Friday, April 30, 2010

Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama

I remembered today that I'm behind on my book reviews. I finished Dreams from My Father about a week ago, and I will start off by saying that reading it was a wholly different experience from reading Going Rogue.

The books are incomparable in style and intent, for one thing--Sarah Palin's book is basically just a casual account of her political career, and partially a response to campaign criticism. Barack Obama's book is more of a philosophical memoir, or, like the subtitle says, "a story of race and inheritance." It was first published fifteen years ago and isn't political at all; rather, it's about his childhood, his struggle to understand the issues of race in black culture and his place in all of it, and the history of his family in Kenya.

Like all the big nonfiction books I've been reading lately, this one took me a little while, and there was a period of a few days in the middle where I got stuck and put it down. I had the audiobook as well and listened to it for a big chunk of the book, but as I was listening I realized that the audio is abridged, so I ended up going back through the book and just skipping the parts I'd already heard.

Time investment notwithstanding, I really enjoyed reading it. I loved the parts about his Kenyan family, and his descriptions of life in Indonesia (where he lived for a while as a child) and Kenya are fascinating. His writing is honest and elegant, if possibly a teensy bit pretentious at times. To be fair, though, he was in law school when he wrote it, so it's understandable if his vocabulary is a little more sophisticated.

I definitely think this is a good book for anyone to read. It doesn't have anything to do with him as a president; it's just an interesting and thoughtful discussion of race, family, and learning about yourself.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ah, the Irony...

At 3:45 this morning, I was taking Mike to work (and by taking him to work I mean he was driving because I'd barely woken up and dragged myself out to the car).

We were driving down 78--where the speed limit is 50 mph--and there was a cop sitting in a left turning lane in the middle of the road with his lights off, presumably waiting for someone to speed by. We drove past, and possibly 200 yards later, a white 90s Mustang shot across the otherwise empty street, cutting us off and forcing Mike to slam on the brakes. Then he had to slam on the brakes again, because the car was slowing down as it got to the other side of the street, and we almost hit it a second time.

Of course, all this time that cop is sitting just a little ways behind us, waiting for someone to pull over. Don't you love it?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Why does a credit union have this (highly inappropriate) text on their billboard? How is it even relevant?
Nice ride.
(That's what she said.)

Why, even when I move their stupid toy back around the corner out of my sight, do the dogs insist on pulling it out and doing their humping right in front of me? It's like they do it on purpose. I'm considering throwing the toy outside.

How is it possible that there are people who are bugged by other people trying to do good things for the environment? You don't have to be a scientist (or Al Gore) to see that we are mangling our planet.

Why are there some people who just can't say anything nice??

And how is it possible that McDonald's has a clothing line that I've never even heard of? I read somewhere (I thought it was Fast Food Nation, but I can't find it now) that it was one of the biggest sellers of kids' clothing. That is crazy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Down to One

I may have forgotten to blog about the fact that at the
beginning of the summer, I won't be watching Hannah anymore. She's two and a half and getting to the age where if she's not around kids regularly, she'll start getting weird around other kids, so she's going to a really cute little preschool in the area. Her mom and dad are wanting to have another baby toward the end of the year and said they hope I'll come back when that baby is old enough, so that's some consolation, but I am going to miss that little girl so much. I'm really bummed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm a Klutz.

I've broken my camera. I always have it with me while I'm outside watching Hannah play, and twice now I've dropped it on the sidewalk--from a very short distance, mind you, but apparently it was enough. Mike figured out that it's the flash that's messed up; it takes about five minutes to charge now, so if I want to actually take a picture I have to turn it off (giving me shaky, weird-looking pictures). I WOULD break my camera the week that beautiful Jaylee comes to visit, wouldn't I?

Calculator Humor

I think Progressive commercials are generally fairly amusing, although there have been several that weren't very impressive. This one makes me laugh.

"I will... That was my schedule." (Favorite part.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

All Instruments are Not Created Equal

It has occurred to me to wonder why guitar tab is available so freely online, but piano music almost never is. You can find free sheet music here and there, but more often you have to pay to download it, or get a subscription to a website, and you never do with guitar tab. Anyone know why?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Apparently I am Sexist.

I have discovered a weird trend in my reading preferences.

I read a lot. I love a lot of books. And I read things in a lot of different genres. But if you look at the books that are my absolute favorites, they're almost all written by women, with the exception of books that are either YA or fantasy.

Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, and Lynne Truss are writers whose books I read and loved so much that I went out and sought more books by them. (I read The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, and then I read The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, The Lacuna, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. After I read The Accidental Tourist, I went and found several other Anne Tyler books, and have now read at least six or seven of them.) I haven't done that with any books by men, unless they fit into the YA/fantasy category. Allow me to demonstrate:

my favorite books

books by men
The Mysterious Benedict Society--Trenton Lee Stewart
Little Brother--Cory Doctorow
the Chronicles of Prydain--Lloyd Alexander
The Wednesday Wars--Gary D. Schmidt
The Wheel of Time--Robert Jordan
The Phantom Tollbooth--Norton Juster
Ender's Game--Orson Scott Card
Empire--Orson Scott Card
The Chronicles of Narnia--C.S. Lewis

Fablehaven--Brandon Mull
Tess of the d'Urbervilles--Thomas Hardy
My Name is Asher Lev--Chaim Potok
Ivanhoe--Sir Walter Scott

The bottom three are the only ones that aren't YA or fantasy (and to be fair, I haven't read My Name is Asher Lev in a long time, and don't know if I'd still put it on there if I read it again now).

YA/fantasy books by women
The Hunger Games--Suzanne Collins
A Wrinkle in Time--Madeline L'Engle
Cold Sassy Tree--Olive Ann Burns
The Truth About Forever--Sarah Dessen
Harry Potter--J.K. Rowling
I Capture the Castle--Dodie Smith
Graceling--Kristin Cashore
the Georgia Nicholson books--Louise Rennison
The Books of Bayern--Shannon Hale
the Gemma Doyle books--Libba Bray

non-YA/fantasy books by women
The Joy Luck Club--Amy Tan
The Kitchen God's Wife-- Amy Tan
Eats Shoots and Leaves--Lynne Truss
Garden Spells--Sarah Addison Allen
The Poisonwood Bible--Barbara Kingsolver
The Accidental Tourist--Anne Tyler
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society--Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Lacuna--Barbara Kingsolver
Pride and Prejudice--Jane Austen
The Bean Trees--Barbara Kingsolver
Wuthering Heights--Emily Bronte
Julie & Julia--Julie Powell

There is one notable, and funny, exception to this--funny because I would say he is one of my favorite authors, and yet none of his works are on the list. But I do love Oscar Wilde.

Anyway. Isn't that weird? Before I realized this, if you had asked me whether I liked male or female authors better, I wouldn't have been able to guess. I would have thought I liked them both equally. But clearly this is not the case. Who knew?

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Wish the Dogs Would Get a Room.

I am creeped out by the Fraziers' dogs today, who have gotten a new toy and apparently are... excited by it. They've been taking turns humping it for the last 20 minutes. Is it weird that these are girl dogs? I don't know things about dogs so maybe it's not, but it is still gross. Thankfully they've moved back to their little doggy area in the dining room, because earlier they'd dragged the toy out to the living room and were going at it right in front of me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book, by E. Lockhart--8/10

E. Lockhart is the author of The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks, which I read just before I started my book-reviewing system, and absolutely adored. In fact, Mike and I just gave it to his sister Anna for her birthday last month. And when I asked Anna if she'd read anything else by this writer, she said she'd read The Boyfriend List and liked it. I decided that at some point I should pick it up, because of how much I loved Frankie, and see if her other stuff was any good.

Just a few days after that conversation, Mike and I were at the Wylie library randomly looking around, and I saw the book. It looked funny--I was in the mood to pick up anything that caught my attention--so I checked it out. I started reading it, and I loved it.

If you like the Georgia Nicholson books, you will probably like this series. Ruby Oliver is like a non-British (and therefore, necessarily, a bit less funny) Georgia, and her life is very Georgia-esque, albeit a tad more risque. (I shall put it this way--Ruby and her friends are a little older than the Ace Gang, and routinely get higher on the Snogging Scale.) Her parents are on the insane side, she lives on a houseboat in Seattle but goes to a super-prestigious private school on scholarship, and she is seeing a shrink to help her deal with some recently developed panic attacks.

In related news, I recently (five minutes ago) discovered, while trying to find out what the E. stands for (Emily), that there is a third book in the series--which is fantastic because I thought the second one was it and was very disappointed. Also, a fourth will be coming out in December of this year! Hooray and huzzah, I'm very excited.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's a Food Revolution...

The Richardson library has a section where you can buy books and magazines for about 50 cents, so I was looking through there and found a magazine called Advocate about living local in north Dallas. That obviously intrigued me, so I flipped through it and was excited to find some new resources!

Eat Green DFW is a blog that is, obviously, specific to the Dallas/Fort Worth area--however, if you are interested in just finding out more information about things like sustainable agriculture, check out the sidebar on the left hand side. There are some pretty useful links there, including lists of good books on the subject.

From that website, I found my way to the Non-GMO Project, a movement to "ensure the sustained availability of non-GMO choices." (GMO stands for genetically modified organism--basically, what a huge percentage of industrial farming is: "according to the USDA, in 2007, 91% of soy, 87% of cotton, and 73% of corn grown in the U.S.") On the Non-GMO Project website you can search to find out which products and retailers are making the commitment to avoid GMOs.

I also found the Slow Food Blog, which I read about in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I have only had a few minutes to glance around the blog, but I am already loving it--they have 40+ contributors, so their style is varied, and they talk about all the issues related to food in the United States today (school cafeterias, government policy, environmental effects, cooking). Plus, they are a pretty authoritative source in the world of food revolution, so they have links to virtually anywhere you could want to go to find out more information.

And, finally, one more resource: A blog post explaining all the food terms you've been hearing around that you might not understand (like organic, GMO, heirloom, certified farmers market, artisan, etc.).

If you're at all interested in any of this stuff, you should absolutely check out some of these websites. You don't have to be a fanatic to find pieces that will interest you, and you can never go wrong with educating yourself on the options. I still haven't decided exactly what my part in this is going to be, but I can tell I will be spending a lot of time on these websites (and others like them) while I figure it out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin

Yes, it's true. I read it. And I have to say, it was a surprising experience.

I feel like I have to give Sarah Palin some credit. On the national level, I
think she's fairly ridiculous, and I truly might die if she were to somehow become our president. But you know what? As a governor, I think she might have been pretty fantastic.

In general, I could have done with a little less tooting of her own horn throughout this book; I realize that a lot of it is written in self-defense based on things that occurred during the VP campaign, but since it's an autobiography and not a debate, she tends to sound a little more pompous than anything else. She talks a lot about all the great things she's done in her career--not to mention how down-to-earth, real, and selfless she is--and I just get the feeling she thinks pretty highly of herself.

But if half the stuff she says about her early political career is true, then yes, I think the Alaskan people were pretty lucky to have her as a governor. It sounds like she did a lot of great things for the state. The thing that impressed me was that she was working against fiscal corruption in her government--on her side of the aisle. It isn't at all remarkable to point out and work against the corruption in the "other side;" that's all anyone does these days, and nothing much is accomplished by it. But very few people take on the corruption in their own party, and it seems that she did just that. She made a lot of budget cuts, her own budget included; she cut property taxes; and yes, it's true--she sold the previous governor's private jet on eBay. (There's a quote from this section that I found really interesting, but I'm saving it for another post.)

[Update: Since I never wrote that post, here's the quote and another that was supposed to go with it.]

"No wonder voters couldn't tell Republicans from Democrats. How can the GOP claim fiscal conservatism when we let our own party's congressional delegations fund things in the federal budget like the new monument to honor the mules and pack animals in California? And Democrat politicians aren't any better, but at least their fiscal liberalism is expected (p 146-7)."

Just before I wrote this post, I was reading an interview in D Magazine with John Corona, a Texas Republican. He said essentially the same thing:

“The Democrats are the party of overspending. The Republicans are also the party of overspending. The only difference is that the Republicans are hypocrites about it.”

So for the first half of the book, I was surprised to find my opinion of her getting better and better. (Not shocked, because if you'll remember, I actually did like her back at the beginning. But surprised, yes.) I enjoyed reading it for several days; then around halfway I hit a rut, got bored, and put it down for a few days. When I picked it back up, I was at the part about the 2008 campaign, so it was interesting again.

It also marked the point where my opinion of her started heading back down.

Like I said, I understand that a big part of the purpose of this book is to defend herself in reference to the controversies that came up during the campaign. But as I read through the second half, it just started to feel like there were very few people, outside her own family, whom she was not going to implicate as being at fault for the way the campaign went. Various McCain campaign managers and staffers, national media, Alaskan reporters and locals... That taking-on-her-own-party business started to feel a lot more like "it was everyone else's fault, not mine." And the frustrating thing is that on many of the issues, there is no evidence beyond a he-said/she-said argument, which basically comes down to whose side you're on and which person you want to believe.

Take this article, for example. Some of the points it brings up are true (she did say that she had an ultrasound at twelve weeks wherein the doctor told her she saw "boy parts," and you generally can't tell the gender of a baby until 18-20 weeks)... but they're also not exactly important. What do they prove? Some of them are, like I said, flat denials made by members of the campaign staff, which really have no proof--either you believe the staffer, or you believe Sarah. (The $150,000 campaign wardrobe fits in this category.) And some of them give a pretty strong impression of not caring what the facts are as long as they implicate Sarah Palin.

I will admit that I don't find it difficult to believe that people were out to get her. This is American politics, after all, and I don't think anyone denies that it is often ruthless, sneaky, and underhanded. But I do feel like she took the blame game a little far. (For instance, calling women's rights activists hypocrites, saying that their reaction was the most "telling," because they "stayed silent too long" and didn't attack Dave Letterman for his tasteless, sexist joke about Willow.)

Here's a random thing that I found interesting: If Sarah Palin were from Texas, people would be screaming "secessionist." She talks about Alaskans where most people in her place (read: person who just ran for vice president of the United States) would be saying Americans--she makes a huge point of emphasizing how different Alaska is from the "Lower 48," or "Outside," and I wish I had written down some of the comments she made, because I can't find them now. It just all sounds a little separatist, and in a weird way, elitist ( she ends up sounding as though she believes Alaskans are better than the rest of us because of how non-elitist they are).

(For the record: This isn't even a big deal, and maybe other people who read her book don't notice it. I don't know. It's possible that it stuck out more to me because of how much crap I have taken on behalf of my state, from people who believe that all Texans think they are better than other Americans because we were a republic first and can fly our flag at the same height as the U.S. flag.)

Finally, here is the thing which I have been waiting to talk about. From the Acknowledgments at the end of the book: "To some media professionals whom I admire because you don't let anyone tell you to sit down and shut up, please keep making the idiots' heads spin. Thanks for not taking our Freedom of the Press for granted, you bold and patriotic, fair and balanced media folks." And do you know who she included in this list? Ann Coulter. And Glenn Beck.

Are you kidding me?

Now, I am not saying anything about my personal opinions concerning those two people. I know a ton of people who love them both, and that is fine with me. But if Sarah Palin thinks that Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck are "fair and balanced media folks," then I find myself wondering if we should question her mental clarity. Fair and balanced means not favoring one side over the other. (Honestly!) Those two people are not fair and balanced any more than Keith Olbermann or Markos Moulitsas or any other extremist on either side.

So that's about it. Basically, I came out of this book with the following:

  1. A lot of super useful knowledge about Sarah Palin's life, political and private.
  2. Some feeling sorry for her, because she did get a pretty crappy deal, particularly after the campaign was over and she went back to Alaska and started getting bombarded with nonstop ridiculous ethics complaints. Also because of the way the media treated her family. (But hey... that is politics.)
  3. Quite a bit of irritation with her "Wasilla Main Street" hokey charm and "look how great I am, I'm just so great"...ness.
  4. A belief that if I knew her personally, I actually think Sarah Palin might be the kind of person I could talk to about politics and not want to smash her face in.
  5. Renewed relief that she and John McCain did not become our president and VP.
So, that is that, and it was an interesting experience. Dreams from My Father is next, although I'm taking a break and reading some fiction in between. (There's only so much politics a person can take at once, you know?) I have a feeling that this book will be much the same kind of mixed experience as Going Rogue was, but that remains to be seen.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Boo Hiss

I am sick, it wasn't allergies. Or if it was allergies, they turned into a cold really fast. I slept until 10:50 this morning, had my brother come pick me up and take me to my parents', and spent the whole day watching conference on the couch feeling realllly crappy. I was so tired and achy I didn't even take notes in my giant journal, for the first time in two or three years. But at least today my nose is stuffed instead of runny, so there's a lot less nose blowing! That is really nice because it was driving me crazy yesterday.

And on the other bright side, last night was fun, and tomorrow we'll be celebrating Passover and Mike's birthday together. My mom and sister are helping me out with my part of the cooking so I don't have to do too much, and Mike will get the last round of his presents (which have been great so far!). So, fun times all around. Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hello, is This the Complaint Department?

Friends, today is not my day.

For one thing, I spent a long time making my hair look beautiful this morning, only to leave for work and discover that it was rainy and muggy and my hair would look crappy by the time I got there.

Also related to the weather is the fact that I woke up with ridiculously bad allergies (or, since Claritin has not helped, possibly the beginning of a cold) and have been blowing my nose so much today that it is already red and painful.

Then, as you may have seen on Facebook, a giant dog tore holes in my favorite sweater in three different places (she added a fourth this afternoon). Even if they do give me money, I can't get another--the store doesn't sell it anymore.

I took Lana to the store with me to get a couple things for Mike's birthday, since this is the first time all week that I've had the chance to get to the store without him. Her entire four-ounce bottle of water spilled in my purse, soaking everything in its path (including iPod, camera, wallet, the back of my jeans (yes, through the purse), and the giant wad of tissues I've been carrying around all day, which became fairly gross once it was all wet).

And, finally, after several minutes of searching I have discovered that there is not one thing to eat in this house aside from mini cheddar cheese cubes and hot dogs. (I put the cheese cubes back... the bag wasn't opened yet and I didn't really want them that much anyway.)


Good thing it's Mike's birthday and we're going out to do fun things tonight... Nothing that exciting because we don't have any friends around here, but going to a movie with my family and probably out to eat, and we enjoy that.

Hurray for the weekend!