stairway bookcasesWe live in a fairly small house, officially it’s something like 1,000 square feet, unofficially it’s a bit bigger because the basement doesn’t seem to be counted as livable space. Throughout the years we’ve lived in apartments of many sizes and finally our small house. Since we love to read, we have lots and lots of books. (I should add that we also use the library a lot too, especially for those books we want to read but don’t intend to keep or those we want to read before deciding to buy as a reference — I do this a lot with craft, science, programming, and cookbooks.)

In one apartment we placed the bookcases back to back to make a wall between the living room and a small sitting area and again between dining room and the entryway. A pizza delivery guy while waiting for us to gather the money commented that he didn’t know the apartment complex had a library and it looked really interesting. So, yeah we’ve got lots of books. Each move seemed to reduce furniture and household items and increase the number of book boxes.

Now we also give them away and tend not to keep the ARC (advanced reader copies) but still the collection grows. So, I’m always on the look out for creative ways to store books so that you can find them when you want to check something out. Right now we’re still in the: science on that shelf, mystery on these other ones, science fiction is on that one, the one over there, and upstairs in the corner and in the bedroom, and so on.

But, I was intrigued with these stair bookcases in the article in Apartment Therapy New York. Books are shelved under the risers of the stairs and along the walls leading to the loft bedroom. There’s also a picture of a stairway that has pull out drawers so you don’t see what is stored there (this one is a keeper idea when we get around to a basement remodel to finish it off). Normally the space under the stairs is unused and this brings up lots of ideas for storage even if you don’t have a lot of books. Hmmm…lots to think about but I’ve got to get back to reading right now.

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various working signsWell, the deadline is approaching. On March 1st, there will be new issues of SFRevu, Gumshoe Review, and TechRevu online. Well, technically at the current time TechRevu updates immediately and constantly with new information but we’re in the process of making it a hybrid with a constant update of small items and monthly issue of more substantial articles on technology/gizmos/and geek goodies. But the others are monthly with essays, reviews, interviews, convention reports, and constantly updated news.

So, with a deadline looming on the near horizon and about 7 reviews of my own to write, even more to proof, and follow up on assignments — well, there may be very little here until Saturday.

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Tea at TeavanaBesides really, really liking my coffee — I drink a lot of tea. A friend suggested an outing to Teavana at Tyson’s Corner, VA. So this evening we went. Since it’s slightly more than an hours drive to Tyson’s Corner from home, we met our friends for dinner, conversation, lots of catching up and then the trip just down the street to Teavana.

It’s in a mall and set up with sample teas near the door. Tonights samples were Maté Vana and Jasmine Dragon Pheonix Pearls. Both had been sweetened with a cane sugar but were very pleasant and spicy which was nice after the walk from the parking lot to the store (it’s mid-30’s out tonight).

The store has some lovely tea pots, tea cups, saucers, and of course lots and lots of wonderful teas. After spending a bit of time looking at lovely tea pots and cup sets (a bit out of my price range), I settled for a small pot (with a tea strainer insert) that looks like cracked celedon on the outside — a beautiful light green.

Then I bought tea. After lots of indecision and discussion with my husband, I got Azteca Fire (nice spicy strawberry and chocolate smell), Haute Chocolate (chicory, cinnamon, ginger, and cocoa) and Ginger Peach Apricot. I’m hoping to enjoy all of them and there are so many great sounding teas I will definitely have to go back for some of the others or order online. The staff was extremely helpful (but not intrusive) — even some of the customers piped up with suggestions and a list of their favorite teas and why. It was a very nice experience shopping there. A bit pricey but worth it for the quality of the tea and the knowledge shared.

I’ve got Aztec Fire steeping now and it should be ready to pour.

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HP Chorus with frogsEvery now and then there’s one of those moments when you have to go hmmm. I was reading a CNN article about a bowling ball sized frog that lived contemporaneously with dinosaurs and had teeth. But it wasn’t until I saw a photo with the article that I thought I’ve seen that frog before. So, I thought about it a while and then went to the Leakey Cauldron site to find the picture of the chorus that sang in Prisoner of Azkaban. Sure enough there was the frog looking like the picture of the ancient one in the news article.

Ancient Frog Of course, it might be hard to see the similarity from the two pictures but if you go and rewatch the movie, I’m sure you’ll see that they are very similar.
What this brings up for me is how often FX people get things right when they are told to do something. They didn’t get the teeth, but they sure made the size and shape just about right for our ancient frog ancestor.
I remember going to a talk by a planetary geologist who was saying he’d hired a science fiction artist to do a picture of Venus based on some information he gave him on the climate and other geological information. When the picture was done, the scientist wasn’t really happy with the flat mountains but the artist insisted that it was what would happen under that pressure. Next survey of Venus sent back pictures and lo and behold there were the artist’s pancake mountains.

Maybe artists and FX people should have an active part in scientific inquiry because they seem to think outside the box in interesting ways.

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snowflakeIt snowed today. In fact it is still snowing. It’s supposed to snow until about 11pm and then taper off. It’s actually sticking to the ground so we might have some accumulation when we awake tomorrow. I’m sorry if this sounds whiny for those who’ve had feet of snow but I don’t think we’ve had snow on the ground in February since we moved here 10+ years ago — it may have snowed a time or two in February but not to stay on the ground.

The weather has been so unsettled lately. Just Sunday it was in the low 70’s and now it’s below freezing again. I’m sort of worried about the perennials — you see we started raking and clearing the garden area in preparation for spring planting late next month. Now they may freeze since we uncovered them. But it was so nice to see the bright green of the new growth pushing up when we got the leaves off. Prematurely, it seems now.

Haven’t been sleeping well with all the barometric changes — all those ups and downs trigger migraines. I don’t think I’ve been able to really sleep in a week now. The worst bit is when I go to say something to my husband and I just can’t think of the word I want. I can almost see it. I can give the whole definition (and usually have to) but I can’t remember the word itself. We watched a movie the other evening where the main character got hit with some sort of nerve gas and forgot her name but she could still remember English and lots of other things just not who she was.

I seem to spend a lot of time lately thinking about how people think — mostly how I think. Why can I describe something — say corduroy — but I can’t remember that word itself. The neural net is a wonderful things but I truly find it amazing how it connects one thought to another or a word to a concept.

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Pride & Prejudice -- The Complete Jane AustenLast night Masterpiece Theater showed the second part of Pride and Prejudice based on the novel by Jane Austen. The version being shown is the A&E version staring Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, David Bamber, and Crispin Bonham-Carter among others. It’s my favorite version of the ones I’ve seen so far.

Part 2 (the episodes shown last night) dealt with: Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins; Elizabeth’s visit to Charlotte and meeting Lady Catherine, Col. Fitzwilliam, and Mr. Darcy; Darcy’s proposal; Elizabeth’s rejection; finding out that Wickham is not a nice person; traveling with the Gardners; visiting Pemberly; meeting Darcy again (can you say embarrassed to the max).

Pride & Prejudice Again it follows the book quite well. I’m re-reading the book as this series continues mainly because I want the book to be the version that sticks in my mind, not the movies. I’m slowly moving through, not because it isn’t interesting — I could linger over some of the phrases for minutes they are so well stated — but because my reading slate is full for this month and I’m slipping P&P into what little free time I have.

That covers the events in the movie, but even while watching it, what you can miss is that there is a reason that sensible Charlotte Lucas would accept the idiotic Mr. Collins. Charlotte is in her late twenties. She’s not a beauty. She’s one of several children and luckily for her– she has brothers. Her choices are limited, she can marry or she can live with one of her brothers after her parents are gone. Limited choices that were not, unfortunately, unusual for a woman of Austen’s time. The Bennet sisters’ choices are even more restricted — the estate is entailed away and there are no brothers. When Mr. Bennet dies they might be able to live with one of their uncles but if not, they have no choices except to become lady’s maids or governesses. The two oldest might manage governess, but the younger could never pull that off and don’t have the temperament to become maids or companions. They must marry at the very least.

So, Charlotte wants her own home. She knows Mr. Collins is not vicious, has a steady income and a home, and since he’s dumber than a post, she can easily manipulate him. As we find out when Elizabeth visits, Charlotte has all she wants: a home of her own, and a husband who thinks they are of one mind. Charlotte has Mr. Collins situated so that they spend as little time together in a day as possible — and he’s happy about it. There’s no love, but there is comfort and ease. Charlotte has found a way to have what she wants within the limited choices available to her.

Elizabeth is determined to marry for love and turns down proposals. She’s also very aware of the circumstances in which the Bennet women exist. She knows that if she can’t find love and marriage — she’ll have to forge her own way in life as a governess or if one of her sister’s marry well, as a hanger on at their home–if she slips from society her life could be verey dark indeed.  Hence, her very great concern for Lydia’s wild behavior.

Women did not have an easy life in those times. Things have changed a lot since then and reading or watching women in that time, we might wonder what’s wrong with them and why don’t they just strike out on their own. There are choices we can see from so far in the future, with the gender roles having changed so much. But at ground zero in Austen’s time, women had so few choices available to them, and in many cases no choices at all — the choices might have existed but were so far out of their reach they might just as well not have existed.

While the films placed in this era may appear oh so romantic, the reality of the time that Austen wrote about was not as romantic and kind as we might think — especially for women.

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Coffee froth flowersI just learned today when I read last Wednesday’s Washington Post Food section that I’d missed the Coffee Fest which was held from Feb 15 to 17th at the Washington DC Convention Center. On the whole it wouldn’t be that bad to miss but the paper said there’d be a contest for barristas to show off their skills making pictures in the froth of espressos. The image shows an example of such work from Aaron DeLazzer’s Milk Frothing Guide on his CoffeeGeek website.

I’ve read about Latte Art but have only enjoyed it via YouTube — search on Latte Art. I really wished I managed to see this done for real. There’s something about art that is so transitory — pictures in coffee froth, snow flakes, ice crystals on a window pane — fleeting and beautiful in a way that makes you appreciate the day and life. Coffee philosophy lives on, I guess.

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leavesMostly hung around and caught up on some housework. Walked down to the mailbox to pick up the paper and mail — not much today, mostly ads. I can’t stand to read the paper most days because it really bothers me to see American disappear into the sunset … but that’s a rant for another day.

Raked the leaves and then used the leaf sucker thingy (I’m sure it has a name but it’s slipped out my ears just now) to compost them. Somehow we’ve got to get the entire yard/garden area cleaned up and ready for planting this spring. Paul’s working on cutting up most of the winter’s deadfall so we’ll have firewood this coming winter. I’m hoping to start seeds at the end of the month.

There’s just so much work to be done. I’d start a list but I think by the time I got to the third page I’d be so depressed I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. So, my theory is to just live day by day doing what I can — stopping before I get too exhausted and seeing the smaller steps adding up to something that just might be called progress — or so I hope.

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