Monthly Archives: March 2014
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane.
I’ve been reading a disproportionate number of grown-up books these day. That’s not a bad thing; I’m just so accustomed to picture books and young adult literature! I’d been told of this book a couple years ago, but I’m pretty slow on the draw. I’d say this book is worth a read. Clay Jannon was a silicon valley graphic designer who was among the many victims of the Great Recession. After a lengthy unemployment, he happens across a San Francisco bookstore that is hiring for the night shift. It is immediately apparent that Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is not your typical bookstore. For one thing, most of the selection is a series of mysterious books which Jannon is forbidden to even look at. They take up a huge, 3-story shelf. The customers who request these books are eccentric, often disheveled, and frantic for the next edition. Jannon is required to record every detail of his encounters in the old leather-bound log books. When coaxed by a friend, he takes a look at one of the books and discovers it’s an entire volume written in code. As his curiosity deepens, he begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding this strange bookstore and its mysterious owner.
It’s a very interesting read, though the dialogues about technology versus old knowledge are a little overdone; one would almost think that Google paid a sum to have their products featured so prominently. Also, despite being somewhat ordinary in his skill set, the narrator has only incredible people in his life: the Google programmer; the skilled sculptor who works at ILM; the millionaire digital rendering master. It’s all just a little too convenient. The other half of the story, however, addresses the life of Aldus Manutius, an influential 16th-century printer and publisher, whose legacy surrounds the mysteries of the bookstore. That bit was a lot of fun. Overall it’s an intriguing story about old and new and an inquiry into if and how modern technology and the much-loved print medium might coexist.
Also: the cover glows in the dark! You can’t discover THAT in a digital format!
Post by Mark T. Locker
Oh, those heist movies. I just love them. The best part about being bed-ridden with sick is the excuse to fire up a bunch of movies in the middle of a Wednesday. As a dad who hardly ever stays up past 10:30, I watch very few movies. So imagine my delight and overwhelmedness when I was well enough to know what was going on, but not enough to move.
I started with a good one. “The Italian Job” is one of those heist movies where the thieves, for some reason, are the good guys. I guess they’re stealing from mobsters or something? Well, they are of course very good at what they do and this, the Italian Job, is to be Donald Sutherland’s one last gig before retiring. Which means, of course, it’s going to go wrong. Betrayed by one of their own, Donald is killed and the others left for dead. Fast forward a few years. The others lived! And they’re quite upset and plan to recover their ill-gotten goods from the badder bad guy.
Full of all the stuff that makes these movies fun: awesome hacker guy, safe cracker, explosives expert, incredible driving skills, and lots of really careful timing and execution, this is a great movie for watching in a fevered stupor. You know what? It would be pretty fun to watch with full capacity of the senses too.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
As part of my home improvement project , or un-improvement project depending on how you look at it, I am now painting the walls in my entryway, kitchen, and main living spaces. When I first painted them nearly 8 years ago, I chose a very sterile white. While I spent a considerable amount of time selecting that particular shade of white, it never really did much for me. The good thing about having white walls, however, is that they are very easy to paint over.
This go-round, I wanted to give the walls some of that personality they were lacking in white. After a few trips to the home improvement stores and much deliberation, I settled on Benjamin Moore’s Wickham Gray. An interesting bonus is that Wickham Gray is part of the Historic Color collection, which is inspired by documented colors found in 18th and 19th century architecture. A cool, modern color with some history behind it is a no-brainer for me.
What I like most about this color, and what inspired me for this post, is the subtlety of it. In certain light and at certain angles, you can hardly distinguish it from the white it’s being painted over. However, when you see it next to the Winter White baseboards and trim, it has a nice little pop. At other angles its appearance ranges from a steel gray to an almost velvety light blue. Generally hard to impress, I am floored by the depth and intrigue of this color.
So when you are deciding on new color palettes for your bedroom or other areas of your home, think about ways to create subtle contrast; contrast doesn’t always have to be big and bold. An accent wall, white trim, exposed walls and duct work, or incorporating other design and architectural elements can really help what you might otherwise think to be an uninteresting color stand out. As is the case with this Wickham Gray, in certain light, you may hardly even notice the color at all. But as the light changes, you and your guests will be in constant amazement over how the appearance of your room changes with it. A little time spent planning these subtle contrasts can help bring you enjoyment from your room for years to come.
Post by Alison Hein.
Yay! We’re on vacation and escaping the miserable cold and snowy weather back home! Our traditional winter getaway to the French Caribbean was never more welcome.
One of my favorite things to do while away (besides enjoying the tropical sun and sugary sand) is to poke around in the kitchen of the house we rent. Our hostess, Veronique, has stocked charming Casa Azul with many intriguing cookbooks. A little French salad cookbook filled with glossy photos caught my eye. Paging through, I came across a lush and colorful fruit salad – Salade Arc-en-ciel. I used a different assortment of fruit than the original recipe calls for, but the golden pineapple, vibrant orange, lush green kiwis and ruby red grapes conspired to create a festive Rainbow Salad (recipe name translation).
A little rum to assist the maceration process is also very nice for depth and flavor (and vacation-y, too), but feel free to substitute a rum extract or omit the alcohol entirely if little ones will be enjoying the fruit. The traditional French crème fraiche topping is also lovely and different when blended with sugar and vanilla. The sour cream-like texture and density perfectly complements the rum-soaked tropical fruit. Then, finally, the pièce de résistance – a dusting of finely chopped, lightly salted pistachios.
Close your eyes and imagine balmy breezes and whistling surf. Now dig into this little gem of a fruit concoction, and for just a few moments, you will be transported to a French Caribbean breakfast in bed.
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 orange, peeled and chopped
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 banana, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
¼ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon rum
1 teaspoon honey
½ cup crème fraiche (or substitute yogurt or whipped cream)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons finely chopped pistachio nuts
Place all prepared fruit in a large bowl. Mix together orange juice, rum and honey. Pour sauce over mixed fruit and toss gently to cover. Place in refrigerator and let chill at least one hour before serving.
Mix together crème fraiche, sugar and vanilla to make topping. Place chilled fruit salad in four individual serving bowls. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche topping, and sprinkle each serving with chopped pistachio nuts.
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe adapted from Les Salades by Christian Teubner
Post by Mark T. Locker.
We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems
Mo Willems is really the best. If you have a child, you have likely encountered at least one of his wonderful series. There’s the Knuffle Bunny books, and the Pigeon books and for kids FINALLY reading on their own, there are the Elephant and Piggie books, of which there are approximately a zillion. My favorite (and my son’s favorite; he has impeccable taste) is We are in a book! which is a fantastic little piece of meta fiction for children. The story revolves around the casual mention by Piggie that he and the elephant (whose name is Gerald, naturally) are in a book. This simply blows Gerald’s mind.
What happens after this revelation is a lot of fun with the reader. The best bit being when they realize they can make the reader say “banana”, which results in much hilarity, both for the reader and the characters. But when Gerald realizes the book is going to end on page 57, panic ensues. What will happen at the end? Will they cease to be? Read it and find out!
There are a bunch of books in this series. I like them better than most readers because they are not only very simple and easy to read, they are also clever and funny. None of this “the dog is dirty. Let us give the dog a bath” nonsense. I don’t think boring stories are going to get reluctant readers to pick up a book. These hilarious Elephant and Piggie books have gotten my son over the “reading is a chore” hump and he is now diving into a whole world of books.