Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The 5 Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading

It's been quite a while since I've written regularly. Much of that probably has something to do with school. (Which, by the way, I totally passed all my classes.) Now that I've got a bit of a break, I thought it might be a good idea to start blogging again. You know, because blogging is fun and I enjoy it.

In my previous post about reading, I said I'd try and read more this year. Perhaps you're wondering how that's going. To be honest? I'm not sure. I started out, as I do with most things, in a flurry of enthusiasm and excitement. Never let it be said that I'm not a passionate person when it comes to ideas. What I lack is follow-through. As such, you might not find it surprising that I've been less than good on my goal to read 30 50 books this year. Here is where I'm at:
Add Snow Crash to this as well. 

Obviously you can also see this on The Great Readathon 2013, but a visual aide is so much nicer.

So as motivation for me to catch up and get back on track, I'm going to do a quick list of the next five books I'm going to read and why I'm excited about them.

1. Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
I am fairly sure that this book has been recommended to me more times than any other book ever. Every time I mention that I'm in the market for a new novel to read, I get this one thrown at me. A friend linked me to this, which is what I'm hoping I'll be like after I read it:

I don't know who Andrea is but her review is amazing. 

2. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie

I've love Sherman Alexie ever since I read What You Pawn I Will Redeem. His short fiction is pretty amazing and his observations about post-colonialism on small populations are pretty fantastic. I think what makes me respect him, though, is the way that he discussed those topics. He uses humor to make a very uncomfortable subject (addiction and depression in Native American communities, for instance) approachable. He wants the reader to see and hear his perspective, but not shame them. I respect any author who can write about a cause they care about and never seem preachy.  

3.  Alif the Unseen - G. WIllow Wilson
I just finished Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and I enjoyed it. It was like reading an action film, only one that got down and dirty about sex, religion, being a metaphorical sheep in society, and examined the nature of true uniqueness and originality. Since I love the setting of the middle east and the cultural aspects therein, I thought this book looked fantastic. It was also written by a woman, which you'll notice is the only book on this list where that is true. Apparently it won several awards and is somewhat of a breakout novel. I think I'm also excited about this book because it has some of that Haroun and the Sea of Stories vibe I've been missing since the last good book I read by Salman Rushdie. 

4. Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut
Out of all the authors I've wanted to read but never have, Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac are tied for first place. Everything I've read about them seems interesting. I've just never started a novel by them. Maybe that's a lie. I think I read the first 5 pages of Slaughterhouse Five once. It's sitting on my floor right now, waiting to be read as well.

The biggest reason I'm going to read Breakfast of Champions right now, however, is because I received it in the mail from the coolest Book Exchange redditgifts matchup partner ever. That's enough of a reason to make the cut.

5. Dog Days, Volume 2 - Gene Gregorits
I've known this author for at least 6 years. I met him through my roommate in Baltimore. I have pictures somewhere on Facebook where we're drunkenly jumping over mailboxes together. Hell, he even helped us move out of our place. That's why it's almost criminal that I haven't read Dog Days Volume 2 yet. He has been a journalist/author for a long time and he has been compared to Celine, Bukowski, and Hunter S. Thompson. That's convenient, since the book I'm reading right now is Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas.

I told Gene that I never got my copy of Dog Days Volume One in the mail (He sent me Midnight Mavericks instead, which is a series of interviews with big names like Patton Oswalt and The Kills. You know, nbd) so he sent me digital copies of both Dog Days 1 and 2 with the cryptic message informing me that I should consume the second volume while intoxicated. I read and reviewed the first one, and now after reading Fear and Loathing, I think I have a better idea of what I might be in for.

I recently wrote an article for class and interviewed Gene about self-publishing and the obstacles inherent in being an author and trying to write for a living. He's an interesting guy and if you're interested in reading something gritty, dark, and a little bit crazy* I recommend checking him out.

*Note: I earned the right to call him and his work crazy long ago when he said a quote that will live in infamy:
"You know? You're not pretty enough to be a bitch."
Harsh toke, Gene. Harsh. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let Us Ford Rivers, Wear Gingham, and Build Planters

I mentioned, at some point, that I am living in Hawaii, taking care of a gorgeous piece of property while the owners finish out their careers and wrap up loose ends. While the land has many edibles already (macadamia nuts, passion fruit, papayas, and guavas) what it was really missing was a more savory element. I mentioned to a friend that what I really wanted was to plant some vegetables and herbs but I wasn't sure how to go about doing it while keeping out a very adorable duck and four mischievous feral chickens. 
Delicious home-grown guava!

Apparently making a planter is a lot easier than I thought. At first I was tempted to buy one premade with a minor amount of assembly required. However, it would end up being quite a bit smaller and, perhaps more importantly, I couldn't brag to everyone I meet that I actually made one myself.

After a trip to Home Depot, $43, and borrowing one power tool, we were set.

List of Materials:
6 5/8 in. x 5 1/2 in. x 6 ft cedar boards (Make sure they don't have any splits in them. Also, cut TWO of those boards in half. ($19)
1 7 or 8 ft post-like piece of wood, cut into 4 even chunks ($3)
1 inch small screws ($3)
1 1/2 inch small screws ($3)
2 long-ass PVC Pipes ($2.50 each)
Bird netting ($10)
Twine, zip-ties, string, paper clips
Dirt/soil/cinder (Free. . .? I hope?)

Ok, so this is how easy this is: (My instructions are written like I am a third grader. Pretend I am a third grader.)

1. Line up 2 6ft planks parallel to each other. Put a post at the end and line it up so it looks straight/classy.

2. Screw 2 small screws though each board into the post-like piece. Repeat on opposite side of the boards with another post thing.

You were supposed to take that beer step seriously. 

3. As you're drinking your beer, do the exact same thing again as above so you have another side of your planter.

4. Take two half-planks of wood and line them up on either end of your planter so it looks like you're making a rectangle.(Hint: You are.)
The end of the half-planks should line up with the post-like things (and the end of the longer cedar planks).

5. Use the same small screws, 2 screws per board per side, to create the third wall of the planter.

6. Do the same thing on the other side.


So then you have the option to get real fancy and put PVC pipe on the side so you can hang bird netting over your garden.  Is that a thing you want to do? If yes. . .

7. You need to get a drill bit a tiny smidge larger than the circumference of your longer screws. You have to drill the holes in the PVC pipe first otherwise apparently things are crazy and the plastic explodes and people die. Sad.
Anyway, make 3 holes at each end of the pipe, about 2.5 inches apart. Do so for both pipes.

8. Take a long screw and screw the PVC pipe to the side of the exposed post-thing. If you're doing it right the bottom of the PVC pipe will touch the top of the long side of the cedar planks. If that doesn't make any sense, just look at the final product below and it should be clear. Use remaining other 2 screws in the pre-drilled holes.

9. Bend the PVC pipe toward the outward-facing side of the post-thing. Repeat Step 8. It should kind of look like the frame of a covered wagon. You can put on your best gingham dress and braid your hair.

Before you do that, though, make sure you do the exact same thing with the PVC pipe and the screws to the other side of the planter. Then it will REALLY look like the frame of a covered wagon.

This duck REALLY wants to be in your planter.
10. Drape some bird netting over the side of your covered wagon and tie it off with string or something. Really, whatever works for you aesthetically? Just as long as it's relatively difficult for a bird-creature to roll around in your planter and fuck up your Christmas. 

That's it! You have your planter. WE MADE THINGS. TOGETHER!

Oh, or you could figure out what to do by watching a video or something

My planter is 11 inches high, giving plenty of room for root vegetables if I decide that's what I want to do later.

 Plant List!

Pineapple Sage
Sweet Basil
Trailing Rosemary
Ghost Peppers (x2)
Zucchini (Ok, so they're going to be a bit too big for the planter. Instead, I made 3 dirt mounds, put in the seeds, and I'm hoping for something glorious. I already have one sprouting!)
Spinach (From seeds)
Arugula (From seeds)
String Beans (From seeds)

Also part of the clan, but so far un-planted are:
Thornless Blackberry
Coffee Plants (This is Hawaii. Of COURSE it grows well here.)

I'll (hopefully!) do an update again sometime soon to see how this works out!