Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books read in November

I fell off my "one book at a time" pledge this month for a few reasons. One is that I've begun to read the ten books I need to read for the Mock Printz workshop which is happening in January. I am feeling various emotions about them, mostly having to do with ambivalence. At the same time, I have discovered a fabulous new YA series by Jaclyn Moriarty that I've been tearing through. Plus, other interesting books (eeeeeee! Moonlight Mile!!!!!!) have been arriving in my life. So I find myself putting down the required reading for the book candy.

Also, what's up with Mississippi/the south? The Help is set in Mississippi as is Spies from Mississippi, which I started this month and finished in December. I also read Jubilee which is set in Georgia and Alabama. Plus I started reading Radical Equations, which is about math and civil rights. There's some sort of southern zeitgeist going on right now, I just can't for the life of me figure out why.

Margaret Walker
I read this for the library book group and it was a great selection. Initially, I wasn't that into it and assigned myself to read two chapters per night, which would have me finishing right before the book discussion. It took me a bit to warm up to Vyry, the slave who is the main character. Eventually though, I got caught up in the book and raced ahead of my reading schedule.

I haven't read a slave narrative in years. They seem to have fallen out of fashion, though I'm not sure why. There's plenty of drama and pathos in the slave-to-freedom transition. At any rate, if you are looking for a good book, slave narrative or no, grab this book. It probably won't have any holds at your library as it was published in 1966.

The Help
Kathryn Stockett
I greatly enjoyed this novel, but had to take breaks from it, due to the injustice of the character's situations. Well written, with a nice tension building throughout the book, I recommend this to anyone interested in the Jim Crow to Civil Rights Era in Mississippi.

Moonlight Mile
Dennis Lehane
This seems to be shorter then any of the other Kenzie/Gennaro books and much more set in the present day. However, some of us will take any opportunity to drop in on these two Boston P.I.s, so this was a treat. The mystery is woven through with a lot of class commentary and is not as labyrinth as others in the series, but I still enjoyed it. A quick read, and I was particularly satisfied with decisions made by the main characters at the end of the book.

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Francisco X. Stork
Read this for the 2010 Mock Printz, spoilers are included.

Moderately enjoyable while reading, very enjoyable upon reflection. Both boys in the story are well drawn, the "dying of cancer one" is not too angelic, the "angry young man" is nuanced in his anger, so does not become a caricature of himself. I did find that the various threads of the story seemed to be dropped abruptly and then picked up again, which was distracting, but in a minor way. Also done well was a subtle commentary on class and race and parts of the book were funny, which always helps during the chemotherapy vomiting scenes and other times. I enjoyed the dance between two guys who both want the girl. The orphanage seemed rather idyllic, do such places exist? The big confrontation scene was tense, but also partially unbelievable. As was the "one sip of one drink and I can die" malady. I think as an adolescent, I would have accepted all three at face value. The way the minor characters were written was very good. They are all clear pictures in my mind, especially Juan. The stepfather was the worst, very "random jerk lawyer."

Feeling Sorry for Celia
Jaclyn Moriarty
Great book of the "letters back and forth genre." I especially like the "disparaging voices of the conscious" represented as letters from various societies and association, such as the "Cold Hard Truth Association" and the "Association of Teenagers." While I think it is rare for teenagers to write actual letters today, making this a bit unbelievable, the plot device introduced to get the main characters started on their letters and friendship was quite believable. I especially enjoyed Elizabeth's mother's notes to her daughter which managed to combine commentary about life, work, instructions for dinner, concern and humor all in short paragraphs.

The Lost Art of Real Cooking
Ken Albala & Rosanna Nafziger
Aside from having hard-to-spell last name, Ken and Rosanna have in common their interest in food. Food created by hand without a lot of fuss (or with some fuss) that tastes good. The recipes, written in paragraph style, look very delicious, and the writing is sparkling. Take this paragraph:

Turks invade Hungary, and the stage is violently set for the remarkable collision of flaky layered pastry (nee phyllo) and apples. Five hundred years later, Julie Andrews is singing about brown paper packages and warm apple strudel, under threat of yet another invasion--the Germans. Such a violent past for something so delightful.

This book is currently very popular at the library and thus I won't get to spend as much time with it as I would like. I think I will concentrate on their sourdough bread section, return the book, request it again and when it arrives, incorporate something else.

Janne Teller
Read this for the 2010 Mock Printz, spoilers are included.

Hated this book. HATED IT! I think this might mean to be a fable or allegory or something like that, but I found it very unlikable. First off, a seventh grader climbs into a tree because he decides nothing has meaning. He throws plums at his classmates and shouts his new-found beliefs. I can see this happening for an hour or two, or even a day, but that kid stays up there yelling for months. Does he climb down at night? Where does he go to the bathroom?

His classmates, instead of ignoring him, decide to prove him wrong. So they start collecting things with meaning. First they ask the townspeople to give up something meaningful and collect quite a pile. Then they begin to give up their own meaningful things in turn. What starts out as sacrificing really cute sandals grows by degree until the Muslim child gives up his prayer mat and is severely beaten by his parents, a pious child steals a large statue of Jesus from the church, a girl gives up her virginity, the children dig up a dead baby brother from a church yard and, just when you think it can't get any worse, they kill a dog. At that point, I had to skip ahead five pages so I could bypass the dog killing.

Their pile of meaning is found out, pronounced art, bought by the MoMa for 3.5 million dollars, the children turn on each other, end up beating the plum-throwing, life-has-no-meaning child to death and burning down the sawmill that houses the pile of meaning. The whole thing is a nihilistic mess and I can only be glad that it was a short book and I have now finished reading it.

Remember to wave
Kaia Sand
The delightful 80+ year old volunteer at school gave this book to me because she thought I would "get it." It's a good poetic examination of the internment of the Portland-area Japanese during WWII, the flooding of Vanport and also the drowning of Celilo Falls. The Expo center, where the Japanese were houses, and the site of Vanport are very near my house and I enjoyed how Sand linked the present day Max stops to the history of the area.

Started but did not finish
Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project
Robert P. Moses
Civil rights pioneer wrote this book illustrating his journey from civil rights activist to math activist. He sees the disinterest in math education as creating a new generation of "sharecroppers" and has founded the Algebra Project to combat this.

The book spends a lot of time in Mississippi talking about Moses' civil rights days. I was looking for more information about the Algebra Project and lost interest in the book. I might pick it up again later.

A conspiracy of kings
Megan Whalen Turner
Read for 2010 Mock Printz, spoilers are included

This was very readable for the first half as I followed the sorry, pampered prince from his soft cocoon through his kidnapping and enslavement. His escape from slavery was quite dramatic too. But then the narrative shifted and all these people came on the scene and everyone seemed to know each other and I was very, very confused before I figured out that this must be a series book. Indeed, it's number four in the series. I've stopped reading, because the whole thing is boring to me at this point, a bunch of people talking about times they had that I haven't also experienced while also seeming to very slowly plot things. However, I will read the first book, which I've been told is awesome, and see if I can work my way back to this one.

Healing Power: Ten Steps to Pain Management and Spiritual Evolution
Philip Shapiro, M.D.
I got this book because its author was featured in the Oregonian as a psychiatrist who works with chronic homeless people. His book sounded interesting and I was wondering if I could use some of his steps to help manage the psoriasis that has taken up residence on my body. The chapters are short and the writing style is abrupt. There are questions at the end of every chapter which would be good for discussion. I did not finish this book because all of my reading tasks overwhelmed me and it needed to go back to the library. I may read it again.


I was delighted to see this home-built camper parked in Kenton.
The bike lock back door was a charming touch.

Poem for November: Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I had a different poem in mind for November. It was a good one. I just kept forgetting to copy it onto paper so I could have it with me for memorizing. More and more time passed and I was suddenly left with only one good week's worth of memorizing. So I switched it up. I googled "short poems to memorize" and came up with this one. It works.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Millgard window store

Kenton also has a goodly number of boring stores. This is the Milgard Window and Door store, which is right next to the equally exciting rolling shades store. However, behind the window of the Milgard store is a fun surprise.

There is a loom set up next to the window. Whoever weaves does so often as I can see progress made on the cloth as I walk by.

Abandoned shop

So downtown Kenton, home of the empty or derelict shops, has been getting a bit fancier over the past few years. There's the Library, which is fabulous and there are also several restaurants as well as an alternative health clinic/flower shop, a scrapbooking store, a home brew shop and a children's clothing resale shop. I've heard that in the past few decades, a lot of landlords just used their shop buildings as storage space or let the spaces sit empty. With so many good things happening., it was only a matter of time before someone turned on the old way. The following sign in the store next door to the library caught my eye.
However, the author of said sign, also included a way for people to make suggestions of what they would like to see in this space. As you can see, people had a lot of suggestions.

The interior space.

A sign of previous prosperous times:

The exterior
It has been fun to watch the transformation of Kenton, even in just the three years I've been here. I shall look forward to seeing if the sign has any results.

Three Sentence Movie Reviews: The Fabulous Baker Boys

A little slow at the end, but mostly fun. It might even be more fun to compare and contrast Seattle then and Seattle now for people who know the city. I didn't know that Beau Bridges was such a good actor!

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/1989/fabulous_baker_boys.html

Saturday, November 27, 2010

You've caught up your blog. Now what?

I've received the following email from one of my regular readers:

Dear Patricia You've now caught up your blogs. Well done! I've enjoyed reading all the interesting observations you have about the world but I'm curious, how will you keep your blog caught up? Won't you just fall back into your slatternly habits? Do shed some insight into your plan.


A faithful reader*

Dear faithful reader,

I'm glad you asked, as I've been planning a blog post about this since before I finished catching up the blog. Your timely email has propelled me forward to actually write it.

Here's the plan:

First off: I have a specific time (and a back up time) planned weekly to do basic set up for the blog. The official time is Saturday morning post-run/pre-8:00 gym class. That block of time usually gives me 45 minutes to an hour to do the Blog Blessing Hour. More on that below. The backup time is Sunday from when I haul myself out of bed to before I go to church. Having a scheduled time each week to get things in order helps tremendously.

The Blog Blessing Hour. This is an adaptation of the FlyLady's Weekly Home Blessing Hour in which you spend an hour once per week and get your house in reasonable shape. My Blog Blessing Hour (written down and posted next to my computer) is as follows:
  1. Update books read, post to Goodreads
  2. Update movie posts
  3. On camera, delete all bad pictures
  4. Upload pictures to archive
  5. Rotate pictures the right way
  6. Copy select pictures to the "to print" folder
  7. Copy pictures to blog folder
  8. Erase photos from camera
  9. In blog folder, open with picture manager
  10. Compress all photos
  11. Rename
  12. Put pictures in blogger
It looks like a lot of work, but each step takes a few minutes. Except for the renaming of photos. That can be rather lengthy if an event has happened during the week. Before I was caught up and had this handy list, I would delay doing all of these steps for months. Trying to catch up the reading posts and cross reference it with the Goodreads stuff alone drove me crazy. Plus, I was often afraid to post things because I wasn't sure if all the movie posts were in their right place and I like to publish in order.

Yes indeed, those of you who think my anal-retentive nature might be hindering my ability to get anything published and contributing to the huge backup are correct. It totally did. But now that I have a weekly list of tasks, I know finish the weekly Blog Blessing Hour with a list of posts IN ORDER to write and publish. All the pictures are in a named post with the right date, all the movies are caught up and in their place and the book post doesn't get totally out of control. During the week I can spend fifteen minutes here or there writing the posts and then editing and publishing them.

Combined with the above I have two hard and fast rules:

1) Do the Blog Blessing Hour every week or, at the very least--and rarely--every two weeks.
2) If a post is in draft form and is over one month old you have not made this post a priority and I MUST DELETE IT.

Because I don't ever want to not post a post I had intended to post, hopefully the draconian rule number two will keep me on the up and up.

And that, dear reader, is the plan. Keep reading and see if it works.

*The above letter was entirely made up by Patricia. It was manufactured so she could write a blog post about how she intends to keep her blog caught up. She never has anyone email her with questions about her blog, though she would be happy to answer them if she did.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The secret club

One of the most delightful things about memorizing poems is when you encounter poems you have memorized in other contexts. There is a flash of quizzical recognition, "Hey, that sounds familiar! Why?" and a happy realization. "They know the same poem I do!" It's like being in a secret club. This editorial discusses the poem I memorized last December. She enjoys reciting it this time of year as much as I do.

"New" Comforter

That yellow thing on top of my normal red comforter is the comforter from my childhood bedroom. My mom made it to match my yellow room and my love of Holly Hobbie. It was packed away when I got my more sophisticated teenage room and comforter, but I wanted to bring it along to college, in lieu of buying new bedding for my dorm bed. It was warm and comfortable and I slept with it through college and into my early twenties. Due, I'm sure to my need to wear things out before I discard them, right?
This comforter even has an ink stain on it from when I got my first tattoo. It has been packed away for the last few years, but I recently unearthed it to have on hand for when I get cold watching movies. It's starting to fall apart a bit, but it is still warm and has much nostalgia attached to it. It's also not in good enough shape to give to anyone. What's a girl to do?
Ha-ha! Matt's mother Linda gave me an Ikea gift card for my birthday and with it I bought a duvet cover. I placed that over my old comforter and the comforter lives on to keep me warm. It mostly lives under the bed where Antares sleeps on it, but I pull it out when I want to take a nap and need a bit of warmth.
I think it looks great and I'm pleased with my re-imagining of this object.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews: Proof

Proof that Gwenneth Paltrow deserved her best actress award, she plays her character with a good sprinkling of unsteadiness. Hope Davis also rocks her role as controlling older sister and Jake Gyllenhall is always fun to watch. You don't have to like math to like this movie, indeed, if you tune in just for the math you might be disappointed.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2005/proof.html

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews: Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth one)

I spent the first disk of this miniseries not getting the whole Mr. Darcy (he's kind of a snotty jerk) thing. This made the "getting" the Mr. Darcy thing in disk two that much more dramatic and fun. This was an incredibly delightful movie to watch the actors act and Mr. Collins (so repulsive!) and Mary Bennett (so sour!) were my favorite minor characters.

poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112130/

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

I'm not the biggest fan of the movies as they cannot possibly include all that the books do, but I found this quite a good adaptation. This goes to prove what I've been saying: books five, six and seven all deserve to be split in two because too much happens to be contained in one two-hour movie. However, at Harry Potter Party VII, mostly the talk was of how well it was done.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2010/harry_potter_and_the_deathly_hallows_part_i.html

Eeeeeeeee! Today's the day.

My account at the library says that Moonlight Mile, the long awaited next book in the Kenzie/Gennaro series is waiting for me at the library. The library which opens at guess what time? I shall walk over there now.

Indeed, here I am standing outside the library waiting for it to open.
I check my books on hold and find: nothing. Well, one book that I requested is there, but it is not Moonlight Mile. Puzzled, I recheck my account and find that [insert tremendous disappointment and crestfallen nature here] I have jumped the gun. In my excitement I have read the screen wrong and Moonlight Mile, while on its way, is not waiting for me at this moment.

I return to the hold shelf, grab my other hold, sigh, check it out, turn to go and that is when something stops me. I decide to check out the Lucky Day cart to see if they have anything good. I almost don't do this, because I've got a long reading list for the Mock Printz workshop as well as a tremendously boring Library book group book to read as well as a sporadic book group book to read and who has time for something on the Lucky Day cart?

You will never guess what was there.

Eeeeeeeee! I've got about four hours until it's time to leave for the Harry Potter party and I will be doing only one thing.

Notes from sporadic book group.

For when I get stuck with "what to read" I bring the notes, lovingly typed up by Deborah, of our inaugural book group.

Books mentioned with enthusiasm at the first meeting of the
Sporadic Book Group, 11/6/10 (Attendees: Deborah, Patricia, Amy, Danielle, Kelly)

Prodigal Summer
One Day
In the Woods
The Likeness
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Magic Thief
An Abundance of Katherines
My Life So Far (Jane Fonda)
Personal History (Katherine Graham)
Zeitoun (Eggers)
Possession (Byatt)
Where Men Win Glory
Into the Wild
My Own Country
Facing the Lion
Bonyo Bonyo
The Blind Side
An American Wife
Whale Talk
King of the Mild Frontier
Tales of the Madman Underground
Nature Girl (Hiaasen)
Moo (Smiley)
The Ghosts of Ashton High
We Planted a Tree
The Death-Defying Pepper Roux (described by Danielle’s sister as “Candide for kids”)
Eating Animals

Hot tip from Kelly: Submit comments to Powell’s Books and you might win the Daily Dose $20 gift certificate. http://www.powells.com/features/dailydose.html

Friday, November 19, 2010


Apparently, not only will this celebration happening on Thanksgiving not be vegan, it will also be free of Thanksgiving. And happening at a United Methodist "Chruch," whatever that is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I balanced the budget

So John Green clued me in that I could balance the budget and spoke eloquently as to why it's not as easy as it looks. I took his challenge and fixed the budget. You may thank me later.

Want to do it yourself? Go here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyHR0XnU9DQ) which has John Green's video and also the link so you can fix the budget. You can just click on the link without watching the video.

Those who know my bleeding heart liberal tendencies won't be surprised to learn that I solved the deficit by increasing taxes (67% of my choices) vs. spending cuts (33% of my choices.) I figured I would go through and mark the "easy" choices and then go back and make the hard choices, but by the time I got to the bottom, I had all my squares colored in.

Want to know what I chose? Okay, here goes:
  • Eliminate earmarks (I think that everyone says they want to eliminate these while at the same time cheering on their representative when that representative brings home the federal cash. I never hear anyone point out that discrepancy.)
  • Eliminate farm subsides (I know, I just lost the midwest)
  • Reduce nuclear arsenal and space spending.
  • Reduce military to pre-Iraq war size and further reduce troops in Asia and Europe
  • Reduce Navy and Air Force Fleets
  • Cancel or delay some weapons programs
  • Reduce noncombat military compensation and overhead. (I checked everything in the military box)
  • Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013
  • Enact medical malpractice reform
  • Reduce Social Security Benefits for those with high incomes
  • Tighten eligibility for disability
  • Modifying Estate Taxes, President Obama's proposal (even I, stick-it-to-the-rich rabble rouser that I am can't see reducing the estate tax to the Clinton-era levels. That sucker needed to be increased a tiny bit, but certainly not the way it was done, giving rich old people a big incentive to off themselves this year.)
  • Investment taxes: back to the Clinton era
  • Bush Tax cuts: allow expiration for those making over $250,000 per year. (I was going to go back and make them all expire, if I needed to, but I didn't need to.)
  • Payroll tax: subject some incomes above $106,000 to tax
  • Millionaire's tax on income above 1 million
  • Closing tax loopholes, I chose eliminate loopholes, keep taxes slightly higher
  • Reduce mortgage deduction and others for high-income households.
  • Carbon Tax
  • Bank Tax.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Dennis Lehane's new book (of which I am #7 of 192 holds on 42 copies) has moved from "On Order" to "In Process"

So exciting! I wonder if there is a chance it will come over Thanksgiving Break?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews: True Grit

I watched this in preparation for the Cohen Brothers' remake and I have to say I enjoyed it. It was a bit slow, in that pre-Mtv movie way, but was amusing. Kim Darby was right on the age of incredibly annoying and incredibly funny and it was fun to see Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and a very young Dennis Hopper.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Brothers Bloom

I confess that I confused this with Everything is Illuminated and so was confused for the first twenty minutes until I just let it go. Overall, I found this con man caper a little slow, but there are beautifully shot scenes as well as fun quirky characters. Rachel Weisz's clothing is fun to look at, and Mark Ruffalo is always easy on the eyes.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010


He's not about to jump off the roof of Disjectia on this cold autumn morning. He is putting up Christmas Lights! They look so pretty. I love lights during the holidays.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Leaves on "shelter"

I've written about how little shelter the new "shelters" in the transit mall provide. They do, however, make a nice flat place for fall leaves to land on and rain to form droplets, making a pretty autumn picture. And then the "shelter" leaks and drops rain on my newspaper while the winds buffet me from every side because THERE IS NO PLACE TO GO TO GET OUT OF THE WIND AND RAIN.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Walk to the Alberta Rose Theater

The plan was for me to meet Matt at the Alberta Rose Theater at 6:45 so we could see Live Wire. It was a warm day, still light outside and not raining. When will I have that combination again? I decided to walk the 4-ish miles to the theater. Here is what I saw along the way.

I've always loved that the homeowners left this tidy snag standing in their yard. Snags are an important part of the ecosystem that do not often appear in cities. Their yard is also filled with interesting yard art, of the "real art" kind, as opposed to the "old lady bending over showing her bloomers" kind.

I liked how this simple porch and house numbers in a nice font dress up this house.

"Shhh. Stay quiet and no one will have any idea there's a house back here." I can't imagine how dark this house must be. There are no windows in the front, and both sides of the house are in shadow from trees and bushes.

This cute house seems to have a cute garage to go with it.

Until you look closer and see that it is a separate residence, complete with house number.

This was a bummer find. I've been keeping my eye on this empty lot for years, but now it seems it will be turned into surface parking for a nearby church. Permeable surface parking, but still kind of a bummer.

I like how this church sort of looms over the freeway. The cross is illuminated and makes a nice contrast to the "going home" traffic headlights.

A very fun art car.

With great fish actually leaping out of its sides.
At that point it really did get dark. I enjoyed the rest of the walk. Alberta has a lot of fun shops that look very warm and inviting.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wind eddies and leaves

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I take two buses to far North Portland to volunteer at a Middle School. My bus stop is right next to "Big Pink" which is the tallest building in Portland. I think Big Pink messes with the air currents a bit, because today the wind was swirling all the leaves into a tidy pile.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Some election years I carefully map out who I'm voting for and carefully research the issues long before the ballot is due. Other elections I rip open my ballot at 6:40 am on election day, shriek at how many things are are to vote for and start flipping frantically through the voters guide.

My first election was in 1992. I had turned 18 only a week or so before. I was able to register, even though my birthday was past the deadline, because I would be 18 by the time the election happened. I put off registering for a long time, mostly because I was afraid of voting. At that time, I thought I would have to carefully research each and every candidate or issue and come to firm conclusions so I could defend my choices when people asked my reasoning. It seemed like a really big deal.

Voting is a big deal. But it's not quite the big deal I thought at 18. Some years, I come close to approximating how I thought voting would be. Other years, I make some decisions by moving the pencil back and forth between two candidates and then going with the one who didn't push poll me. I follow politics in general, which I think is important for spur-of-the-moment voting, but this time I wasn't super nuanced in my reasoning. I felt a bit frantic all day, but it felt very good to drop my ballot in the box.