Showing posts from 2012

Why I Love (Or Seriously Hate)...Dolores Umbridge

Well hello, Wednesday.  We meet again.  Wednesday means it's time for another installation of "Why I Love", a meme hosted by Alexis at Reflections of a Bookaholic.

It's really difficult for me to choose a favorite villain, this week's topic for Why I Love Wednesday.  I haven't read much recently that has a really good villain, which is quite sad.  However, I have come across several villains in the past.  I've written about one, but have decided to go another route this time.  Instead of discussing a villain that I love, I'm going with one that I despise.

My choice for favorite villain is...Dolores Umbridge.  Not because I like her or because she's my favorite anything, but because she is so incredibly horrible.  Maybe more horrible than Voldemort.  Maybe.  I just reread the entire Harry Potter series and it reminded me of how much I hate Umbridge.  She's completely evil and takes so much pleasure in her lofty position and inflicting pain on t…

Why I Love...The Babysitters Club

Midway through the week and it's time for an installation of Why I Love Wednesday, a meme hosted by Alexis from Reflections of a Bookaholic.  Today's topic is Favorite Childhood Series.  And, like many women my age, my favorite childhood series is, hands down, The Babysitters Club.

I loved, loved, loved The Babysitters Club.  I wanted to be a part of that club so badly.  I wanted to start my own Oregon chapter and conquer the needs of frazzled parents in a fun, timely, and enthusiastic manner.  Instead I contented myself with reading about the exploits of Stacey, Mary Anne, Claudia, Kristy, Dawn, Jessi, Mallory, and Logan and the town of Stoneybrook.  My favorite character was always Claudia because she was an artist.  I also really liked Dawn because she was earthy and crunchy (a very Northwest trait).  The issues that the series dealt with were spot on for me as a child/young teen and I really connected with these characters.

My love for this series even went so far as the …

Teaser Tuesday: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

I swore I wouldn't read this book.  Alas...

Today's teaser comes from Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  And now for your reading please:

"Abe couldn't help but smile.  Here was a strange little man with a strange way of seeing things.  Only the second living man he'd ever met who knew the truth of vampires.  He drank to excess and spoke in an irritating, high-pitched voice.  It was hard not to like him" (126)

Ah the overabundance of vampire novels lately...

A Long Absence

I realize that I have been virtually non-existent in my posting this past month.  Honestly, I have no excuses; I had plenty of downtime.  However, I chose to do something else (or nothing else) instead of catching my lovely readers up on my reviews, Why I Loves, and Teaser Tuesdays.  It's tragic and I apologize.  I feel like a failure in the blog-o-sphere, but I'm going to remedy this and soon!  Regardless of my tired excuses, here's a quick update on what's been going on with me in the PNW and what's going to be going on with the blog:

What's up with me:
 Summer term came to an end with excellent results.  I reread the Harry Potter books and fell in love with Hogwarts all over again :)  I had an interview at my Alma Mater for a position in administration. I was offered the position. I informed the community college I work for that I would be unavailable to teach courses in the Fall because of the new position I had accepted.  I will really miss interacting wit…

Why I Love...Favorite Chunkster

Yet again, another Wednesday of "Why I Love", a meme hosted by Alexis at Reflections of a Bookaholic.  This week's theme is Favorite Chunksters.  I'll be honest, I'd never heard this term in reference to books until I read Alexis' post for today.  Evidently, a "chunkster" is a hefty/thick/dense/long book.  Well, I've read a few of those and have several that I list among my favorite books; namely Gone with the Wind, the later books in the Harry Potter series (I wouldn't consider the first three "chunksters"), Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, and others.

But for today's favorite "chunkster", I'm going with Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which I read as a senior in college.  It was the only book we read the entire term (three months), though we did read critical theory and other supplemental materials in addition to this book.  It's an incredibly dense book that requires many things to finish: concen…

Why I Love...Gifted Books

Another Wednesday has fallen upon us and that means it's time for another edition of "Why I Love Wednesday", a meme hosted by Alexis at Reflections of a Bookaholic.  This week's topic is Gifted Books.  While I don't tend to get many books as gifts (I can be slightly difficult to buy books for) and am more apt to give them, there are a few that have been given to me and were great gifts.

First on this list would be Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina.  I received this book in the original German from my, much loved, German professor when I graduated from undergrad.  She wrote a beautiful inscription on the front page and it's definitely a book that I will keep for as long as I can.  I have yet to read the entire thing (it's in German, therefore a little more slow-going than an English version), but I am determined to one day finish it.

Secondly would be a Christmas present I received from my parents years ago.  I have always been a huge fan of Nirvana and when Ku…

The History of Love: A Review

I don't think I've been this disappointed in a book for a long time.  That's saying something...

Nicole Krauss' The History of Lovefollows the journey of a book written sixty years prior as it makes its way from Poland to South America to New York.  This book is a history--a history of the love one person has for another.  It's been hidden (or lost) for years, but manages to resurface in an unexpected way.  Told from the perspective of two people, the aging Leo and fourteen-year-old Alma, it is a testiment to just how far people will go to discover the truth in times of healing.  This book manages to bring these two characters together in a roundabout way that is both fitting and justifying. 
Pretencious...overreaching...angering...rough.  Have I said enough?  I had such high hopes for this book.  The plot sounded intriguing.  The synopsis sounded good.  The characters sounded interesting.  Instead, I was left completely underwhelmed by this novel.  I think what mad…

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A Review

I finally got around to reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo after having it for a long, long time and hearing so much about it.  I have yet to see the movie--either version--but they are both in my Netflix queue and I will watch them eventually.  Regardless, here's what I thought.

Tattoo brings the reader into the lives of several people; namely Michael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.  Blomkvist, watching while his career falls into shambles, has been asked to write a family history for a well-known, aging Swedish industry tycoon, Henrik Vanger.  However, things are not what they seem.  What Vanger really wants is for Blomkvist to spend a year investigating the disappearance of his neice some forty years prior.  Through this seemingly impossible investigation, Blomkvist comes into contact with Lisbeth and the two form a rather tenuous working relationship (with some interesting perks).  Lisbeth, an accomplished hacker and ward of the state, is socially awkwa…

Why I Love...Book Recommended by Another

It's Wednesday...evening.  Oops!'s installation of Why I Love concerns book recommendations.  While I seem to be the main book recommender (huh?) in my circle, I have had two books recommended to me by a friend, and I have to say that I fell in love with both.  I was surprised by this because I don't tend to like what everyone else likes or go with the mainstream.  Regardless, these were the books:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski:  I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book...times a million.  I remember seeing a synopsis of this book (before it became part of Oprah's Book Club) and thinking to myself..."Self, that sounds really good."  Alas, I forgot about it.  Of course.  Then a year or so later, my friend says "Hey, I have this book you should read.  I think you'll like it."  And that's how Edgar and his amazing self came into my life.  The book is about Edgar Sawtelle (ironic, right?), his family, and their…

Teaser Tuesday...The Witness

Another Tuesday has reared it's head in my world again and we all know what that means:  Teaser!  This week's teaser comes from Nora Roberts' The Witness.  Thank you Aunt Gayle for lending it to me over the weekend :)  And without further ado, the teaser...

"Add guns, he thought, and a to-do could go from a scene to a ruckus to a bloodbath in a heartbeat" (424).

Hmmm...wonder what this one's going to be about?  Happy Tuesday all :)

Teaser Tuesday...The World According to Bertie

Today's teaser comes from Alexander McCall Smith's The World According to Bertie:

"Some books, of course, were destined not to be read, largely because of their unintelligibility to all except a very small number of people" (171).

I think we can all come up with a few books that would fit this description.  Happy Tuesday!

Why I Love...Favorite Series

Getting back into the swing of things has taken a bit of effort on my part.  It seems that, with everything going on outside of the blogging world, my poor blog has taken a tragic hit.  I've been so neglectful of consistent posting...though I do have several (perhaps ten or so) drafts in the works to be edited.  Wow.  So, to help aid my way back into consistent blogging, I'm participating in this week's edition of "Why I Love".  I've been participating in this blogging meme for a while now, but have missed weeks recently.  However, here's my attempt at getting back in the groove!  This week's topic is Favorite Series.

There are so many series that I absolutely love.  The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan...and on and on.  But I'm not going to talk about any of those, mainly because I've written about every single one of them in some capacity; esp…

Fifty Shades of Grey: A Review

E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey has become quite the hot little ticket in the "literary" world (I use that term loosely); especially when it comes to the leanings of suburban housewives and whatnot.  While I did put off reading this book for a bit, I finally caved to the pressure and bought the whole damn trilogy.

Grey follows the developing relationship between recently graduated English major Anastasia Steele and Seattle business tycoon Christian Grey.  Anastasia soon becomes completely mesmerized by Christian, as does every single other woman who comes in contact with him, though she tries desperately to keep her distance from Christian and the intense feelings he has for her.  As the two get to know each other, revelations about Christian and his...preferences...are revealed to both Anastasia and the reader.  Soon the two embark on a rather erotic, passionate, and very physical affair.

I must be honest in my opinion; it was a quick, engaging, and jaw-dropping read!  …

Teaser Tuesday...PS, I Love You

I always swore that I would never, Never, NEVER read Cecilia Ahern's novel PS, I Love You.  Why so adamant, you might ask.  Well, let me tell you in two simple words:  Hilary Swank.  I haven't picked this book up because of the movie (which I've yet to see) because I can't stand Hilary Swank for some odd reason.  It's strange.  I don't mind her in Freedom Writers or even in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the original), but for some inexplicable reason there is something about her that grates on my nerves.  It's the same way my friend Margaret feels about Julia Roberts, whom I like a lot.  And another aspect of the film that grates...she's NOT American!!!  Ugh.  Screw you, Hollywood!
Anyway...while wandering through a bookstore in Portland, I came across a copy of PS that was not a movie promotion copy (I prefer the non-movie cover ones) and it was only two dollars.  And, being me, I caved and bought the damn thing.  I've loved everything by Cecilia Ahern…

Why I Love...Guest Post

I'm a guest poster for Alexis over at Reflections of a Bookaholic today.  Today's topic for Why I Love Wednesday is Favorite Book Worlds.  Check it out!

Teaser Tuesday...The Promised World

Today's teaser comes from one of my many Dollar Tree finds:  Lisa Tucker's The Promised World.  I'm nearly 150 pages into it and it's been  good so far.  Verdict's still out on overall opinion.  Regardless, here's a teaser:

"She paused.  'I suppose I sound too excited.  I'm a great believer in stories.  I used to tell Billy I was afraid we loved stories more than real life, but he said, 'What is life but a story we don't know the meaning of yet?'"" (10).

This excerpt is pretty spot on with my approach to stories and books; they are like real life (kind of...sort of).  I mean, who doesn't want to be a student at Hogwart's or roam the halls of Tara or befriend Boo Radley?  Happy Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesday...A Thousand Splendid Suns

I borrowed Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns over a year ago from a dear friend and am finally getting around to reading (it was in storage for about a year due to a house fire...yeah).  I've yet to read The Kite Runner, or see the movie, but it's on my list; my ever growing list.  Regardless, so far I'm loving this's a teaser:

"Maybe it was senseless to want to be near a person so badly here in a country where bullets had shredded her own brothers to pieces.  But all Laila had to do was picture Tariq going at Khadim with his leg and then nothing in the world seemed more sensible to her" (153).

Definitely worth the read...

Teaser Tuesday...Repetitive Boyfriends

I'm halfway through with the dreaded week of finals; I still have a stack of final essays to grade and one department grading session to complete this week before I can sign off for a much needed week long break, but it's finally starting to wind down.  Added to the chaos that is final's week, the Euro Cup started a few days ago and I have watched every game (even if I had to DVR it and watch it later).  Naturally this takes time away from grading essays (whoops) and posting reviews.  However, this is a necessary evil because I LOVE the Euro Cup and football/soccer in general, as I stated in a previous post

But that's beside the point.  It's Tuesday and that means one thing: teaser time!  I've picked up a quick read because I'm behind on my GoodReads 2012 Challenge quota and I'm trying desperately to get caught back up.  So today's teaser comes from Nora Roberts' The Last Boyfriend.  It's the second in the Inn BoonsBoro series and just came…

Teaser T uesday...Hornets are Nasty Little Buggers

I've still not written a review for Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...or The Girl who Played with Fire, both of which I've finished.  I promise I'll get to it.  Despite that, here's a teaser from the third and final book in the series, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest:

"Then he cut away the bandage that the emergency team had wrapped around her skull.  He froze when he saw another entry wound.  The woman had been shot in the head, and there was no exit wound there either" (6)

I'm only about 100 pages into this book, but I'm enjoying it so far :)  Happy Tuesday all!

Between Shades of Gray

Sometimes a book comes along that has something special to it.  That spark or element that makes you fall in love with it and hope that it never ends.  Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray was one of those books for me.  I randomly picked this book up at Wal-Mart (it was cheap and sounded good) and I'm so glad that I did because I don't know if I'd have picked it up anywhere else...or even remembered that I read the back of it. 

Gray follows the story of Lina and her family as they try to survive the terrible effects of WWII; including deportation, harrowing traveling experiences, Soviet labor camps, Siberia and the Arctic Cirlce, cruel winters, and even crueler captors.  What ensues is one girl's struggle to survive despite all odds.  Through all of this, she is able to take solace in her art; the one thing that her captors cannot take from her.  With her art, Lina is able to document the atrocities that befall her and her fellow captives at the hands of the Sovie…

Peculiar Children = Peculiar Story

I know I finished Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children quite a while ago, but I just haven't had the time (or inclination) to write a review, or any review for that matter.  So, instead of grading the ever growing pile of essays on my desk, I figured I'd at least get one review, this one, out of the way!

Peregrine follows the adventures of Jacob and his search into his grandfather's past.  After the untimely death (murder?!) of his grandfather, Jacob sets off to discover who his grandfather really was.  This leads him to a small island off the coast of Great Britain.  While there, he discovers that the orphanage his grandfather lived in during the war had been partially destroyed in 1943.  However, he soon stumbles upon a vortex of sorts that takes him back to the island during WWII and the home his grandfather resided in with other "displaced" children.  This vortex allows Jacob, and those he encounters, to inhabit both the present an…

Why I Love...Katniss Everdeen

Today's topic for "Why I Love Wednesday" is one that I can write about forever...Favorite Character.  There are so many characters that I've fallen in love with in all of my reading adventures.  Of course the majority of them come from Harry Potter (naturally), but I have loved others:  Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief, Charlotte Doyle from The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Bertie from 44 Scotland Street, Joe Morelli from the Stephanie Plum series, Minnie from The Help, Edgar Sawtelle from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, John Thornton from North and South, and on and on and on...honestly.

But for this post, I'm going with Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy.  Katniss is, for lack of a better word, a badass!  She shows what a true heroine should be.  While she starts in a place that some might consider a little selfish and contained, her character develops in such a beautiful way that she becomes someth…

Awards and Random Creativity

Thanks to Nick from Scattergun Scribblings for this Kreativ Blogger Award (my first blogging award)!  I encourage everyone to check out his blog.

And now for the rules to the Kreativ Blogger:
1.  Thank and link back to the person who presented you with the award.
2.  Answer the ten questions below.
3.  Share ten random facts/thoughts about yourself.
4.  Nominate seven worthy blogs for the Kreativ Blogger Award!

It's that simple! goes...

What is your favorite song?--It's incredibly difficult for me to choose one specific favorite song because I have such an eclectic taste in music (seriously).  But if I had to choose one (and someone was holding a gun to my head), I would probably"The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot" by Brand New...or..."Who's Cryin' Now" by Journey.  See, I can't even choose one with a gun pointed at me!  Pathetic.

What is your favorite dessert?--Mmmmm dessert!  I love love love love love pumpkin…

Teaser Tuesday...Fifty Shades of a Little More Whoa!

So last week I posted a teaser for E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey and I quickly plowed through that book.  I'm nearly 300 pages into the second one, but here's a teaser anyway!

"He smirks.  He's trying to put me off my game, the bastard.  He pulls his cream sweater over his head, tosses it onto the back of a chair, and grins at me, as he saunters over to take his first shot" (238).

Hot damn...that's probably the sexiest game of pool I've ever read.  I'd play a game of pool with this guy!  Happy Tuesday everyone :)

Teaser Tuesday...Fifty Shades of Whoa!

Needless to say, I have been a big time slacker in posting my reviews and whatnot.  I have three books that I've finished and need to write reviews for and I'm about finished with another book.  It's that time of the term (damn you midterms and essays that have to be graded in a "timely" manner), and it's been a busy one.  However, despite those necessary distractions, I've still been able to keep up on my reading.  Because of that, I give you today's teaser from E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey:

"'Ana, there's something about him.'  Her tone is full of warning.  'He's gorgeous, I agree, but I think he's dangerous.  Especially for someone like you.'
'What do you mean, someone like me?' I demand, affronted.
'An innocent like you, Ana.  You know what I mean,' she says a little irritated.  I flush" (39).

Oh man oh man, I've been hearing a lot about this book.  A lot of racy stuff and a lot of …

Why I Love...the Anti-Hero

Today's topic for Why I Love Wednesday is Favorite Heroes...well, I'm taking this in a different way and declaring my love for the Anti-Hero.  Anti-Heroes are generally the underdog of the story or the "hero-in-hiding" and seeing them triumph in one way or another is always one of my favorite aspects in a story.  So, here's to the Anti-Heroes!

My most loved anti-hero is, hands down, Severus Snape.  Many would argue that he is not worthy of being considered a hero, but I would beg to differ...heatedly.  He's loyal to a fault and completely constant in his treatment toward others.  These aspects alone garner him hero status in my book.  But if someone needs more convicing, simply look at how he sacrifices himself on countless occassions: with Draco, with Harry, with Dumbledore, and, ultimately, with his own life.  Here's your medal, Professor!
Another hero who falls under the anti status would be Death from The Book Thief.  Death being considered a hero?  Hu…

Teaser Tuesday...Love's Got a Back Story

It's Tuesday...and that means it's teaser time.  This week's excerpt comes from Nicole Krauss' The History of Love.  This book was the one I received to distribute as a book giver for World Book Night US, a great organization to promote literacy and a love of reading.  I thought it sounded like a wonderful story, so I picked up a copy for myself.

"The moment had passed, the door between the lives we could have led and the lives we led had shut in our faces.  Or better to say, in my face.  Grammar of my life:  as a rule of thumb, wherever there appears to be a plural, correct for singular.  Should I ever let slip a royal We, put me out of my misery with a swift blow to the head" (86).
This book sounds promising and I'm looking forward to reading it.  Hopefully it will be the light at the end of an otherwise dark and incredibly sad week...

Z is for Zoos

Well, we've done it fellow A-Zers; completed the A-Z Blogging Challenge and done so with style.  I stumbled upon so many wonderful blogs throughout this month and want to thank everyone who checked mine out.  Thank you for sharing your insights and thoughts with me and for allowing me to do the same.  And now for the last letter in this wonderful challenge....Z...
Zoos There is something magical about zoos.  No matter how old you are, a zoo brings you right back to your childhood and fills you with this incredible sense of wonder.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that you're looking at animals that you normally don't see walking down the street.  Whatever it is, I think that going to zoos should become more of a regular activity in our lives.  This can be accomplished relatively inexpensively in some places.  For instance, the Oregon Zoo is free for every visitor on Tuesday.  Granted, Tuesdays are not the most convenient, but it's a start.  They also put on concerts i…

Y is for "You are Calm and Reposed"

You are calm and reposed...
"You are calm and reposed / Let your beauty unfold / Pale white, like the skin stretched over your bones / Spring keeps you ever close / You are second-hand smoke / You are so fragile and thin, standing trial for your sins / Holding on to yourself the best you can / You are the smell before rain / You are the blood in my veins"

These are my all-time favorite lyrics from Brand New's "The Boy who Blocked his Own Shot" off of their second album, Deja Entendu.  Soooooo good.  Definitely one of my most loved songs as well.  Check it out.
 Have a lovely Saturday everyone!

X is for "The X in My Name"

We're coming in to the homestrech of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and it's time for one of the most difficult letters of the alphabet...that pesky X.  Here's my solution:

The X in My Name (1993)
the poor
of my illiterate
and peasant
giving away
all rights
in a deceiving
contract for life

Francisco X. Alarcon...brilliant.
An interview with Fransisco X. Alarcon for Colorin Colorado where he discusses his cultural heritage and how it shaped his poetry.  It's long, but good.
TGIF fellow A-Zers...remember whe that was good television?!

W is for World Competitions

World Competitions
I like big sporting competitions, especially those that bring together multiple nations and cultures.  There is something magical about them.  Some of my favorites are:
The World Cup (both men's and women's) Oh man, oh man, oh man...the World Cup is a party in my world.  As I stated in a previous post, I am a huge, huge, huge soccer fan and this competition is one of my all-time favorites.  Everything from the qualifiers to the championship game, I'm down with.  I'm able to cheer on the good ole USA (though the men's team hardly make it as far as I want them to) and my favorite team, Germany.  Good deal!  When it comes to the Women's World Cup...USA all the way!  Next one...Brazil 2014! The Euro Cup Definitely along the same lines as the above, but this competition is awesome all on its own.  It fuses my love of Europe with soccer.  Word.  Again, my lovely German national team is always in it for the win...and Spain.  I do like Spain.  Next one...…

V is for Vienna

Vienna, Austria Oh Vienna, land of Mozart, Sachertorte, Kaesekraeners, and delicious Eis.  I spent an amazing year living in Vienna in 2006/2007 teaching English just north of the city in Klosterneuburg.  The school I taught in specialized in wine production and vineyards...sweet deal!  Needless to say I learned a lot about wine and was even able to sample some of the bottles my students helped to cultivate.  Pretty awesome.  While living in the city (right near the Suedbahnhof), I had the opportunity to explore a lot of things.  Here are just a few:

 Blog on fellow A-Zers.  We're nearing the end :)

Teaser Tuesday...In the Between

Though I'm still reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I have picked up a read to break the heftiness of it up.  Something that can be plowed through quickly and that I can easily read between spurts of Tattoo.  That book is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.  I found this, randomly, at Wal-Mart (I know, I know) on the cheap.  It sounded good, so I picked it up and here you go:

"Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?  That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch" (27).
This looks like a pretty good read to me and it's been decent so far.  Fingers crossed that it continues to be so.  Happy Tuesday everyone!

U is for Utopia

I've always meant to read Thomas More's Utopia...pretty much since I watch Ever After starring Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston (I love that movie despite Barrymore's atrocious British accent and the fact that everyone has a British accent yet it's set in France).  Recently I found an extremely inexpensive copy of the book and am bound and determined to start is soon.  Here's hoping it's sooner rather than later.
Take a peak at the trailer for the movie...good stuff.  Have a terrific day everyone!

T is for Traveling

Holy moly do I love
Traveling I've always liked the idea of discovering new places, but have hated the actual means of getting there.  It could have been due to the fact that I had a tendency to get car sick if I wasn't sitting in the front seat.  This was true when I was a child because we ALWAYS drove whenever we went on vacation;  Disneyland...Vegas...Seattle...anyplace within pseudo driving distance.  Once I entered college I decided to branch out in my traveling repertoire.  I had been on a plane once when I was fourteen.  It was a two hour flight to Vegas.  Who goes to Vegas when they're fourteen?!?  For spring break of 2003, my friend Dani and I decided that we were going to go somewhere crazy.  Cue Japan.  That's right...Japan.  Going from a two hour flight to a seventeen hour flight...BIG DIFFERENCE!  It's a long, exhausting flight from Portland, Oregon to Okinawa, Japan, but it was one of the best vacations ever.  Seeing such a different culture was amazing…