Summer Reading

One of my favorite parts of my day is riding the bus to and from work. This may sound odd, but 15 minutes each way armed with my Kindle provides time to read that I haven’t had in the last few years. In fact, I’ve been reading so much that when I saw the list of the most popular books of Summer 2011, I was happy to see how many I’ve read. Please to enjoy.
  • Denotes books I’ve read this summer.
  • Denotes books I’ve read before this summer.
  • Denotes books I have/plan to read before the end of the summer.
  1. The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
    Suzanne Collins
  2. Water for Elephants
    Sara Gruen
  3. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
    Suzanne Collins
  4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
    J.K. Rowling
  5. The Help
    Kathryn Stockett
  6. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
    Suzanne Collins
  7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)
    Stieg Larsson
  8. A Visit from the Goon Squad
    Jennifer Egan
  9. The Book Thief
    Markus Zusak
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
    J.K. Rowling
  11. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)
    J.K. Rowling
  12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)
    J.K. Rowling
  13. Room
    Emma Donoghue
  14. What Happened to Goodbye
    Sarah Dessen
  15. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)
    J.K. Rowling
  16. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)
    J.K. Rowling
  17. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice, #1)
    George R.R. Martin
  18. Bossypants
    Tina Fey
  19. Divergent (Divergent, #1)
    Veronica Roth
  20. Pride and Prejudice
    Jane Austen
  21. The Catcher in the Rye
    J.D. Salinger
  22. Beauty Queens
    Libba Bray
  23. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)
    J.K. Rowling
  24. City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)
    Cassandra Clare
  25. Jane Eyre
    Charlotte Brontё
  26. The Time Traveler’s Wife
    Audrey Niffenegger
  27. The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Oscar Wilde
  28. Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, #11)
    Charlaine Harris
  29. The Kite Runner
    Khaled Hosseini
  30. Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)
    Gayle Forman
  31. Paper Towns
    John Green
  32. The Great Gatsby
    F. Scott Fitzgerald
  33. The Last Song
    Nicholas Sparks
  34. Lolita
    Vladimir Nabokov
  35. Linger
    Maggie Stiefvater
  36. Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)
    Lauren DeStefano
  37. Along for the Ride
    Sarah Dessen
  38. Never Let Me Go
    Kazuo Ishiguro
  39. Something Borrowed (Darcy & Rachel, #1)
    Emily Giffin
  40. The Art of Racing in the Rain
    Garth Stein
  41. The Hobbit
    J.R.R. Tolkien
  42. Matched (Matched, #1)
    Ally Condie
  43. Fahrenheit 451
    Ray Bradbury
  44. Before I Fall
    Lauren Oliver
  45. Looking for Alaska
    John Green
  46. 1984
    George Orwell
  47. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
    Rebecca Skloot
  48. Unwind (Unwind, #1)
    Neal Shusterman
  49. North of Beautiful
    Justina Chen Headley
  50. Moby-Dick or, The Whale
    Herman Melville
Other books I’ve read this summer that didn’t make the top 50 include:
  • Thirteen Reasons Why
    Jay Asher
  • Dracula
    Braham Stoker
  • Commencement
    J. Courtney Sullivan
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every book so far, but it got me to wondering: what books on the list have you read? Which would you recommend, or which do you think aren’t worth the time? Better yet, which books do you think should have made the Top 50 that you don’t see? I’m always looking for new reads, and I’d love any input I can get!

Runaway Pontoon

Last Sunday evening we received a phone call from one of our neighbors up at the cabin. There had been a pretty bad storm, and “the good news is your pontoon is still tied to your dock. The bad news is they’re both floating out in the middle of the bay.”

While the phone call was going on, Pete and Shirley had been walking by our cabin and noticed the unmanned, dock-ridden craft and Pete handed Shirley his drink and the lantern before jumping in the lake, swimming to the pontoon, untying it from the dock, and swimming it back to shore. All of this happened, I imagine, after he gulped down a can of spinach and showed off the anchor tattoos on his disproportionately enormous forearms.

He's Peter the Sailor Man!

Meanwhile, Shirley was left on shore with the lantern trying to explain to our neighbor (armed with a shower cap) who she was and how she knew us while making sure her dad (still fully clothed and wearing shoes) made it back out of the water. Fortunately he did without a problem, and thanks to Pete, our boat was completely fine. Mom and Dad drove up Monday morning to fish the dock and loose pieces of decking out of the bay, and managed to recover just about everything. After driving around and seeing the extent of the damage around other places on the lake, missing a few pieces of decking didn’t seem like too bad of a deal.

Pictured: Insurance Claim.

After work on Tuesday I joined the 17 other interns for an intern outing: seeing the Twins play Cleveland. I was extremely excited as I had never been to Target Field before. The weather wasn’t ideal – the heat index put the temperature around 116°F and the dew point was in the 80s – but we still had a ton of fun. After trailing the Indians 1-0 for several innings, Valencia pulled out a double play that won the game. I’m not even a huge baseball fan, but I wouldn’t argue going back to watch a few more games this season. I even found a Summit vendor, much to the chagrin and jealousy of one of my coworkers.

Sorry, Jon.

The intern bonding continued into Wednesday when we left work early with our HR reps to work at Feed My Starving Children in Eagan. FMSC is an organization that packages nutrient-rich meals to send to other schools and charities located in impoverished countries like Haiti, Kenya, and Ethiopia. It’s a very cool experience, and I hadn’t gone to work there since I was in high school. My favorite part about volunteering at FMSC is getting to see the immediate result. Our group of about 80 people packaged over 26,000 meals in an hour and a half, which will feed about 70 kids for an entire year.

After our volunteer work was over, I went out with my mom and Judy for happy hour to celebrate Judy’s full recovery. Judy was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall, has been cancer free for several months, and just recovered from a very successful reconstructive surgery. Ever the Bono fan, Judy was mostly happy she had tickets to see U2 perform in Minneapolis on Saturday. Having spent four months in Dublin and hearing all the hype (good, bad, and obnoxious) I was happy to be heading to the cabin for the weekend of Bono’s appearance.

Tool.

The cabin was clearly less excited to see us, and expressed its displeasure by throwing us more awful weather. It had continued to storm during the week after Mom and Dad came back home, which was evident in the large tree worth of limbs strewn across the yard, all diligently gathered and stacked before we mowed the lawn. Saturday it rained, and I decided that having a straight week of 100+°F weather helped make 70°F seem sweatshirt-worthy. The “cold” did give me the excuse I’ve needed to make Irish coffees, though making them at 10pm with fully caffeinated coffee may have been a mistake.

Sunday’s weather wasn’t much better, so after burning the enormous pile of sticks collected from around the yard, we headed for home with the aid of a collective 32 oz. of Red Bull, and I went to Harry Potter again, this time with Dad.

Today was like any other Monday, with plenty of coffee and unanswered emails barricading me inside my cubicle. I also took the Computer Programmer Aptitude Battery, a test developed in 1964 to gauge for programming-minded people. The irony being that I took a test to measure my capacity for technology in a booklet that uses a sheet of carbon paper to compile my score. Half of you are impressed that I even know what carbon paper is and are reminiscing about your first term paper written on a typewriter, while the rest of you have already Googled on your phone what carbon paper is and are wrinkling your nose at how archaic the 1970s were.

They didn't even have reality TV!

I digress. The test actually had very little to do with technology, which was lucky because I can only imagine how a language-specific test booklet from 1964 would have read. The questions were mainly critical thinking and logic based, with one section full of fill-in-the-blank flowcharts, and the other with quasi-math questions that were probably on the ACT or SAT once upon a time. The idea is to get a grip on how we process information, and if we think in a fashion that’s fitting to programmers. Everyone in IS at Securian has taken it at some point or another. I thought it went pretty well, and I’m interested in seeing how I scored.

It’s been a long week, winding down just in time to jump into another one. Can anyone else get over how fast this summer is going?

 

Mischief Managed

There’s something to be said about passing fads; mostly that, as their name implies, they’re passing. Growing up in the technology age has allowed trends of all types to flit in and out of popularity with increasing (and sometimes alarming) speed. That’s the biggest downfall of my generation: our attention spans are shorter than ever, and we’re always on a quest for newer, bigger, and better ways to entertain ourselves.

Which is why the idea of millions of children, teens, and adults taking the time in the last 14 years to read nearly 8,000 pages and watch roughly 20 hours of movies dedicated to a boy wizard and his adventures to triumph over evil is an honest-to-goodness phenomenon.

Pictured: My childhood.

The very first book came out when I was in the second grade, way back in 1997. I got it in a book order at school, and have grown up with the series ever since. I’ve attended midnight book release parties at Barnes & Noble, camped out for hours at movie theaters to see the movies on opening night, and have more than a few times dressed up as Ginny Weasley.

I can’t remember a time before I knew about Hogwarts, or what Quidditch is, or considered Harry, Ron, and Hermione on my list of favorite people. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I can contribute my love of gobbling up books and taking in all sorts of creative inspiration to reading and re-reading the Harry Potter books (in some cases until the spines broke and the bindings came loose). Inspiration is never short in the Potter universe, and it comes in the simplest forms: mending friendships, courage in the face of adversity, doing the right thing. Simple, yet lacking in today’s “it’s-all-about-me” and “by-any-means-necessary” culture.

Time to step off my wizarding soapbox.

On with the show.

As the poster says, it all ends with this. 14 years, 7 books, 8 movies, a theme park, and one author who formerly lived off food stamps and is now wealthier than Queen Elizabeth II.

Typically, my friends and I dress up and wait in line for the midnight opening.

Half-Blood Prince premiere. 50 points to Gryffindor if you can name all the characters.

Just about everyone is scattered across college campuses this summer working and taking classes, so Roz and I stuck closer to home at the Eagan theater instead of trekking up to the chaos at the mall. There were quite a few muggles, but there were still a lot of really great costumes. More on those later.

The movie was short by Potter standards, just over two hours, but was extremely well done. It was an amazing conclusion to an equally amazing series. There were a few differences from the book, but nothing like the infamous house fire scene from The Half-Blood Prince that fans are still complaining about two years after the fact. Unless you’re stubbornly impossible to please, you will love this movie.

It made me cry. Do you really need any more proof than that?

Below are the results of my costume contest. Please to enjoy.

Most Original:

Patronus

Best Look-Alike:

Luna Lovegood

Most Layers:

Professor Trelawney

Most Horrifying Portrayal of a Beloved Character:

Dobby the Free Elf

             

Most Likely to be Tackled:

Golden Snitch

             

*No, I did not actually take all of those, but I missed opportunities to take pictures of the actual costumes, and some of these were the best Google Images had to offer.

It’s been a good ride, and I can convincingly say, mischief managed.

Firework Food Poisoning

It’s been two weeks since I’ve written anything about what I’ve been doing, and I know you’re all dying to hear every detail of my life.

Calm down, it's not that exciting.

The 4th of July was fantastic, full of sun, margaritas, and contraband explosives, the entire weekend was marred only by the severe storm that blew through Friday night, knocking out our power and over 1,000 trees in nearby Granstburg, WI. It was a lot of family time, and an awesome cookout with the Rasmussons and Petrulos, which included Mark’s famous homemade macaroni and cheese. I’d promise a recipe, but it’s better guarded than the missile launch codes.

And whatever's going on here.

After my nice long weekend, I returned to work and a flurry of Lotus Notes work and deadlines for the Prophet database. It was a little hectic feeling, but Kristen and I finally got all of the work done we needed to on Friday, just in time for our meeting with the user. Unfortunately, the user didn’t show up to the meeting, so we sent a nice email going over the changes instead of presenting on them.

By Friday, I was looking forward to the weekend, but especially getting to go to the Katy Perry concert at the Exel Center with the other interns in the Securian box. Since the closest I’ve come to going to a real concert includes seeing Davy Jones (of the Monkees) and Kansas at two separate church fundraisers, and the Rubberbandits in Dun Laoghaire, I was really excited.

Unfortunately, food-bourne illness doesn’t care who’s excited for what.

Picture this, but with more vomit.

The concert has been postponed until August 23rd, and I spent Saturday going out with some of my high school friends for Roz’s 21st birthday. It was a little bizarre since none of us had ever drank together, and we had some wonderful adventures in downtown Minneapolis that involved a lot of walking, public transportation, and Roz falling into a fountain. The fountain was less because of the vodka, and more because it was just Roz.

There was some vodka.

This week wasn’t anything too special, with work continuing with more great projects. The one exception to normalcy: the premiere to the last Harry Potter movie.

Coverage to follow.

How an 8-Year-Old Treated My Life

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love my job. I know that I’m probably sheltered with intern goggles, but I’m actually enjoying what I’m doing. Every once in awhile though, I think about my old job. Prior to dedicating eight hours of my life everyday to program development and database repair, I was a nanny.

Close.

My neighbors employed me as their part-time “Friday Nanny” for two years, and their full-time Monday-Thursday Nanny for three additional years. I acted as supervisor, chef, chauffeur, lifeguard, art teacher, math tutor, librarian, dog walker, curfew officer, card dealer, soccer cheerleader, nurse, repairman, counselor, tackle box director, funny voice provider, and gatekeeper for two boys (who upon reaching high school distanced themselves greatly from the idea of childcare) and their little sister, Tori.

I’ve been baby-sitting Tori since she was a year old, so the fact that she’ll be going to middle school in another year never fails to make me feel old. Now that she’s older she’s actually a pretty cool kid, and because she’s also a ginger, she’s often mistaken for my sister (and once for my daughter by a very judgmental soccer mom). I’ve spent a substantial amount of time with her over the past five summers, and like any relationship we’ve had our ups and downs. When Tori got mad at me, typically for making her do math or clean up her room, she might throw a tantrum when she was younger, or try to ignore me by playing by herself, or as she got older she would act extremely hurt by my demands. By last summer she got clever and tried to make me mad or upset too, and there’s one
incident that is particularly memorable.

Ah, the good ol' days.

It was shortly after school had gotten out, and her parents were out of town for the weekend. Tori was mad at me because she wanted to sleep over at her friend’s house, and I told her she could — on the condition she showered before she went. I knew she wouldn’t want to shower and I expected a fight, but she shrugged and marched into the bathroom without a word. When she got out she asked me to brush her hair, which is when I knew something was up — she never let me touch her hair. As I combed through her hair she studied me in the mirror and made her first strike.

Tori: “Do you have a boyfriend?”

I immediately knew this was bad. I prepared for battle.

Me: “Nope.”
Tori: “Why not?”
Me: “Oh, I just don’t right now.”
Tori: “Did you used to?”
Me: “Yep, I used to.”
Tori: “Well why don’t you anymore?”

She was playing dirty.

Me: “Well, sometimes people who are dating decide they don’t want to anymore, or that they’d rather just be friends, and then they aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend anymore.”
Tori: “Is that what you did?”
Me: “Yep.”
Tori: “Are you still friends?”
Me: “Well, I really don’t see him that much anymore.”
Tori: “Oh.”

I thought I had squashed the wanton curiosity with sound logic, until she hit me with a curve ball.

Tori: “Well, I think you don’t have a boyfriend because you’re so ugly. That’s probably why he broke up with you.”

What?! Where the hell did that come from? Luckily I was still in battle mode.

Me: “Huh. Well you know Tori, a lot of people think that we’re sisters
because we look so much alike. So wouldn’t that make you ugly, too?”

She didn’t have anything to say to that, and confident I had the last word, I helped her pack a bag to take overnight. A short while later we drove to her friend’s house, and I walked her to the front door to talk to her friend’s mom. I gave Tori a hug and told her to behave, and in response she told me to try and get a good night’s sleep. I was confused until a moment later when she turned to her friend and friend’s mom.

Tori: “Lindsay needs her beauty sleep so she can try and get another
boyfriend.”

Well played, short one.

Winner.

Soy Annoyed

I’ve said before that I don’t like complaining about things here unless I feel like they’re really worth my time. This is.

Up Next: The Neighbor's Yappy Dog

I like coffee. In fact, I love coffee. I would not be capable of functioning as a human being without coffee. It is common knowledge that one of my favorite things about being employed at Securian is the Caribou Coffee on the second floor in my building. I go there every day.

Statistically speaking, I realize that getting coffee every day means that sometimes they’re going to get my order wrong. They’re human. It happens.

Usually it’s something really insignificant.

Barista: Wait, did you say dark roast?
Me: Yeah.
Barista: I’m so sorry, this is light. Let me get you anoth–
Me: Oh, don’t worry about it. This is fine, it’s still caffeinated.

Totally fine.

Annoy-O-Meter: Low.

Sometimes they deny actually making a mistake.

Barista: Small espresso cooler for Lindsay!
Me: Is that double blended?
Barista: Oh…yeah. Of course.

I’m pretty sure I only saw it get blended once, but I take his word for it and ten minutes later I’m sucking on an enormous chunk of ice with my straw instead of icy liquid coffee goodness.
While this is a bit irritating because on top of messing up my order the barista lied to me, it’s still not that big of a deal. I can move on with my day.

Annoy-O-Meter: Sigh.

Every once in a while though, they screw up something that actually matters, and still deny it.

Barista: Small hazelnut latte for Lindsay!
Me: That’s soy, right?
Barista: Yep!

Spoiler alert: that’s not soy. For those of you wondering why soy matters, let me clarify that I’m not a soy milk sipping yuppie who thinks the antibiotics used on cows are going to mess with my chi. I am, however, lactose intolerant.

Annoy-O-Meter: Ow.

Again, I realize that the baristas are human and mistakes will happen. What shouldn’t happen is the baristas lying about what they did or didn’t do.

I think I’m just going to stick to black coffee for awhile, and when they ask, I will assure them with the same conviction they assured me about my orders that it wasn’t me who released several rabid chipmunks into the back room.