Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Fish and visitors stink in three days."--Poor Richard's Almanack

I'm feeling smelly this morning. Although I am not staying with relatives, I do feel like I have overstayed my welcome on this Christmas vacation. I think I might have started smelling yesterday--my room didn't get cleaned completely. It was like the housekeeper started to clean, emptied trash and replaced dirty towels, but took a break or was kidnapped by aliens before cleaning out the coffee pot or making my bed. The desk clerk offered to move me to another room, but after three nights here, I felt like I couldn't imagine packing up to move for one more night--if I packed I was moving home. Besides, I don't make my bed at home every day anyway, and I could rinse the coffeepot out myself like I do at home. Still, I can't help but wonder if that wasn't a hint that it was time for me to leave.

I would already be on the road this morning if I weren't going to do some cleaning out of my parents' house. Since my father passed away in May, my siblings and I have decided to sell the house, but no one can find the time to get it ready to sell. I'm the only one who doesn't live here and had intended to work in the house during Thanksgiving vacation, but I was a lazy cow then and reneged. Then I had planned to work there on Sunday, but it was raining and very cold (no electricity in the house now), and I kept finding Christmas errands to run for myself and family members. Yesterday, I could have worked, but I had to go to the bookstore to get my nephew another book since he had already read that one.

Now, my sister just called and she's ready to go work, so I will take a shower now--get rid of some of that visitor smell and go do some manual labor and work up another smell, I'm sure. :-)

It is a beautiful day here. Maybe I'll make a trip to the cemetery on the way out of town this afternoon and tell my mom happy birthday. For now, I have to go.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Miscellany

What a difference a year makes. Last year, I waited until Christmas day to drive to my east Texas hometown for family Christmas festivities. After having spent Thanksgiving in a hotel, I had decided that I couldn't stand to wake up alone in a hotel on Christmas morning. This year, I didn't have any misgivings about hotel holidays. I spent 3 nights here at Thanksgiving, and I'm staying 4 this week.

I left yesterday about 2:30p.m.--several hours later than I had initially planned to leave. I always leave packing to the last minute for my trips to east Texas. It's not like I really have to think about what to bring. There's no fancy places to go here, and my family has fairly low expectations for holiday dress. When I stopped for gas an hour outside of Houston, I was quite astounded to realize that I had forgotten to pack panties. Of course, I didn't panic--Walmart is ubiquitous after all. Still, it was rather odd that I would pack bras and socks but no panties. I'm sure there's something freudian in the forgetting, but I won't waste time analyzing it. I just thought it was terribly funny, too funny to keep to myself. One problem with traveling solo is that you don't have anyone to laugh with you at yourself in situations like this.

Since I arrived here, I have been to the mall, Target twice, and Walmart three times, and I had done all my shopping before I arrived here. I don't know if I just have had good timing or the crowds around here aren't that bad, but I never had to wait in line for long and didn't have to push and/or shove anyone out of my way.

Tonight, my sister and I had a nice quiet dinner in one of the only two non-fast food restaurants open after 6:00. Her teenage daughter was at home with a friend, and her teenage son was doing last minute shopping with my sister's man. She's been working two jobs this holiday season, one in a factory and one in a retail store, and she needed a break tonight. So after dinner, she came back to the hotel with me, ostensibly to use my computer and to wait for her man and her son to pick her up after they finished their shopping. Once we got into the room, she decided that she was going to take a hot bubble bath, which she did using hotel shampoo for the bubble element. Then she laid on my bed and dozed while I watched television and played computer games. She might still be here sleeping if her cell phone hadn't rung. I started not to tell her that it was ringing, but I didn't want to be the cause of any unnecessary stress for her.

I feel kind of bad because she left here over two hours ago to go home and do some holiday cooking while I sit here, relaxing, chatting, and blogging. One of the perks of traveling solo for the holidays is that no one really expects you to contribute significant items to the family meal. I did pay for much of her holiday food purchases, and I bought a Sara Lee Poundcake, Cool Whip, and strawberries to take to our brother's tomorrow. I'm not a completely lame member of the family. Plus, I bought books for babies and children even though I only had to buy one gift for the person whose name I drew.

Buying only one gift is a great idea economically, but it sucks emotionally when you're used to buying for four siblings and their significant others and children. Also, right now, I only have one friend that I buy for--Valerie, who bought me two really GREAT gifts: 80s Trivial Pursuit, which I can't wait to play with her, and a fancy corkscrew, which will get used when we play Trivial Pursuit. :-) My friend Lois and I exchange gifts for birthdays instead of Christmas. My birthday was Friday, the 22nd, and Lois's is in February. I'm not sure how our birthday exchange started, but we only do birthday presents.

Speaking of my birthday, I have say a big thank you to Valerie and to Ryan for helping me to celebrate my birthday. Last year, I wanted to celebrate it, but this year, I wanted to ignore it. First, Valerie and I went to see Ryan's new townhouse, which is so perfect and has a great view of downtown from his rooftop patio. I'm so jealous!!! Then we went out for a low-key dinner at Azteca's. We had lots of fun, talking and laughing, and no one sang happy birthday or anything embarrassing like that.

Well, it's almost Christmas Day, so I think I will sign off and read for a long as I can. I am in the middle of The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, and I would like to finish it before I leave here on Wednesday.

I wish everyone an enjoyable Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Still breathing...much easier this week

Wow! I can't believe that it's been almost a month since I posted something here. I hope none of my very few readers was worried about me. I'm on a two week break from work now, and I think I'm still recovering from spending more time at work last week than at home--three nights last week until 10:00 really wore me out and depressed me because I still didn't get everything graded before I left on Friday night. But enough about work for now.

I'm on my way to play trivia with some friends at a bar downtown, but I wanted to post something quick before I left the house. I'll post something real tomorrow. Later.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

How do you eat healthier?

I wish life were like a Monopoly game, but instead of the Get Out of Jail Free cards, I could find a Get Out of Fat Free card. For quite some time now, maybe forever, I have been talking about and attempting to--never with much lasting success and only once or twice in my lifetime with any real effort and results--eating healthier. I really can't stand the thought of going on a diet. Seriously, when I think about it, I immediately feel the need to binge as if someone is trying to starve me. I used to be able to starve myself for days at a time. Yes, I know starving is not healthy, but now, just the thought of it makes me feel deprived and desperately hungry.

I didn't really overeat on Thanksgiving and had only some fruit salad for something sweet, no pie or cake. At some point, though, I looked at my plate and realized that it was all meat and starches. No one had brought anything green--broccoli rice casserole doesn't count since the broccoli is negligible, coming only from cream of broccoli soup. In the midst of the Thanksgiving chatter, I starting thinking that I really have no idea how to change my eating habits and eat healthier.

I can say to myself and to Valerie, my partner in eating crimes, that I have to limit my eating of Mexican food to one day per week. I can say that I'm going to the grocery store tomorrow and buy healthier foods--vegetables and fruits. I can acknowledge that I need to eat out less and cook more and more healthy foods. I can even cook, but I can't seem to do it regularly enough. I have been taking fruit with me to work everyday for a while now, and I don't drink Cokes nearly as much as I used to. I seldom have more than one liter at a time in my house, and I rarely drink anything other than water at work. I can say all the right things and do some of the right things, but I still can't figure out how to make it become a habit or even do it long enough to see any real positive effect on my body.

Besides eating better, I know that I have to find a way to make myself get my ass home early enough to walk ever day. I love to walk for exercise. Really, I do. So why do I stay late at work so much that I know I won't do it when I get home? Why do I sit on my ass when I do get home early and not walk? What is wrong with me?

I'm sure there is some book out there that I could read for help, but as much as I LOVE to read, I just know that I won't be able to read a book about dieting or eating healthier. I had signed up for this three or four week healthier lifestyle program at my church a while back, and I was really looking forward to the class. Unfortunately, the doctor leading the class had to have surgery, and the class was postponed indefinitely. Hopefully, it will be reschedule soon after the first of the year, but I can't keep procrastinating with my health.

So, how do you eat healthier?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Belated Thanksgiving

I had been thinking all week that I would post a message detailing the people and things that I am thankful for. In the past, recent and not so recent, I have had a difficult time articulating what I am thankful for, but I still wanted to post something about it. At church on Sunday, we had the opportunity to go to the front, light a candle, and speak thanks. At least one of the participants' thanksgiving brought tears to my eyes. I kept trying to think of something to say so I could participate, but nothing came to mind. I am rather selfish and self-involved, but I am grateful for people and things in my life. Why can't I articulate my thanks?

I could always say I am thankful for friends and family, which would be true, but everyone says that. I guess my problem is that I want to say something meaningful, clever, insightful--see, selfish and self-involved. In situations like this, I'm sure that simple and sincere is best, but the writer/show-off/smart ass, refuses simple. The result of my refusal is silence. Silence connotes lack, but there is no lack of people and things for which I am grateful.

Sitting around my brother's house yesterday, I realized how truly grateful I am for my family. I have four siblings, who love me no matter how superior or bitchy I act to them. They always forgive and forget my offenses as I do theirs. Perhaps most importantly, they will not hesitate to tell me when I'm being superior or bitchy, and they will make me angry, but the anger is never very long lasting. They want the best for me, and I want the same for them. I have ten nieces and nephews. I have two great-nephews and one great-niece--two more great-nieces are expected, one in a week or so and another in March. I love watching them grow up, even when they make mistakes. I find it surprisingly exciting that my nieces are now mommies. We drew names for Christmas presents yesterday. Economically, drawing names is best when you have such a large family, but I was kind of sad that I won't be shopping for all of the children, especially the babies. I might just have to buy them all something anyway. I'm not very good about keeping up with birthdays, so maybe I will buy each a book and say it's a late birthday present. :-)

I am also grateful for all my friends. All is a relative word--I really don't have that many good friends, but the few that I have are wonderful. I am grateful for them even when they don't get along with each other, even when I feel pulled by two allegiances. They are each important for a different, but equally important, reason. I can't imagine my life without Susy, Valerie, Lois, or Penny. In addition, I have several friends at work that I will truly miss when I leave my current position, which will be no later than May.

I am also thankful for the following things:

  • that Valerie changed my blog title banner--she is the best blog designer ever!
  • that I have had the opportunity to affect some children's lives in a positive way as a teacher.
  • that I can read and enjoy great literature.
  • that I am able to pursue a change in profession via the Internet.
  • that I live in a democratic country where votes do count and sometimes I am part of the majority.
  • that I have a job, even if it's one that I no longer want to have.
  • that I live in a city where I can go to museums, the theatre, and other cultural events whenever I desire.
  • that I get to see the Astros play as much as I can afford. :-)
  • that the Cowboys are 7-4 right now and seem to be playoff bound.
  • that I became a Unitarian Universalist.

I am sure that I could keep this list going if I tried, but I need to shut down and meet my sister and her family for lunch before I head back to H-town from my East Texas hometown. Thank you for reading this far and not admitting boredom. Later.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Beauty - Finished

I finished reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith a couple of nights ago. I really enjoyed this book. It's been a while since I read White Teeth, but I remember thinking that even Smith's most absurd characters work as real people. I think the characters in this novel were even more believable to me. Could it be they are more familiar to me because they are American and in for the most part? Maybe.

Smith certainly has a way with words. Duh! Could I be more obvious? :-) Anyway, one of my favorite passages in the book is the description of Zora at the beginning of the second part of the novel. I love Smith's description of Zora, the wannabe academic daughter of the professor, which opens the second part of the novel:
"Last year, when Zora was a freshman, sophomores had seemed altogether a different kind of human: so very definite in their tastes and opinions, in their loves and ideas. Zora woke up this morning hopeful that a transformation of this kind might have visited her in the night, but, finding it hadn't, she did what girls generally do when they don't feel the part: she dressed it instead. How successful this had been she couldn't say. Now she stopped to examine herself in the window of Lorelie's, a campy fifty hairdressers on the corner of Houghton and Maine. She tried to put herself in her peers' shoes. She asked herself the extremely difficult question: What would I think of me? She had been gunning for something like 'bohemian intellectual; fearless; graceful; brave and bold'. She was wearing a long boho skirt in a deep green, a white cotton blouse with an eccentric ruff at the neck, a think brown suede belt of Kiki's from the days when her mother could still wear belts, a pair of clumpy shoes and a kind of hat. What kind of hat? A man's hat, of green felt, that looked like a fedora, a little, but was not one. This was not what she had meant when she left the house. This was not it at all."

I have lived this scene more than once in my life. Smith is so good at creating humor, even satire, that doesn't bite hard or cross the line into parody. I knowingly laugh at Zora's attempt to "look the part," but there's no ridicule in the description so I don't take offense. (I'm probably not making much sense here. I'm not very articulate tonight.)

Another sentence that I loved: "It was the shady groves of dictionaries that Jack fell in love, bowed his head in awe and thrilled at an unlikely tale, for example, the bizarre etymology of the intransitive verb 'ramble.'" (Did I misquote? I will check this when I return from Thanksgiving and update if I did.) I love the idea of a "shady groves of dictionaries"--a beautiful garden of words.

My only problem with the book was the Levi's street dialogue. It didn't sound like the young African American boys that I teach. Of course, the boys that I teach didn't grow up in a college town or with a professor for a father. Still, I felt his use of street lingo a bit too forced. I'm not sure if this is a misstep by Smith or if it is indicative of Levi's desire to be the street kid despite being very middle class.

There's a scene late in the book where two young men end up in tears when they see the reality of their lives. Jerome is saddened by his realization that his father had had sex with his first love, and Carl is upset by his realization that his first love, rap, has bought him a ticket into academia, but the ticket doesn't allow full admission and comes with strings attached. The juxtaposition of the sensitive intellectual and the streetwise rapper standing in the freezing cold, crying, is quite effective.

I really liked the ending of this book. Power has shifted, but there are no real winners or losers. The book is essentially about a family, and in the end the family is still there. Although much has changed and some relationships are strained, the family does not desert one another. Don't get me wrong the ending is not touchy-feely, but it is a satisfying resolution.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Challenge? What challenge?

I'm sure that I have already lost the Procrastinators National Posting Month blogging challenge. I only blogged three times last week, one short of the required four, and I have only posted once this week before tonight. I might be able to post two more this week, but I'm sure someone else will win that lovely down pillow. :-( Valerie will probably win it, but maybe she will let me borrow it sometime.

Also, I have not finished reading On Beauty, so I am way behind on the From the Stacks challenge. I had hoped to be reading a new novel and a new short story book by now, but I have been so busy with work and grad school that I haven't had time to read this week. I wish I could figure out a way to stay awake for a few days, then I might be able to get caught up enough to free up some time for reading. Next week, I will not have to work--Thanksgiving break!--and I am going to do as much reading as I can.

Enough whining. I really do have something to blog about tonight.

Recently I completed my reading of Our Kind, which is a novel in stories. These linked stories tell about a group of women, who came of age and married in the 50s. These women followed all the rules of society, until society changed on them and husbands divorced them.

I love this quote from the book that is quoted on the back cover of the paperback: "We could do any damn thing we liked . . . unfettered as we were, and we would, we knew, just as soon as we thought what." The women populating this book do figure out lots of things to do. They try to be good feminists, self-sufficient and independent, and sometimes they are successful. Howver, they never quite reach hero status, yet as a reader, I kept hoping one of them would. They end up being just a bit sad but not pathetic.

Perhaps because I came of age in the late 70s/early 80s, I am fascinated with stories about women experiencing the changes that occurred as a result of the rise of feminism. I like to read about women finding an active place in the world. The women in Our Kind, for the most part, didn't want to join the fight for women's rights. Yet, late in their lives, they find themselves unmarried, divorced, and widowed, so they become independent women by default.

As I was finishing this book, I kept thinking of the word ephemeral. My mental pictures as I read seemed to be blurry around the edges as if the picture was disolving. I'm not sure what this means, but I do think women like those in the book were fleeting. Times changed and women like them no longer exist.

Because I borrowed this book and didn't buy it, I didn't mark many passages in it. Two that I did mark seem to speak volumes about the women in this book as well as about many people that I know.

The final story tells the of Viv, who had plans to go to grad school until a proposal of marriage puts a halt to her plans. In the story, she is sitting in the office of two female professors, trying to figure out how to tell them that she had decided not to pursue grad school. She chickens out and tells them that she is sure that she can go back to grad school after she is married. The two professors do not believe her, and Viv really doesn't believe herself although she can't admit her doubt to herself. As she leaves the offices, she thinks, "Deferred . . . A year or two of waiting; then she would show them what a woman could do." Sadly, Viv never returns to grad school--life gets in the way. The title of this story is "The Beginning of the End," an apt title for the ending story in the book and for a story about the end of a drem.

In the same story, Viv thinks this as she is reflecting on her late life experience in a ficiton writing class: "The few times we speak of true things it is almost unbearable, and so we do not, mostly preferring to laugh." There's something sad about this statement, especially in the context of the story, "The Beginning of the End." (Too bad, I'm too sleepy to elaborate on this thought.)

Maybe I will write more about this sentence later. Now, I have to go to bed before I fall asleep sitting up on the couch.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blogging in bed

I brought my computer to bed thinking that I would post a blog before I went to sleep, but I think I'm too tired now. I had planned to blog about the most recent of episode of Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me, the NPR news quiz show--more evidence of my nerdiness, not that even an occasional reader of this blog needs more evidence. I had also planned to blog about my reading of Our Kind.

I'm falling asleep now, so I will have to blog about both of these things later. For now, I can only say good night.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Night

My faith in the American people (not Texans though) has been bolstered. I still feel like my blue votes in Texas are futile for the most part, but at least some blue votes counted today and counted big across the nation. I have stayed up way too late, watching too much election coverage and not doing enough class work.

However, I'm glad that I stayed up this late and got to see Harold Ford Jr.'s concession speech. His concession speech was very dignified and effective. He rose above the nastiness of the campaign against him. I never saw the commercial that was criticized as being racist, but I'm sure that race had something to do with his loss--Tennessee, the South, you know the drill.

As a woman, I am very excited about Nancy Pelosi being the first woman Speaker of the House. It is about time. Now, we have to get a woman into the White House.

Now, I better turn off the television and get some sleep. Later.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Two Challenges and a Product Review

Challenge 1: I am always envious of book bloggers who actually have time to participate in challenges. I would have liked to have participated in the Carl's R.I.P. Challenge, but I just can't read that much during the school now that I am teaching and going to grad school. Of course, as soon as one challenge ends another begins. Last night, I came across a challenge that I might be able to do. Michelle at Overdue Books has a issued a From the Stack Winter Challenge:

If you are anything like me your stack of purchased to-be-read books is teetering over. So for this challenge we would be reading 5 books that we have already purchased, have been meaning to get to, have been sitting on the nightstand and haven't read before. No going out and buying new books. No getting sidetracked by the lure of the holiday bookstore displays.

The bonus would be that we would finally get tosome of those titles (you know you picked them for a reason!) and we wouldn't be spending any extra money over the holidays.

The time frame would be Nov. 1st until Jan. 30 and there will be some small, fun prizes awarded to random participants and/or those with clever review posts. There will be one random drawing for a prize to those who submit their list of books in the comment section by Nov. 15th but feel free to join any time. There will be another random drawing for those who submit five reviews by Jan. 30 for a small gift certificate to Amazon.

I might actually be able to read 5 books by the end of January since I will have a week off work for Thanksgiving and two weeks for Christmas. Here are six books. I will do my best to read five of them, but I'm not sure which five yet. Also, I have to finish On Beauty before I can start any of these. I have about 100 pages left to read, I think.

§ Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Kathering Anne Porter. A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Alice McDermott's NPR commentary about this novel. I went to Half Price Books to look for it but had no luck. Yesterday, I went to Bookstop to look for it and found it in a book of Porter's collected works. I was reminded of a book of her collected works that I bought so very long ago as an undergrad for a class that I eventually dropped. I came home and found it on my shelf.

§ The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I blogged recently about buying this book. I just feel that Murdoch is someone that I should have read.

§ Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I had been wanting to read before he won the Nobel Prize and bought this book the week before the prize was announced.

§ The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. I've had this on my to-read list since it won the Booker Prize in 2004. It's been on my to-read stack for about a year now.

§ Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood. She's one of my two favorite authors. When I saw this book in the bookstore last week, I couldn't resist.

§ The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. I had heard some good things about this book before it was shortlisted for the Booker this year. After it was shortlisted, I picked it up at the bookstore.

Honestly, I'm such a slow reader and so busy with work and grad school that I will be lucky if I read three books, but I am still going to attempt this challenge.

Challenge 2: Any challenge for procrastinators piques my interest. My middle name is Procrastination. South Austin/Brooklyn Kid issued this challenge for those of us who know we aren't disciplined enough to blog on a daily basis as part of National Blog Posting Month:

I have decided that I will start my own procrastinators NaBloPoMo which consists of blogging almost everyday during the remaining month of November and a few days in December.

My contest runs from November 4 to December 4 and only requires participants to try their very best to write at least 4 days a week. If you write more than four days a week you get personally generated awesomeness points. If you post more than once in a single day you get to take a day off. Yes, this post officially announces the start of Procrastinators National Posting Month (otherwise known as ProNap Month).

If you'd like to join let me know. If three or more people sign-up I will post links to everyone's blog. (Deadline for sign-up is November 10 - you will have 2/3 of the "month" upon which to muse.) At the end of the "month" I will gather a team of esteemed procrastinators and, through a randomly generated choice of criteria, we will judge the best poster. The winner will be rewarded with a new down pillow (or an allergen-free equivalent).

I posted twice yesterday and once today, so I am already working this challenge. Of course, tomorrow I have to work, and I have a major project due in my cataloging class on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if I can meet the challenge of posting 4 times per week. I am not sure I even post four times per week in the summer. I guess only time will tell.

Product review: A while back, I bought some of those plastic crock pot liners. I used one for the first time tonight. I don't know it the liner just leaked or if I poked a hole or tow in it when I was checking to see if the chicken was done, but there was a small amount of marinade in the bottom of the crock pot. However, cleaning that small amount out of the crock pot was so much easier and faster than it would have been without the liner. I give the liners a thumbs up. I will definitely use one every time I use my crock pot now.

I guess I have run on long enough now. I need to go to bed at a decent time tonight although I have a hard time doing that on Sundays. I tend to stay up late, attempting to put off the inevitable: going to work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A new generation

I have two brothers and two sisters. My siblings have a total of eight children and two step-children. Four of my nieces have a total of four children with two more on the way. One niece has a four-year-old, but all the rest are recent arrivals. I have been to more baby showers in the last year than I had been to in the previous ten years together. I've been surprisingly excited by all these births. Usually, I try not to be excited about babies because the excitement reminds me of how much I would like to have a child, even at the old age of 42. However, bemoaning missed opportunities only depresses me, and I don't have time to be depressed these days.

I don't want to harp on anything negative today. I'm just going to post some photos. They are both so cute! Enjoy!

Well I can't figure out how to put them at the bottom of the post. Damn! So I created a post of the photos and posted it first. So if you scroll down a bit, you'll see the photos I'm talking about in this post.

Baby Photos

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's late

Yes, it's late, but I've only been home from work for about 90 minutes. I don't want to go to bed yet because then I just have to get up in about 4 hours and do it all again. Tomorrow is Friday though. (Actually it's already Friday--12:30 a.m.) :-)

I'm really bummed because I made a 76 on my cataloging midterm. I actually did quite well on the actually cataloging part of the test--26 of 30 points. However, I stupidly missed 4 of the multiple choice questions. One wrong answer was the result, I think, of carelessly choosing the wrong button because I knew the answer without looking up anything. Another one was the result of a guess; I couldn't find any definitive information to help me know the correct answer. The remaining missed questions, I don't know why I missed them. I guess I just didn't read carefully enough. I can still make a B in the class and might still be able to make an A, but I am really disappointed in myself for making that 76. Now, I have to work my ass off and make sure that my two big projects are really well done. I don't have room for any slacking or procrastinating, and I hate it when that happens.

This weekend will not be much fun, I'm sure. I have much class work to do and much grading to do. I wanted to go to the museum today or Sunday. Today, I worked late, and it looks like I will be working all day Sunday. I hate being a responsible grown up. I want to be an irresponsible grown up instead.

Okay, I hear On Beauty and my bed calling me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The other NPR thing

I got up early this morning & planned to blog about two things that I heard on NPR recently, but I only had time for one of them. Here's the rest of that post.

If you are a regular or even a semi-regular reader of this blog, you know that I buy lots of books and don't really need much encouragement to do so.

Yesterday on the way home from work, listening to All Things Considered on NPR, I heard the latest installment of You Must Read This, a series of commentaries by writers about their buttonhole books--"the ones [they] urge passionately on friends, colleagues and passersby." The latest installment is Why Libraries Should Stock Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Alice McDermott. I was so moved by McDermott's commentary that I headed to Half-Price Books before coming home last night. However, I had no luck finding the book there. Despite really wanting to go to another bookstore, I resisted the temptation and decided to check my school's library for the book. Unfortunately, my school library doesn't have the book either. I am taking this as a sign that I really don't need the book at this moment. I don't have time to read it right now, and I already have a mountain of books for a TBR pile. Yes, I will be good...for now anyway.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot--not. ;-) Sunday, I bought two books. For a long time now, I have thought that I needed to read something by Iris Murdoch, then Zadie Smith mentioned her at a reading last month, and I knew that I needed to read something by her. So I went to the bookstore Sunday and bought Murdoch's Booker Prize winner The Sea, The Sea, and Margaret Atwood's new book of short stories, Moral Disorder--I can't resist a new Atwood book.

I can't wait until my Thanksgiving holiday week. I am going to spend the whole week reading. I will go to the movie several times too, but I really just need some time to read for pleasure.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two things from NPR

I have an hour commute to and from work each day, and I usually listen to NPR coming and going. On Friday, I heard this story about the power of poetry in a time of war, Baghdad Poets Find an Oasis from Violence. A Kurdish women's rights organizer set up a tent in Baghdad and brought together Shiites from Sadr City and Sunnis from Madaan to share their poetry. I love the idea of poetry as peacemaker, even if the peace is only temporary. The event is called Freedom Space. Here's a quote from one of the participants: "'We can never find beauty in this ugly reality, but for a moment we can write about the beloved, the friend, the brother, to escape from this reality,' says Hussein al Lami, 21, a poet who has a rare chance to perform in public." I really do believe that power of poetry/art are important even in today's world. I wish that I could articulate my feelings about poetry better, but my brain isn't quite awake this morning.

Well, I have to get ready for work now, so I will save the second thing for later.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Miscellany

I am having a wonderful Sunday morning, sitting outside, drinking coffee, and surfing the Internet. When I first sat down out here, it was only about 55 degrees and pleasantly windy. It has warmed up to about 60 now, but it is still gloriously cool, even for Houston on an October Sunday.

Yesterday, I got up early and drove to work (an hour away for those who aren't regular readers of this blog) to attend the dedication of our new school building. It was a surprisingly pleasant, rather understated affair. The four guest speakers, three of whom are normally quite verbose, stuck to their allotted time, all saying some great things about the faculty, staff, and students of the school. It actually made me feel rather proud of working there. Since I was there already, I did grade some papers after the ceremony, but for those of you who are long suffering readers of this blog, you know I had to be procrastinating on doing something else, right? :-)

I was putting off starting the midterm for my cataloging class. I didn't feel as prepared as I should be. To further procrastinate, I decided to stop for a late lunch and do some reading. In Houston, I don't think waitpersons are very bothered by solo diners who don't want to eat and run, but in a smaller community, I sometimes feel like the waitperson feels a bit uncomfortable serving a solo diner. I was enjoying my reading and my hamburger and didn't want to rush through my meal, but the waitress seemed to be bothered by me. She wasn't unpleasant, but she asked if I wanted a to go box when I had only eaten half my meal. When I finally said I was ready for the check, she seemed quite relieved to be able to give it to me.

I was reading The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, which is a compilation of his books column in the Believer. Both Danielle at A Work in Progress and Sandra at Book World had praised Hornby's humorous columns. All of his columns begin with a list of books bought and books read during the previous month. I knew of Hornby's fiction--I had listened to About a Boy on tape and had read High Fidelity several years ago. I thought both novels were entertaining and humorous. I don't remember how humorous those books were, but if they were as funny as his Believer columns, then I'm sure I got some good laughs out of them.

Hornby is one of us--one of those people that buy more books than he will ever read. My only quibble with Hornby is that he doesn't like literary fiction which is my favorite genre. However, he does have a way of writing about what he reads that is extremely entertaining and true. I wish I could write about the books I read as effectively as he does. I feel rather inept here trying to write about my reading of his book containing his writing about books that he read.

I love what he says about his book collection:
"But as I was finding a home for them in the Arts and Lit non-fiction section (I personally find that for domestic purposes, the Trivial Pursuit system works better than Dewey), I suddenly had a little epiphany: all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. My music is me, too, of course--but as I only really like rock and roll and its mutations, huge chunks of me--my rarely examined operatic streak, for example--are unrepresented in my CD collection. And I don't have wall space or the money for all the art I would want, and my house is a shabby mess, ruined by children...But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not."

Recently, I blogged (or planned to blog--I'm too lazy to search my archives) about why I don't like to borrow books, give away books that I read, or sell books. I think that all the books I have read are a part of me and getting rid of a book means getting rid of a part of myself. So I must continue to buy books to better express who I am, right? :-)

One more thing about this book, the proceeds from the book are split between two non-profit organizations benefiting children, Treehouse and 826NYC. I didn't know this when I purchased the book, but I like the idea of my book buying/reading contributing to some worthwhile organizations.

Earlier in the post (I had no intention of making this post so long--sorry!), I mentioned my midterm. I did do most of it last night, and I wasn't as unprepared as I thought. I knew where to find the pertinent rules to help answer to the multiple choice questions, and I feel good about those 14 questions. The other three questions require the creation of complete records for three items. I did the first one last night, and I feel okay (not good, just okay--I hope partial credit will be given). After a break for a late night dinner with Valerie and Adrienne, I started the second one, but my energy flagged. But I know that I will finish today well before the midnight deadline.

Finally, surfing the Chronicle site this morning, I came across this article about a Paul Klee exhibit at the Menil. I am not familiar with Klee's work, but I think I have heard of him before. The photos of some of his works that accompany the article make me want to see this exhibit. I will have to put it on my to do list and on my calendar so that I don't wait too long to check it out.

Now, I have run on long enough. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday. Although they don't play until tomorrow, it is a Sunday in October, which means football for me, so I must say, Go Cowboys!!! :-)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rainy Monday

I went to bed last night around 3:00a.m. after completing an online quiz for my cataloging class and wasting at least an hour watching television and listening to the constant, driving rain. For most of that hour, I was wishing that I didn't have to go to bed at all because that would mean I would have to go to work sooner. Imagine my pleasure when I turned on the television at 5:30 this morning and found that the road I travel out of Houston was closed due to high water. I kept thinking I would figure another route to work, but the weather just made me not even want to try. I called work and left messages for everyone that I could think of. We can't schedule a sub online after 5:00a.m., so I knew that I needed to talk to the principal or the asst. principal in charge of subs. Sadly, I don't feel bad about missing today despite having missed Thursday and Friday due to illness.

It has rained most of the day, but I have enjoyed the peace and quiet punctuated with downpour after downpour. I read just a little of On Beauty, which I really need to finish and write about soon. I studied for my cataloging class. I graded a few papers--unfortunately, I have to get many more papers graded tonight. All in all, this has been a good Monday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Another Early Start

I haven't posted in over a week. I said I was going to post more, but I haven't. I had plenty of time over the weekend, but I couldn't find anything interesting to write. Instead, I wasted much of the weekend just being lazy. I did some classwork on Saturday morning, but I never did the grading that I needed to do. I never seem to do the grading that I need to do, but I refuse to be upset about it. Maybe I will do it this weekend. I will do some when I get to work very early this morning.

For now, though, I just wanted to post a couple of random things.

First, I did do some reading of On Beauty this weekend, and I am really enjoying this novel. I have a couple of passages marked to blog about and will do that soon.

Second, Kiran Desai won the Booker Prize for her novel, The Inheritance of Loss. I haven't read it yet, but it is on my TBR list. Desai and her mother Anita Desai are scheduled to read here in Houston in March.

Third, I am not aging gracefully. My ankles and calves are swelling every day, and the swelling causes horrible itching. Itching that can not be ignored. My endocrinologist prescribed me some pills that diabetics take because my blood sugar was high, not as high as a diabetics, but higher than it should be. I have been taking the pills, but the swelling & itching seem to be getting worse, certainly not any better. I did some research on the web last night--not the first time I have done this, I assure you. I came across some info about varicose veins that sounded just like what I am feeling. The very idea that I might have varicose veins makes me feel older and more unhealthy than I already feel. Still if I can get some relief from the swelling and especially the itching, I won't mind having an old woman's problem. I have to figure out what kind of doctor to see about this problem and not procrastinate--my middle name--in making an appointment.

Finally, I have decided to search for a librarian job for the spring semester. I want to leave my current job in December. More about this later.

Enough of my boring random thoughts. I'll try to write something worth reading in the next blog post. I have to get ready for work now or I won't get there early as I planned.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An Early Start

It's early, so I thought I would make a quick post before I leave for work this morning. Despite being depressed about my job situation, some good things did occur.

First, I figured out that I could be finished with my library science degree in December of 2007, assuming that I will be approved to take the combination of courses I want for the spring and summer.

Second, my sister's children, who feel like my own in some ways, had good report cards. Her daughter did not attend school last spring. She was supposed to be homeschooling, but she wasn't. She had considered moving in with me to return to school, but decided to try the hometown high school one more time. So far, she is doing okay. I am very proud of her for having the courage to go back to school as a sophomore (she should be a junior). My nephew is a freshman and a football player. He decided that he didn't want to ever have to worry about being eligible to play football and set himself a goal of making nothing less than a B, and he met his goal. It's hard to believe that he is so determined and serious about anything since he is such a silly, clown of a boy about half the time. I wish all the football players that I teach were as determined to do well rather than be satisfied with just passing.

Third, I walked for two days in a row. It's been a while since I walked regularly, and I need to do it for exercise and for my psyche. Sunday, I didn't feel that great during or after, but yesterday, I felt great. I actually felt like I was moving freely with some good speed. Before I moved to Houston about 7 or 8 years ago, I walked five miles almost every day. Since moving to Houston, I have never walked regularly for more than a few months. I don't know why I don't do it every day; it really makes me feel better physically and mentally.

Okay, I'm off to work now. Later.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Zadie Smith

Several weeks ago, Valerie and I went to see Zadie Smith, the opening author in the Inprint Brown Reading Series for this year. I wish I had not been so tired when I returned home that night because I'm sure this post will not do her reading justice. I did make a few notes that night and the next day.

After she was introduced, she came out, gave a brief introduction to the portion of On Beauty that she was going to read, apologized for the voices she would use for the various characters, and began to read. I enjoyed the part of On Beauty that she read and didn't mind the character voices at all. After the reading, she was interviewed by Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, an English professor from University of Houston. I've written in the past about these post-reading interviews by English professors. The best post-reading interviews that I have seen have been done by Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle. He knows how to ask questions that will interest an audience of various types of readers, not just academics. Well, Dr. Brown-Guillory was not bad; she asked very few English professor questions then asked several good audience questions.

Here are fragments of Smith's answers to some of the interview questions:

When asked about her writing process, she said that she works like a college student. She works in pajamas until about 4:30, hoping someone will call her to go out. She said that she went straight from being a college student to being a working writer, so she never developed any other working routine.

When asked to give advice to young writers, she said simply, "Read."

She talked some about Iris Murdoch. I'm not sure I understood completely or remember clearly, but she is working on a nonfiction book called (I think) Fail Better, that title comes from a quote from Iris Murdoch. (I did a search for this quote and found some references to it and Iris Murdoch in some recent interviews but nothing definitive.)

In answer to another question, she said that she thought having a writer in the family must be the most embarrassing thing for a family. She said something about it being difficult as a young writer to write about family because you still need their approval too much. However, she acknowledged that an older writer who didn't feel the pull of family ties as much would probably not find writing about family as difficult.

At one point, Brown-Guillory said that she finds that Smith's writing seems like that of an older author. Smith said that she attributes that to her reading of the classics when she was a teenager. She made some joke about not being a very interesting teenager because she didn't do anything except read.

When asked about which character she liked the most. She said the character that you like the most is the one that you write the best. (I think she said that Jerome was her best character in On Beauty, but she might have said Howard.) She went on to say that when you lose compassion for your character, you can't write well about them any longer.

She talked about an anthology of character stories that she is editing. Apparently this book is for free/charity because she made some statement about not knowing when this book would actually be finished since it is how hard to get writers to write for free.

In the final analysis, Zadie Smith is attractive, funny, and very personable. She chatted with everyone who waited in line to have her sign a book. Valerie and I both said that we would like to go out for drinks with her. She seemed like a person who would be fun to hang out with.

I've read the first part of On Beauty, and I like it so far. I have laughed out loud and nodded my head in agreement with observations about Americans and America several times. If I didn't have to work tomorrow, I would probably stay up reading very late tonight and finish the novel tomorrow.

I know that I haven't conveyed, in the least, how much I enjoyed her reading. I really wish I had taken notes during the reading and interview. Next reading, I'm will try to do better. For now though, I'm off to bed, reading myself to sleep with On Beauty.

A Shameful Confession

I had a really bad day at work on Friday. I had to write up two students during one class period. A boy was upset that I said it was his responsibility to be sure that I check his vocabulary work each day and tell me if I missed him. I don't care if students don't like that I make them responsible for those kinds of things--they are seniors and should be responsible. However, he spent the next few minutes mouthing loudly about how unfair I am and how it's my fault he made a 75 instead of a 100. When I told him the subject was closed, he finally shut up, but not before he said one more thing. So I wrote up a discipline referral on him. Then a few minutes later, a girl didn't like my response to her question, which she thought was "stupid." When I tried to explain my reply to her, she said, "Shut up. And don't say anything else to me." I immediately sent her to the assistant principal's office and went to the office to turn in the discipline referral on her.

Her father came up a little while later, and we had to have a conference in the AP's office. The father was a real jerk, wearing his insulated army coveralls--the temp on the Gulf coast on Friday was probably 90, not cool enough to need insulated anything. I'm sure he thought he would intimidate me, but he picked the wrong woman to intimidate. Of course, he thought I was at fault for the incident, and it didn't matter what I said he wouldn't change his opinion. The third time he said, "I know how teachers are. I know how the teachers at this school are"--said in a very negative tone. I told him that I would not stay there any longer and let him judge me based on some past experience he had had with another teachers, and that I would not sit there and let him continue to characterizing me or by co-workers as bad teachers and bad people. And I left the room.

In addition to these incidents, I had an email from a parent of a special ed student. She wants me to allow her son to not use electronic keypads to take his vocabulary tests because he told her that he was having trouble doing it. She absolutely refused to acknowledge that he made an 84 on the test before the most recent one. When I suggested that we encourage him to give the keypads one more time, she flatly refused sighting his special needs as proof that he can't be successful with the keypads. I just don't understand how parents think that immediately giving in to a child's complaint teaches them anything.

I am still depressed over these incidents as well as the realization they caused in me. I truly HATE being a teacher now. My supplies of patience, sympathy, and empathy are completely exhausted. I just can't care enough anymore about students who need special help. I know that this is a horrible thing to say, but I don't want to work hard enough to figure out how to accommodate the needs of special education children or underachievers. I can only tolerate teaching students who are average or above average. I think that many so-called learning disabled students are given too much help. I think that we, as a society, have enabled them to expect accommodations instead of teaching them how to cope and overcome their disabilities.

I feel like a fraud, and I'm not sure that I will be able to keep up the masquerade for the remainder of the year. Even when I have a good day at work, I feel the weight of my discontent in every quiet moment. I never want to go to bed at night because I know that the earlier I go to bed the earlier I will have to get up and go to work.

Sadly, even knowing that I am working on getting out of the classroom provides me with no solace. I have to find a new job. I wonder if I could get out of my contract in December. I have known teachers who have done that; maybe I will check into the possibility of doing that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Recent Reading

During each of my English 4 classes, I require my students to read silently for 15 minutes. They may read whatever book they choose, and they are only graded on participation. The best part of this assignment is that I get to read for 15 minutes of each class period. (Despite the benefits to them, I'm much more concerned with the benefits to me. I'm selfish like that.) The first book that I read for silent reading this year was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak is a young adult literature novel that I should have read for my children's literature course this summer, but I never found the time. Valerie, however, did read it and loved it, so I decided that I would read it despite my antipathy for ya lit. The novel is narrated by Melinda, who spends her freshman year hardly being spoken to or speaking to anyone. She has a secret, but she can't bring herself to tell even her old friends why she called the police to an end of summer party. Instead, her silence becomes a wall between her and just about everyone she knows; her silence is also armor against the angry reactions of other students. Melinda's (Anderson's) observations about high school and teachers are so accurate and funny and sad. I really liked this book more than I ever thought I would.

I love this vignette, Hall of Mirrors, detailing Melinda's search for a new self.

"I scurry out to the three-way mirror. With an extra-large sweatshirt over the top, you can hardly tell that they are Effert's jeans. Still no Mom. I adjust the mirror so I can see reflections of reflections, miles and miles of me and my new jeans. I hook my hair behind my ears. I should have washed it. My face is dirty. I lean into the mirror. Eyes after eyes after eyes stare back at me. Am I in there somewhere? A thousand eyes blink. No makeup. Dark circles. I pull the side flaps of the mirror in closer, folding myself into the looking glass and blocking out the rest of the store.

My face becomes a Picasso sketch, my body slices into dissecting cubes. I saw a movie once where a woman was burned over eighty percent of her body and they had to wash all the dead skin off. They wrapped her in bandages, kept her drugged, and waited for skin grafts. They actually sewed her into a new skin.

I push my ragged mouth against the mirror. A thousand bleeding, crushed lips push back. What does it feel like to walk in a new skin? Was she completely sensitive like a baby, or numb, without nerve endings, just walking in a skin bag? I exhale and my mouth disappears in a fog. I feel like my skin has been burned off. I stumble from thornbush to thornbush--my mother and father who hate each other, Rachel who hates me, a school that gags on me like a hairball. And Heather.

I just need to hang on long enough for my new skin to graft. Mr. Freeman thinks I need to find my feelings. How can I not find them? They are chewing me alive like an infestation of thoughts, shame, mistakes. I squeeze my eyes shut. Jeans that fit, that's a good start. I have to stay away from the closet, go to all my classes. I will make myself normal. Forget the rest of it."

I wasn't expecting such powerful emotion from a ya lit novel. I also wasn't expecting poetry. I am always on the alert for poetic language in the prose that I read, and I really appreciate it when it is completely unexpected and doesn't seem to self-consciously poetic. In a vignette entitled Snow Day--School as Usual, Melinda offers this description of the snow: "Hawthorne wanted snow to symbolize cold, that's what I think. Cold and silence. Nothing quieter than snow. The sky screams to deliver it, a hundred banshees flying on the edge of the blizzard. But once the snow covers the ground, it hushes as still as my heart." What a great description of snow!

So far, one of my students has borrowed this book from me, and another is waiting for it. I hope it gets passed around the whole year. Speak is a book that deserves to be heard.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Back to Blogging

I can't believe that September is almost over, and I haven't blogged since the 15th. Where have I been? Oh yeah, work and grad school are in full swing. I should be better at making time for posting blogs though. I'm going to try to be a more regular blogger. Valerie made a vow to blog something everyday, and I have decided to follow her lead.

I keep making notes on my Palm and in my Moleskine about possible blogging topics, but I keep letting other things get in the way of my blogging. I'm going to try to be more disciplined about it though. I feel good when I blog more, and I know that I get more readers on a regular basis when I blog regularly. As silly as it sounds, I do like it when people that I don't know in real life comment on my blog, and I would love to have a larger, regular readership. I envy bloggers who have a much larger audience than I seem to have. I know they are probably better writers/more entertaining bloggers than me, but I also know that if they didn't blog regularly then I wouldn't read them as often. I have several posts that I need to create: my reaction to the Zadie Smith reading and On Beauty, which I am reading now; my response to Speak, a young adult literature novel that I read recently; and anything else that I think someone might be interested in reading about.

I spent much of tonight procrastinating on work by watching the Astros win their 6th straight game and catching up on reading all my favorite blogs. Now, it's late, and I need to go to bed, and I never did go sit outside and enjoy the unusually fall like weather in Houston tonight. Argh!! I should have taken my computer outside to do the blog reading and kept abreast of the game via the Internet. I should have created one of the above mentioned blogs too. Damn! I guess I will have to blog those topics tomorrow.

Before I go, this afternoon on NPR's All Things Considered, I heard this great commentary: "Mom, Meet Rocky Horror. Rocky Horror, Mom." It reminded me of how much I miss and loved my mom, not that I really needed a reminder. I don't have a Rocky Horror experience, but if you do, you should listen to this commentary. If you have ever felt guilty about something you did or said to your mom, you should listen to this commentary. I really enjoyed hearing this commentary--nothing like stating the obvious, huh?

Now I will sign off and go to bed. One more thing: GO ASTROS!!!!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Shortlist

This week is the end of a grading period, and my library science class is in full swing. Sadly, I have little time left for blogging or pleasure reading. However, I am going to make time to go see Zadie Smith on Sunday, and I have started (barely) reading On Beauty.

I really don' need more books on my to-read list, but I wish I had time to read the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, which was announced today.

Desai, Kiran The Inheritance of Loss
Grenville, Kate The Secret River
Hyland, M.J. Carry Me Down
Matar, Hisham In the Country of Men
St Aubyn, Edward MotherÂ’s Milk
Waters, Sarah The Night Watch

I don't think I have read anything by any of these authors. I have heard and read about The Night Watch, and I will probably buy it now for sure. Kiran Desai and her mother Anita Desai are doing a reading in Houston in March, so maybe I will pick up The Inheritance of Loss too. I know that I have read something about some work by Kate Grenville, but I can't remember what or where. At some point this weekend, when I take a break from grading too many papers, I will have to do some blog reading to see what others are saying about the shortlisted works.

For now, I have to go to bed. I should have been asleep over an hour ago, but I got caught up downloading music and updating my iPod playlist. Anyway, TGIF!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Reading while driving

This school year, I am commuting by myself. For the past two year, I have had a carpool partner, but she found a job five minutes from home and deserted me. (Yes, Valerie, I'm being melodramatic. I would have taken that job too, if I were you.) I usually listen to NPR or music on my iPod, but the past two days, I have grown bored with NPR on the trip home and resorted to an old bad habit--reading while I drive. I'm actually quite skilled at reading while driving; I honed this skill in the five years that I commuted alone. Also, I don't do it in the city or in traffic, only on long stretches of highway. I know that I could listen to audiobooks, which I have done in the past, but I just haven't made it to the library yet.

Today, I read the introduction to We and was reminded of something from the Salon article that I mentioned in the previous post. In the introduction, Bruce Sterling quotes Zamyatin: "True literature can exist only where it is created, not by diligent and trustworthy functionaries, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics." I am going to put this quote on my classroom board. Maybe one of my students will read it and start a conversation about it.

I wish it wasn't so late already. I would like to write about some of the "madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics" that I have read. Alas, I must go to bed now, so that I can arise early and grade about ten more essay before my first class in the morning. I will, however, take the madman Zamyatin to bed with me and read myself to sleep.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Books, Books, Books

Yesterday, Valerie and I went to a coffee shop to do some work--yes, teachers often have to work during the Labor Day weekend. At some point, Valerie stopped working and started reading a book review on Salon. The review was for a newly translated version of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. The more she read about this dystopian novel, the more excited I became to get the book and read it. For several years now, I have required my English 4 students to read Brave New World and 1984, and some of my AP students also read The Handmaid's Tale. I find dystopias disturbing yet enjoyable, and I would love to have a new book to introduce my students to this year.

I got so excited by the review that I just had to go to the bookstore and pick up a copy of the book. I had planned to start reading it tonight, since I finished The Loved One last night. However, I worked late and still need to grade some papers before I sleep. Damn. I hate it when work gets in the way of reading. Too bad I'm really enjoying Speak, which I am reading during silent reading time in my classes. If I wasn't I could take We to work and read it instead.
Now, another dilemma -- I arrived home tonight to discover that my hardcover of On Beauty had arrived, and I really want to start reading it and maybe finish it before Zadie Smith's reading here on the 17th. I would also like to write something about the books that I've read lately, but I just can't seem to find the time to formulate any interesting thoughts on the books.

I can say that The Loved One was extremely funny. I just love satire when it's done well.

And I can say good night because I must either grade a few essays before I go to bed or go to bed now and get up extremely early in the morning to grade essays. Later.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I am almost too tired to blog, but I have been itching to post something, not anything of interest, just something. I feel like I have been too tired late to even read a blog, much less post to mine. I want to post about the beginning of the school year and about the books that I'm reading now, but I won't do that tonight. If I'm too tired to grade some projects, then I should be too tired to blog, but blogging is so much more fun than grading. Consider this itch scratched. :-)

Another itch, one that I am trying not to scratch, is this horrible rash on my calves, my inner thighs, my abdomen, and my upper arms. One of my co-workers reminded today of a former co-worker's "teacher disease." I had forgotten about this woman's horrible place on her arm, but it wasn't a rash, more like a blister/sore. Anyway, I am trying not to scratch because it just tears up my skin. Sometimes, though, I can't resist.

I don't think it's an allergy; I haven't changed any lotions, soaps, or detergents in a very long time. I'm thinking that it might be anxiety, and if it is, I might have to quit teaching...NOW! HA! I wish.

I really do have to go to bed now. I feel myself falling asleep as I type. Later

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Valerie rox!!!

Hi there,

This is most definitely Kim posting. No doubt about it. I just wanted to let you all know how much Valerie rocks. She is the coolest person on the face of the planet.

I don't know what I did to it. I just wanted my library thing to work, that's all. It works now, because Valerie rocks.

-Valerie Kim

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blog problems

I don't know what happened, but my blog has reverted to the basic beginner look. YUCK!!! Unfortunately, my html guru and blog designer, Valerie, is too busy going to bed tonight to fix the problem. ;-) She said she might be able to fix it tomorrow, but she does have to work, so it might be the weekend before she can fix it. I did whine for sympathy & immediate assistance, but Google Talk whining doesn't work very well. Anyway, she has the code saved on her computer, so it should be an easy fix, unless, of course, I decide that I want a new look--again.

Before I go quickly to bed (I should have already been asleep), I have to say a couple of things. First, I FINALLY finished Sophie's Choice. It is a wonderful, heartbreaking novel. I loved it! However, I wish I had purchased a different copy of the book. The Modern Library version has a tiny top margin, which makes the book seem longer than it actually is, and it is almost 600 pages long. I don't know if that margin is intentional, but if so, it should be changed.

Second, I'm going to a workshop on Friday, so tomorrow is my Friday at work. Woohoo! Not only is tomorrow my work Friday, but I didn't work Monday of this week either. The sad truth of the situation is that even going to work for three days in one week doesn't make me feel good about still being a classroom teacher. But it's too late to cry about that now.

I will write more about Sophie's Choice later. Good night.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I'm such a book geek.

I've been considering challenging myself to stop buying new books and read all the books that I own but haven't read yet. I've thought about doing this before but gave up before I even started. This time, I was only going to allow myself to buy Zadie Smith's On Beauty in hardback in advance of her reading here next month. I was thinking that I would fast from book buying for a limited time, say six months or this school year. In the meantime, I would nourish myself by reading as many of the books that already own but haven't read yet. Occasionally, I might treat myself to a book that I can borrow from a friend or check out from the library.

Then tonight, after a long, late day of work, I get home and find that I have received an email from the Man Booker Foundation. The long list for the prize was announced yesterday, so now I have a whole list of new books to taste. Of course, binging on Booker Prize books can be a bit difficult here in the states. My fasting would definitely be over before it started if I lived in the UK.

Here is the long list. I've only heard of a couple of them. I'm sure that as book bloggers start talking about the list and predicting which should make the short list that my desire to sample and savor some of these may become too powerful to resist. If I am faithful to my fast, I will attempt the library before I buy, or at least, that's what I'm telling myself tonight.

Carey, Peter Theft: A Love Story (Faber & Faber)
Desai, Kiran The Inheritance of Loss (Hamish Hamilton)
Edric, Robert Gathering the Water (Doubleday)
Gordimer, Nadine Get a Life (Bloomsbury) - I haven't heard of this book, but I love Gordimer's short story "The Bedtime Story."
Grenville, Kate The Secret River (Canongate)
Hyland, M.J. Carry Me Down (Canongate)
Jacobson, Howard Kalooki Nights (Jonathan Cape)
Lasdun, James Seven Lies (Jonathan Cape)
Lawson, Mary The Other Side of the Bridge (Chatto & Windus)
McGregor, Jon So Many Ways to Begin (Bloomsbury)
Matar, Hisham In the Country of Men (Viking)
Messud, Claire The EmperorÂ’s Children (Picador)
Mitchell, David Black Swan Green (Sceptre) - I loved Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, but I read some mixed book blogger reviews of this novel, so I haven't tried it yet. Maybe I will now.
Murr, Naeem The Perfect Man (William Heinemann)
OÂ’Hagan, Andrew Be Near Me (Faber & Faber)
Robertson, James The Testament of Gideon Mack (Hamish Hamilton)
St Aubyn, Edward MotherÂ’s Milk (Picador)
Unsworth, Barry The Ruby in her Navel (Hamish Hamilton) - Great title! :-)
Waters, Sarah The Night Watch (Virago) - I recall reading something about this book recently, but I can't remember where I read it. It seems like it was a positive review though.

Now, it's late, so I won't sit here and look up all these books on Being back at work means that I need to be in bed by 10:30, but those damn Astros can't seem to win or lose tonight. It's 12:18a.m. and the score is tied in the bottom of the 17th inning. To be honest, I switched the channel to TNT at 11:00 to watch the replay of The Closer from last night and almost forgot about the game. I went to to see what the final score was, but it's not final yet. Oh well, I will have to find out what happens in the morning because I have a date with Sophie's Choice. Good night all.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Random Book Quote

Valerie tagged me, and since I always have a book handy, I thought I would do this before I venture out into the Houston heat for a walk.

1. Grab the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
Sophie's Choice by William Styron

2. Open the book to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence (grab next nearest book if fewer than seven sentences found).

4. Post the text of the next three sentences on your blog along with these instructions.

Defying habit, I had for several days risen just past dawn, propelled to my table by the electric urgency I have described, and had written steadily for two hours or more. I had completed one of those (for me) fantastic sprints--a thousand words or thereabouts--which was to characterize this stage of the book's creation, I felt a bit winded, and therefore Nathan's knock at my door as he passed on his way to work was a welcome distraction. He had popped in on me like this for several mornings and I enjoyed the by-play.

5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

6. Tag three people.
I only have about three regular readers, one of whom is Valerie, so anyone who reads this should considered themselves tagged.

Now I'm going to head out into the Houston heat. If I don't melt, I'll blog later this evening about this very funny movie that I saw last night.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The End of Summer

I have only two more weekdays of summer vacation from work. I have a bit of grad school class work to do, but I hope to spend a significant portion of my too quickly dwindling free time reading some things for pleasure. I want to finish Sophie's Choice, and I want to read a couple of YA books that I didn't get to earlier in the summer. I need to do some housecleaning and some shopping, and I have to go to my hometown for a baby shower. Sounds too busy for summer vacation, but busy is a good description for this summer vacation.

Well, it's late and I plan to be busy tomorrow enjoying one of my remaining days of summer, so I'm going to bed now. Maybe tomorrow, I will spend some time and write a real post, a post worth reading.

Friday, July 21, 2006

These Books

These books, these poor, sad, unread books, waiting patiently on my headboard. I had planned to read as many of these books as possible this summer. Instead, I have spent the summer reading picture books, children's books and YA books, most of which I found, at best, pleasant.

Every night when I go to bed with one or more of those children's or YA books, I see these looking forlorn and lonely despite not being alone in their neglect. I try to turn my head and ignore them, but it's hard to do. Many mornings, I wake, look up from my pillow, wistfully wishing for way to work them into my day. Alas, I haven't been able to do that yet.

On two different occasions, I have been compelled to pull a book from the bookshelf across the room, a book calling my name, desiring a reading. Not wanting to disappoint The Beautiful and the Damned or Light in August, I placed them on the headboard. The other books smiled knowingly at the excitement of the new additions--placement on the headboard is no guarantee of immediate reading. Some of those books have been waiting patiently for over a year for me to lavish them with my attention, to hold them, to fill my mind with their words, to become a part of me. So many books, so little time to read. :-(

I'm sure if I were better organized and a faster reader that I could have at least finished Sophie's Choice and started another book. I should have been able to rescue at least one book from loneliness. I hope they don't decide to band together and dive off the head board onto my one night. That could really hurt. ;-)

Enough procrastinating, I have classwork to do and more children's books to read. Maybe I'll sneak in some Sophie's Choice tonight before I go to bed. One can dream, right?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"...utterly, fatally glamorous"

I am going to pose this same question to my AP students on my teacher blog, but I'm trying to work through the idea first. Maybe one of my few regular readers can help.

In Sophie's Choice, the narrator describes one of his friends, one of the main characters in the novel, as being, "utterly, fatally glamorous." I love this description, which is so obviously fraught with ominous foreshadowing and yet so alluring at the same time. I don't believe that I have ever known anyone who might be described this way, but I did think of a few characters from novels that might fit this description. My first thought was Jay Gatsby and/or Daisy,the woman of his dreams. Who else? Hamlet? Daisy Miller? Catherine Earnshaw? Heathcliff?

What qualities must a person have to be "utterly, fatally glamorous"? It's late now. I will add some thoughts to this later. Now, I'm going to bed and read myself to sleep with A Wrinkle in Time, which I have found surprisingly interesting and entertaining despite being a children's novel. I know it's a classic, but I don't remember ever reading it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Lion King

Several months ago, I purchased tickets to The Lion King, which I saw Thursday night at the Hobby Center in Houston. I purchased tickets so long ago that it almost felt like they were free. I was so excited about my little niece coming--she's six, and her excitement over the opening number lived up to my expectations.

Despite some opening night lighting problems, I loved the production. The story isn't told very smoothly onstage (it's been too long since I've seen the movie so I don't know if that is a problem in the movie also), but the sets, songs, and choreography are excellent. The opening number was worth the price of my ticket. :-)

My sister called me the next day, and she was still excited about what she had seen. I was kind of surprised because she's not one to go to the theater or watch musicals. She said she had told everyone how much she liked the show and recommended that they should see it if they ever get a chance. It made me feel good to know that she had fun and enjoyed the show that much.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What's up with fireworks?

I went to the Astros game last night and stayed after the game to watch a wonderful fireworks show. Tonight, I heard something that sounded like a gun, but I quickly realized it must be fireworks. I jumped up and opened my door and stood in my doorway, watching the fireworks show from the park near my house. I had a good view over the trees. Before the show was over, I retreated to my living room chair and watched the rest from my window.

Why are we so drawn to fireworks shows? Why do we find them so exciting? So beautiful? I think they are beautiful, but I can't articulate why or how. I know that they make me feel very childlike. I ooh and ahh like I've never seen anything so impressive. So maybe my appreciation for them is nostalgia. Maybe it's the danger--the fire, "bombs bursting in air," but safe, or relatively so.

Two more things before I go. First, the Astros won their fourth straight game today. Woohoo! They are back to .500 and only 3.5 games back (at least that's what Valerie said when we chatted earlier). Hopefully, they are building momentum and will stay on one to the play-offs now.

Second, I read a whole book today. Yea for me!!!! I'm not going to harp on the fact that the book was a YA novel only 186 pages in fairly large print. I'm just going to celebrate my accomplishment. And, I will recommend Stargirl to everyone. It was sweet and sad and poignant, and surprisingly satisfying for a reader who reads mostly literary fiction. The premise: a new 10th grade girl enters a high school in Arizona, and she is not only new to the school but a new personality, completely different from the "normal" students who populate this school. The narrator is Leo, who fell for Stargirl, but learned how hard it is to be "different" and to be connected to people who won't/can't conform to the norm. At one point Leo observes, "We wanted to define her, to wrap her up as we did each other, but we could not seem to get past 'weird' and 'strange' and 'goofy.' Her ways knocked us off balance." The idea that people need to define other people, put them a box, is so right on, especially for teenagers, I think.

Okay, I need to read some picture books before I go to bed. Later.

Holiday Happenings

I plan to spend the day reading, but before I get started, I have been surfing some of my favorite book blogs. There has been lots of talk lately about the year being half over and how many books have been read so far. I commented on A Work in Progress that I never get in counting contests because I will never win. I am such a slow reader, and I feel like such a slacker when other people talk about how fast they read.

Valerie is a superfast reader, and I am jealous of her speed. She's says that I remember more of what I read and shouldn't be jealous of her. It doesn't help; I still feel slow. We went to the bookstore today, and she kept pointing out books that I want to read like Kite Runner, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Time Traveler's Wife. I kept agreeing with her and saying how I had planned to read that book and that book and that book this summer, but my library science classes were getting in the way. Finally, I said that I had the weight of all the books I wanted and needed to read on my shoulders. Literally slumping from their figurative weight, I declared that I would have to quit my job and drop out of grad school and become a bum who lived at the library and read all the time. Wouldn't that be a fine life! ;-)

So, I have this large stack of picture books and YA novels in my floor that I need to read for one of my classes. Of course, I would rather read Sophie's Choice, and I will read some of it today. I did buy one YA book at the bookstore today, Stargirl, which Valerie says is one of her favorites. She read it for an education course that she took a couple of years ago. She said, with a smile, that I could probably read it all in one day--ha! ha! I might include it in a booktalk that I have to do very soon for one of my classes.

I guess I better get off this computer, and as soon as Meet Me in St. Louis is over, I will turn the TV off and get comfortable reading.

I hope you all have a wonderful July 4th, holiday or not. Later.