Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I have not had much chance to post lately... two weeks ago a new foster child joined our family, and although he is great, things have been hectic! This is our first adventure in fostering after the one-year journey to be approved, and it turns out there's very little about it I can blog.

However, I can tell you about the formal family movie night we've instituted on Fridays. Somehow it has fallen to me to pick the movies, even though it's my husband who's the movie buff in the family. After the obvious first pick of "Up" last week, I've been struggling to come up with a good second movie. I thought of "Shrek" first, but didn't want two animated movies in a row. (Yes, I have picky conditions.) I wanted to mix in something old and not resort to Pixar or Dreamworks every week, keep the boys happy but also the adults, and be rated G or PG in Ontario. I desperately wished for something like LibraryThing's recommendation engine, that would suggest movies instead of books. The fledgling "this one next" website was supposed to offer movies eventually, but never got off the ground. I've never liked Amazon's recommendations. After an embarrassingly long time, it occurred to me to type "movie recommendations" into Google, read a CNET article on the ten best movie recommendation sites, and bingo... there I was on!

CNET warned me that it was ugly, and that it is. You start out by rating 15 movies, but because I was only thinking about movies suitable for children, I had to wade through many screens of movie titles to find ones worth rating. Many times I was faced with movies that sounded like they had potential, but I didn't know how to rate them - so I came up with the strategy of checking their RottenTomatoes rating and basing my star rating on that. I was pleased that in the 15 I rated, it came up with some quirky titles, such as "Iron Giant". Since then I have had a bit of trouble finding my recommendations and displaying them in a useful format, but I've gotten a lot of good ideas.

This week's movie will be "Time Bandits", a 1981 Terry Gilliam movie that I vaguely remember hearing about but have never seen. The critics give it 95% on RottenTomatoes, and if it's anything like "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" I'll be happy. Then next week we can watch "Shrek"!

As further examples, today when I logged in I got the suggestions of "The Incredibles" (seen, liked, forgot about), "Tangled" (haven't seen, dubious, hubby says it's actually decent), "WALL-E" (seen, loved, can't believe I didn't think of!), "Coraline" (seen, adored, bonus Neil Gaiman book for the boys to read), and "The Secret of Roan Inish" (haven't seen, highly rated, probably worth a try).

It's working for me, and I'd recommend it to anyone who isn't afraid of a little hunting around for the option you want (keep in mind I'm a former IT professional and current CS teacher). If you end up using it, I'd be curious to know what you think!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I'm not really a purse person... I don't carry one, and I'm not a handbag lover. But, I do have a weakness for tote bags, and I feel like since I was in school I've looked for the perfect bag to carry all the paraphernalia I like to have with me when I'm out in the world.

Once out in the working world I carried a MEC courier bag, along with pretty much everyone else I knew. (I had a red ribbon on the zip of mine after an incident when I accidentally took a housemate's bag to work with me). They still carry them, and along with basic black I see there is a navy version too, now.

For many years I carried laptop bags that came with whatever computer I was assigned for work - boring and somewhat functional, but I always ended up having to carry my lunch separately, since a bag for a laptop never seems to have enough leftover width for plastic containers of food.

Currently I carry a roomy zip-top tote bag that carries lots of stuff, but is impossible to find things in. I've said for a while that I will never buy another black wallet, but what I really want is a bag with a bright, light-coloured lining so that I can see inside.

Mostly I'm telling you this because I wanted to post a link to the Butler Bag, and be able to find it again when I want it... could this be the answer to my problems? A big (9.5" tall by 16.5" long) bag with 3" compartments in the bottom? Quite possibly!

I'm not likely to find out, because this bag costs $225, and I don't think I could justify that to myself. Even their nylon totes (shown at right), which are more my style, are $85, but it doesn't look like I'd be able to put the straps over my shoulder, which is a necessity. At only 12.5" by 13", it's considerably less wide than my current tote bag.

Speaking of my current tote, I took a look to see what's currently in mine. Wallet, planner (a 9" by 7" by 1" binder), a knitting project on the go, a half-inch stack of tests to mark, a paperback library book, a drawstring bag with office supplies (post-its, paper clips, pencil sharpener), my reading glasses, one of those fold-up shopping bags, and a handful of pens and pencils. Realistically, then, since I don't carry a cellphone, PDA, or makeup, the little compartments aren't the most useful for me... however, perhaps I can start looking at knitting bags!