Tuesday, August 30, 2005
by Ursula K. LeGuin
I think I requested this book from the library based on Elizabeth's recommendation. I personally think Elizabeth is much smarter than I am, so I wasn't surprised to find that this is kind of a thinky booky. At first I thought it was unbearably slow and wanted something to happen, but once I got into the story a little bit, I was fascinated.
Shevek is a physicist from Urras, a moon colonized by an anarchist movement from the main planet of Anarres. Since the migration, contact between the two groups has been extremely limited. On Urras, everything is shared, including homes, food, and division of labor. On Anarres, capitalism is in full effect, resulting a society with a divide between the rich and the poor, men and women, residents and immigrants, and so forth. Shevek decides to visit Anarres as a scientist to study physics and to learn about this other society.
While not a whole lot actually *happens* in the course of the book, I was still glued to it. I was intrigued by the idea that anarchy - or perhaps socialism? - could possibly work if everyone was brought up from childhood to disbelieve in the concept of ownership. Children on Urras were taught to say "the mother" instead of "my mother" or "the bed I sleep in" instead of "my bed". And while couples could choose to pair-bond and live their lives together, it was not required or expected that everyone would want to. Really interesting stuff.
YELLING, that's what I'm here for
Monday, August 29, 2005
by J.K. Rowling
I'm finally caught up so I can read the latest book, which coworker L* graciously loaned to me.
Although, I really feel like I should read Order of the Phoenix again... I definitely missed something. The whole prophecy/tank of brains/mysterious gateway bidness sort of went over my head. Perhaps I am dense and should wait for the next movie!
by J.K. Rowling
Yeah, you know what this one's about too. The movie is coming out this winter, yay!
Harry gets entered in a magic contest where he competes with representatives from two other schools of magic and another contestant from Hogwarts. It's all very dangerous and exciting. Also, Harry starts having funny feelings, possibly in the pants area, about Cho Chang.
by J.K. Rowling
Everyone knows what this is about, right? I'm just catching up with the series - I had originally decided I wouldn't read the books until I'd seen the movies, but got impatient. Also, books stick with me better than movies, so I think I'll remember the events of the story better if I read them.
Very briefly: Harry is being pursued by Sirius Black who has escaped from the magician's prison at Azkaban. He's afraid that this Sirius character wants to kill him. For security, Hogwarts is being guarded by dementors, which suck all the happiness out of people... but Harry learns to deflect them with help from Remus Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
I love that a Kansas paper is publishing this story. Of course, it's in Lawrence, but still. Even better, click on the "On The Street" link at the bottom of the article!
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
clients are dumb
I just heard about this organization - apparently you pay $50 a year and then have access to pre-screened contractors for all kinds of home repair and improvement work. And the club itself acts as a middleman for payment - which gives the members leverage in case something goes wrong. Interesting idea. "Fences" is listed in the directory of services... and that's going to be our next project at home...
Monday, August 22, 2005
by Michelle Tea
This is the last of the books I picked up for my summer class. I ended up writing a paper about it, which shockingly earned me a 4.0. "Shockingly" because I thought my paper was kind of terrible, and because the teacher had said that only "near-perfect" papers get a 4.0 instead of a 3.9. Shows what I know.
Anyway, this book is a series of short pieces that chronicle about a year in the life of Michelle, the narrator, who is pretty much Michelle, the author. She's a lesbian. She's in her 20s. She lives in San Francisco. She has a string of girlfriends, some more colorful than others. She does a lot of drugs and has a lot of sex. More sex than drugs, though. She loses her jobs. She briefly works as a prostitute.
The writing is not bad, but for obvious reasons I couldn't relate to any of her story - and I'm not talking about her sexual orientation. It was actually more of a class disconnect for me, which is strange because we were broke as could be until I was a teenager. When I was 26, the age Michelle is in the book, I had a BA and a decent job and was engaged to be married and lived in a nice condo with my fiance and my life was just very different than hers. It was interesting to read in a National Geographic kind of way, I guess, but now I kind of feel like I never need to read it again.
Labels: book reports
valorebooks.com (use the codeword carebear when purchasing your books and you'll receive an additional 5% off your purchase, supposedly)
I took a teeny step forward on the nursing stuff this weekend - took a Red Cross first aid class. The first aid card is worth 1 point on the application for the nursing program - but 1 point is better than nothing! It was pretty interesting - I learned how to make a sling for a broken arm and stuff like that. Pretty cool.
It is such a relief to be done with my prereqs. I got a 4.0 in the multicultural crap class, yay! I was going to be really bent out of shape if I didn't - it was a LOT of work for a 100 level class.
We went to yoga class yesterday at our neighborhood yoga studio and now I am sore in weird places. I love that about yoga - it causes you to use muscles you didn't even know you had.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
by Jeannette Winterson
Another byproduct of my multicultural class research - I was going to write a paper about this book, but realized halfway in that it was set in Great Britain and I was supposed to be writing about Americans. I'm not sorry I read it, however - Winterson is a really good writer and her droll voice has stayed in my head.
The narrator of the book is a teenage girl who was adopted by extremely religious parents and raised with the goal of becoming a missionary. However, she thwarts her mother's plans for her by turning out to be a lesbian. The story chronicles her experiences with the church, her parents, and the surprising compassion of some of the members of the church congregation. I'm under the impression that the book is strongly autobiographical... and it makes my head ache to think that people can be so cruel to a girl just discovering who she is. I'm interested in reading more of Winterson's work to see what else she has to say.
Labels: book reports
Go. Read the first-person story of a woman who went to Camp Casey outside Bush's Crawford, TX ranch. It's way better than anything you'll see on the news.
I think the thing that struck me the most is that the Crawford Sheriff's office told Cindy (the mom who started the whole deal) that they'd prefer if she didn't camp out by the road at night, because they couldn't guarantee her safety. They hear gunshots every night nearby. Can you imagine the kind of person who would go threaten the life of a woman whose son was killed in a war???
by Maxine Hong Kingston
This is another book that I ran across when I was researching stuff for the multicultural class. The world is full of books that I know I should have read, but haven't. This was one.
I expected something a lot drier than what I got, happily. I had thought that Kingston would write about Asian-American women and their experiences in American society and so forth... and she did, but in a fictionalized way that drew me into the story in a way that statistics would not. I also didn't expect the long stretches of fiction that appear to be retellings of Chinese legends, or perhaps are stories that Kingston made up in the style of Chinese legends. Her voice is unique and her stories offer a view into a world of immigrant families that I would never experience otherwise.
by Octavia Butler
I had never read any of Octavia Butler's work, even though several people have mentioned her to me as a terrific science fiction writer. I ran across her name when I was doing some research on minority writers for my multicultural class, and even though I wasn't going to write a paper on her work, I went ahead and checked out one of her books anyway.
It was really good. The main character is a Black woman named Dana who finds herself travelling in time, back to the time of her slave ancestors and their white master. The master's son apparently has the ability to summon Dana for his own protection - she only appears in the past when his life is in danger. And Dana can only return to the present when her own life is threatened.
It's a powerful book, combining a novel sci-fi idea with an intimate look at slavery and race relations in the wake of it. I'm definitley going to look for more of her work.
I feel really weird. You know that feeling you get when you take a bunch of cold medicine, and you're tired and your head feels light and disconnected, and your eyes feel funny...? I feel all of that even though I haven't taken any medicine. It's not very fun.
I suppose I will go out and buy some cat food and then go back to bed for the afternoon. Good thing I stopped by the library on my way home yesterday!
Monday, August 15, 2005
by Sue Monk Kidd
I had given up on reading this book this year, after I checked my holds at the library and found I was number 376 on the waiting list for it. But then, out of the blue, darling coworker L* asked me if I wanted to borrow it from her. And of course I did!
The story of this book is superficially quite different from "The Secret Life of Bees," Kidd's previous novel which I adored. But once I started reading, I realized that there were a lot of similarities... both the girl in "Secret Life" and the woman in "Mermaid Chair" are affected by the loss of a parent in childhood. And each finds an unconventional way to come to terms with that loss. And of course there is Kidd's writing, which is hypnotic and sensual. I don't mean sexy in any way - in fact, the love scenes in this book have very little detail. I mean that even though I've never been to the Barrier Islands, I felt that I could taste and smell and see and hear what life there is like while I was reading.
The protagonist of "The Mermaid Chair" is an artist whose daughter has recently left for college. She feels stifled in her marriage although she can't put her finger on why. She is suddenly called back to the island where she was raised when her mother, in a fit of either psychosis or religious devotion, chops off one of her fingers with a cleaver in the kitchen of the monastery where she is the cook. While dealing with her mother's injury and illness, she discovers the truth about her father's death and has an affair with a monk. Trust me, it's all more interesting than I'm making it sound!
Labels: book reports
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Next steps: Actually, I have to be a little vague about my next steps, because I know some of my current coworkers are reading my blog, and I don't want to let the cat out of the bag before the proper time. But I will say that next step #1 will be to take training as a nurse's assistant and getting licensed as a CNA. Next step #2 will involve finding work as a CNA, and next step #3 will be reapplying to the RN program at the school where I've been taking prereqs. Progress occurs!
Now, maybe I will find the time to actually clean my house and put some love into my poor neglected garden.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
by David Guterson
I'm sure I'm way behind the times by just reading this book now, years after it was released and made into a movie and everything. But too bad for me! I actually really enjoyed it. Before reading the book, I knew it was about the relationships in a community where some of the residents were Japanese-Americans who were sent away to internment camps. What I didn't know was that it was also a murder mystery.
Reading about these fictional people made me more curious about non-fictional Washington residents who were sent to camps. I've got a couple of holds at the library on autobiographies written by Japanese-Americans who experienced it firsthand.
Labels: book reports
by Ursula K. LeGuin
Just as Quev predicted, I liked this book very much. Although, it was quite different from what I expected after seeing the SciFi miniseries (I talked about that here.) I knew that Ms. LeGuin had been cut out of the editing process for the miniseries... but I hadn't realized that the content from The Tombs of Atuan had been so thoroughly bastardized.
In the book, Tenar is given to the priesthood at age 5, after being chosen as the reincarnation of the former priestess at the time of her birth. She is "eaten" by the dark spirits she serves, and her name and family are taken from her. She is raised in near-isolation, only associating with other priestess-in-training and their teachers. When she comes of age, Tenar is given the knowledge of the underground labyrinth beneath the tombstones near the temple. She is told that she must never use lights in the maze for fear of angering the gods she serves.
Ged arrives at the temple and Tenar discovers him in the maze. She has him locked up and visits him to try to learn why he risked desecrating the labyrinth. She thinks at first that he is a thief... but she witnesses some of his magic and begins to question her beliefs. Eventually she agrees to help Ged and leads him to the heart of the labyrinth where the gods live and guard their treasure. In the treasure chamber, they find the other half of the rune Ged carries... which made whole, will help protect the kingdoms of Earthsea.
This is a much darker and more powerful story than I was led to believe from watching the miniseries. Now I understand why fans of the books were so put off by the series.
Friday, August 05, 2005
I think I learned something
This post clicked for me after reading this sentence: "Because so many of the homeless and mentally ill are military veterans, any cuts to programs that serve the homeless and mentally ill are budget cuts against veterans themselves."
Holy crap. I knew that military personnel were getting the shaft - but I had never put that together with welfare reform and cuts in treatment for the mentally ill. Couple that with the overrepresentation of people of color in the military, and you've got a nice trifecta of discrimination occuring, as sanctioned by the government.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
did you know?
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Aw, dammit. I thought moving away from Kansas would get me out of reach, but then the stupid president has to go and open his big dumb mouth.
I FINALLY hit 30 pounds lost. The last 5 pounds have been a struggle! I had to cut back my calories by about 200 a day and add another 30 minutes a week of exercise to make it happen. In other words, I'd gotten a little lazy and it was slowing down my weight loss. I hope the next 10 pounds is easier.
While on the subject of weight loss, I need to unload about women's clothing sizes. I know, old news. I bought two pairs of jeans on eBay, both the same size, two different brands. The Bill Blass ones fit just fine. The Levis Signature ones are so small, I can't even get the ends of the waistband together around my waist. Same size! Aaaaaaaaaaah!
Next-to-last class session is tonight. In 8 days, I'll have all my pre-reqs completed! And then it will be off to CNA training at night later on this year. It will probably give me multiple personality disorder to work at my high tech day job while I'm doing nurse's assistant training at night. Ooh! Maybe I can be a superhero with a secret identity!