Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stayin' on track...ish...

September 30th, and CP 1 is done! And man, *I* want one of these things - it's SO comfortable! Now I must get some yarn shopping in (I have a 20% off coupon for Michaels, yay!) so I can start the next one. I haven't quite decided which project will be CP 2 yet. Basically, I was doing this by people. Person 1 is now done. Originally, Person 2 was up next, to be the recipient of the not-really-sure-I-can-do-this project, but I'm not quite ready to get that started yet and I don't know how much time I will have to work on it this month. So my thought now is that I will skip ahead to Person 3, now that I've decided on a project for this person (and got a very simple request, too!), which is going to be another new-yet-easy project and a repeat project and work on that while I get the rest of Person 2's figured out.


A comforting reminder in a surprising place...

"My art...if you can call it that, is just such an attempt. People will take the words you've read - my people - and they will speak them in front of an audience, and they'll speak them as if they were their own words. They'll lend the words emotion, strength, that you can't see....They will be like your paintings, or like your sculptures - they will be true, in some fashion. They will evoke something that the reality itself can't evoke as cleanly or as easily. We don't consider them lies, just a different way of getting at a truth that might be too big - or too small - to be seen. People are busy. They know their own problems and their own fears and they have no easy way of letting everyone else know what they are. And if I'm being truthful - which you seem to prize - most of us simply don't care what other people's fears are. Ours take up too much of our time. But when someone watches one of my plays, they leave those problems behind. They signal, by being in the audience, that they're willing to be lifted out of their own lives, and concerns. It's only for a few hours, but for those few hours, they're watching and they're listening to things that they would never otherwise think about."

-spoken by Richard Rennick, a playwright character in Michelle Sagara's "Cast in Fury"

Monday, September 29, 2008

I spend too much time in fictional worlds...

...or not enough, depending on how you look at it, I suppose. I did learn, though, that one needs to treat bookstores like grocery stores - NEVER go shopping when you're hungry. I had planned on getting two books - Son of Stitch-n-Bitch, which contains a pattern I need for the Christmas projects (while I do understand and appreciate the idea behind copyright laws, I would REALLY have preferred to just copy the pattern out of the book and not bought the entire thing. Alas.), and Cast in Fury, the latest in Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra series (aka the Cast In... series). I did leave with both of those. Plus...um...A Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton (author of some incredibly fluff knitting mysteries, but the characters are fun), Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (the start of a new series for me, assuming this one is any good), Haunted Heartland by Beth Scott and Michael Norman (which I'm now not exactly sure why I bought, as it will probably scare me half to death, but it was on sale, go figure), and The Harmony Guide's Cables & Arans stitch dictionary edited by Erika Knight, which also figures into my Christmas plot. I guess I felt the need to have some good new stories near at hand for some reason.

True to form, though, as soon as I got my greedy little hands on Cast in Fury, it was all over. (I've been waiting a year for this book!) I paid for the books and got all the way out to the bench outside the front door of Barnes & Noble before pulling it out of the bag and starting to read (about 2:00p-ish). It was quite pleasant there in the sunshine. I probably wouldn't have resurfaced in time for class at all if Mom hadn't called. There was no way I was going to make it to kickboxing, but I already had all my stuff with me anyway (I do know myself well enough to plan ahead for such events), and got back into Santa Maria with not enough time to go home and read, so I went to the park instead. I did make to the dojahng in time for tkd and instructor class, though, and I finished the book about an hour ago.

I really liked it, but it followed a totally different storyline than I thought it was going to. It explains a lot about certain comments that were made in the first book, Cast in Shadow, though, which is really kinda cool. And it involves a playwright, and there is really great passage about what theater does that I might have to type out and quote. I also really like the fact that, despite the long wait (okay, so it's actually relatively short, in publishing terms) between books, only about six weeks have passed since the beginning of the first book. (This book is the second one that has mentioned the full moons, so we know it has to have been at least a month. Where month literally means moon-cycle.) It's nice to know there isn't any backstory to have to get caught up on. I want to know exactly what Erenne means, though, and how it pertains to Kaylin in relation to both Nightshade and Severn! I was under the impression from the first few books that she was Nightshade's Erenne, but in this book, he refers to her (and he, sadly, is not very present at all in this book) as the Erenne. Like, maybe, there's only one. Maybe he just meant there is only one Erenne in Nightshade. But we do know that he claims her, and she is growing slightly more comfortable with him. So satisfy a girl's curiosity, lady! If I was a fiefling, I'd bet that she ends up with Nightshade, or at least living with him in the Castle, with Severn as her protector. (It is implied very early on that Erenne has a vaguely similar meaning to "consort," if far more specific - what that specification IS is what we don't know - and that it is a relationship that must be consumated in some fashion to be fully claimed. As Nightshade is the only character that has expressed any kind of physical attraction to Kaylin, I'm going on that basis. It can also somehow give the two of them more power, not that either of them really need it, or, in Kaylin's case, want it.) And why IS Nightshade Outcaste? He is still very much on top of things that happen in the Barrani Court, and is obviously not entirely hated there even now, based on Cast in Courtlight (the second book). The next book, Cast in Silence, is slated to come out sometime in late 2009, and it can't come fast enough!

In other news, I've now officially learned the first half of my weapons form and now have the lovely challenge of figuring out the reverse and repeat of it - the second half of the form is the same as the first half, just with the bahng mahng ee in the opposite hand. It's a LOT harder with the left hand than the right! White Christmas starts rehearsals tomorrow, and while I'm fond of the cast and the show actually seems pretty fun and fluff and we're already in FAR better shape than we were this time last year, I'm still very much resenting how much time I will be out of class due to it. Which is ridiculous, because it's not like I'm still a color belt with a new test to worry about every few weeks (and come close to failing, like I did this time last year). I just got my belt two months ago; I won't even be eligible to test for rank again for another ten months. So I don't know what my problem is. I do know that I may break down and pay for a Gold's Gym membership, though - they are open 24/7, and I've found the time I am best able to work out is after I get off work, no matter what time of day that is. While I did pretty decently on my PT last time, I want it to be easy next time. Or at least, I want to still have a lot more energy for the sparring part of the tests next time. So I might as well start training now.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I think I'll eat some breakfast, then change the world!

Or, at least maybe help make a difference in someone's life. I spent the latter part of this morning and early part of this afternoon helping teach the first of a series of women's self-defense seminars offered through the dojahng. I wasn't really supposed to be teaching, I was supposed to be there as moral support for some friends who had said they were coming. However, said friends never showed up (you know who you are!), we had more people show up than expected, and Sir had done something to his shoulder in aikido last night, so I ended up helping out. We had about 20-25 women, I think. A few were from kickboxing, a couple more had kids in the tkd program. We went through all the strikes that we normally do in our haganah warmups (punches, wedge strikes to the neck, elbow strikes, knees), then divided into groups of 2-5 and did two choking attacks and a knife threat. Each instructor (me, Ma'am, Mr. R, Morgan, and Gil) worked with a group, and then rotated so that the ladies could practice on different body types and strengths. Some of the ladies picked it up right away and had some good stuff going on, others had some problems just working up to the idea of hitting someone else. It takes all types, I guess. All of them afterwards said that they'd really liked the class and were looking forward to next month's.

Other than that, not much is going on. After the previous post, I got a chance to talk with AF Guy (who is currently stationed in Hawai'i, the lucky dog), and he kind of brought me back down to earth a little. (He did offer the AF as an alternative career to consider several times, though, which isn't as out-there as it might seem.) I also talked to Chrissy and I may not work on Les Mis in the spring now, and just pick it up for the summer, which would give me a decent break from shows for a while. White Christmas honestly shouldn't be that bad, I just have to live through a month of rehearsals, and then I can go back to having class five nights a week for almost two months straight. Then another month of rehearsals for Midsummer, then three months of class, I hope. So it might work out. Doesn't help the money, but it does help the emotional and mental stress. I miss haganah so badly right now!

Anyway, my allergies are driving me nuts, and I have a show tonight, so I'm going to go take a nap for a while. Go Boilers!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult

Long post about career thoughts behind the cut. It's not particularly exciting, just needed to get thoughts down.

Ever been in a place where you really really really love what you do, but it doesn't feel like enough? Even though you enjoy it, it's not challenging enough (at least, not in ways you'd like to be challenged - seeing how many times you can beat your head against the same wall isn't my idea of a challenge), it's not important enough in the grand scheme of things, and there is absolutely no way to advance in it? That's where I am right now. The hobby that I have turned into a career is right now feeling like a quicksand bog - doing nothing will prevent me from going down, but it won't get me out, either, whereas trying to get out will cause me to sink before I'll be able to swim. But what else would I do? There are two or three other professions that absolutely fascinate me, and I think I would be really good at, but two would require going back to school and starting completely over, and one would require six months training and then assignment to somewhere out of my control.

This is not to say that I don't like my current job. I do - I love working on shows, and with the students. I'm just getting burned out a little, I think. I've been in rehearsal or performance for various shows since March and there is no relief in sight - my current show closes Sunday, I start rehearsals for the holiday show next Tuesday, get two weeks off for Christmas, and come back to start rehearsals for yet another show, which will then go straight into the spring musical as well. Yes, I know, welcome to the adult world and full time jobs. Suck it up, right? I've already gotten a whole week's vacation this year, and get two weeks off at Christmas! Lucky! The way things work here, if I ONLY went in for rehearsals/performances (as in, came in the door at call time and left at end of call), I would work 40 hours a week. That's a full time job right there, and that's not even HALF of what I do. And I get ONE day off a week. And no, I don't get paid overtime, and my salary (with a college degree, no less) is barely better than if I worked at McDonalds. (We had to get raises last year so we could meet minimum wage requirements. The health insurance is better, though.) I'm just getting tired of having to work so much and carry so much responsibility, but still only living hand to mouth. I'm tired of having to be perfect all the time. I'm tired of being the middleman in EVERYTHING. I'm tired of not being able to bring myself to care anymore. I can't pay off debts like this. I can't save any money. I can't travel. I can't date. I can't enjoy anything else in my life on a regularly scheduled basis, because my schedule changes every few weeks. Right now, pretty much any job that works steady hours and that I can put away when those hours are done sounds absolutely fantastic.

I just feel like I have something more to do with my life, but I'm not quite sure what that is yet.

In happier news, CP #1 is very close to done, I'd say about 80% right now. I'm hoping to finish it by the end of the week. My problem, which I didn't think of when I created this evil plot, is that none of the rest of my projects are of the true mindless knitting variety, which I will need in the booth. Curses! I may have to modify one thing now. It shouldn't be too bad, I don't think.

Also, because of my crazy, weird schedule, the first part of this week is back to 9:00a - 5:00p days, so I can go to class tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday! Yay! Seven classes in three days! I will be so sore! And I'm going to be at the self-defense seminar on Saturday morning! A few of the girls from PCPA have said they're interested, but they would only go if I went, too. Sir said it would be stuff that I can already do in my sleep, but he's okay with me being there to help out my friends and pointed out that it would be really nice to be in a situation where I only have to dish stuff out, I'm probably not going to have to take much punishment!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


We've been having problems with our rehearsal building being left open at night. We aren't the only people who use the building, and with regular classes starting up, it's hard to find a solution that is convenient for everyone involved. However, it's not very fun to come back from Solvang at 11:00p at night and realize that the building is completely open, and completely empty, and you have no idea how long it's been that way. There are no windows back where my office is. I told my higher-ups that if I ever found the building like that again, I would lock the front doors without going inside the building, and go home to do the paperwork. I am lucky in the sense that they seem just as concerned about this as I am, and we are currently working together with the other departments who use the building at night to form some kind of security plan. Between that situation and my car getting broken into, I've had self-defense on the brain a lot lately.

It's great that people are concerned and all; really, I do appreciate their work so far in this, but I have had three seperate people say something along the lines of "You're a black belt. What are YOU worried about?!" I usually respond with a gritted-teeth smile and say "Yes, I am. And the first rule of self-defense is to NOT PUT YOURSELF IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU MIGHT HAVE TO USE IT!" Then I try to say something more benign, like, "Fighting is a waste of energy. I don't go looking for fights." They usually blink and agree after that. I know it's not their fault for automatically falling into Hollywood stereotypes, but honestly. I'd like to think that I could hold my own in a fair fight, but an attack, by definition, is NOT a fair fight. The attacker has surprise on his side, and more importantly, wants to fight and cause pain. I don't. The idea of actually doing full-out some of the things we do in haganah is a little stomach-churning, actually, although if it came down to me or him, I know which one I'd pick. I'm a black belt, yes, but not Superman, and the style I rank in isn't the one I would instinctively turn to in a dangerous situation. If someone really wants to hurt me, they could, and all the martial arts knowledge in the world isn't going to help you if someone has a gun aimed at you and is pulling the trigger. My goal is just to be able to survive something like that, God forbid it should ever happen. And if it turns out that I can say, "Yeah, but you should see the OTHER guy!" at the end of it, that's just icing. Of course, should that person survive, he'd then get hunted down by my daddy, my baby brother, and all my FIGHT guys and I would not pity him in the slightest.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Running with scissors

As in, do they really trust me with these things?

Regular class tonight was all about self-defense. We had a whole family of white belts start tonight, which was cool, and I ended up working with two of them on the color belt defenses. Then, when they split off to work forms, Sir had the black belts start working and reviewing the haganah defenses with one person in the middle and the rest of us doing the different random attacks. Then he wandered off to work with some of the higher color belts on their forms (we had a really big class tonight), and after we'd finished that drill the rest of the black belts start looking at me like I have any idea what to do next. I answered a few questions for them (none of the other tkd students do haganah as well, so I guess most of this is relatively new stuff for them, and very old stuff for me), and then started teaching one of them, a kid who has recently aged up to the teen/adult class and had therefore never done ANY of the haganah defenses, the basic punch defense while the others paired off. It was just weird that I was the lowest dan there, but they were asking me what to do next.

Other than that, and the giant headache that has been hanging around my right temple since I woke up today, classes were really good. Mel was back in class tonight (it's a year today since she had her knee surgery, and about fifteen months since she tore it up in my first sparring class), and it was fun to have her as a partner. She's been training for the past few months, but now is getting ready to test for her third degree, and her knee has been officially deemed good enough to be back in regular classes with us. She was my first sparring partner tonight, too, and we kept making cracks about the last time we'd faced each other (that first class). It felt good to spar tonight in general, though. I feel like I'm maybe starting to lose the fear of injury again, since we've been doing it more regularly, which is a good thing. Instructor class also went pretty well, I think. Tonight we did the higher belt forms, and I was really surprised to discover that I knew them (with a few small mistakes) without even really thinking too hard about them. The switching back and forth between form styles, though (dan form techniques are slightly but significantly different than gup ones), takes some brain power still, though. Sir watched me go through my regular form, corrected a few things (a foot angle and a balance issue), told me I was doing really well with it, and then started teaching my weapons form! I'm still doing single bahng mahng ee (one fighting stick), and I only learned the first dozen or so moves of it, but I like it so far. Definitely more than I thought I would, although I have to admit to liking the weapons drills better than the forms. There's just something very satisfying feeling the sticks crack against your partner's. The other thing is that I will NOT be midterming in October now because we started the weapons so late. This is actually a really fabulous thing because it means that my first midterm will probably be in December, after I'll have been able to be back in class five nights a week for a month or so. It should be absolutely no problem at all now. And, I get to go back in on Friday and work by myself again. Yay!

Anyway, CP #1 is still cruising along, my sleep schedule is back to its no classes routine and is not being helped the fact that I don't really need to go to the office at all during the day right now (pretty much, I'm not sleeping any kind of normal hours right now, which sucks), my right forearm is definitely going to be sore tomorrow, as I am not used to the weight of a weapon, and I have to go in early to babysit Outreach tech, so I'm crashing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sometimes I'm not so dumb!

So, I'm pretty pleased with myself. For one thing, I made a mistake while working on CP #1 during the show tonight. A simple, not paying attention to the pattern because I *was* working, mistake, and I didn't catch it until a few rows later. After a few moments of mentally kicking myself, I realized I could fix it without having to frog or tink back. I just waited until we were back on the bus (where I had better light), and, being a smart knitter who carries her notions bag, which includes several sizes of crochet hooks, with her at all times these days, was able to carefully drop and rework each of the sixteen stitches I'd messed up two rows back. No frogging or tinking and having to redo work! Hooray!

For another thing, the insurance company is being unusually cooperative and karma may be on my side for once. Not only are they reimbursing me for the window, but they also gave me a generous overestimate for the repairs to the lock on the door. On top of that, I got an email from our equivalent of a CFO today - AHC once again screwed up my paycheck this month and will reimburse me next month. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop - the company screwed up, or the deductable wasn't paid correctly or something. We'll see, I guess, but for now, it's really nice to think I might actually still be able to eat and drive this month.

Can't wait for class on Monday!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hoofing it

So, after two days and more money than I really have, my car once again has all four windows. It's now sitting, probably cold and damp and lonely, in the parking lot at the dealership, where the damage to the door lock must now be inspected and assessed and hopefully repaired tomorrow. It's not a complete nuisance - I did have a perfect excuse to spend 40m in the car with Cute Guy on the way back from Solvang - but it is enough of one to count. The good news is that it should all be over soon. The police think they may have caught the...irritating people...after they broke into another garage last night and stole a bike. I really hope that not only the fingerprints the police took from my car are useable at all, but that they match up to one or more of these people, and a little karmic justice wouldn't be sneezed at, either. A scratch from all that broken glass gets infected or something small but irritating like that. Not that I'm petty or anything.

In other news, I finished the second part of CP #1 today and am moving on to the third and final part. Tech in Solvang is going well, although it's FREEZING down there and I'm really glad they moved me up to the booth and out of the wind a night early. (And I can knit up there!) I got my free upgrade cell phone today, and am really excited about it. (It's basically my Sony Walkman and Sony Ericsson phone's lovechild - and it's blue!) The keypad is a little small, but I can live with it. Now I just have to get a headset for it!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Picking up the pieces...

...luckily of nothing earth shattering or overly dramatic. I did get to spend a good 45m sweeping up broken glass from my garage floor this morning, though. At a time far, far earlier than anyone should ever be awake on their day off (okay, so that is slightly exaggerated - it was, like, 9:00a, but given the fact that I'd already been up for two hours, and had only fallen asleep four hours before that, it felt wayy too early).

Why the sudden urge for cleanliness? Because some jackass (pardon my language, but I'm not really in a mood to be polite) decided to break into my garage...AGAIN. This is the third time in less than three months my garage has been broken into. Oh, and the third time's quite the charm, too - this time he/they decided to break into my car, as well. Luckily, I apparently keep nothing of fenceable value in the car; I never leave my purse or phone in the car, my stereo is crap, I don't really listen to CDs, and my portable XM radio was brought inside at the beginning of the summer in order to better listen to Cubs games. Things *I* consider valuable, like the over $150 worth of sparring, kickboxing, and haganah gear and weapons I keep in my duffel bag in the very back, apparently aren't worth stealing. Which is good, because I also keep my current belts in that bag, and I'd've been REALLY pissed if someone had stolen my black belt. As far as I can tell, the only thing missing, oddly, is the little binder that contained the car owner's manual and my registration and insurance cards. (A fact that I didn't notice until much later, when I realized it wasn't on the passenger floor with the rest of the stuff from the glove compartment and notified the police promptly when I saw the registration was gone.) The back window was shattered, and the lock on the front passenger door is broken on the outside. There doesn't seem to be any body or paint damage, though, which is good. Insurance will cover anything over my deductable, and the police have filed a report and even dusted for fingerprints, though they aren't sure there's anything useable.

But still...why me? This time, mine was the ONLY one hit. Why my garage AGAIN? And how in the world can I prevent it? Padlocks, as we know from previous experiences, just get cut. And completely negate the point of having a remote door opener. I told Gil about it before kickboxing today, and he volunteered to sit in my garage for a few nights with a comfortable chair. As he's a big guy, does haganah and aikido, and is literally covered in tattoos, *I* wouldn't want to mess with him if I came upon him in such a situation. I was talking with Mrs. S and Ma'am about it after classes tonight, and Mrs. S said that they'd had both their vehicles broken into on the street in front of their house. She has a couple of numbers for repair shops for me, which I'll call tomorrow.

The ladies (Mrs. S and Ma'am) taught tonight, as the guys were apparently watching Monday Night Football (yes, it's that big of a deal in our dojahng, you can even forego uniform shirts for team jerseys on Monday nights during football season). It was fun. It always makes me a little nervous when Mrs. S is there, because I'm just not used to working with her in that context, but it would be fun to have her in class more. Ma'am did kickboxing today, too, which was fun. She partnered with one of the newer ladies, as Gil had already claimed me as a partner after I'd told him about my morning. That was good - I'd really needed someone like Gil or Mr. R or Sir as a partner today to work off some frustration. They can hold the bag really well and don't look shocked or surprised if you just pound the hell out of it (some of the newer/less active in the school people look like I'm trying to break them sometimes). It was the first time I've really been angry enough to imagine a face on the bag, even though I have no idea whose face belongs there. We also started regular class with sparring, and I initially got partnered with Mr. M and Bob (our punching dummy), so by the time I got to the lower belts, I didn't have quite the anger energy going anymore. No instructor class tonight, since Sir wasn't there, so I didn't start my weapons form. I don't really get any new material in regular class at all anymore; it all comes in instructor class now. Mrs. S told me afterward that if I'd mentioned it, she would have started teaching it to me, but alas. Someday! I have hope!

In happier news, CP #1 is moving along quite nicely. I seem to always jinx myself if I say that I'll have something finished soon, so I won't say that. I will say that it is going much faster than I had anticipated, although I think I might have to rework something after I block it. I'm going to finish another section of it first, though. And I've finally settled on the yarn for CP #2. I still have no idea what I am going to use for CP #3, though. I have a few ideas, but not sure if any of them will fit into the budget. I'll have to shop around and see. Yarn shopping, sigh, life is so rough!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Plotting! Muha!

(ETA: Um, duh...I forgot to mention that I did finally finish my third Olympic project a few days ago. I now have a new pair of socks to wear next week in Solvang, yay!)

Okay...so by my reckoning, I have four projects to get done by Christmas. No, I will not be sharing specifically what these projects are, and no, they aren't for family members (mostly - one person has made a few not-so-subtle hints, and it's actually not the person who reads this the most!). Okay, one of the projects is in the "I want to make something for this person but have no idea what" category, so it might drop to three projects. One project is new for me, but easily do-able. One is a repeat for me (if I can find yarn I like). One is totally new ground and I'm not 100% sure I can pull it off at all, if I even work up the courage to try it. I hearby dub them Christmas Project #1, 2, 3, and 4. I started working on CP #1, the new but easy project, Sept. 1 (not on purpose, that was just the day that I finally got the right gauge going and could start the real project), so the way I figure it, I have four months to do four projects. At the rate #1 is going, this should be plenty of time, if I can do a project a month. #2 will be the new ground project for October (or whenever I finish #1), mostly because if that one takes me longer, I can fudge on the repeat project (#3) and the no idea project (#4). Sound like a plan?

I got to go to the dojahng for about an hour and a half on Friday and just worked on forms. I had the place to myself and it was so nice! I felt like I had actually accomplished something, and was able to focus on things. I hadn't realized how much time had gone by until Sir came back from whatever errand he'd been running. I was able to make it to FIGHT on Tuesday and most of kickboxing on Wednesday, so I haven't been completely out, but it will be good to be back in on Monday night. I can't wait to start my weapons form!

They're also doing a women's self-defense seminar on Saturday, Sept. 27th, from 11:30a-1:00p. I will probably be there, and I have at least two girls from work who have expressed an interest in it (although one did say it looked like fun. "Fun" isn't generally the first word that pops into my head with "self-defense," but whatever). Sir said it will be a lot of the basic stuff we do in haganah, just kind of broken down a bit more and more focused on female sizes and strengths. If anyone is interested, let me know and I can get you more info. I can also get you a discount, if that helps =)

I've also started reading, well, listening really, to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series (I have the current four books in audio format, which I'm discovering I really love and I really wish the Cast In... series could be on audiobook, because I really want to reread them all before the new book comes out next month, and I just don't have time right now). Anyway, if anyone has thought about checking out the series, if you're really into teen vampire romance, characters you want to slap upside the head and knock some sense into, and lots of angst, this is totally for you. If not, well, check it out - it isn't bad fluff reading - but don't spend money on it (and that's saying a lot, as I'd rather spend money on books than food, usually). I love my friend dearly, and normally agree with her literary tastes, but this is definitely NOT the "next Harry Potter!" Harry Potter does have its angst, but it also is full of literature and history and growing up and learning to stand up for yourself and for what you believe is right. I look forward to the day that I can read that series with my children. This series, so far (I've finished the first two books and am seriously considering just skipping to the end of the fourth one, which is not like me at all), is about a girl who needs to grow up and get over herself. I'd be really, really surprised if it lasted long enough that any children of mine would even want to read it.