Saturday, July 25, 2009


This is a concept that I kind of like:
by Pace at Freak Revolution (just found it today) It's about how people have more at stake when they are friends with a diverse group of people, so they tend to act more in the interests of those friends, even if they are different than themselves.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Project 50: June

I don't know how I did it, but I mowed through nine books this month!

“Green, Greener, Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life” by Lori Bongiorno
I found this book, printed in three shades of green ink, in the new book section at the library. It starts off with the subject of food and the importance of buying local and organic. It was all well and good, but was written in a way that made me not want to take the author seriously. “Studies show that organically grown foods have less pesticides than conventionally grown foods.” Really? And all this time I thought they just had more carbon! It does get better though, and as for the first chapter, she does make a good case for eating organic once she starts sounding like she knows what she’s talking about. Even though I thought that the shades of green were cheesy, it’s helpful to know that if I can’t put solar panels on my apartment building or compost my poop, I can make little changes for my health and the environment, and maybe I’ll get greener when I run out of this brand of toothpaste. B-

“The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv
I definitely take issue with the sub-title of this book. That said, eh, it was ok. There’s really only so many ways you can say “It’s important for kids to play outside guys. No really. No REALLY!” The author offers nice antidotes about how some kids with ADHD felt calmer in the woods or the benefits of taking at-risk youth on Outward Bound trips. He bemoans the expansion of Scouting to include more things that are not nature related. He thinks that schools should have more “natural playtime” and that it would do more for test scores than being in class, and highlights a school that doesn’t have computers until high school age. I can see the point, but he acts like just going outside is the all-purpose cure for things. Of course in a book about returning to nature he’s not going to talk about how students who take band (and practice their instruments) do better in school, but hey, whatever your platform. It has encouraged me to make sure the student with autism that I’m watching over the summer gets out and about a lot. C+

“Just This Side of Normal” by Elizabeth King Gerlach

This is a book written by a Eugene mother of a boy with autism. I kind of needed to read it. I’ve read other books where parents have just talked about the amazing breakthroughs that they’ve had with their children, but since I’ve been watching one of my students all day for 3 days, with the whole summer ahead of us, I needed to see that someone else was encountering the same issues I am. Even though the story isn’t very uplifting, it makes me feel not so alone as a caregiver for someone with autism. It’s poorly edited though, minus for that ;) A-

“Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual” by Dr Carol Livoti and Elizabeth Topp
Ok, ok, so I picked this one out purely because of the name. I chose it from the women’s health section of the library when I was looking for information on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It’s pretty informative, though not really for my original purpose. I think that young ladies in high school could handle it. It’s written by a gynecologist and her daughter in an easy going way that makes it clear that not much about “down there” is going to be a surprise to a doctor, although the gyno is pretty opinionated in that she thinks that women who use pads are crazy people who like to wear diapers. It’s pretty detailed about sexually transmitted diseases, which is why I think ladies should read it before they start having sex, although the tone definitely is aimed at sexually active ladies. The chapter on abortion was kind of hard to for me read because the doctor doesn’t refer to a “fetus” in describing each method, but “evacuating the contents of the uterus.” Also, the chapter on sex could have been more of a user’s guide. :-o B+

“Survivor” by Chuck Pahlniuk

I went looking for “Choke” in the library and it wasn’t there so I picked this one. A man who survives a religious cult that committed mass suicide works for a rich couple, lives alone, and puts up suicide hotline stickers with his personal phone number. Whenever anyone calls, he tells them to kill themselves. When it becomes known that he is the only living survivor of the cult, he is groomed by agents and Hollywood types into a kind of Jesus Christ Superstar so they can make money off of his books and products. If anyone knew that his brother also survived and was murdering other survivors, his life of fame could be shot. As intriguing as the plot sounds, I wasn’t all that impressed with the book. I don’t feel like I gained much from it, and it wasn’t all that artful. Take it or leave it. C

“Imagined London” by Anna Quindlen
Quindlen was probably like me and read books that were pretty advanced for her age. I didn’t read Dickens as a 12-year old. This is a short book about the author’s own tour through London to discover the corners and addresses of her literary upbringing. It’s good in a confirming sense, that literature can take you to a foreign place when you can’t go there yourself, but there isn’t too much substance or fact, just one author’s experience with the literary vs. real London. B-

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
I had heard good things about this, so when I saw it on the “Staff Picks” at the library, I grabbed it. But I was pretty disappointed with it. It’s supposed to be set in present times, but as if something had gone horribly wrong after the sexual revolution and within a few years the government instituted laws which legislated morality and took away women’s value except for their ability to have children. The main character had once had a husband and child, until they were chased down and she was forced to be a Handmaid, a surrogate who would have children in place of a man’s wife. It ends up being bizarre and just too unbelievable to have happened in such a short period of time. If it had been the far future, maybe I would have bought into it. The back of the book compared it to 1984, but 1984 it was not. C+

“A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster
This had been on my list of books to read for a long time. It started off good, with British and Indian characters that represented a variety of opinions on the British occupation, but then it kind of dissolved into a bunch of finger pointing and shame that I didn’t want to keep reading. I wasn’t even sure where the book was going at the end of it. I wonder if Kipling has anything better. C+

“Inside the TARDIS: The Worlds of Doctor Who: A Cultural History” by James Chapman
First off, I was thoroughly crushed that this book had no pictures. Other than that, it was a good resource for a Doctor Who fan who didn’t grow up in the 60’s in the UK, because the author went through each Doctor in chronological order, highlighting his personality with an especially meaningful episode. The author also brought in cultural information about how Doctor Who reflected and affected British culture at the time. For someone who had seen all of those episodes, it could get pretty boring, but I’ve only seen the first of the classic series. B