Archive for the ‘books’ Category

It was fun and interesting for me to read many introductory blogs from my fellow Holidailies participants on (and around) December 1. One thing that struck me was a common theme that seemed to be running through our first-of-the-month blogs. Many of us are bloggers who aren’t blogging. We started our blogs 10 or more years ago, maintained them for a good while, and then let them lapse. There are varied reasons for this for different people. I think the factors that resulted in my blog’s neglect included moving back to California, having kids, and changing blogging platforms. Many old sites that used to host blogs and blogging communities are defunct, and with them went a sense of community that many of us had, visiting each other’s blogs regularly. I’m glad I was able to transport a lot of my content to WordPress, but it’s not the same around here. Having kids affected a whole host of habits I used to have, for what should be obvious reasons. There are just not enough hours in the day and days in the week to work, maintain a house, and take care of two kiddos. If I’m not out of time by the end of the night, I’m out of coherent brain cells. I suppose I should also blame short-attention span social media distractions for taking up my time (because they don’t really engage my brain cells).

Another theme I saw in a blog I read that I feel I share is somewhat related to the desire to remain under the world’s radar. Maybe not completely anonymous, but at least innocuous enough to not draw negative attention from anyone who would do more than start a flame war. Which, by itself, is something I can barely survive anymore. My flameproof suit shows much wear, enough in spots that I get singed and stung more easily than I like. Sure, I’d love to share stories, ideas, and opinions and learn about what other people think and why. Is it worth it to debate back and forth, either in a civil manner or not? Sure. I can withstand a few flames still. Is it worth it to receive menacing messages or personal insults, or anything more severe? Not right now, it’s not. Not during a time when I’m focused on my work and family. Maybe if I decide to dedicate my life to writing, researching, reaching out to people, or actually trying to influence other people. Possibly then. But not when blogging is supposed to be a good outlet, a good funnel for my scattered thoughts, and a good way to keep in touch with others. So, I think I’m happy to stay under the radar, for now. Which doesn’t mean I won’t continue to post opinions and political thoughts and rants about how hypocrisy sucks. I’ll still do that. But you know what else I’m going to do? Something I’ve never done before. I’m going to post a picture of myself. Most people who read this blog would recognize me. It’s not a big deal if a few “strangers” could someday do so also. I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish by trying to stay out of sight for years. I think it’s a fallacy for any of us with any significant online presence to think we can stay anonymous to everyone. And you know, I’m ok with that. For now. I may delete this blog tomorrow. Ha! But I’ll bust out this little pic my hubby took of me earlier this year when we were hiking around Jack London State Park. Which, by the way, is an awesome little spot in itself to walk and hike and take in some nature. But, if you are a fan of the author, it’s a fantastic place to visit. Learn his history. See his home, the ruins of his dream home, and the beautiful home his widow built after he died. The Park just re-opened The House of Happy Walls home, and I’m looking forward to going back to see it again in its new design. Great little State Historic Park in northern California. Relatively easy for little kids to walk around, and they host some fun events throughout the year.

And with that, I bid you goodnight. Here’s looking at you, kids.


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The Tao of Inner Peace…

…is one of the books I am currently reading from my Read Your Own Book 2010 Challenge.  I am reading it to distract me from “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space” by Joseph Campbell which is going very very slowly.  I’ve just finished “Saving Fish from Drowning” and three back issues of Time magazine while trying to get away from the dry Campbell book. 

Anyway, like the Campbell book, “The Tao of Inner Peace” by Diane Dreher is a bit dated now – having been written in 1990 and updated in 2000.  It’s got a bunch of self-affirmation in general mumbo jumbo, of the type much parodied by Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live many years ago.

But, all snickering aside, I liked the little line I just read and thought I would share it:

The Tao of Openness

MItch Saunders, marriage and family counselor in Santa Clara, California sees honest relationships as a great way to develop self-acceptance.  The more we share our feelings with others and find they still accept us, the more our self-acceptance grows.  Each moment of openness wears down our defensive walls.

I guess the key there is “and find they still accept us.”  I hope we all have people in our lives who help us increase our levels of self-acceptance.  I do.  And for them, for you, I am thankful.

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Muggle Quidditch??

Who knew?

Apparently, everyone except me.

I opened up my UC Davis magazine today and read through it during lunch.  There was a little blurb near the back about Muggle Quidditch.

Quidditch, for anyone who hasn’t read Harry Potter, seen Harry Potter, or heard about Harry Potter, is the sport played on broomsticks by Harry and his classmates at Hogwarts.  It’s well described in the books and there is always action on the Quidditch field in every book.

I remember going to see the first movie for the first time.  Some of my co-workers had been listening to the books on CD while working at their microscopes outside my office.  It had been a long season for the biologists out in the field collecting samples and they were now cooped up indoors identifying and cataloging.  Most of them had read all the released books already but it was fun to “reread” them at work.  We planned a trip to the movies (during work hours, yes) when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out.  We walked together from our office to the nearby theater, chattering about our favorite parts of the book. 

There were two things in particular that I had vividly created in my brain and I was looking forward to/dreading seeing on the big screen: the Gryffindor Common Room and the first Quidditch match.

Neither one of them disappointed me.  The common room, with its big fat stuffed chairs and roaring fire.  The Quidditch match with the swooping brooms and the beating Bludgers.  It was all good for me.

I suppose at some point after that, Quidditch became big on college campuses.  I had no idea.  Participants play with real brooms and follow the same rules, including trying to catch a human Golden Snitch who runs around campus and the field.

My UCD mag states:

The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, established in 2007, is now an official sports league with more than 200 participating institutions worldwide, according to the association Web site (collegequidditch.com).  So far, tryouts for the UC Davis team are not necessary and everyone is encouraged to bring a broom and come out to the Saturday afternoon practices.


Almost makes me want to go back to school.

This CBS Sports video (from 2008 – where the heck have I been??) is AWESOME. Awesome in a total-geek sort of way.  I love the Dad quote: “That’s why we send him to college, to play Quidditch.”

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Books, Part 2: The List

ok, I’ve really warmed to the idea of this Read Your Own Books challenge.  I’m not sure if I need to state my number and the books I want to read ahead of time.  But I was interested in finding out which books on my bookshelves have been gathering dust for too long.  So, I took a short inventory before I left home.  I am starting with a very modest goal of 21 books.  Partly because it’s been so hard for me to finish any book these days and partly because I know there will be other books that will pop up this year to distract me.  I’m not counting the books I have started and would love to finish – the half-dozen books I currently have sitting on  my bedside table in Maui and the three books I’ve started at my Mom’s house in California.  Technically I have already read part of them so they don’t count. 

Soooooooo, this is the list I have so far.  A mix of fiction and non-fiction.  I don’t know what order I will read them – I suppose I will just pick up whatever book inspires me on any particular day.  I may read 5 of them at once.  I may read them one at a time.  But the goal here is to FINISH them. 

Blogging Heroes, Interviews with 30 of the Word’s Top Bloggers, by Michael A. Bank

 The Venetian’s Wife, by Nick Bantock

 Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, by J.M. Barrie

 The Ninemile Wolves, by Rick Bass

 The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Metaphor as Myth and as Religion, by Joseph Campbell

 One Day on Beetle Rock, by Sally Carrighar

 Bones of the Master, A Journey to Secret Mongolia, by George Crane

 Notes From Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 The Tao of Inner Peace, by Diane Dreher

 Owen’s Marshmallow Chick, by Kevin Henkes (because I actually never read it and the guidelines don’t have a minimum number or words per book)

 Small Wonder, Essays, by Barbara Kingsolver

 The Secrets of Pistoulet, by Jana Kolpen [DONE]

 Something Wonderful, by Judith McNaught

 The Book of General Ignorance, Everything you Think you Know is Wrong, by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

Red Dwarf, Better Than Life, by Grant Naylor

The Calling of Emily Evans, by Janette Oke

The Wolf and the Raven, by Diana L. Paxson

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery  (because no, I didn’t actually read it when some guy I dated a couple of times sent it to me)

Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson

 Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev

 The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells

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Book, books, books

I want to do more reading in 2010.

By the way, did you realize that it is almost 2010!?!

Seriously, that fact is only starting to sink in with me.  I’ve blogged before about how slowly my brain makes connections sometimes. I knew that the year 2009 is about to end.  I know that 10 comes after 9.  Somewhere along the way I had the thought that 2010 sounds significant.  But then I started reading blogs where people are talking about 2010 coming up and – Blam!  I made the connection.  2010 will be here soon.  (which also means we are close to the Winter Olympics.  Wheeee!)

Anyway (did I also mention it’s easy to distract me?) I want to read more books in 2010.  I tend to read more than one book at a time.  In the last few years I’ve been reading mostly non-fiction.  My Mind and Life series books.  Poker strategy.  Quantum physics.  Poker tournament strategy.   You know – the easy stuff to read.

I haven’t been reading many fiction books.  And the sad thing is – I haven’t been finishing that many books at all.  But after Lavender sent me a book that completely absorbed my brain, I remembered how nice it is to completely lose myself in a good book.  To want to read only one book at a time and to want to read it ALL the time.  To stay up until the wee hours of the morning, not tossing and turning and fretting because I *can’t* fall asleep but pushing myself to read just a couple more pages because I don’t *want* to fall asleep.  I devoured a book that Sweetie gave me (I think for my birthday this year).  Recently, I picked up my copy of Amy Tan’s Saving Fish from Drowning and I am delighted to be back in that zone.  This may be my favorite Amy Tan book I’ve read.  And I think I’ve read most of them.

I don’t know when I lost that addiction to books I had in my younger years.  Maybe when I moved away from my book club group – or maybe when we slowly disbanded.  I don’t remember which happened first.  Maybe when I started spending much of my free time in front of a computer.

So!  I’m on the hunt for some book challenges.  I like the idea of setting some goals for myself.  Anyone have any ideas?  I’ve found one idea that I really like – Read Your Own Books Challenge 2010.  The challenge is simple – pick a number of books, read them next year, and they have to be from your own collection (if I decide to go with this one, I’ll post another blog about it).  This challenge idea is great for me because #1) I have many books on my shelves I have not read yet.  I can happily say I’ve read most of my books, but you know how it goes.  Oh! – That looks like a good book and Oh! That looks like a good book and if you buy two and read one and repeat, you suddenly have stacks of unread books piling up.  #2) Money is tight/low/non-existent and if I want to read more books this year, it’s better that I rustle up something I already have then run out and buy something.  Granted, you can buy books very cheaply – from used bookstores, eBay, and various other places.  But – free is best.  And I already know I want to read the books I have.  I mean, I bought them didn’t I?  Most of them.  Some are gifts.  Gifts from friends who know me well enough to know what I want to read.

So!  I’m going to peruse my collection and see what I can find.  I’m trying to decide on a number – something challenging but not too overwhelming.

I’m going to keep looking around for other book challenges.  And possible new books to read.  Again – I’m open to suggestions.  One of the things I loved about my old book club was the variety of new books I was introduced to.  The group was started at my old workplace and many people came and left the group over the years.  We all had different favorite genres and many of us managed to sneak something other than current fiction into the mix.  I snuck in some Neil Gaiman.  Our biologist snuck in an awesome book about the coelacanth.   We read some great non-fiction.   And even some very good current fiction that I probably would not have picked out on my own.

So…….books and challenges.  Challenges and books.  2010.  Sounds good to me.  What do you think?

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You can join this week’s Friday Five over HERE.

This week, the question is – Name five favorite books and why they are your favorite.

Five?  Just five!?  With so many good books out in the world?  ok,  I will just throw some out there.

1.  Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card.

Probably my favorite fiction book.  The second book in Card’s four-book Ender’s Game series.  It blew my mind when I read it.  Here is what I wrote in my review:

Amazing concept. Complex characters. It says something about the preconceived notions of humans. It speaks about our prejudices. It’s an anthropological mystery. It’s science fiction. It is human drama.

The idea of a real, live Speaker for the Dead has popped up all over the world. Following Orson Scott’s Card’s concept of speaking a person’s life after death – in sometimes harsh and truthful terms – has caught on with many people and people have written to Card to tell him how they served as someone’s Speaker during a funeral, or memorial. Pretty powerful concept. And none better to perform such a task than Ender Wiggen. The things he discovers on the planet where he goes to speak is beyond mind-blowing. Not in sci-fi technology- but in the ways and whys different species treat each other.

2. Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind, Edited by Jeremy W. Hayward and  Francisco J. Varela.

The book that introduced me to the Mind and Life Institute and all the great books that come out of these meetings between scientists and the Dalai Lama.  Good stuff.  I was so happy to hear there were a whole series of books on a range of topics – from destructive emotions, to constructive emotions, to sleeping and dreaming.  Good information from the scientific experts.  And great insight from the Dalai Lama.

3.  Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss
Because a person’s a person, no matter how small.

4.  Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Can I count a whole comic book series as a book?  Y’all know how much I love Neil Gaiman.  I’ve read a lot of his books.  But nothing compares to the characters and storylines in the comic book that introduced me to Gaiman.  Sandman and his siblings (Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium) are richly written personifications of their respective realms.  The interweaving of historic and mythical figures into their stories has generated a ton of additional reading for me.  Pretty awesome.
5.  Ashes in the Wind, by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Because sometimes I just need to sit back with some chocolate and a good bodice buster.

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Sweetie and I went to watch Iron Man yesterday.  Enjoyed it.  As far as superhero origins, I didn’t love it as much as Batman Begins.  But I liked it, and I really like Robert Downey Jr.

As we sat watching the credits, I turned to Sweetie and asked “So, is it cool yet to collect comic books?”

For you see, I am a closet comic book collector.  And by “closet” I mean – I literally have closets full of comics.  Here in Maui.  Back at my mom’s house.  You may call it “nerdiness”, but I call it “diversifying my retirement portfolio.”

Not a bad thought considering a comic book like “All Star Comics” # 5, which sold for $0.10 in 1941 is valued today at $6,000 (see www.comicspriceguide.com).  Of course, it would have to be in mint condition to catch that kind of money.  That happens to be the oldest comic book I own, but mine is worth about $300.  All told, I have about 2,000 books and most of them are only worth their cover price.  It’s hard to find older books in good condition, but I try and pick up a few when I can.  Yes, I’ve attended a couple of comic book conventions.  No, not The Biggie.  Maybe someday.

Why comic books?

It all started with a little gem of a book called “Sandman” by Neil Gaiman.  During college, my boyfriend at the time was a comic book reader/collector.  He introduced me to Sandman, and I fell into one of the best written stories and set of characters I’d ever seen.  I could go on and on about Sandman and Neil Gaiman.  Oh wait, I already have.

Anyway – back to college.  After my boyfriend and I broke up, I was left to buy the books for myself to keep up with the story arc.  And I guess, once I started, I got hooked.  Comic book collectors will advise “Buy what you like to read” when collecting.  This is because there are soooooo many titles to choose from – so many books – it’s hard to know what will catch on in the future.  So you might as well buy books you enjoy.  And so I have, over the years.  Plus or minus a few hundred random books.  Which is not to say I’ve read them all.  No one can compare to Sandman.  Although one of my current favorites is Fables created by Bill Willingham.  Awesome books.

For someone like me – all these Marvel superhero movies excite me – not just because I enjoy a good movie, but because I’m hoping for increases in my books’ values.  Incredible Hulk?  Yeah – I got some.  Iron Man – Not a lot, but I own a few.  Batman?  Of course.  Ghost Rider?  Bring it on!!  By the way – did you know one of the most well known comic book collectors is Mr. Nicholas Cage himself?  Bet he had a blast playing Ghost Rider.  Which enables him to buy books like Action Comics #1, currently valued around $580,000 for a Near Mint copy.  Not something I will ever see in my lifetime.   But hey, I’m happy with my Marvel Spotlight #5.  Yes, I’m a huge nerd.

So, I confess.  That is one of my hobbies.  I may not ever make a big profit from it, but at least I’ve read some good stories along the way.

Back in the movie theater, Sweetie just smiled at my question and said “Well, I married you didn’t I?”  Nice. I collect comic books.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.

And – if you haven’t seen Iron Man yet and plan to – sit through all the credits.  There’s a little extra suprise scene at the end of the movie that sounds promising.  And made me think “cha-ching!”

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