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I’m Lovin’: Timbuk2 March 25, 2010

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Have you heard of Timbuk2 bags?  NO?!  Oh my God, seriously, people.  Get yourselves to an outdoors store and drop some serious cash, already.

Anyway, some explication: everyday there is a war raging in my head and in my pocketbook.  On one hand, I’m a fan of good, functional, sturdy design.  Usually this translates to me being a fan of expensive things.  Take my engagement ring for example (I will spare you pictures).  The design is classic, but John was sure to buy one with a thick band and really sturdy diamond-holdy-prongies.  Right after he proposed he told me he specifically asked about the durability of the ring, and the jeweler said that as long as I don’t run over it with a truck, it should be good for at least a few years.  Of course, that cost money.  How much, I’ll never know–John and I agreed that there’s really no need for that.  He just phrased it as, “If you knew, you’d make me take it back.”

On the other hand, I am an incredible cheapskate.  I mean, An. Incredible. Cheapskate.  I refuse to buy things full price.  With the exception of groceries, I really can’t remember the last thing I bought that wasn’t at least 10% off.  My mom taught me how to save money, and save I do.  As a matter of fact, this drives John nuts sometimes.  He’s really fiscally responsible, but I take it to a whole ‘nother level.  I’d rather spend a week DIY-ing something to save $50 than give that money to The Man.  Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I have rich people tastes with poor people sensibilities, which basically makes me schizophrenic when I’m shopping.

That’s why when I first saw Timbuk2 bags at our local outdoors store I nearly had an aneurism.  They’re sturdy and completely, wonderfully functional.  Not only that, but the company itself is dedicated to sustainability and small business, which I love. Then I looked at the price tag and had a fit.  Buy it, said my luxe half, while the other subconsciously made my hand grip my wallet until my fingers cramped.  I mean look at them.  They’re magnificent.

So many styles, so little money.

After months of my going on and on about them, John finally bought me one for my birthday a few years ago.  The best thing is the organizational system these bags come equipped with.  They hold TONS (I have a medium Outtawhack, which unfortunately, they don’t make anymore).  I can carry my laptop, a few books, my phone, and various ephemera comfortably.  My bag converts to a backpack for when things get extra strenuous, too.  For me, it’s been invaluable.  The size of the bag accommodates everything I could want and then some, and its functionality helps me to cull all the crap I don’t need in order to pack only what I do.

Also, it’s seriously the sturdiest bag I’ve ever owned.  Though I still carry my conventional backpack to school, this is the only bag I travel with.  The top flap hooks with snaps AND velcro, so in airport security lines, all of my pertinent information is easily accessible with one hand.  When everyone else is fumbling for their crap, I whip mine out like a pro.  My laptop compartment is heavily padded and lined in corduroy, and the whole bag is lined in PVC waterproof lining to keep out any water.  I mean, it’s like they thought of everything.

So, if you’re ever in the market for a high end bag, I recommend Timbuk2 with all my heart and soul.  Actually, just browse through their website for a few minutes and see if you don’t fall in love.

I’m Lovin’: Birth Control is Sinful in the Christian Marriages and also Robbing God of Priesthood Children!!! December 21, 2009

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PREACH IT SISTER>>>!!!!

Need a pick-me-up?  I swear to God, the reviews of this book made me laugh so hard I cried.  Also, bless my soul, you can look inside!  Trust me, IT IS ALL CAPS FABULOUS* BECAUSE JESUS THE HOLYGHOSTCHRISTCHILD TOLD ME>>>: ALSO I’M NEVER ROBBING GODTHESAVIOREMMANUELL OF CHILLIN’ FOR HIS PRIESTHOOD THANK YOU FOR CHANGING MY** LIFE!

I’m Lovin’: Glee! November 12, 2009

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Have you watched the breakout hit Glee yet?  No?  My friend, you have not lived.

glee

Join the Glee Club. You'll love it.

Now, Glee isn’t for everyone.  It’s from the creators of Nip/Tuck, so you know it’s not going to be a PG romp a la High School Musical.  It’s not kiddy, but it is campy.  If you’re not into random musical interludes, then this show isn’t for you.  If you like hilarity and enjoy show tunes, then get on board, y’all.  It’s a hoot.

What I can’t get over is how funny the show is.  One week Jane Lynch’s character, the demented Coach Sylvester, gave a talk about caning students.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe.  Any time Rachel, the resident diva, goes on a rant about her two dads, I lose it.  The show itself is really, really delightful.  Don’t believe me?  You can watch full episodes on hulu and download Glee songs on iTunes.

I have to admit, there are some parts of the show that can get annoying.  The pregnancy plot is old; how many teen pregnancies can you watch before they lose their drama?  The subplot with the Glee club coordinator’s wife is equal parts icky and awful.  So no, the show’s not perfect, but it’s guaranteed to put a smile on my face every week.  It’s fabulous.

The Reason I’m a Mac November 8, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in Life, Lovin'.
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I couldn’t help but giggle when I saw this.  God, that dialogue box is so annoying.  I hope for all of your Windows users out there that Windows 7 really is as good as advertised–everyone deserves a functioning OS.

Also, John bought me a Magic Mouse last week.  I don’t know what I’ve done without it.  It’s revolutionized my life.  Okay, not really, but it’s pretty flippin’ sweet, no lie.  I sort of wish that the whole surface worked to move the pointer and/or that you could tap click (rather than depress the mouse and click), but hey!  I’ll take what I can get.  It was awfully sweet of John to put himself on a waiting list to buy me such a pretty present, don’t you think?

Finally, have you heard of MacHeist?  If not, you should.  For the next three days you can download some software for free, if you’re interested.  Some of it looks like free trial stuff, but I dunno.  Just thought everyone might like the opportunity to snag some neat-o freebies.

So, Vaccines… November 4, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in Life.
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Recently, I read this article about the anti-vaccination movement in America.  It’s long, but if you have the time to read it, it’s fascinating.

Vaccines have been all over the news lately.  From swine flu to cervical cancer, vaccinations have people all worked up, and I can understand.  I, myself, am not getting the swine flu vaccine for many reasons, not the least of which is its lack of availability in Arkansas.  I am leery of any medicine that has been rushed through trials, and it looks like swine flu really isn’t any worse to have than the regular flu.  A good 48 hours of bed rest and some popsicles, and you’re all better.

I’m also really invested in not making the cervical cancer vaccine mandatory as well.  You might remember when Texas decided that it was going to make all middle school aged female children get the Gardasil vaccine.  It later came out that Merck, the company responsible for making the shot, was a huge campaign contributor to then-governer Rick Perry.  Additionally, the shot would not be covered by many insurance companies, forcing families to pay the $70 per shot out of pocket.  This is not to mention the actual health dilemma: the vaccine was released in 2006, and although it had already gone through thorough medical testing, there were no statistics on the vaccine’s long-term effects.

Optional vaccines are optional for a reason.  However, what I have an immediate concern with are the folks who refuse to give their children mandatory vaccines.  The Wired article proves the point better than I ever could, but I still wag my finger at you, crazy parents.  The reason we vaccinate our children is not because we’re necessarily afraid of little Ricky catching measles, but to keep measles “extinct.”  The problem with not vaccinating your children is that every time a kid comes down with an “eradicated” disease, the disease has the chance to morph. I realize that this is a minute possibility, but follow me down this path for just a second.

Last month, John came home frustrated because the producer on one of his jobs was working out of his house and couldn’t come in to proof some mock-up shelving units for Pantene (I think, I don’t know for sure).  Anyway, the guy had been quarantined by the CDC because his son had come down with pertussis, i.e whooping cough, one of those “invisible” diseases you’re supposed to be inoculated for before you go to school.  Turns out this guy had vaccinated his son, but a stronger form of the germ was going around the kid’s daycare.  Where it came from the CDC couldn’t say, but they were trying to get it taken care of before the germ spread.

Again, this is the story.  It could be false.  Regardless, that’s the issue with swine flu, isn’t it?  The danger that it could morph into something not unlike avian flu with a high kill rate is possible, and that’s why the medical community is trying to get a handle on it.  Why contribute to the problem?  I know that many people are afraid that vaccines cause autism, but with no definitive proof, the argument doesn’t seem to hold water.  Additionally, most pediatricians now subscribe to a delayed vaccination schedule that space out the shots over a longer period of time to give the child’s immune system time to cope on the off chance that there are side effects from having too much thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) in the system.  This seems like a happy medium to me.

Anyway, just had this kicking around in the ol’ noggin’ today and thought I’d share.  What are your perspectives?

BookLust: The Devil’s Highway October 16, 2009

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Tough read.  Important read.  Must read.

Tough read. Important read. Must read.

I’m going to post this separately from a recap about Luis Alberto Urrea’s visit to campus, just for posterity’s sake.  Oh, and also, then I have TWO blog entries.

I don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction.  Unless it’s a cookbook, craft anthology, or magazine, I tend to gravitate towards fiction.  When I’ve got a down moment, I’m much more likely to pick up Lorrie Moore than I am Jon Krakauer, in other words.  When we were told that we had to teach this in class, I didn’t quite know what to expect, not only from the book but from my students.  I have to admit, I thought the book would be a series of redundancies for me–after all, who better to know the border than a girl who grew up there?  The fact that the book had been a finalist for a Pulitzer didn’t really sway me one way or the other; I expected a dull read full of outdated statistics, gross over-generalizations, and liberal propaganda (honestly).

What I found was an absolutely riveting piece of creative non-fiction.  Urrea writes beautifully.  He carefully picks his language and metaphors so that they are honest but impactful.  The story itself focuses on the Yuma 14/Wellton 26, a group of illegal Mexican immigrants who lose their lives in the middle of the Arizona desert.  Instead of starting from the group’s first step into Arizona, Urrea begins at the beginning, and the book’s success and readability hinges on this move.  He sets up the book by giving the reader an in-depth look at the border patrol and the Devil’s Highway, and explains key terminology which factors into the rest of the text.  I have to admit, the first part of the book is slow going and a little schizophrenic; Urrea frontloads The Devil’s Highway with information, and hops around substantially while he delivers it.

If you can stick with the book, it skyrockets in parts two and three.  Urrea is incredibly careful with the story he has been given. Urrea’s compassion for the men and their families colors the text as he paints the “walkers” in vivid detail.  The reader is immediately taken by the dramatic irony in the book, for Urrea never lets us forget that as we meet these “real” people, we are doomed to powerlessly follow them to their deaths.  We walk with the illegals step for step as Urrea painstakingly pieces together their story from survivor testimonials.  In terms of perspective, I felt like I was reading a first-person account of the tragedy rather than investigative journalism.

The real beauty of this book lies in its humanistic take on illegal immigration.  From the border patrol to the gang that organizes the death march, Urrea portrays each person as an actual person, not just a “group.”  For example, the reader gets to know many of the Yuma 14 along with their motives for running the border, and we realize that these people are more than just “Mexicans who steal our jobs,” but are fathers, sons,and providers.  The border patrol agents do their job and do it well, but The Devil’s Highway shows them as “missionaries” of a sort, a kind of cavalry dedicated to saving the lives of immigrants just as they protect the American people.  Though the book is tangibly biased, Urrea’s opinion is fairly hard to pin down: he seems to sympathize wholly with the immigrants, but he’s understanding of the American fear that surrounds the immigration issue in general.

Not only did I learn a ton from the book itself, I could not help but be moved by the Yuma 14’s story.  It’s tragic from beginning to end, and I honestly had to set the book aside more than once because the horror had become too acute.  Urrea pulls no punches and tells it like it is, even in death.  He forces us to count the steps to one man’s final resting place, watch as the men go insane from hyperthermia, and experience the tragedy of rescue.  The work is beautifully done, and I think that it should be a must read for all American citizens.  Though he sometimes downplays the complexity of the immigration situation–who truly understands it?–the work he does to make immigrants more than just a group is astounding.

The scope of this book is undeniable.  Regardless of your stance on immigration (and regardless of your citizenship!), you will learn something about yourself after you close the back cover of The Devil’s Highway.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 (a gripping and critical text)

BookLust: Jane Eyre October 7, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in BookLust, Life List.
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Jane: Just Plain Wonderful

Jane: Just Plain Wonderful

When Jane Eyre popped up on my Victorian Novel syllabus, I had two immediate reactions:  a) it is on the BBC 100 list I’m working on and b) ugh.  I’d like to say that I had no expectations when I began the book, but that would be a lie.  I seriously thought it would be awful.  No, I mean, a “pulling teeth” kind of terrible.  Many of my friends had been forced to read the book in high school, and when I asked them about it, they stared off into the distance like a Vietnam vet and told their horror stories.  My hopes?  Not high, to say the least.
However, dear readers:  I.  Loved.  It.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Jane.  She was saucy and strong-willed without being one of those characters that just has to make life difficult for herself.  Her charm is subtle but present; it’s easy to like Jane, which makes it easy to like Jane’s story.  The book is written in first person, so as the reader you walk in Jane’s shoes.  I can’t say what this would be like as a male reader, but as a girl it was just so natural to follow through with Jane’s narrative.
And a narrative it is.  For a book that’s just shy of 600 pages, Jane Eyre was a book I couldn’t put down.  Unlike Les Miserables, there are no random, boring interludes.  Bronte sticks to what she knows–Jane–and adeptly skips chunks of time to keep the story engaging and relevant.  In addition, Bronte paints gorgeous, Gothic pictures of the English countryside as Jane moves from Gateshead to Rochester’s estate.
All said, Jane Eyre is still a sweeping romance (despite its fascinating commentary on the position of women).  Rochester is a poor substitute for the Mr. Darcy I wanted this narrative to have.  As a reader, I didn’t like him one whit.  As a reader walking in Jane’s shoes, her love for him was totally understandable.  For me, Rochester was one hiccup in the plot.  The best way to describe him is “House-ian”: he does just enough to make you like him but is pretty much detestable through the rest of the narrative.  Let me just say, he gets exactly what he deserves at the end.
There’s so much to say about the book, but I think I’m going to leave it there.  It’s delightful but not for everyone, and if you’re looking for another Austen-esque jaunty romance, this isn’t it.  Regardless, there is certainly a reason that Jane Eyre remains on syllabi everywhere.
5 out of 5 stars (a winter month classic)
P.S:  I have no idea what’s up with the paragraph spacing.  I can’t seem to fix it.  Sad day.

I’m Lovin’: Lemon Blueberry Muffins August 21, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in From the Kitchen, Lovin'.
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My mom recently bought a Cooking Light cookbook that she bought on sale at a resale shop.  Since I’ve been looking for ways to eat healthier, I borrowed it on the condition that I would test recipes and let her know whether the book was any good.

This book comes straight from Lowfat Cooking Heaven

This book comes straight from Lowfat Cooking Heaven

Anyway, I’ve made a few recipes from the book so far, though I’ve only taken pictures of one: Lemon Blueberry Muffins.  When I looked at the recipe, the muffins sounded delicious despite it calling for buttermilk.  I especially liked that each muffin was under 200 calories (180, to be exact), so I thought I’d try them.  Here’s how they turned out.

Don't they look delicious?

Don't they look delicious?

After tasting the batter, I began to have reservations about the whole thing.  The batter was positively unappetizing (again, because I don’t like buttermilk), so I popped them in the oven totally prepared to scrap the final product.  Boy, was I wrong.  Once I iced them with delicious lemony icing, they were FABULOUS.  John loved them, too.  We even took some to Tulsa with us and got rave reviews.

I had no idea that cooking light could be so good.

I’m Lovin’: A Field Guide to Weeds June 1, 2009

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Click to enlarge

Vintage yumminess

I stumbled upon this journal at one of my favorite online retailers, The Curiosity Shoppe. I love the vintage look of the cover.  It reminds me of library books in my high school library that were bound in orange covers with generic black type serving as its sole identifying feature.  Just like those books were full of adventure and surprises, so is the Field Guide.

Stunning graphic design

Stunning graphic design

The pages of this book are ridiculously stunning.  I’m so tempted to buy this and let it sit on my shelf until I have a garden; I think this would make the most fabulous gardening journal ever.  I love how designer Kim Beck takes the maxim “don’t judge a book by its cover” literally.

Hahaha! May 27, 2009

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I’ve been looking for a good InDesign CS3 book lately, and I spent about half an hour last night looking at different books on Amazon.  I just so happened to stumble upon the following review, which made me laugh out loud.  I couldn’t resist sharing it with y’all:

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

By Bob barker “The reviewer” (nashville, tn) – See all my reviews

I bought this book thinking i would learn more about InDesign then i knew. Although i feel it has brought some knowledge to the table, i do NOT feel this book is worth the review of stars others have given and the price. The maker of the book, i give him two thumbs up if he really designed this whole book in InDesign, BUT, he should have used spell check!!! For a book that is telling you that it will help you master InDesign, he has not and this is the worst representation of a typesetter. I feel if someone is telling me i would master something he would of atleast spell checked it. Thats why im giving this book a two. There is sooooooooo much grammer errors, type spelling, and run-ons going to left field that if i didnt know what i was doing, i would throw this book away!!!!! So for any of you that know how spelling, grammer and punctuation is a must for any typsetter, the author gives a bad name to us. Though, this book can be a great intro or a way to freshen your skills, but i would NOT recommend this book for anyone that hasn’t touched InDesign. It does not have any hands-on or come with a CD in lamens terms. Its for a moderate typesetter. Hope that helps you.

*****

I can definitively say that no, Mr. Bob Barker, your review was decidedly unhelpful, especially because it was barely written in ENGLISH.