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New Blog

July 26, 2010

I may not legally have a new last name, but naturally I’ve updated my blog site. Check it out for the very occasional update:


Cleaning & Goal Review

January 28, 2010

Something turned me onto organizing/dejunking tonight, and so I cracked open some boxes filled with an assortment of papers from years past.  These exercises usually prove relatively fruitless: I spend 2 hours reminiscing on memories and eliminate about 10% of the stuff.

Anyhow, I happened upon my old “Young Woman’s scrapbook” tonight, where I apparently meticulously organized all the cutesy quotes given to me over six years of my teens.  There are some priceless gems.

Lots of things were about “choosing your eternal companion” and “preparing for marriage.”  This peaked my interest, as I’m engaged.  (Does anyone read this besides people who already know that?  If so, guess what?  I’m ENGAGED!)

A couple things really, really cracked me up.

First, “Ways I need to improve to be a wonderful eternal companion!” (no, I didn’t add the exclamation point.)  My list:

  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • sewing
  • gardening
  • canning
  • journal
  • education
  • gospel
  • scriptures
  • budgeting my money

wow.  WOW.  WOW.

So clearly I need to learn a lot in the next 2 1/2 months.

Second, this priceless gem, apparently from my future eternal companion, written years before we met.  I was way too lazy to type it, but thanks to the wonders of the internet:

To My Dream Girl

We’ll be in love someday, you and I. But I’m not sure I know you now. Someday, somewhere we will discover each other.

I’m fresh from the mission field, still feeling the way only a returned missionary can feel, still floating on memories too new to be dim, and, Dream Girl, I’m looking for you.

Two years ago I was one of the boys, running the race of popularity-more concerned with sharp styles and good-looking cars than anything else.

Then came the call, the farewell, the field. I was a missionary. There was the humbling realization of my greenishness and the regrets that I hadn’t spent more hours gaining an understanding of the plan of living. I worked and studied and prayed. With new understanding of the precepts of Christ came new determination to live, and what had been a vague inner assurance became a burning testimony. I began tasting what is only a word unreal until you taste it—joy— an exalted happiness that dwarfed the passing pleasures I had thought so desirable only yesterday. I began to comprehend the deeper significance of love and marriage and the family. I began thinking serious thoughts about the girl of the future-about you, Dream Girl-wondering, like all who are young, where you were and how I would know you.

You, I told myself, would know what I knew. You would want to share the joy that would come from walking through life with the Lord at our side. You would want to go to the temple. You would want to be queen of the greatest kingdom on earth-the home.  You would want to be a mother. I brought home with me the knowledge that the gospel is essential to true happiness and part of the gospel is you.

And so, I’m not interested in girls who give their lips feely-the girl who is immodest in dress and conduct. I’m not interested in the girl who changes her standards to fit her company—the girl who can see nothing wrong with an occasional cigarette or an occasional drink or occasional immorality. My mission taught me that the phrase “just once won’t matter” can be traced to the prince of lies. I’m not looking for you among shady parties, because, Dream Girl, you’re not there.

You will not be the kind of girl who cares nothing and knows nothing about homemaking. Marriage will brings us face-to-face with the down to earth problems of living. There will be meals to prepare and dishes that need to be washed, clothes to care for, and dirt to battle. There will be budgeting and sacrificing. There will be all the cares and responsibilities of parenthood. Going through the temple is not a magic solution for the problems of life. It is their beginning. That’s why we both must spend some time preparing for the responsibilities we will carry as husband and wife and as parents.

Neither of us will be perfect, Dream Girl. But we will love each other for what we want to be as well as for what we are. And when we don’t see eye to eye, we will kneel hand-in-hand and seek the inspiration of the Father.

There will not be many tomorrows until we meet. And when we do, I will still enjoy dating and dancing, still laugh with you, still relish good clean fun. But I will sense the inner part of you, too. I will feel your faith, your love for God. I will not be concerned with your popularity as much as with your spirituality, with your face and figure as much as with your ideals and ideas, with your ability to dance as much as with your ability to make a home. I will see you as my future Queen.

So there you are—-In My Dreams.

Live Chat-Bots

December 10, 2009

I was doing some online Christmas shopping today.  The product (color) I wanted wasn’t available on the company’s website,  so I attempted a Google search to locate other potential sellers.  This led me to the company’s CANADIAN website, which actually had the item I wanted — and on sale, but no ability to ship outside of Canada.

Despite all of my efforts, there was no going back to the U.S. site.  So I attempted live chat, this little gimmick that makes customers think they are being assisted.  The following is the conversation with my new chat buddy, after explaining that I needed to get onto the U.S. website:

CSR:  Hi Michelle
—-long pause — perhaps I have to respond?—-
Michelle: Hello
CSR: My my is Jason, and I am available to help you.
CSR: I have received your inquiry and am looking into the solution.
—-another long pause—-
CSR: You may try using another system.
—-system?  What does that mean?  How does one access another system?—-
Michelle: I’m sorry, I’m not following.
CSR: You may have better luck on another computer, or you can order online at (800)xxx-xxxx.
—-I begin to type: Thank you for your help.  I actually don’t have another computer handy, imagine that.  Nor do I know the product I want to order, as I can’t access the website.  But that’s very helpful. But as I debated between my urge to respond & my fear of being cruel—-
CSR: I regret to inform you that I can no longer assist you.  If you need further help, you can submit your inquiry again.
—-{Disconnected from chat}—-

I now realize I was conducting a live chat with a robot.  I was very nearly fooled.

I also now realize that in this situation, it’s best to delete your cookies.  Good thing I consulted the chat-bot.

The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

November 24, 2009

I liked this book, though maybe not as much as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

This is the story of an orphan boy.  He remembers his family: loving parents & an infant sister and misses them.  One day, on a whim, he stops by a fortune teller’s tent and spends his pocket change to hear the amazing revelation that his sister lives and that he must follow the elephant to find her.

Kate DiCamillo paints the story of a number of people who interact with the boy and the elephant, and we see how all of these people rely on one another to give and receive happiness.  It’s a sweet story that leaves you happy and brightens your day a bit.

I think I liked the Edward Tulane story more because the protaganist is flawed and, through the journeys and hardships of life, learns and important lesson and becomes a better person…ahem…bunny.  Or, er, rabbit.

In this book, the boy is sweet and innocent.  All of the characters have some desire or wish, and all these desires are pure and selfless.

But maybe that’s the point.  Maybe the moral of this story is that with one another, you can achieve your heart’s desire.

In either case, despite it being a kid’s book, I would’ve like more conflict and growth.

Rating: 4.5/5

New Format

November 24, 2009

A few months ago I started subscribing to various book blogs.

There’s one major perk to these additions to my Google Reader: lots of great book recommendations.  I’m still paring down, trying to find the bloggers whose recommendations are best given my personal preferences.  Until then, I’ve got a “Unread” count that is perpetually overwhelming.  But that is the story for another day.

What I’ve discovered is that I’m not very good at reviewing books.  I never thought I was, but this confirms it.

Also, I’ve been reevaluating my original purpose in writing about the books that I read, which was, as I recall, purely self-interested.  I wanted to remember the basic plot, twists, and details of the books I’d read so that I’d be able to remember specifically why I loved, liked, or loathed a book.

With these thoughts, I’ve decided a few things about the books I write about:

1.  No effort will be taken to avoid spoilers.  These are, after all, about books I’ve already read & for me to remember my initial thoughts.  So who cares if I give away the major twists?

2.  With the new knowledge of what is out there in terms of book review blogs/my ineptness, I’ve become paralyzed and unable to actually publish any posts.  No more!  Things will forever after by privately published, so that I’ll be able to see them.  No one else really cares about reading this anyway.

“Few” implies three, but I really have only two points.  So, over and out.

San Francisco

October 20, 2009

A month…two months ago, I was rejoicing in anticipation of a last-minute road trip to San Francisco for Labor day weekend.  And then, I seemingly dropped off the planet, or the blogging planet at least. Having finally downloaded & edited the San Fran pics, I’m posting some very belated highlights of the trip.

Our drive west…

San Francisco - September 2009

The Oakland California temple…

San Francisco - September 2009

Wicked at the Orpheum theater…


The greatest hotel ever, of which I have spared you the best pictures (mainly because I know my mom occasionally reads this blog)…

San Francisco - September 2009-1

Golden Gate bridge…

San Francisco - September 2009-2

…and Alcatraz…

San Francisco - September 2009-3

With so many great things to see and do (of which I experienced a tiny sliver), I think this is a city to visit again and again.

Themed Reading: WWII

October 19, 2009

Three of my latest reads have centered around events of WWII, and since I’ve had a lack of desire/time to blog lately, I’m writing about all at once.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok is the story of Reuven Malter and his best friend, Danny Saunders.  Reuven & Danny come from the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, though their upbringing is surprisingly different: Danny grows up in a Hasidic community, where he is expected to take his father’s place as tzaddik; Reuven comes from a more conventional home, where his father teaches Reuven to merge religion and science; tradition and logic.

This story unfolds in the final months and aftermath of WWII.  Through this, you see the impact this war had on Danny, Reuven, their families, and their community.  The book provided a new perspective illustrating not only the sorrow felt over the Holocaust, but the responsibility to preserve and restore the Jewish culture, after so many of the world’s Orthodox Jews were slain.

This was my second attempt at reading this book.  (I was scared off the first time by a VERY s l o w and loooooong account of a baseball game.)  I’m so glad I picked this up again.  It’s a brilliant book which contrasts the lives of Reuven & Danny, amid but not necessarily centered around a historic setting.

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky is a two-part story of the French occupation during WWII.  The first part, A Storm in June, tells of various Parisians who flee the city during the initial German campaign.  In this book, a wide range of reactions to the war are depicted: from love, compassion, and sorrow to fear, greed, and selfishness.  It’s stunning to feel the range of emotions each of the characters exhibit.

The second part, Dolce, tells of a peaceful interlude in WWII as German soldiers occupy a small French village.  Again, reactions to the occupation in the village range from complete distrust, animosity, and rebellion to complacency, collaboration, attempts at cautious peaceful coexistence.  The story focuses on a German officer and young French woman, torn between pressures of national and familial pride and human affection and compassion.

The book is compelling, but most of all I was drawn to the backstory.  Suite Française was written during WWII by Némirovsky as she lived in German occupied France.  Originally intended to be a five-part novel, the author’s work was cut short in 1942, when Irene Nemirovsky was sent to Auschwitz because of her Jewish heritage, and was killed within a month.  It was bittersweet to read the conclusion of this book, which so strongly suggests a continuation that will never be completed.

Last of all is Diane Ackerman’s biography of Antonina Zabinski in The Zookeeper’s Wife. Antonina and her husband Jan, the zookeeper of the Warsaw zoo at the outset of WWII, made use of the zoo’s space during the war to help hide over 300 Jews as they escaped from Warsaw’s ghetto and evaded Nazi death camps.

Jan was a leader in Poland’s underground resistance, using the zoo as a hiding place for bomb materials used to damage the Nazi”s fortifications and weaponry.  Antonina, meanwhile, safeguarded her home and made it a priority to keep spirits high to those seeking shelter and safety amid the terror surrounding the zoo.

Thanks to Antonina’s journal, which is quoted extensively to paint a colorful picture of life at “the villa”, I enjoyed the heroic tale of this Antonina’s quick thinking, calming influence, and selfless care.  While reading this, I often found myself wondering if Antonina, Anne Frank, and so many others knew what historical impact their writings would have, and by extension if events in our lifetime will someday make an otherwise ordinary person’s diary, journal, or even blog be noteworthy or valued through time.  In any case, this beautiful story, which reads more like fiction than a biography, is highly recommended.