a Burns night is celebrated with haggis (eww), whisky (yum), and poems* (fun).

I think I’ll recite “To A Mouse”.

I’ll let you know if I survive.