Monday, August 30, 2010

33% More Beagle To Love

When Katie the Beagle first came to us via a beagle rescue society, she measured in as just a skinny little 18 pounds of beagle at her first checkup:
"Feed me!"

Today Monique took her down to the vet and she weighed in at an astonishing 24 pounds. That's 33% more beagle than when she first arrived. Look at this fat beagle!

Jabba the Beagle.

Lest you think we've really plumped her up too much, here's a photo of her from a couple of months ago:
Action Beagle!

She's really still a fit and trim little beagle, thanks to her many walks with Monique. It brings us great joy to see how she's slowly filled out thanks to a proper diet. And she still gets to be called "Little Dog," even if she is a full 1/3 larger than when we first called her that.

Yet, despite her obvious fitness I shall now pen a haiku ode to the fat beagle.

Such a fat beagle!
Was it after-dinner treats?
Or those liver snaps?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Preseason Poesy Proceeds...

Exhibition games are so Indy can make an exhibition of itself

Kate and Kaylee know:
Colts' preseason's gotta blow
Wishing 16-0.

We *always* need to go zero-for in all our preseason games. After all, we won a preseason game last year and just look what happened!!

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Preview of Coming Poetic Attractions

Our Colts-Beagle haiku laureate is back for another season, this with the added complication of a granddaughter. Can Mary Campbell-Droze work wee Kaylee into her weekly 17 syllables of football analysis and beagle beatification?

Well, she kicked the ball between the uprights in just the first five syllables of this preseason poem, so she's off to a good start:

Preseason practice

Katie, Kaylee, Colts:
Ramping up Football-Beagle-
Grandbaby haiku.

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August Book Review Roundup

First things, first. Let's get this review ragout off on the right foot with the fabulously leggy cover from Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake:

This was a tremendously fun crime novel written in 1969 by Donald Westlake. New York cab driver Chet Conway is trying to collect on a big win from his bookie, but instead ends up mired hip-deep in gangsters and corpses. Er, make that gangsters, corpses, and a leggy blonde. Fun Stuff!

Stardance and Starseed by Spider & Jeanne Robinson -- After my disappointment with Very Hard Choices, I decided to go back and read a bit of prime Spider, just to reassure myself that indeed he used to deliver the goods consistently. And since I'd never read these two novels that continued the story of the Nebula- and Hugo-award-winning novella "Stardance," these two novels co-written with his wife Jeanne seemed a good bet for a good read.

And indeed, they delivered the goods. The thing that I always felt separates Spider Robinson from a lot of other sci-fi storytellers is the genuine optimism for the future that permeates his best work. That optimism permeates these books for the good. I could also see in here some of the seeds of the things that go awry when Spider isn't on top of his game, but these books are so crisply written and willing to deal with big ideas and big hopes that they're much more forgivable here. If you've never read a Spider Robinson book before, these two (which you might fine apart, or collected together in a currently in-print paperback titled The Star Dancers) are a good place to start.

(BTW, the prose felt very much like classic Spider, so I'd assume that Jeanne was more involved in the plotting and the technical dance information than the word-by-word prose. However, since these books rely so heavily on their dance background, that's no small contribution.)

The Book of Genesis illustrated by R. Crumb -- Here's one that really deserves an in-depth review of its own, and I hope to do one at some point. So for now let me post a link to Arsen Darnay's brief review from his Ghulf Genes blog, Book Recommendation, and pass along my own very strong recommendation for this book. I suppose this isn't a book for those who don't like to acknowledge all the sex and violence in the Old Testament. But I found Crumb's illustrations to be a remarkable interpretation of the text. His earthy illustration style serves to really bring home the remarkable human story of the first book of the Bible. This is a great example of how artwork can truly make you see a familiar text in an entirely new light.

Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1: The Ronin by Stan Sakai -- The first volume of Stan Sakai's remarkable Usagi Yojimbo saga, a series of graphic novels that collect more than 20 years of Usagi Yojimbo comics. Usagi is a travelling ronin -- a samurai without a master -- travelling in a medieval Japan populated by anthropomorphic animals. (Usagi himself is a rabbit.) That may not sound as if it would hang together but it's all remarkable well researched, well plotted, well written, and well drawn. There's a genuine good spirit at work in these books, and once you've started reading them you'll likely find yourself hooked.

Lost at Sea and Scott Pilgrim, Vols. 1-4, all by Bryan Lee O'Malley -- Speaking of addictive graphic novels, I've found myself astonishingly hooked on Bryan Lee O'Malley's very fun Scott Pilgrim series. I blame my sister-in-law Michelle, who dangled Volume 1 (Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life) in front of my addiction-prone nose like the neighborhood pusher handing out free samples. Of course, since I was the one who took her, my niece Stella, and my nephews Henry and Malcolm down to my local comic-book store where they first came across the big Scott Pilgrim display -- in honor of the release of the Scott Pilgrim movie this month -- there's plenty of blame to go around. (Maybe we can place the blame on a gateway book -- O'Malley's first graphic novel, Lost at Sea -- which is a tale more melancholy in tone that tells the story of a teenage girl on a road trip with some friends, but with much of the same multi-layered storytelling that makes the Scott Pilgrim books so much fun.)

You may notice at this point, gentle reader, that this review is remarkably short on any real explanation of what the Scott Pilgrim books are about. That's because ... well, they're really sort of hard to describe. They're a bit of an amalgamation of graphic novel and manga, with lots of video game and music industry references. At some level they tell the story of Scott Pilgrim and his friends, mostly 20-something slackers in Toronto. Oh, and Scott has to fight each the seven evil ex-boyfriends of his new girlfriend Ramona to the death. Don't worry. That makes sense in the books. Or not. Anyway, it's a fun ride. After ripping through the first book I thoroughly enjoyed the next three volumes (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together) I look forward eagerly to reading Volumes 5 and 6 (Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour) and then assume that I'll be distraught that I have to wait for future volumes to be written. Go ahead, try Volume 1. I'll bet you can't read just one.

Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee by Stan Lee and a cast of all-time-great comic artists, including Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Buscema -- This was a lovely find in the bargain rack at my local comic shop, a hardcover collection of 20 classic comics written by Stan Lee. For any comics readers of the younger generation who wonder how Stan Lee got to be such a big name in comics, this book should serve as a fine explanation. This is the writer who created the Marvel Universe and this volume -- which starts with a couple of pre-World-War-II Captain America tales that Stan wrote as a teenager -- also contains great early stories from The Fantastic Four, Thor, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Silver Surfer. If you come across this collection somewhere, it's well worth your time.

The Stainless Steel Rat Returns by Harry Harrison -- Ahhh, the book I'd been looking forward to all Summer, and it was worth the wait. Slippery Jim diGriz gets called out of retirement by his country cousins and a spaceship full of porcuswine. Can The Stainless Steel Rat -- with a cocktail in hand and the expert help of his deadly wife Angelina and their sons James and Bolivar -- overcome a corrupt starship captains and a couple planets of evildoers to deliver his kin to a rural porcuswine-farming paradise?

Of course he can! Although ... there is one very dangerous moment in which the ship's computer archive introduces him to an ancient drink known as A Very Dry Martini.

This one's a bit more like several Stainless Steel Rat novellas with a plot wrapped around them than a fully plotted single novel. But it's great fun to once again see the galaxy's greatest con-man back in action righting wrongs while turning a dishonest profit along the way. Anybody new to the series would do well to start at the beginning, but for longtime fans of the Rat, this is a welcome addition to the series.

And that's about it for this batch of reviews. As you can see, there was a decidedly "Summertime Fun" slant to most of my reading selections in August. Worry not, those of you who fear that my brain is turning entirely to mush. Coming soon: a review of This Time Is Different by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, an in-depth economics history that examines financial collapses over the past eight centuries.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What to do if you're not lucky enough to visit Michigan?

So, how best to follow up that long, long series of photos showing how awesome it is to visit Michigan?

By sending my sister Susan to Cleveland, of course.

I'm not really sure why she wants to go to Cleveland, but Tracey over at Just Another Mommy Blog is trying to bump a little traffic over to her Just Another Review Blog, and has put together a fabulous Cleveland vacation giveaway. This has apparently made my sister (better known to the Blogosphere as Gettysburg Mom) crazy with desire to leave the ramshackle Civil War memorabilia of Gettysburg for the bright lights and excitement of Cleveland.

Anyway, if you want to win a trip to Cleveland for Susan, there are links aplenty above. And if you want to win a trip to Cleveland for yourself ... well, there are also links above and this sort of publicity is just a danger that Susan will have to risk.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer Fun on the Road in Traverse City

That's right, our cast of summertime merrymakers headed North to make more merry. And so, away we go...

Monique is so proud of the kayaks mounted on Sprout (yes, our pickup is named Sprout) that you'd of thought she put them up there herself.

Sprout leading the way North.

Stella, Malcolm, and Henry having fun on the road.

After five hours in the cars with the gigglers, Michelle immediately decided to buy a car of her own for the return trip.

Our first meal together at the cabin in Traverse City. I can neither confirm nor deny the reports that the adults became the gigglers during the meal after a rather substantial bottle of Bushmills disappeared during the cocktail hour.
The next morning the pace was blistering....
Malcolm seems inordinately proud of his bowl of cereal. Henry just seems hungry.

Monique and John apparently both received the morning memo, which was titled "Wear Orange Today."

Arsen and Brigitte playing My Word.

Henry, Stella, and Malcolm playing Rummikub with Brigitte.

The beach was quiet early. This wouldn't last.

Malcolm and Stella led the charge to the beach.

Monique in the Adirondack fish chairs, waiting for the winery expedition to gain as much momentum as the beach expedition.

Brigitte, Michelle, and Monique all looking thoughtful after a visit to a winery. Yeah, I guess that's what we'll call their state after the winery visit: "thoughtful."

Michelle and Malcolm went kayaking into the dusk. Meanwhile...

Arsen, Stella, and Henry got the campfire going for s'mores.

The next morning the Dawn Cereal Patrol was back in the kitchen.

After breakfast it was time to head downtown to the Traverse City Civic Center to watch John play rugby with the Detroit Old Guys Select (DOGS).

As it turns out, the DOGS might've been well advised to wear just their tighty whiteys instead of their warm rugby jerseys, because it was 90 degrees and really, really, really humid. So instead of the usual action figures we have some photos of old guys walking around, gasping for air, and creating vast seas of sweat.

Here several members of the DOGS and the Michigan Old Blue fight over an ice cube that a spectator threw on the field.

You might think this is a photo of John, winded from several hours of rugby amid temperatures that rival the surface of the Sun. Alas, this is a photo of John, winded from tying his shoes amid temperatures that rival the surface of the Sun.

Meanwhile, the spectators found their snacks in the shade tres amusante.

And Stella was cool as a cucumber. Suspiciously so.

Mike Wilk powers over the hapless Old Blue scrum half while Stump, Toledo Doc, John, and Doc John think really, really hard about coming up in support despite the oppressive heat. I mean, we really thought hard about it. In the final analysis, if Wilkie had been carrying an ice-cream cone or a nice, cold glass of lemonade instead of a rugby ball, we probably would've made it there to take it from him.

Stinger scoring yet again against Traverse City. This was the culmination of our brilliant and complex game plan, which we called, "Give the ball to Stinger."

The fans erupted in applause and excitement.

Ahhh, now we see how Stella maintained her cool. She spent the afternoon sitting on a big cooler full of ice!

Arsen and John, discussing global warming's impact on scrummaging technique.

Malcolm and Henry running down the grassy hill. It was too bad they burst into flames when they hit the hot asphalt of the road.

Here is a photo of John stealing a ball in a lineout, then holding off four opposing forwards as he delivers a perfect pass to his scrum half. We're pretty sure it was Photoshopped.

The survivors!

Rob Jameson was so delirious with thirst afterwards that he tried to sip from the cup of tea in his Alice in Wonderland tattoo.

Dave Liedel dramatically re-enacted his head-splitting assault on Mike Wilk.

Then John and Rob kissed Mike's boo-boo and made it all better. In the meantime, Dan Pennington was checking out Wilkie's tush. Who can blame him, though? Wilkie does have a cute caboose.

After our voyage to the tropics, it was time to go to the beach in Traverse City. Here Malcolm wonders if he can jump far enough to clear the "No Swimming" buoy at the boat launch.
Later, after everybody had a nice, long, dip in Grand Traverse Bay, it was time for some hi-jinks with a local statue:

Stella dancing along.

John lends a hand.

Malcolm and Henry, along for the ride.

Events took a turn for the tragic, however, when Henry's head was crushed below the wheel of the totally immobile statue. We'll miss Henry.

Later in the evening Michelle read Stella's growing book of cartoons.
The next day we were on the road again, and headed up to Sutton's Bay.
Monique was very excited to call somebody so that she could tell them that she found an actual pay phone!

Shopping amid the colorful treasures.

Brigitte, Stella, and Henry.

Malcolm and the Dragon.

Stella sampling the tap water.
After lunch in Sutton's Bay, Arsen & Brigitte headed down the coast while Monique, John, Michelle, Stella, Henry, and Malcolm headed out to Sleeping Bear Dunes for -- you guessed it -- more time on the beach.

Michelle and John.

Henry hits the waves.

Michelle with a stick of driftwood. We weren't sure why she wanted the stick, but everybody kept well clear of her afterwards, just to be safe.

Henry, Stella, and Malcolm in the surf.

Finally, it was time to leave the beach...

... and hit the road back to Wolverine Lake.

(With a time-out for a lovely sunset in Cadillac.)
The next day was the last full day aux Etats-Unis for our French guests.

Henry and Malcolm launched a successful canoe fishing expedition.

Katie the Beagle was just happy that everybody had returned, and that she could once again bask on her own porch.

Our final big dinner together.
After dinner there was time for an evening pontoon fishing expedition. To be sure it was properly documented, Henry, Malcolm, and John brought Stella as their official photographer.

After looking more closely at her two brothers and her uncle, Stella decided there was really only one person worth photographing!
She eventually did snap a few action photographs:
Malcolm putting bait on his hook, while Henry casts.

Malcolm Paret, shadowy man of mystery.

John casts in hope of a big one. Or a medium one. Well, one, anyway....
One last sunset on Wolverine Lake.

The next day it was time to head back to Paris.
Stella managed to get her new mini-guitar through security, despite allegations that it could prove to be a weapon of musical destruction.

And here's one last photo of everybody hanging out at the airport with Arsen and Brigitte, getting ready to head off on their flight.
Goodbye and safe travels to you all! We had a great time hosting you again this summer (despite the wee septic tank issue, but fortunately there were no photos of any of that, so the blogosphere shall be none the wiser!) and we look forward to having you here with us for many more summers on Wolverine Lake!