Sunday, November 30, 2008

Letters written in November

I kept up with my solemn vow this month, but still missed two days. I also caught up all of the Sara letters, leaving her with a huge packet of my letters to reply to on her end. After that, I turned to LEX and wrote several people who had submitted listings in the Winter issue. Though I am enjoying writing, my enthusiasm for this project is flagging.

1 November. Sara
2 November. Sara
3 November. Sara
**Letter back Sara
**3 postcards, Sara
4 November. Postcard to Sara
5 November. Postcard to Matt
6 November. Postcard to Susan
**LB re: LEX listing I posted "Do we still need women's colleges?"
7 November. LEX Letter re: hobbies
8 November. LEX Letter re: Tuesday evening
9 November. LEX Letter re: steady correspondent
10 November. LEX Letter re: poem song etc.
11 November. Beres family
12 November. Thank you to Linda
** 2 Letters back Sara
13 November. LEX Letter "almost frugal grandmother"
14 November. LEX Letter "changed mind"
15 November. LEX Letter "horse across US?"
16 November. BroMAunts
17 November. Postcard to Sara
18 November. Jan
19 November. LEX Michael
20 November. Sara
21 November. No one
22 November. No one
23 November. Sara
24 November. LEX Gerry
**Letter back LEX Diane (food)
25 November. LEX Diane (movies)
26 November. Sara
27 November. LEX Letter "women and books"
28 November. LEX Letter "green"
29 November. LEX Letter "pen pals"
30 November. LEX Letter "last five books"

Books read in November

He, She & It.
Marge Piercy.
Another futuristic tale from Piercy concerning a woman, her son and a robot. I love how Piercy imagines the world mid-century. I hope it isn't like that, but you never know.

Outlasting the Trail.
Mary Baumgardner O'Brien
I grew up on pioneer tales and read a lot of Oregon Trail novels. For some reason, I can't think of a single adult novel about the Oregon Trail published in the last five years. Either the pioneer stories lend themselves better to children's literature or our frontier ancestors are not in vogue right now.

This tale is based on the true story of a woman whose husband sets out happily for California, dragging his wife and family along. Not far into the journey, a major depression sets in, leaving him argumentative and unable to pull his weight. His wife Mary must step out of her sphere and ensure the family gets to California.

The story was pretty interesting, but I was skeptical of a lot of the thoughts put in the main character's head by the author. They did not seem authentically eighteenth century to me.

The Importance of Being Kennedy.
Laurie Graham
This book was a delightful, breezy tale of the Kennedy clan with a Kennedy nurse as the main character. The book takes a dim view of Rose Kennedy and a dimmer view of Joseph Kennedy. The story was enjoyable and the narration was breezy and funny at times, too.

The Annotated Secret Garden.
Ed. Gretchen Holbrook Gerzman
Though I felt the annotation in this book was lacking at points, I always enjoy this story.

Pet Food Nation.
Joan Weiskopf
Why you probably don't want to feed your cat or dog commercial pet food. My guess is, that if you read this book, you will start looking for other sources of food for your pet.

Peter Jordan
Dishwasher Pete has a book! The story of Pete's quest during the 1990s to wash dishes in all 50 states. Jordan's writing style is entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny at times and caused me to question the nature of success and how we define work in this country. Highly recommended. He also loves Portland.

10 Days in the Hills.
Jane Smiley
Unlike Celebutantes, this is an enjoyable novel of the Hollywood world. I enjoyed the plot device Smiley used to keep nine people in the same house for ten days, as well as the various characters. There is a lot of sex in this book and I found the scenes well written, much better than your average romance novel. The book is nice and thick, it makes fabulous beach read material.

I am America and So Can You.
Stephen Corbet.
I broke Corbert's hard and fast rule to purchase the book, not get it from the library. Fans of the show know how funny this book is. Non-fans will enjoy it too. I read this in dribs and drabs over six weeks and there was much to chortle about. The side notes in the margin were particularly ingenious.

Bringing Down the House.
Ben Mezrich
The true story of how a group of MIT students successfully counted cards in Las Vegas and won millions. When this book came out and the author was promoting it I was fascinated by the story. I forgot about it for a few years, until the movie based on it premiered this summer. Reading the book, I can hear the conversations the producers must have had to make the story more "Hollywood." I enjoyed both the book and the movie, though if you are going to indulge in only one, I would recommend the book.

Started but did not finish
Math Equals: Biographies of Women Mathematicians and Related Activities.
Teri Perl
More research about Mary Somerville brought me to this book, by the same author who wrote Women and Numbers. This book is written for the middle school/high school level and the Discovery Activities are more difficult. A well-done book, I may return to it in the future.

Woman and Numbers: The Lives of Woman Mathematicians Plus Discovery Activities.
Teri Perl
Research about Mary Somerville for a paper in my Historical Topics in Middle School Math. This book is suitable for late elementary school/middle school students and includes fun math activities after every famous woman mathematician.

Women in Mathematics.
Lynn M. Osen.
Well-researched articles about a variety of women mathematicians.

The Usbrone Complete Book of Chess.
Elizabeth Dalby
I can't play chess. I know how the game works, but I have no understanding of strategy. I checked this book out in an attempt to change that, but then had no time to actually learn anything from it. The book is written for children, thus making a good introductory book for any age. It is vividly illustrated and has links to every lesson to reinforce your learning.

Slide Rule.
Robert Scaffold.
My next paper topic for the Math class.

Douglas Arther Brown.
I dated a guy who was the oldest of a set of triplets, and the three of them fought all the time. This fascinated me, and I wondered if that had to do with the fact they were too crowded in the womb, or family dynamics or other influences. So I was interested in this story of triplets, but the plot didn't hold my attention. And usually I like books with alternating narrators and letters.

Did not even start
A History of the Logarithmic Slide Rule (very long title after this)
Florian Cajori
It was written a long time ago and skimming the introduction I found that the entire book is built on a false premise. I was supposed to read the addendum first, then read the book. It seemed too much trouble so I just didn't bother.

Graphic Aids in Engineering Computation.
Randolph Hoelscher and others.
More books for slide rule research that I didn't actually read.

The Slide Rule Handbook.
James Own Perrine.
And even more books for research.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--Rachael Getting Married.

An absolutely fabulous movie, long and languid with much to discuss for days afterward. The kind of movie about family dynamics and people with substance abuse problems that mainstream Hollywood could never make. It really feels as if you are attending this wedding.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

I didn't like this as much as I liked the book, but it was a nice way to spend an evening. Kat Dennings is absolutely mesmerizing, so much so that Michael Cera faded into the background a bit. There are some laugh-out-loud funny lines in the movie, but if you have to choose one, read the book.

Oh! I forgot that they made a major plot point change between the book and the movie that I disagree with. The book is much better. Much.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Feast!

After the Turkey Trot, I spent the morning at Mom's, reading about cats on the Oregon Humane Society's web site while Chris and Mom cooked. My job was to bring rolls and I had finished them on Wednesday. After that cooking was finished, we traveled to Aunt Pat's for the famous Thanksgiving dinner.

Chris carves.
Aunt Carol made a scrumptious Brussels Sprout dish.

My plate: Brussels sprouts, the Parker House rolls I made, steamed broccoli and carrots, stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, the traditional rice dressing.
It was so delicious I ate it all.
After that came a very long game of Trivial Pursuit and eventually dessert.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving.

Turkey Trot

For the past few months I've been training for the Turkey Trot, the annual four-mile run at the Zoo. Turkey Trot day arrived clear and cold. I took the Yellow Line Max to Pioneer Square where I transferred to the Blue Line Max that would take me to Washington Park. It was about 6:30 in the morning and workers were lighting the holiday tree. But, strangely, other workers found it important to cut back wisteria too. I have no idea why.
Sunrise over parking lot full of people waiting for the start of the race and people waiting in line for the port-a-potties.

Self-portrait before the race starts.
The race started late (grrrr) so I had ample opportunity to contemplate these banners at the World Forestry Center. The middle one I get, it's the logo. The right one I get, it's a picture of a big tree. The one on the left I don't get at all. What does a family white water rafting have to do with a forest? I guess they could be rafting through the forest, but it still seems an odd choice. If they wanted to show recreation in the forest why not some cross country skiers, or snow shoeing?
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of running the Turkey Trot, it's a pretty "ugh" course. Two miles downhill, turn around and groan your way through the same two miles you just ran, but now they are two uphill miles. Once I started I thought to myself, "I do not, in any way, shape or form, feel like doing this right now." But what could I do? Turn around and finish with the slick actual runners in their running shorts and with their 5 minute miles? Not really an option. I persevered, and eventually finished. Dispute the very uphill portion, I ran this faster than my usual Saturday long runs which happen on flat land. The Turkey Trot is a fun run, so I don't have an official time, but the time I kept was 50:52 for four miles. I'm not a fast runner, though I do have designs.

The "I finished" self-portrait:
Then it was a quick walk to the parking lot where Mom whisked me away to the Thanksgiving celebrations. Though there was a bit of parking lot waiting before we could really "whisk."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Les Aucoin Plaza

I picked up my race packet for the Turkey Trot today at the World Forestry Center and came across Les Aucoin Plaza. You can find it yourself by taking the Blue or Red line to the Washington Park stop and taking the elevator to the top. I wondered as I walked by, if Les Aucoin was a person, or a french name of something. It could go either way, so I took a picture to remind myself to check.
Ah. I see he was the first Democrat congressman to represent Oregon's first congressional district since statehood. He also spells his name AuCoin. If the plaza sign wasn't in all capital letters, that would be more obvious. He gets a plaza named after him because he and Mark Hatfield worked their congressional magic on the east and west side light rail lines. How lovely.

And now I know.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I finally turned the heat on.

I play this game every autumn. It's the one where I wait as long as I possibly can before I turn the heat on in the evenings. I can make it fairly late in the calendar year because I tend to run a little warmer than other people and also I bundle up. Plus, my evenings are full of cooking dinner, cleaning up, etc. There is much movement until I settle down to read. At that point I can retreat under blankets until it is time to go to bed.

The heat has been on, mind you. That other person I live with isn't quite as active when he is home, nor is he so much into the stoicism involved in playing the game. The difference between us is that I'm convinced, in some small way, that some day I will make it thorough the winter without turning on the heat. I think of the pioneers, or even people at the turn of the century, who really had to work to get their heat. Surely they wouldn't stoop to turning on the heat on such a comparatively warm night? Whereas Matt would rather be comfortable. So weekends, when we are both home, have been pretty warm. Comparatively. Our heat is usually set to 60 degrees. But weeknights it is just me and I regret to report that tonight was the night that I couldn't stand the cold any longer.

Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Writer's Almanac tells me that today is Frances Hodgson Burnett's birthday. There was an essay about her life at the beginning of the Annotated Secret Garden and I learned what an incredibly interesting woman she was. Aside from being a Scorpio (like myself) she also published her first story at 18 and thereafter never had a rejection slip. She was incredibly popular and though we know her most for The Secret Garden--although my favorite is The Little Princess--she primarily wrote novels for adults.

She suffered tragedy in her life but she just kept going. Many of the discussions about "Magic" in Secret Garden reflect her life attitude which I would summarize as one part "power of positive thinking," one part hard work, and one part mysticism.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's all in the details.

Going on walks provides ample opportunity to observe small architectural details. Small digital cameras provide ample opportunity to capture them.
This is an apartment building downtown. I love that a long time ago someone chose to add a border of blue tile. It looks so lovely against the white tile.

17 ways to live happily...parting words.

Be happy with what you earn, but always look out for ways to earn more.

Remember Suze Ormand’s clients, who would be happy with only $500.00 more per month? All of these suggestions are meant to get you thinking about how you could live happily with what you have. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t leave yourself open to one day earning more. And when you do earn more, you can apply what you are learning now, so your money can stretch even further. Then you can live enthusiastically on what you have.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Embracing bike safety and your inner dork.

Sara posted this comment regarding the riding of bikes:

But the helmet messes up my hair! I want to ride my bike more and then I am stuck...should wear a helmet...but don't want to look uncool. And then again I don't want the contents of my skull spread out all over the road some day. See my conundrum?

It is a conundrum and I would by lying if I said that I haven't struggled with it myself. The fact is that as cool as bicycling is, to be a safe biker you have to take the deep breath and choose to be the dork. It probably varies from city to city, but in Portland the coolest biker is some hipster chick (or guy) who wears skinny black pants and a dark sweatshirt, both of which gap to show their nifty back tattoo, and rides a fixie (fixed gear, one speed bike) with the wind ruffling though their hip haircut and insects bouncing off their cool black-framed glasses. If they are carrying anything at all, it is just a small messenger bag. If they are riding at night they have no lights.

But with the wind ruffling though their hair they are wearing no helmet and with all those dark clothes, no one can see them and with their back tattoo exposed they are getting cold and with only one gear it is harder to get up hills and if they have such a small messenger bag it can't possibly hold all that is needed for a day at work and if it is dark outside, people can't see them.

Me. Not cool. But my motto is that if someone hits me, it is darned sure going to be their fault. When I bike, I wear an ugly, but incredibly visible, jacket I bought off a road construction site, clear glasses and a helmet with lights mounted on it. My bike has 21 gears, more lights, a rack, fenders and a basket. Actually, the hipsters have fenders too. The only people who don't have fenders in Portland are hard-core racing bicyclists concerned about weight. During fall, winter and spring they always have that wet stripe up their back.

The helmet will always mess up your hair, there is no getting around that. And I believe that you shouldn't be without a helmet, though some would argue otherwise. I propose two solutions: one is to just live with the helmet hair (my choice). The other came to me from Urban Biker's Tricks and Tips, a book I recommend any bicyclist read. Go on a bike ride wearing your helmet and get really sweaty. Then go to the hairdresser, take off your helmet and ask the hair dresser to cut it in a style that works with the helmet.

Bicycling, like so many other things, is just like high school. At some point you realize that the cool kids values don't match yours and your forge your own path that follows you values. And just like high school, people who share your values will find you cool, and 95% of the time you won't care what the cool kids think. That five percent of the time? You'll feel like a dork. There just isn't any way around it.

I promote our school auction.

Each year we have an auction. This year some promoting needed to be done. Because I am the person who stands at the door at the beginning and end of the school day, I was an ideal person. Plus, I got to tap into my beauty queen persona. First came the sash, drawing attention to the fact that the auction was fast approaching. Next came the crown with the message "Have you bought your auction tickets?" After that was the scepter which could be used as a mace, should the need arise. Each day the mace informed the public how few days remained until the auction. I planned to fashion a cape, but I got busy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

17 ways to live happily...second jobs.

If you do have a second job, make sure that you love it.

Sometimes people who feel squeezed trying to stretch the money they have choose to get a second job to bring some more money into their lives. I mostly suggest not doing this. A lot of times working a second job means you don’t have time to do the basic housekeeping tasks that keep costs down. If you work more hours you suddenly have even less time to plan your meals and cook them and clean your house and look for bargains and sit and space out. When time is crunched then the meal on the go looks much more attractive. When you are pressed for time things like shopping seem to be a good way to spend your day.

But sometimes you can work a little bit at something you love and that little bit makes all the difference. For the past six years I have been an advisor to the youth group at my church. I enjoy working with the other advisors and planning activities and hanging out with the youth so much that it took me several years to realize that I have a second job. The stipend that comes with the position is not huge, but it is a happy check to receive each month in the mail. Over the years I have saved that amount to help buy a house, to boost my savings, to make ends meet, to spend on alternative medical care, and to pay for classes. I’ve even set aside a portion of it as “mad money” to spend on what every I wanted. My second job doesn’t take up very much of my time, and results in cash every month.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--Kung Fu Panda.

A quick and entertaining animated feature with good life lessons for all. Finally, we learn how obsession with food can be used to one's advantage. There were so many minor characters I felt they got a little lost in the plot line, but overall not a bad way to spend 92 minutes.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

17 ways to live happily...television

Don't watch TV.

TV can be free entertainment, but I think that avoiding it altogether is the smartest choice. Cable is never a necessary expense, though I realize many people enjoy spending their downtime watching TV. But the whole television experience is designed to get you to buy things. Discounting the commercials (which make no bones about getting you to spend your money on things you never knew you wanted) I find the majority of things on TV show a distorted view of reality. Remember the apartments of the “Friends?” How about the homes that supposedly middle class families live in on TV? Huge! And reality shows? Not actually reality.

If you have fallen in love with a show or two, there’s nothing wrong with that. But try and limit your TV viewing and see if your wants decrease. If you can go cold turkey with “your shows” you can always watch narrative shows later on DVD. I prefer this as I can avoid the commercials and watching them at my own pace.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--Love Actually.

The first time I saw this movie I was a bit lukewarm about it, while the rest of the country gushed; I find most of the stories either profoundly depressing or encompassing lust, not love. I thought I would watch it again to see if my initial impression was wrong. It wasn't; Emma Thompson is the highlight.
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Three sentence movie reviews--Tell No One.

To quote Shawn Levy of the Oregonian: "An absolutely cracking thriller." This is such a good movie you won't mind that you have to read subtitles. Twenty minutes from the end I was thinking, "How in the world will they ever wrap this up?"
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17 ways to live cards.

Freeze your credit cards.

Literally. Drop your cards into a jar, fill it with water and then set them in the freezer. Then, every time you want to use your credit cards you must take the time to defrost them. In the time it takes to remove the cards from their icy tomb you can come to your senses about the intended use. If the use is a legitimate use then you won’t mind waiting around for some ice to defrost.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


The music at church this week was burbling with joy. There was a huge turnout, even on a gray day in November for the 9:15 service. You could feel the happiness and relief and the joy that the election was over and we had turned a corner.

You too can listen along thanks to the magic of YouTube:
Prelude: "The Entertainer" Scott Joplin

Introit: "Walk Together Children" Spiritual Arranged by Moses Hogan, sung by the Chamber Choir (our "A" choir)

Hymn #203 "All Creatures of the Earth and Sky"

Doxology #123 "Spirit of Life." We sing this every week. There is no good choral version of this online, so you can listen to this solo.

Offertory: Prelude #2 by George Gershwin

Anthem "The Promise of Living" from Tender Land by Aaron Copland, sung by the Chamber Choir

Hymn #149 "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (One of my top five favorites in our Hymnal.)
Sheesh it is hard to find an equivalent of how we sing this on You Tube. We sing it fast and straight through. I'm not so thrilled with this arrangement, but it was the best I could find.

Postlude: Hoe-down from Rodeo by Aaron Copland. But played on an organ.

I found myself wondering if they chose such joyous music long ago, because if the election came out the way we wanted we would celebrate and if it did not, we could be cheered by it. But for all I know they came in Wednesday morning and said, "Let's go with the happy stuff."

However it was chosen, it was a joy to experience, and we did sing out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

17 ways to live

Take an active interest in managing your money.
Oh, for the days when you went to work every day for 30 years, retired and took home your gold watch and sat contentedly in the Lazy-Boy lounger while your steady pension check arrived in the mail every month. Today, most of us don’t have a pension and we must figure out the best place to stash our retirement money, or how to manage our 401k accounts. Not only that but you can bank practically anywhere on earth and charge nearly all of your expenses on your credit cards.

All of those choices mean that you must understand that much more about all of these different financial services. If you are a person who doesn’t understand the basics of investing or paying taxes or balancing your checkbook, your money will suffer and sadly, that affects you.

How do you learn about all these topics? Your library has a plethora of books on managing your money. Do yourself a favor and read five or so books to familiarize yourself with your money. Once you have got the basics down, once per year, skim through a few of the latest books to see if there is new information available that will benefit you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations! It must be wonderful to not only get to the end of this endless presidential campaign, but also to make history. Last night, watching you speak to the thousands in Grant Park in Chicago and to people across the United States, I was reminded of 1992, when I cast my first ballot. Bill Clinton won that night and my friend Cindy and I stayed up late to watch his first speech. I remember it was cold that night in Arkansas, I could see the gloves people were wearing as they clapped in Little Rock. But mostly I remember the sense of hope. I had grown up in a Democratic family in a strongly Republican state. It was my senior year of high school and everything was about to change. I was filled with the hope that in the dawning of the first Democrat as President I remembered, so would my post-high school life be so blessed.

Well, Clinton’s terms in office remain a marker in my political development. As those eight years passed and I started college and finished college and began to make my way in the work world, I learned that even when the presidential candidate of your choice wins (twice) it can be a profoundly disappointing experience.

But that was nothing compared to the last 8 years.

I’ve been sensing something in this country since 9/11. I think as a whole, we are dissatisfied hearing over and over again that all we can do is shop to prop up the economy. We know that there are big problems to deal with on so many fronts: health care, the national debt, the trade imbalance, homelessness, poverty and that god-awful war. In my mind, the American public can be symbolized as a spotty, flabby adolescent, holed up in his room playing video games. We are willing to set aside our dark room and video games and to stand up for our country, to work hard, to make a difference, but we have only been told, again and again, to consume.

After 9/11, we were ready to stand as a country and do what needed to be done. The message we got then was to hole up inside our homes and buy new things to decorate it. We did, but it was unsatisfying and seemed to only result in a fatter and poorer public. So, President-elect Obama, don’t be afraid to ask us to stand up for America. Don’t be afraid to ask us come out of our homes, to sacrifice, or do our duty, or have uncomfortable conversations. We’re more than ready for it. We often look back with awe at our parents and grandparents and all they overcame during the Great Depression and World War II. We have that same grit and I think we are ready to use it.

Don’t be afraid to call on us to help solve those problems. And don’t forget us.

Patricia Collins

Sunday, November 2, 2008

17 ways to live happily...mate.

Find a partner who wants to live happily on their own salary.

It’s no use being happy to save money by eating beans four times per week when your partner isn’t happy unless s/he eats steak five times per week. Say you are happy camping at a lake for a vacation while your partner wants a three week cruise in the Mediterranean. There are so many messages to spend all your money, and so many places to spend it, that it is nice to have a partner who shares your same goals. When you share the same vision of beans and camping and a nice “date” of a neighborhood walk, living well on what you have is that much easier.