Friday, August 14, 2009

The TBR List is a Lie

I am a TBR Challenge failure. What's the point, really? Why shouldn't I just read whatever I want when I want? No reason. So that is what I will do.

Anyway, here's my literal "To Be Read" pile.



I think I will retrieve Down and Out in Paris and London from the abandoned TBR list and add it to the pile. The rest of them are either read, rejected, or on hiatus for the foreseeable future.

Here are the results of my very last ever TBR challenge.

The List!

The Amber Spyglass
- Philip Pullman

Read. It was good. I recommend.

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men - Lundy Bancroft

Read. It was disturbing. I learned a lot. Recommend.

Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
- Barbara Ehrenreich

Read. Felt discouraged. I still think I recommend.

Gravity's Rainbow
- Thomas Pynchon

Attempted to read three times. Each time I get a bit further before I give up and skip to the dirty parts. Inspires incredible cravings for bananas.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire

Read. It was also good. Also recommend.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus: Volume 1
- Joss Whedon and Others

Read. It was good, although my expectations were awfully high, and a few parts seemed too goofy to me. However, all things Whedon and Whedon-adjacent are generally recommended.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

Did not read. One of those things I continue to feel I should read so that I will be less ignert.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy - Samantha King

Did not read. Skimmed a little bit and it wasn't as engaging as I thought it would be.

American Gods: A Novel - Neil Gaiman

Read. It was good. Recommend this one, too.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Did not read. Probably will eventually.

Naked Lunch - William S. Burroughs

Rejected. Too much anal penetration while being hanged by the neck.

I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

Read. It was good. I can not imagine how they made a Will Smith movie out of this unless they just stole the title and ignored all the things that made it good.

The Alternates!

Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell

Did not read. Yet.

The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming - Shreve Stockton

Don't even own yet.


Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets
- Sudhir Venkatesh

Don't even own yet.

The Call of the Cthulhu
- H.P. Lovecraft

Um, not scary. Rejected.

On the Road
- Jack Kerouac

Rejected. Casual misogyny. Pissed me off after about 10 pages.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
- Hunter S. Thompson

Read. Totally awesome. Will probably read again a couple of times. And watch the movie some more, too.

The Day the Earth Stood Still and other SF Novellas -
Harry Bates

Read. Ridiculously boring and predictable. How in the world did this story spawn two movies and come to be considered a sci-fi classic?

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
- Bart D. Ehrman

Don't even own yet.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

"So," I say to The Husband one evening. "You know how I'm all about dismantling the binary gender paradigm?"

"Of course," he says.

"What do you think about this?" I want to know.

There's a client who has a couple of children and is expecting another. She is in a relationship with another woman who is expecting her first baby. The mother and the partner have told the children to call the partner "Daddy."

The consensus among the social workers is that this is negative and confusing for the children. To be fair, no one would tell that to the mom since no one believes the kids are actually being significantly harmed, just that the situation is weird and bad judgment on the part of the mother.

My first visceral reaction was also negative, but I'm trying to examine this reflex. If we look at it objectively should calling a female partner and caregiver "Daddy" even be considered an issue?

The Husband wondered what the partner's own child would call her. He thought that being the daddy to some children and mommy to others would be more confusing than having mismatching gendered labels. I pointed out that the same caregiver could be called mommy, aunt, granny, etc. by different children, and no one would worry about those kids being detrimentally confused. But, we still agreed that it just felt different. I'm still not sure why.

"Daddy" essentially means "male parent," but many male caregivers are called "Daddy" even though they don't have a biological relationship to the children who call them that, and I don't know of anyone who would have an issue in that case. Why is it even necessary to have different titles for male and female primary caregivers? And if it's not, why should any of us care if a woman wants to be the daddy?

What do you think?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fish and Stuff in Monterey

Part One: Art and Stuff in San Francisco

After a few days in San Jose, The Husband finished up his work, and we began vacationing in earnest. The first item on our agenda was the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Before we even made it into the aquarium, we spotted a few of these cute little guys lounging in the bay.



There was plenty more cuteness to be had inside.







Are frogs cute? I at least thought these were.



There was also incredible gorgeousness to be enjoyed.













My favorite, however, was the "Outer Bay" tank, which was filled with all manner of giant fish and terrifying sharks lurking in the murky darkness. The murky darkness was very atmospheric but was a bitch to photograph. I promise this is a very impressive hammerhead shark.



They also had a great white shark, but they've since released it back into the ocean since it wasn't eating. I'm pretty sure this is it, but who can tell? Unfortunately this rather representative of my shark photography.



On the way back to San Francisco, the fog rolled in.



We didn't let that stop us from enjoying the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.





Friday, January 02, 2009

To Be Read Challenge 2009

It took me forever, but I've finalized my To Be Read Challenge 2009 list. I wasn't sure how to decide which would be on my actual list and which would be alternates since completing any twelve would fulfill the challenge, so I first included books I already have at home, then the ones I think I'm most likely to find and read, and then the rest are alternates.

The List!

The Amber Spyglass
- Philip Pullman

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men - Lundy Bancroft

Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
- Barbara Ehrenreich

Gravity's Rainbow
- Thomas Pynchon

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus: Volume 1
- Joss Whedon and Others

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy - Samantha King

American Gods: A Novel - Neil Gaiman

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Naked Lunch - William S. Burroughs

I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

The Alternates!

Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell

The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming - Shreve Stockton

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets
- Sudhir Venkatesh

The Call of the Cthulhu
- H.P. Lovecraft

On the Road
- Jack Kerouac

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
- Hunter S. Thompson

The Day the Earth Stood Still and other SF Novellas -
Harry Bates

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
- Bart D. Ehrman

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gratitude and Bitterness

Jon Swift asked his readers about their best blog posts from 2008, and bfp posed the question, "What was important to you this year?" They each got me thinking about what I went through - and put myself through - this year with all the hand-wringing and soul searching and general anxiety.

I spent way too much time forgetting how unbelievably fortunate I am in so many ways. Not only that I have all the material things I need (and many more I don't), but I'm healthy, and I'm safe. Those things alone make me richer than most people in the world.

On top of that, I have such amazing people in my life. The Husband, his family, my family, my friends - all of you are kind and decent and smart and funny and a joy to be around. I can't even complain about my in-laws. It almost makes me feel guilty to be able to say that.

I am disgusted with how much time I spent unhappy and whining over a job. I know my brain was kind of broken at the time, but looking back with a clearer head it's hard to understand why the idea of getting another job if I didn't like the one had was so impossible.

The only option I felt like I had was to suffer until I went crazy and then quit altogether and hide away from any responsibility at all. Goodness knows the isolation, pointlessness, and feelings of inadequacy engendered by unemployment did wonders for my mental health. On the other hand, it did give me the opportunity to forget how sucky it felt to have a job and remember how sucky it felt not to.

The best thing to come out of that whole weirdness is a better sense of proportion when it comes to the importance of any one particular job. For now I really like the job I have, and I hope I like it for a long time, but if I don't, I can (drumroll, please) look for another one! Feeling trapped is a miserable situation, and I can choose not to feel that way. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

So anyway... Here comes the bitter part. I was reading some old posts (not that there were that many this year) and noticed a line from this entry:
My boss supports me and works with me to be sure that my position is fulfilling to me and allows me to use my strengths for the good of the agency.
I don't really remember writing this, but I can remember feeling it. And I can remember why, too. That boss of mine was border-line emotionally abusive. She would sneer and criticize and roll her eyes at me nearly every day until I was ready to cry, and then just before I ran sobbing from the building, she would be all sympathetic and encouraging.

At that point I would be so caught off-guard and grateful for the bone she threw me, I would walk out of her office feeling like she was the bestest person ever and filled with determination to work super hard so I could deserve her wonderfulness. She'd start being mean and critical again such a little bit at a time, I wouldn't even realize it until I was right back at wanting to jump out a window.

These crappy mind games nearly pushed this anxiety patient right over the edge, but I was so wrapped up in guilt and self-blame for all my internal issues, I wasn't even registering the external problems that were exacerbating the crazy. I have a friend who still works there, and she described working with the same boss like being in an abusive relationship, so I know it's not just my oversensitivity or bitterness coloring my recollection.

My old boss is pretty awful, and I'm not sure why she chose to work in a profession that involves caring about people. It's not that I don't have respect for her. She's wicked smart and has the instincts of an alpha wolf. It's just that those talents could be better put to use in law or politics or maybe organized crime.

But, the point is that she is not my problem any more. I'm feeling really optimistic about 2009, and, as I said over at bfp's place, that's not the manic side-effects of Lexapro withdrawal talking this time.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Duckling Drinks Bonarda

Finca Dubois
Mendoza, Argentina
2005 Bonarda
$15.50 at 4 Seasons

Full disclosure: I have been suffering with gross sinus issues for a couple of weeks, so my ability to fully experience wine may be impaired.

I've never had a Bonarda before, but evidently it's becoming Argentina's most planted variety. This wine is a deep almost violet color. I first noticed a sweet licorice aroma as well as flavor, like black jelly beans. Also notes of blackberries, cherries, cloves. It had a little bit of a boozy finish, which is my least favorite thing about a lot of the richer red wines. See the above disclaimer, but I don't love it $15 worth.



My father-in-law continues to hook me up with copious amounts of wine, so I will forgive him for casting aspersions on my nature-loving, crunchy-granola cred over Christmas. (Dude, you live in a gated community. Don't be judgin'.) He assumed I wouldn't want to go on a vacation to Colorado since I evidently don't love the outdoors as much as everyone else, but, thanks to him, I now have a miniature wine refrigerator sitting on top of my regular wine refrigerator just to deal with the overflow. Pop-in-law remains firmly in my good graces.

The case of wine he hauled out for me also came with a tasting chart to guide one in identifying all the fascinating flavors and aromas wine can offer, such as sweaty saddle and wet dog, so expect the Duckling Drinks series to flourish in the upcoming year, both in terms of volume and weirdness.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

TBR Challenge: The Golden Compass, So Far

(Some degree of spoiler to follow...)

I'm about half way through The Golden Compass, which turns out to be about the brutal psychological mutilation of children. I was choking on tears trying to fall asleep last night while thinking about this little boy in the book pathetically clutching a dried fish to his chest as it was all he had in the world to comfort himself.

This may be imaginary torture done to imaginary children, which wouldn't even be possible in real life, but emotionally bereft little orphans don't make for the most enjoyable reading in my opinion.

At this point I'm only reading to get to the part where the people perpetrating these atrocities are made to suffer until they weep with regret for what they've done before they die a painful death. At least that's how I'm hoping it will end.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TBR Challenge 2008 = Fail

A recent comment on this post from Traivor reminded me about my sadly neglected To Be Read list for 2008. I guess it was actually only a 50% failure, since between the original list and my alternates I did read six of the twelve necessary to complete the challenge.

Actually, there may still be time in the year to knock out one more book, and bring myself above the halfway point. The Golden Compass is probably my best bet.

It's not that I didn't read a ton of books this year. I just got ridiculously fixated on Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I read every one of those books this year (with the exception of the "young adult" novels) and most of them twice. You'll notice there are over 30 books on that list, so I was definitely reading my head off most of the time. I merely failed to branch out.

I tried putting only one Discworld book on my TBR list in an attempt to ensure diverse reading material throughout the year, but I do not have the discipline to enforce rules against myself. However, I'm at least going to post another list for 2009 and give myself a goal. None of the books I'm considering are part of a really awesome 30 book series, so maybe there won't be so much temptation to get sidetracked.

Art and Stuff in San Francisco

Last Friday was the annual Festivus celebration complete with miniature Festivus pole party favors. Although I was feeling sickly and left before the feats of strength, I did stay long enough to have a grievance aired against me. Sealegs has an issue with the fact that I take a billion photos and promise to email them to people and post them on the internet when I actually just walk around with a billion pictures in my camera that no one ever sees.

Wishing to address this grievance I emailed Sealegs the Halloween and Christmas tree chopping pictures I owed her and am now finally posting the photos from San Fransisco. Well, considering I took over 415 pictures during a four day trip I may just be getting a start posting the best 100 or so. What I lack in talent, I make up for in sheer quantity.

At the end of August The Husband had a business trip to San Jose, and since I was unemployed and had nowhere else to be, I tagged along, and we made a long weekend of it. The first couple of days The Husband had to work, so I drove into San Fransisco to wander around on my own.

The first place I checked out was the San Fransisco Museum of Craft + Design. It was very cool, but quite tiny, so I was glad I didn't go out of my way to visit it. I probably saw the whole thing in great detail in about 20 minutes.











Then I headed over to Chinatown, which was just a few blocks away. It wasn't the picture-taking treasure trove I thought it would be. I don't know if it was the self-guided tour I was taking (which mostly seemed to point out places to buy stuff) or what, but I was just not digging the vibe of Chinatown at all. The staggering concentration of tacky souvenir shops alone was rather off putting. After wandering around for an hour or two, I was hot and sunburned, and I just wanted a plain iced tea without gooey bubbles or sugary, creamy crap in it and a place to sit down. Unfortunately, I was denied.







I was, however, determined to get my Asian culture on, so I inched my way through San Francisco traffic to the Asian Art Museum. I arrived about three hours before closing, and I still wished I had more time to spend there. Generally everything is better with The Husband around, but I was glad I came here by myself so I could take as much time as I wanted to peer intently at each object. I seriously could have spent an hour in each of the 30 rooms.





Made of a real human skull:

















At this point, Blogger is giving me all sorts of attitude about uploading pictures, so I'll pick up later with our excursion to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, the Santa Cruz boardwalk, and other delightful Bay-area attractions.