29 June 2008

Friday Finds for 6/27

This is another cool meme! Friday Finds encourages everyone to post about a new (to them at least) book/author. I am going to post about a couple philosophy books. I love reading philosophy, especially what i call "applied philosophy" and here are two books that are at the top of my wishlist.

The first is The Undercover Philosopher by Michael Phillips. Besides having an incredible title I wish I had thought of, it has a great Dick Tracy-type comic cover. From the Powell's site "
In this gripping and controversial book, Michael Phillips outlines all the reasons we don't know what we think we do, and the devastating consequences this can have. From false memories to fraudulent experts, Phillips treads in the footsteps of Descartes to reveal why we must be more careful in what we believe and how we think. Spanning psychology, philosophy, science, and sociology, this unique exploration of why we get things wrong, and how to guard against it, is an essential read for anyone seeking to make sense of the chaotic world in which we live." Pretty cool sounding.

The next is Batman and Philosophy,
by Mark White, Robert Arp and William Irwin. It just came out on June 14 but I am still annoyed I didn't know about it. I had both the Quentin Tarantino and LOST philosophy books on my radar months before they came out. I am actually kinda surprised this hasn't come out before. Batman is so ripe for psychological and philosophical explication. Just the chapters about morality sound fascinating.


Also this weekend I read Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Another green type book, it discusses the idea that real green industry would be far more holistic. The buildings would be designed for people, energy efficiency, and sustainablity. Products wouldn't just be recyclable, the manufacturer would take them back to reclaim the usable chemicals and elements. It was an interesting read, a 5, but it is really a book for business. For engineers, architects, designers, managers.

26 June 2008

BTT for 6/26

I like today's question!





What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?





I think a person is a "reader" if they read for pleasure, besides any reading for work, school, or life goals. If you do read in your spare time but it is just self help and books in your field then I really wouldn't count you. I also kind of have a bias against those who may read in their time but only to impress others; reading Oprah's latest recommendation just to be able to say you have is kind of borderline to me. I also feel there is a volume threshold. I would say 4-6 books a year is the minimum that makes you a reader. Here's another few signs:

  • you'd list "reading" as a hobby on a personals ad
  • you'd rather read a book on a long flight than watch a movie on your IPOD
  • females-you buy new purses based on the size of book that will fit in it
  • you take a book camping with you
  • the librarians know you by name
  • the cashiers at your favorite bookstore know you by name
  • you HAVE a favorite bookstore
  • you've gone out specifically to buy another bookcase, for books
  • you've called out of work to stay home and read

I know there are more!

24 June 2008

Deep Economy

I've got literally 11 books from the library right now. I have 1 more to get through by next Monday and 3 more by the 3rd of July. Might not make those but we'll see.

I finished Deep Economy by Bill McKibben. The basic idea is that unlimited economic growth is impossible to sustain, running the environment into the ground as well as ruining American's lives. Our extreme individualism and "every man for himself" attitiudes have eroded our communities, literally and figuratively. He gives a lot of examples on how to rebuild communities from places that have done it. Sure, some are in Portland, OR or the author's state of Vermont but others are throughout the US and the world.

One statistic that stuck out to me is that people have 10 TIMES more conversations at the farmer's market than the grocery store! 10 TIMES! But I completely believe it. Just from the fact that many of the prices aren't marked require you to talk to the sellers. You ask about prices, how long they'll have certain things, when they'll have something else in season. You chat about where they're from, the weather in general, what's selling and what isn't. They'll point you down the row when they are out of something to a seller who has it. At the grocery store, I don't even talk to cashiers because of the self checkout.

I give this one a 5. There were plenty of good ideas but nothing truly mind blowing. It did get me wondering about how I live and how far that can sometimes feel from how I want to live. I mean, what could I do if I wasn't worried about having health insurance? If I wasn't worried about the cost of graduate school and loans to live while in school?

I think you've caught me in a bit of a transitional period.

23 June 2008

George Carlin

I've mentioned I had a pretty liberal upbringing. My parents didn't really restrict much of what we saw, watched, or read, and didn't mind their own language too much either, though i can't remember too many Fucks being said around. Some of my earlier memories of my dad are of watching tv, like Saturday Night Live or comedy HBO specials. I remember seeing George Carlin on HBO with him when i was maybe 8. My dad laughed hysterically throughout. Even though I personally didn't get all the jokes, I knew this guy had to be good to get my dad going like that. I may or may not have heard this then but it is one i love.



I hope the sun embraces you Mr. Carlin.

My year, half finished for WG 9

Weirdly enough, I had been writing this post over the last 2 days to put up at the beginning of July. Now that it is a Weekly Geek Topic, I'll go ahead and post it now. Being halfway finished, or halfway begun, with the year, I felt it was a good time to give an update on challenges, totals, and my life in general.

Totals first. I have finished 57 books, 20 of which were non-fiction and 43 total were from the library.

Challenges now.
For the Russian Reading Challenge I've got 3/7 done.
For the Young Adult Challenge I am done with 7/12. Woo Hoo!
For the TBR challenge I've finished 6/12.
For the Science Book Challenge I am finished with 2/3.
For the What's in a Name challenge I am super sucking. I've just got 1/6 finished. really got to work on that one.
I completed the Once Upon a Time 2 challenge in time.
For the 10 out of 1001 Challenge I haven't read any of the books.
For the 1% Well Read Challenge I've read 1 book out of 10.

For the life section it is hard to say. I'm back in my own place in a few weeks, which is nice. I am probably 20% less depressed than in January but still have some pretty shitty days. I start yoga next week, which is good i guess. But i turn 32 in July as well and i don't know how i am going to be with that. Normally birthday's aren't a big deal but as everything is a big deal now i may freak. I really want to schedule some time to go back to Louisiana but don't know when that may be possible.

22 June 2008

First ARC Review

So as you can tell by my sidebar, i have my books catalogued on LibraryThing. I've only been in the Early Reviewer group for about 4 months but in May i scored an ARC for On a Day Like This by Peter Stamm. This one is going to come out in July. I feel like I need to do a great job on the review since I got it free. It is the story of a Swiss man, Andreas, teaching German in a Paris school. He seems to be in his late 40's, is unmarried, and has an orderly, if pretty boring, life. He sleeps with a couple of women regularly, not in a relationship sense. He's drifting through everything without really feeling anything. Then he goes to the doctor for a cough, which leads to an x-ray, which leads to a biopsy. He freaks at the idea of knowing the outcome. At that point, Andreas basically jettisons his life. He seems, even early in the novel, to be fixated on a woman he knew when he was young, who he only kissed once and who ended up marrying a friend of his. So he returns to his hometown for closure with her.

Peter Stamm is Swiss and this novel was originally in German. I don't know if all German translations end up so beautiful but now I want to read more to see. Here's a quote:
Fear, fear wasn't a thought. Fear seemed to come from outside. When Andreas thought of being sick he didn't feel fear. He was desperate, confused, he struggled with himself, he reproached himself. Whereas fear came suddenly, without warning. It was like a darkening of his thoughts. Fear made it impossible to breathe, crushed his body until he felt ready to explode and break apart into a fine spray consisting of billions and billions of tiny droplets, spinning into the void.

Wow. Lovely lovely writing. I've only had a couple panic attacks ever, but that is exactly how it felt. I also really identified with the whole starting over theme. I really liked this one and i think it is a 6.

21 June 2008

Once Upon a Time 2 Wrap Up

So I finished up the OUaT2 first challenge to read 5 books. However, my original list was
  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  • The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • Eldest by Christopher Paolini (crossing with my YA challenge)
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (non-fic)
and I only read the Pullman book. Ah well. I completed
  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  • Fire Study by Maria Snyder
  • Prince Caspian by CS Lewis
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis
  • The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
  • The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Seven is a pretty decent total I feel. I would have finished the Narnia series but there seems to have been a run on The Silver Chair so i just had to request it from the library. I mean, I've checked for it every time I've gone to the library since late April. What gives?

19 June 2008

BTT for 6/19

I haven't done this in a while but here's a question I am going to attempt to answer.


Think about your favorite authors, your favorite books . . . what is it about
them that makes you love them above all the other authors you’ve read? The
stories? The characters? The way they appear to relish the taste of words on the
tongue? The way they’re unafraid to show the nitty-gritty of life? How they
sweep you off to a new, distant place? What is it about those books and
authors that makes them resonate with you in ways that other, perfectly good
books and authors do not?


This one is difficult. Character definitely is a big part of why I like any book. I couldn't finish Trainspotting because I just didn't give a damn what happened to anybody in the book anymore. Stephen King has a great way with character and dialogue; even if the story sucks sometimes you keep reading because of the characters. Imagery is important; imagery is why I like reading Gaiman, although he is good all around. He is the best starting point generator and all of his stuff I've read has a very particular sense of place. I wonder if that is because he wrote comics so long? Plot is a big deal. I never read chick lit and hardly read thrillers because they all have the same plot. I mean all chick lit has the same plot and most thrillers have the same plot, not that the two genres have the same ones as each other. Though that might make them better. I may not pick up the latest Kellerman or Crichton but hand me a 150 year old book by Alexandre Dumas and I love it because of the story. Asimov also has ok character but awesome story.

This is rambly I know. Hope it gives some idea as to why I like what I like.

18 June 2008

Fahrenheit 451

Sometimes I really want to smack myself. In the head, relatively hard, to leave bruises. Usually it happens when I either realize something that I should have figured out long before or when I read something and I am upset about what I've been missing.

That happened last night when I finished Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. How could I get through 20 years of serious reading life and not have read this? How did I manage to go through the last few years without such a relevant, modern book in my mental arsenal? I want to grab everyone I know and make them read it. I don't want to rehash the plot as I think most people know the gist of it but what got me isn't the fact that it was about censorship, it is really about people participating in their own slavery. The long speeches by Montag's boss and his friend Faber really crystalize how a people could be led to become robots. How Bradbury predicted the mass media culture and faux-news environment in 1953 is beyond me. It is terrifying in that I can see something like this happening, not in the book burning sense but in the sense that if 80-90% of people don't do anything but embrace mass entertainment, becoming mindless consumers of everything, what does it matter if the other 10-20% is informed?

On a related note, I read an incredible speech today. Chris Hedges addressed Furman University on May 28. It is long, 6 pages online text, but beautifully written and passionate. Words like these are why I love listening to Obama speak. If you are liberal, conservative, moderate, whatever, you should take a few minutes to read it.

On another related note, MoveOn.org is setting up bake sales for Obama's campaign this weekend. There's a few more days to sign up to bring goods to sell. If you just want to support, come buy some stuff. My brownies and R's cookies will be on sale outside Bongo Java in Nashville, TN. If you want something a bit more local, go to this page and type in your zip code. The search radius is pretty wide. Enjoy!

17 June 2008

Yummy Dinner



Hummus and pita sandwiches...mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

16 June 2008

Fun, with Usable Tips!

Sometimes I read something and think, "I could have written that". Occasionally, like when i made the mistake of reading The DaVinci Code I even think "hell, I could have written a better book that that trash". Today I read something that i could have written, but not nearly as well. Hilariously funny, How to Survive a Horror Movie by Seth Grahame-Smith is, well, about surviving a horror movie. Lots of funny tidbits, including how to tell what type of horror movie you may be in, various killers and how to counter them, and all the rules for horror in general. Here's one from the section on "What to do if your corn has children in it"

Fire up the crop duster: Drop Pot Brownies! It doesn't matter what kind of demon they have protecting them, nothing has more power over a child than the smell of fresh-baked brownies--especially when you've been existing on nothing but raw corn for months. Drop a few pot-laced batches over the focal point of the infestation and wait for the hungry vermin to gobble them up. When you hear "Redemption Song" or "Comfortably Numb" in the distance, that's your cue to drive into the field, round them up (they won't resist) and dump them at the nearest 24-hour diner, where they'll share a plate of gravy fries and talk about death till the sun comes up.

Great stuff. Another lovely bit is that the author give 4 sure-fire ejection seats to use if you can't escape the Terrorverse, things like spouting beautiful dialogue or getting to a cost prohibitive location. A 6. If you liked The Zombie Survival Guide you'll like this. Trust me. The last few pages even tell you how to defeat the big man, Satan, himself!

I also completed A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I thought, before I read it, that I might have read it before. I am almost certain now that I did not. I may not have remembered the specific events but I would have remembered the Mrs. Whatsit, Whos, and Which. I did like it am going to drop it into my YA challenge list since I just can't seem to read the books I've actually got on the list. I'm not going to go over the story. A weird blend of sci-fi and fantasy, I really immediately liked Meg, the main character. I thought it ended a touch abruptly but since it is the first in a series that can be forgiven. A 5 from me.


15 June 2008

Irreligion

A book I sorely needed after finishing God's Brothel, Irreligion by John Allen Paulos is completely summed up by it's subtitle: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up. Very concise and coherent. It is a little book that discusses some of the proofs that philosophers use to prove God exists. He goes through the ones that are easy to disprove but hard to counter, like the argument from miracles or faith or the gambling arguement. He also shows how some proofs, like bible codes and probabilities, fall apart when looked at mathematically. The maths aren't hard to follow, though I did loose the flow a bit when he started talking about sets. It has been like 13 years since I had any formal math classes (I had to take calculus my freshman year of college) and other than that one part I was able to follow just fine. I give this one a 5.

On the movie front, R and I (and several others) saw The Hulk Friday night. Was it a miracle of moviemaking? No. Was it enjoyable and significantly better than Ang Lee's version? Most definitely. Decent action, solid CGI, funny moments (Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee) and a bit of romance. Edward Norton is a good actor with beautiful toes. I'll say it is a 5 as well.

For the Life entry, I hadn't gone out and gotten awful, blank spaces drunk in a very long time. Friday night i did that as well and it was pretty nice. I never get pukey and hardly ever get hung over so Saturday morning (when I finally woke up at 10, didn't get to bed until about 2:30) I was fine. While I don't intend to do this all the time it was a nice change. Saturday for dinner R made some great eggplant parmesean. YUM! The food was a 7!

13 June 2008

thanks R!

sometimes R really comes through for me. he sent me this wonderful, funny link about an ID/evolution debate Wednesday but i didn't read it until this morning. Very Helpful after yesterday's downer of a book.

12 June 2008

More Proof Religion Sucks

I am going to go on a bit of a rant here. An atheist rant. So if you're going to be offended you may want to just keep on surfing.

I finished God's Brothel by Andrea Moore-Emmett today. It is the collected stories of several women who escaped from polygamist cults. Rape, child abuse, neglect, jealousy, anger, fear. Awful awful stuff. Some of the women move from regular Mormonism over into the fundamentalist side; others are born into it and survive the awful childhood situations. I literally can't imagine going through half what these women did. Honestly, it makes me feel pretty pathetic for my own depression, but that is a different thing. The book is a 5 and I wish it had a bit more about what people are doing, such as prosecutions, etc, to give it a bit of a happy ending.

Here's the rant bit. Religions suck because they are all based on what i call the "magic book" theory. Here's your magic book, written long ago (or not so long ago in the case of Mormonism) originally in different languages supposedly written by God. The fact that bits contradict each other apparently just mean that God changed his mind and forgot to use the White Out for the earlier bits. This magic book is the complete truth and you can find permission to do anything in it: rape, murder, slavery, war, theft. If you want to say that only you can interpret the magic book, go for it, at least until someone else say that no, only they get to interpret the magic book. And since everybody thinks the magic book is real, no one thinks for themselves. it's sad. it's pathetic. it's the cause of so much awfulness in the world.

Oh, so you say that your particular slice of religion doesn't do that sort of thing? I'll give Buddhism a pass on this only because i don't know enough. Let's see, we have sects of Muslims who kill themselves to kill others, subjugate women, and mutilate their children. We have Catholic priests doing who knows what to a ridiculous number of children in their care. We have other fundamentalist Christians who bomb clinics, more abuse of children and women. No, if you're Jewish you don't get off here either. You've got rabbi's sucking on little boys and spreading hepatitis. Toss in all the shame, self hate, guilt, lack of medical care these groups are responsible for and i just can't see any reason people still fall for the crap.

11 June 2008

Another 7

I guess I am having a pretty good reading month! Today I finished The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and I give it a 7. A book that i can count for both the YA challenge and Once Upon a Time 2. Yay!

I loved it. Really really loved it. The story is pretty fairy tale basic: a boy looses his mother, gets a step-mother and half brother he resents. The boy reads a lot, living in his own head and one night follows the sound of his mother's voice into a different world. The Crooked Man, or Trickster, is the bad guy trying to make our hero betray another person. The boy has adventures, earns enemies and friends, and finally meets the king whom he hopes will return the boy to his own world.

But the story shines because it really is turning all the other fairy tales on their heads. Little Red Riding Hood becomes a story about bestiality; Sleeping Beauty is really a vampire and Hansel and Gretel are truly fucked up. The boy's story also is not typical: he's living in Britain during WWII, his stepmother isn't evil, he visits a psychiatrist. But like fairy tales (why are they called that? only a couple i can think of have fairies...) this is a story of growing up, leaving childhood behind, and ultimately about living without regret.

I know several people have read and reviewed this but I am not sure where right now. If i run across your post, I'll link to it I promise.

Update: Traci's Review, Susan's Review, Renay's, Stephanie's, and Chris's!

So in other news I've found an apartment. I've mentioned (i think?) that I am staying with friends and have been since September. So as of July 8 I will have my own place again, just a few miles from where i work. no more 50 mile round trips! Hooray for me! Anyone live in Nashville and want to help me move? :)

08 June 2008

Fire Study

Today at work i finished the third book in Maria Snyder's fantasy series, Fire Study.I actually liked this one less than the previous two. While neither of the previous books were particularly reflective, I do feel they were a little slower paced. Fire Study seems to have to be in constant motion, jumping from battle to ambush to conflict to betrayal as fast as possible. We jump right in with just a few mentions of previous events, which is kinda nice for those of us who've read the previous ones but I really wouldn't recommend anyone start with this one. I mean, some events happen so quickly that I actually lost track of various characters and had to skip back a few pages to figure out what was going on. The story itself isn't bad, we just aren't given any breathing room to digest before the next event happens. i give this one a 4/7.

07 June 2008

A Couple Reviews

Not too much going on. Have been hanging out with R, cooking, watching movies, sleeping, watching basketball, etc.

Finished up two books in the last few days. I finally finally finally finished Rebel Angels by LIbba Bray on audiobook. I say all the finallys because I've had it from the library for about 3 months. I just kept renewing it. I would say I didn't like this one as much as the first. There were several things that threw me off in it, things i feel an editor should have caught. Just glitches in the time line, people that pop up without explanation, etc. While the first book was about as long it didn't feel anywhere near as long. But with this one i had to keep dragging myself back to it. I just never felt like listening to it. The basic plot is that Gemma and her friends must find the Temple in the Realms and bind the magic that Gemma set free in the first novel. Love and family intrigue complicate things, as do the Christmas holidays the girls must spend in London rather than together in school. We actually find out who Circe is, which I didn't expect and was a pretty good twist. I give this one a 4/7 but will still listen to the last one. I do love hearing the English accents.

As the non-fiction entry, I loved How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons. Also a library book, i have already gone on amazon to purchase the paperback version. It is a great book, a 7 from me. The author was the food critic for the LA Times. Part cookbook, part food dictionary, Parsons talks about the local food movement and educates on things most people don't know anymore: when things are in season, where they are grown and how to tell the good and ripe from the bad. He sets up his book by the seasons, starting in spring. The recipes, for the most part, are not terrible complicated. The author wants to show off the great freshness of the food, not how talented the cook is. Seriously, I have hated brussel sprouts and cabbage since childhood, yet because of this book I want to try some fresh ones just to see.

So, in keeping with the food theme, R and I went to the Farmer's Market here in Nashville. We both got Amish bread, tomatoes, asparagus, strawberries, and R picked up a cantalope and a watermelon. R is going to try the strawberry preserve recipe from the book so I'll post on how that turns out. No, not all we bought was strictly local or seasonal but most was and we were supporting the locals with our purchases. YAY!

01 June 2008

WG5

Last week's Geek topic is alternative forms of storytelling. At first I wasn't sure I would write about this topic, which is why I am posting this late. I mean, anyone who glances at my blog can tell 2 things: I read a lot of non-fiction and I watch a lot of movies. I pretty much have some strong preferences when it comes to stuff to do besides fiction reading. Then after letting this topic percolate in my head a few days I came back and reread it. The line that caught my eye this time was "some might share family bedtime stories" and a light popped on in my head. I could tell a story about my dad telling a story.

We went camping several times when i was a kid. I had just 2 brothers back then but camping is a pretty cheap vacation. 10 bucks a day for the site, plus food, plus a little gas to get there (this was the 80's after all) and you just let the kids run about and swim. At night we would roast hot dogs, eat s'mores, catch bugs, look at stars, and listen to stories.

I remember my mom told us the "hook hand" one once, as well as some of the basic fairy tales. The best story I remember was one my dad told us once. Really scary. It was about these military guys at a base in the Arctic. A guy comes in from some other station up there and dies but he has some kind of alien monster in him that can inhabit any living creature. Suffice to say the alien monster hopped from body to body, even taking over the sled dogs. My dad did a great job, building up the suspense and the paranoia of these army guys trapped in the cold with a monster. The good guy, who was a helicopter mechanic just like my father, eventually defeated the alien monster but the way the story ended none of us could figure out if the alien had actually gotten in the hero too.

Spooky huh? especially to kids 9, 7, and 5. It really stuck with me, long after I had forgotten any other stories he told us.




It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I found out my dad had rehashed the plot of The Thing for us. :)