Thursday, August 18, 2011

Slutwalk and "Humorless Feminists"

Recently, I was talking to acquaintance about how much I love the internet.

"What do you do on the internet?" he asked.

I said, "I read a lot about feminism."

Cue shocked look. I could see him mentally formulating every interaction we'd had and him trying to reconcile it with the idea of HUMORLESS FEMINIST. To ease his calculations, I added, "Yes. That's right. I'm a humorless feminist."

Where does that idea come from, exactly?

Last night the AAUW (American Association of University Women) hosted a panel discussion called RE: Action - A debate on Slutwalk. Much has been written about the Slutwalks and the original Toronto cop who sparked Slutwalks already, but what struck me about last night was how easy to laugh the panelists and entire room was, even though they were discussing something extremely serious.

Slutwalk itself is tongue in cheek; it takes the Toronto cop's words and shows exactly how ridiculous they are.  Obviously: my short skirt does not tell a person I want to have sex with them. My skirt does not have a louder voice than I do.

Alexandra Petri, who was on the panel, told a joke that I'm going to paraphrase:
A man rapes a woman. Later, she has a job interview with him. They go through the entire interview, but unfortunately, at the end of it, he tells her that she did not get the job.  
The next morning, she shows up bright and early at 9 a.m., ready to work. He is taken aback. "I told you that you didn't get the job!"
"Oh," she said, "I thought that no meant yes."
She said that it was the only rape joke that she'd ever heard that was funny. Well, because its one of the few that focuses on how ridiculous the excuses for rape are. Petri pointed out that all the other jokes about rape are actually very serious and not funny. Prison rape, for example, is something that gets joked about all the time, and that is disturbing.

It reminded me of this clip from Chelsea Peretti:

Feminist Film points out:
Chelsea Peretti’s rape jokes are basically about how she recognizes that there is nothing you can do to realistically prevent rape, but how we’re expected to be really afraid of it all the time anyway.  And she does a really good bro impression 
Rape itself isn't funny: its the excuses, the societal bullshit that is funny. Feminists aren't humorless, they just don't laugh at not funny jokes.

Another panelist, Aiyi'nah "SimplyNay" Ford, was all around hilarious. She explained that she wants to reclaim the word 'slut' because she knows her own power, and those words do not hold power over her. She also explained her swearing habits, which lead her to call people "motherfucking motherfuckers."

RE: Action - A Debate on Slutwalk was on a pretty serious subject, but that does not mean that there cannot be a few life-affirming laughs.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sound the alarm bells: 1 in 4 adults didn't read a book last year

Got the message from Bookshelves of Doom with a link to the WaPo article. The takeaway?
One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday.
I know that this is framed in an alarming way, but...I'm not entirely sure why this is a big deal. And I love to read!  I'm trying to read 150 books this year!  Why am I not lamenting the sad state of reading affairs in America? This part from the article:
"I just get sleepy when I read," said Richard Bustos of Dallas, a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify. Bustos, a 34-year-old project manager for a telecommunications company, said he had not read any books in the last year and would rather spend time in his backyard pool.
Honestly, dude, I can relate. In college, I used to start studying in the afternoon for the express purpose of being asleep for an afternoon nap in the next 30 minutes. Lets face it! Americans have other things going on. And that guy loves to be in the pool! Shouldn't I be out getting more exercise, rather reading 150 books? In another article, I could say something like:
"I just don't like to go outside very much. I'd rather stay inside, read, watch television... Besides, its been so hot lately," she said, adding that occasionally she does ten minute yoga routines in the morning.
We're all fuckups in some way according to the media. 

Besides, television has gotten super intense and complicated. Certain programs (The Wire, Mad Men) are like intellectual pursuits. I'm willing to give non-readers a break. Your life is complicated, I'm sure that you're doing what you can, and I'm not here to give you a guilt trip.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Midwestern Girls, Approximately

I don't know, maybe its a Midwestern thing, but where I'm from, you're not supposed to brag about yourself. That's what my mom says. She says you should wait for people to recognize your good qualities. And then you should say, like, 'Oh no, I'm not really that great at whatever-it-is. I'm just okay.' And then they'll say, "No, really. You're great.' And you say, 'I'm really not, but thanks anyway for saying so.' And they'll say, 'Yes you are. You so are!' And you say, 'Gee, do you really think so?' And then they'll say, 'Totally!' And then people think you're good at whatever it is you're good at, but they don't think you're braggy about it 'cause that makes you seem like a real tool. Plus, it's unladylike. 
From Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Honestly, this sort of thing is hard to fight against. Sometimes it is too braggy. But sometimes you are too modest. Where is the line? This happens early in the book, so obviously the character that says this (Mary Lou) grows a set of Lady Balls (Thatchers, if you will) by the end of the book. But there's a difference between bragging and sticking up for yourself.

[Cross posted at tumblr. If you clink a link from this post to, I receive a portion of the purchase price of whatever you buy at no additional cost to you]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

150 Book Challenge: Mini Update

Oh man, so I'm totally failing on reading 13 books this month (only 10!), but due to being so far ahead other months, I'm still super ahead on the challenge.

All that being said: I really, really liked How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. I'm really, really looking forward to reading his short story collection.

[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]

Saturday, July 23, 2011

From George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons

‎"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads only lives one." 

- George R. R. Martin

Friday, July 22, 2011

Being an Adult

Its the new thing to proclaim your childishness for all the internet to see. "I suck at being an adult! I'm a child in an adult body! I saw Toy Story Three!" The best of these is Hyperbole and a Half's "This is Why I'll Never Be An Adult"  The most recent of which that I've read is this one from Hello Giggles.

But even though I spend most of my time watching television, I'm unable to manage time effectively, I ate frozen cheesecake for dinner last night because it was so hot.... I have to admit that I've started that transition, the adult transition. I definitely am no longer in college.

I'm pretty sure that other people's badges of adulthood are different, but mine are:
  1. I'm a wizard at laundry. Seriously. I got bike grease out of my boyfriend's short, I got cat blood out of his shirt a few months ago. And I know that its not me performing the magic, its oxyclean, but not looking at a grease stain and saying, "Fuck it. I'm throwing you away rather than dealing with you," is a sort of triumph.
  2. I make food that isn't macaroni and cheese. 
  3. Related -- I eat a vegetable that isn't a potato once a day and drink tea without any sweetener.
  4. I've kept a cat alive for four years now. I remember when he was still a kitten, and I said to someone that I had a cat. Their reply, "In your college apartment??? Is it ALIVE?" Why, yes. I feed it and take it to the vet and everything.
  5. I have motherfucking goals. Seriously. Like, the 150 Book Challenge for the year. A new one I'm toying with is trying to get to 100,000 total tracks on my account by the end of the year. Doesn't matter that its an inconsequential goal. Still counts.
  6. I'm also keeping plants alive. Outside, or whatever, but in the current heat wave, that is a miracle and it shall be counted as no less.
I feel like its become the new cool thing, the "Oh, I'm not an adult because I wear flip flops in the snow." (True story: I do.) Just like being awkward became cool 5 years ago... which still boggles my mind. Do you know the feeling of being awkward? It is the exact opposite of coolness. I feel sick and want to sink into the pages of Harry Potter where time-turners exist so I can turn the clocks back, or at best, obliviate with a a flick of my wand so that NO ONE REMEMBERS THE WEIRD THING I SAID OR DID. The essence of not being cool.

So I'm owning to being an adult. There are worse things. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My laptop is broken

I love my laptop, a red Sony Vaio, and a week ago, it stopped charging. One of the things that holds a power plug in place in the laptop broke, and the cord could no longer fit inside there. It has been in the repair shop for six days.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge deal. I've owned an iPad for the past three months, so its not like my boyfriend and I are (the horrors!) sharing one laptop. Its just weird how much things have changed.

It used to be that if you had a computer in your household, you only had one. It was the family computer, and people took turns using it. I'm not sure when exactly that changed, but I can't imagine having to share my computer with another person full time. It would be like sharing a cell phone with another person. Only worse, because I hardly ever use my cell phone. Its just a given now that you have as many computers in the house as there are people.

Its indicative, I guess, of how mainstream the internet has gotten. The internet is a great tool, a great entertainer, and a great way to keep in contact with other people. Its interesting to think back on my grandparents, in the late nineties, whispering that they thought my mother had "become addicted to the internet." They had seen a program on the news about it. They don't say stuff like that anymore, largely because people aren't as alarmist about it anymore. It is acceptable now. Its just weird how fast that was.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

I loved After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn. I loved loved loved loved loved it. In fact, the day after I read it, I wanted to read it again. This is technically against the rules of my 150 book challenge. While I'm allowed to reread books, it should be books that I finished before the beginning of this year.

(I cheated. I reread it today.)

My love of this book falls into two major categories:

1. A Celia character who doesn't suck. As a person named Celia, there are few other Celia's out there, in literature or otherwise. I remember there being a Celia in Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott, and not being offended by her, but not impressed either. Celia Hodes, on Weeds, is the worst Celia ever. Seriously. I can't watch Weeds because she is the worst person on that show.

Celia in After the Golden Age is pretty awesome. She's exactly my age (25!), rides the city bus (me too!), and is a bit of a work-a-holic. As one of the few "super-heroes" in the book, she's got a lot to prove, and she goes ahead and proves it. She's pretty bad ass in a runaway bus scene.

2. I'm a sucker for the love story. Seriously. Carrie Vaughn did something that seems pretty hard. She had the protagonist fall in love with a telepath and made it sweet. That seems so impossible. But it isn't played creepily, and it just works. I love every second of it, and even though I saw it coming, I loved re-reading it, paying close attention to their interactions and savoring it.

Since then, I've been on the lookout for Carrie Vaughn books. I just read Steel and it was good too. But the DC public library doesn't really have a lot of her books (almost none of a series that she writes). Oh well, I'll just have to keep watch! I also subscribed to her blog and am really enjoying that too.

Note: I borrowed After the Golden Age from the public library. I am an Amazon Associate, which means if you click a link to there from here, I'll receive a portion of the purchase price at no additional cost to you

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Handsome Furs - Repatriated

Oh man, this song. So catchy! I think I got it as a download from them via email, and I like it way better than "What About Us." I do think its interesting that the song is called "Repatriated"...implying that it happened, but the song says that he'll "never be repatriated." Would it have been better to give the song the title, "Never Be Repatriated"? Or how about "(Never Be) Repatriated".
Where did the future go?
I was feeling down
I was feeling so low
Had to get out
Had to get out parts unknown
Where did the feeling go?
I got it back when the plane touched down
I was over
I was over - oh well
Here it comes
Here it comes
Here it comes
Here it comes
The frozen light
I'll never go back there
It was a lie, a lie
Believin' in it is so, it is so hard
I saw the light
Saw the reconstruction
And I will go, I will go
Out in the heat
And the rush and pushin' when its five at night
Your little heart is gonna beat so
Where did the future go?
Parts unknown
Parts unknown
Your little heart is gonna beat so
Where did the feeling go?
Well, it comes and goes
It comes and goes
Here it comes!
Your little heart is gonna beat so
Where did the feeling go?
Well, it comes and goes
It comes and goes
Here it comes
Here it comes
I've seen the future
And its comin' in low
I've seen the future
I will never be repatriated
I've seen the future
And its comin' in low
I've seen the future
I will never be repatriated
I'll never be repatriated
Never be repatriated
Never be repatriated
Never be repatriated

If you have any thoughts, put them in the comments!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Like Sports? You should be listening to The TV TimeOut

Like sports? Why aren't you listening to The TV TimeOut? Or following their Tumblr? Or Twitter? And not just because they made me Twitter Follower of the Week. But because they are awesome and make me laugh at my desk/on my walks.

[Yes. I walked 5.5 miles to work. Yes, my feet and butt hurt now.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dennis Miller Bunker

Dennis Miller Bunker's "The Pool, Medfield" which hangs in the Boston MFA

We can measure the extent of Bunker's achievement in this difficult branch of art by comparing his landscapes with those of the painters who have been universally considered its leading exponents. Placed beside the best Medfield studies, the one in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (note: not the one above), for instance, or the painting entitled "The Brook, Medfield", Claude Monet's pictures look a little candy-colored and artificial, while even Sisley's seem rather haphazard and incomplete. Standing before the best Renoirs one thinks of fuzziness and a lack of solidarity. Dennis Bunker's landscapes look simply right.
Standing in the Gardner Museum, "The Brook, Medfield" immediately caught my eye. In the words of Tina Fey, when I saw it I thought, "I want to go to there." It looked like an open field on a summer's day, with a creek running through it, like bare feet and cloud watching. Like a warm breeze. 

Bunker died young (age 29). Maybe that's why I had never seen his paintings before. Maybe because his work is mostly based in Boston, and I had never been there before this month. To learn more about him, I checked out the only book in the DC library system about him, the aforementioned biography that was written in the 1950s. (When the author talks about "the 90s" in the book, he means that 1890s. Whoa.) All the paintings and pictures are in black and white, which feels blasphemous for a book about an artist. 

The biography is tiny. Including the index and several pages of paintings/drawings, it clocks in at 81 pages. And it bears repeating: all the pictures in the book are in black and white. 

Surely Dennis Miller Bunker deserves better than that. I mean, look at the above painting!

[I'm an Amazon Affiliate, so if you follow a link from here to Amazon and purchase something, I get a portion of the price at no extra cost to you. I checked out Dennis Miller Bunker from the local library]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

This book is so much better than the original series. The original series was fun and quick, and the writing....well, it felt like Dan Brown decided to write young adult/children novels and wasn't taking it very seriously.

BUT. The Lost Hero is so much better. The writing flows. There's more diversity in characters, while keeping to a central theme: no one's quite sure that they belong anywhere.

Last August, I read a piece from Mixed Race America called Why the phrase "half-blood" needs serious interrogation. While some of the article is flawed (its clear the author had other stuff going on and hadn't really examined the source material), this was worth noting:
And according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "half-blood" has at its core the idea that there is both a quantifiable ("half") notion of blood AND a qualifiable (as in hierarchical) idea embedded in the phrase "half-blood":
"half-blooded a., born of different races; spec. of superior blood or race by one parent only."[again, emphasis in bold is mine]
It just makes me cringe to think that these kids are going to these "half-blood" camps and will be referring to themselves as "half-bloods" without understanding the long and painful racial/racist history behind that term AND without understanding how problematic it is to split one's "blood" and the not-so-implicit connotations of blood (and really, wherever you see the word "blood" you should insert the word "race") as purity--of being able to determine which bloodline is better than the other. 
This is one of those things that seems like it would be really easy to be ignorant about. Remember when HP cameras were racist? Because no one thought to be like, "Uh, shouldn't we make sure that this works on all people?" Rick Riordan probably didn't have a Native American (or anyone who would have been knowledgeable about it) read the book prior to publication. And that sucks that the world still works that way.

So, in response to this, he could have been like, um, rounded up all the Native Americans that like his books/help his books, like some other people we know.

Knowing how these things usually go ("I didn't do anything wrong/I didn't know/That's just the way the story is/I'm sorry if I offended anyone"), I didn't expect much. So I was surprised to got a mention on page 33 of The Lost Hero:
"A safe place," Annabeth said. "The only safe place for kids like us. Camp Half-Blood."
"Half-Blood?" Piper was immediately on guard. She hated that word. She'd been called a half-blood too many times - half Cherokee, half white - and it was never a compliment. "Is that some kind of bad joke?" 
 Is it good to show that kids who are of mixed-blood/race are awesome, too? Or is this just co-opting an experience while just giving a brief nod to it?

What I can say is that most of the characters in the first series were white, and in the new series, Piper is Cherokee and Leo is Mexican American (the leader, though, Jason Grace, is white). To have adventures in this new series, you don't have to be white. And it proves that having diverse characters in a series is very compelling.

[I'm an Amazon Affiliate, so if you follow a link from here to Amazon and purchase something, I get a portion of the price at no extra cost to you. I checked out The Lost Hero from the local library]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mitt Romney's Damage Control [Everybody just calm it down]

Okay, so I'm not great at captioning, but the minute I saw the photo with this article by Ezra Klein, I immediately got a OMGWTFBBQ EVERYBODY CALM DOWN vibe.

Because you'd hate for the tea party frenzy to be whipped in your direction.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Love Story...In Milk [The Brits Love A Good Milk Love Story]

A Love Story… In Milk from Catsnake on Vimeo.

A short PSA film that proves that the Coffee + TV video was not an anomaly among the Brits; they really like it when blue milks and girl milks fall in love. I mean, its just cute:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

It feels like I've known about Bumped by Megan McCafferty for ages. In fact, I think right after Perfect Fifths was released. I was glad that McCafferty was moving away from Jessica Darling, because even though I was happy with the way that Perfect Fifths turned out (save for the graphic shower scene!), I was ready for Jessica to be done. Especially after realizing that I had read Fourth Comings and not remembered it. Its a bad sign that someone like me (super fan during the first two books) can forget whole books.

Anyway. Knowing that there was a total departure was great for my soul.

I read Bumped on Monday, in the Milwaukee airport, and then on the plane. It isn't long; I finished it midway through the flight. While its an enjoyable young adult book, a pretty good way to spend a couple of hours traveling, there were a few flaws.

[Spoilers follow! Ye be warned]

Bumped is about the near future, when 20 somethings and 30 somethings can no longer have children, due to a virus. The virus basically renders most people permanently infertile between 18 and 20 years of age. Society goes from (now) hand wringing about teenage pregnancy to practically forcing it upon these teenagers.

The premise of how different segments of the population have coped is told through identical twin sisters, Melody and Harmony, who were separated at birth and raised in hugely different circumstances. Melody's parents have embraced teenage pregnancy, grooming their daughter to be a breeder, scoring her a huge contract. Harmony's parents are hugely religious, grooming their daughter (and all their children) to marry young and have children as soon as possible.

Harmony wants to witness to Melody, to take her back to the church and save her soul. Page 75:
My sister is still chaste. It's not too late to protect that gift of purity, but I need to intervene right now, to tell Lib that I will endure fire raining down from Heaven before I will allow my sister to prostitute herself for procreation and profit. The best investment she can make is in God.
Melody hates that Harmony is around. Had a good life going. Has a huge birthing contract, because she's pretty much perfect and will give birth to perfect children. Her parents borrowed against her reproductive power, and now need her to become a breeder. Page 89:
This strategic reinvestment in my brand, they believed, would up my market value and put me well over the original appraisal. And when the Jayden's bid came in so strong, it looked like I would definitely earn back everything they had borrowed and more.
Melody and Harmony take turns telling the story from their points of view. While getting the full spectrum of how society has changed is great, it does have one huge downfall: character development. Bumped is only 318 pages long and has two main characters. Both Melody and Harmony undergo a huge change; Melody decides that she isn't going to be her parents breeder, and Harmony learns that God might not be so formidable as she thought.

But I didn't quite feel the transition the way I thought I was meant to. There was just a lot going on. I didn't feel I knew the characters, and didn't feel like their transformation meant as much as it was supposed to. Especially since there's going to be a sequel. I feel like there could have been a slower transition, more character development, and more time for supporting cast if it had been longer or saved some of the change for next book.

The point of the book seemed to be that you have to let teenagers decide their own lives. Which is sort of hard, because they're at that stage between children and adult, and do you really trust teenagers to make the best decision? But forcing pregnancy upon children is serious. (Hell, I believe that forcing pregnancy upon anyone is wrong, but that's another blog post!) Teenagers are tasked with, basically, saving the human race. Forcing them into marriage/birth contracts, though, is the wrong thing to do.

I will say that some of this book is absolutely inspired. The quote to the first section from the President's State of the Union Address:
The United States of America once ranked above all industrialized nations in the realm of teen pregnancy. We were the undisputed queens of precocious procreation! We were number one before, and we can be number one again! 
I also like the egg cover, especially the back cover of the egg beginning to crack.

Will I read the next one? Yeah, yeah I will. I hope that the characters are fleshed out a little bit more. And I want to meet more quirky people, like Lib. It should be out around this time next year.

[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Street Harassment Happens to Everyone [Bossypants]

Tina Fey in Bossypants, page 15:

When I was writing the movie Mean Girls - which hopefully is playing on TBS right now! - I went to a workshop by  Rosalind Wiseman as part of my research. Rosalind wrote the nonfiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes that Mean Girls was based on, and she conducted a lot of self-esteem and bullying workshops  with women and girls around the country. She did this particular exercise in a hotel ballroom in Washington, DC, with about two hundred grown women, asking them to write down the moment when they first "knew they were a woman." Meaning, "When did you first feel like a grown woman and not a little girl?" We wrote down our answers and shared them, first in pairs, then in larger groups. The group of women was racially and economically diverse, but the answers had a very similar theme. Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. "I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, 'Lick me!'" "I was babysitting my younger cousins when a guy drove by and yelled, 'Nice ass.'" There were pretty much zero examples like "I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team." It was mostly men yelling shit from cars. Are they a patrol sent out to let girls know when they've crossed into puberty? If so, it's working.

This is it, America. I wonder when men first know they are men. Is it the moment that they feel a compulsion to lean out the window of a car, and yell out to a woman, "Suck my dick!" and by the time they realize they had that compulsion, they've already finished yelling it?

And yes, yes, Tina Fey also has a street harassment story. What woman doesn't?

[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Red Line Grafitti Project [Everyday Art]

The Red Line D.C. Project - Trailer from citylovedc on Vimeo.

From DC Centric. My favorite grafitti along the red line is when you are approaching the Silver Spring Station, there is a tiny bubble that reads, "Cool like the other side of the pillow."

The documentarian is interested in who Ju is, but lately I've wanted to know what he deal with 'Crotch Rot USA' is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

13 Little Blue Envelopes [Headless midriffs]

So I got the notice from Bookshelves of Doom this morning that the e-reader version 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson was available for free. (No telling how long it will continue to be free! Jump on it now!)

I've been meaning to read this book and have been putting it off for ages. I think it had something to do with the cover:

I know, I know. You can never judge a book by its cover, but headless midriffs just don't appeal to me. Also, its similarity in title to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher also really bothered me. I really didn't like Thirteen Reasons Why and didn't really want to read another frustrating book. So I'm really glad I turned out to be wrong.

I really, really enjoyed it. Its the second book that I've read on the iPad. Its so super easy to read everything on the iPad, really, and I finished the book in one sitting. I definitely recommend it.

Its a little sly that this particular book is available for free right now. The Last Little Blue Envelope (which is the sequel) comes out April 26th. I'm pretty excited to read the sequel now, whereas it probably would have been months/years before I picked up either book if it hadn't been available for free.Whoever had the idea of offering the first one for free weeks before the release of the sequel was a genius.

[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Meeting Reading and Book Goals [150 Book Challenge]

So I'm reading 150 books this year. I've been doing pretty well so far, reading an average of 13 books per month so far.

Obviously, having a a huge goal like this is daunting. And reading goals are pretty common for people. (See Goodreads group) Having a plan can work wonders. Like in my original blog post, I had broken down how many books in a month I needed to read (12.5) or in how many days I need to finish a book (approximately 2.4).

Still, sometimes I get tripped up. Last year, it took me three weeks to read Stephen King's IT. I had just gotten into a rut, never wanting to pick it up on the way to work....instead vegging out to the iPod.

1. Be prepared to mess up

I messed up with IT. I really enjoyed it, but got tripped up because it was so long. So I just wouldn't make any progress on it, because I was so frustrated with never making progress on it.

Yeah, I know how that sounds, but it happens in other areas too. On a diet? Give up because you blew it? Or, in the habit of exercising a certain amount, and give up when you get sick and can't go, or get busy and can't go, or get lazy and can't go?

It happens. Forgive yourself and move on.

But how can you prevent stuff like that from happening?

2. Set an easy goal to accomplish

I was having trouble earlier this year with George R. R. Martin's books. They are so long, and I was getting close to be stuck just like I had been stuck on IT. During A Storm of Swords, I became resolved: read at least 100 pages a day.

Will that make me finish the book in 2.4 days? No, because the book was about 1000 pages long. But it made sure that I kept reading, kept at it. Of course, that can be different for everyone. Finish three chapters, finish at least twenty cetera. Its like having a saving goal: I will try to save X amount over the course of a year, but in order to achieve that, I need to save $2 a day, or $10 a week.

It might not seem like a lot at first, but it all builds up.

3. Define your goal

I want to read 150 books this year. But what does that mean? Can I just go to the local library, read 150 books for 8 year olds, and be done with it?

Well, no. I'm not trying to dupe myself: I mean 150 books that I would read normally in a year. This means a mix of sci fi, fiction and literature, YA novels, and fantasy. I don't want to waste a year just reading easy books: I want to read like I normally would. I've also done a pretty good job this year incorporating non-fiction; I've read four so far this year and last year I only read six total.

I'm also incorporating books that I re-read, but I don't want my re-read books to reach higher than 10% of the total books I've read. Thus far, the books I have re-read account for 7.5% of the total books read.

4. Don't be afraid to give up on a book

Right now, I have a book about settler's first impressions of Illinois in my To Be Read stack. I probably won't read more than a little bit of it. I'll never want to read all of it, and I don't want to spend time forcing myself to do something I don't want to. If I don't like reading it, I won't want to read it, and I'll stall out on my goals. Giving up a book is no big deal.

Sometimes, you just aren't in the mood for a particular book. I read the first few pages of Life of Pi and set it right back down.

A few year later, I picked it up and read it in one sitting.

Want to take a look at the book spreadsheet? Updated every time I finish a book.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stephen Glass on This American Life [Delivery]

I've been listening to This American Life archives online, each episode, in order of when they aired. Today, I came across the episode "Delivery," tales about delivery people in five acts.

I was enjoying the episode while doing some data entry when the fifth act, "Faith Shattered" came on. Its about a guy who is simultaneously offended by two companies while trying to get a laptop computer delivered to him. Toward the end of the story, when the guy telling the story and Ira Glass are bantering, I realize....the guy telling the story? He's Stephen Glass. Of Shattered Glass fame. Of exaggerating stories for The New Republic fame.

Chuck Lane told 60 Minutes this about Stephen Glass:
“If it was sunny outside and Steve and I were both standing outside in the sun and Steve came to me and said, ‘It's a sunny day,’ I would immediately go check with two other people to make sure it was a sunny day,” says Lane.
This, of course, casts the entire This American Life story into doubt. How much of it is true? How much is exaggerated? The story is presented much like this:

  1. Stephen Glass is a big believer in the free market. He claimed to have advocated the postal service privatized because of how great Fed Ex was prior to the incidents that follow.
  2. He purchased a Gateway computer and it was late being delivered. He called several times (I think he says 10 times), checking on the status of the shipment.
  3. On one such call, the customer service rep used a Jewish slur to refer to him as she was hanging up on him. He immediately faxed a complaint to their corporate office.
  4. A higher up in the company eventually apologizes, and offers to donate 10 computers to the Anti-Defamation League. Stephen Glass declines: he hates the Anti-Defamation League because he claims to love the first amendment and free speech rights so much.
  5. The computer was delivered to his parents home in Chicago. He's in DC at the time, and has it sent Federal Express.
  6. The package is lost or stolen.
  7. Stephen Glass claims that an employee of Fed Ex, named Edward Maxwell, tells him that it has been stolen and that he should have sent the computer UPS instead.
  8. Edward Maxwell is fired and later goes to work at UPS.
  9. Eventually, Stephen Glass gets a refund. They Fed Ex a check to him overnight. He claims that he asked them to UPS it instead.
I did some googling, but there's nothing around the internet about this. Many of Stephen Glass's previous subjects have countered the articles written about them, but googling Stephen Glass with the companies mentioned brings no results. Stephen Glass plus the Anti-Defamation League has no real results. There's no fact check on the This American Life website. Edward Maxwell plus UPS doesn't come up with anything. 

The episode is from before Stephen Glass was outed as an exaggerator, liar, and fantastical storyteller. It looks as though all three of his This American Life appearances were prior to his downfall. 

The question remains: how much of this story can be verified? Did Gateway Computers really offer to donate ten computers to the Anti-Defamation League? Did a man named Edward Maxwell get fired from Fed Ex because he told the truth (that packages with computers are often stolen at Fed Ex) and get a job at UPS? Does Stephen Glass really believe in the free market or free speech?

Or is this just the story of being lost in customer service hell, but because everyone has a customer service hell story Stephen Glass exaggerated it until it was a story worthy of This American Life?

[Just a small note: I love This American Life and don't mean them any harm. I especially love the type of journalism they've been doing, especially the investigation into a Drug Court in Georgia. I donated to them this year.]

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

iPad 2 Camera is meh-y

It gets the overall point across (and there's no green animal eye glow), but it doesn't convince me not to pack my camera on vacations that the iPad is coming along.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Learning From Fairy Tales [The Six Swans Retelling]

From Shelley Jackson's retelling of "The Six Swans" (renamed "The Swan Brothers" in My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (pg 93):
        Women are trouble -- if it isn't an evil wife, its an evil stepmother. Or mother-in-law. Mother's are usually all right, unless they're witches -- watch out for witches. And their daughters.
        You might be all right with kings, princes, and fathers, unless, as is usually the case, they're under the influence of someone else, usually a woman. Men are weak. Sometimes they rescue you, but they always have help -- from ants or birds or women. Sometimes you rescue them. This is kind of sweet.
         You can trust animals. Sometimes they turn into people, but don't hold that against them.
         Children had better watch out.

[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Praise of Fairy Tales [Happily Ever After]

From My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me:
...The National Book Foundation, which administers the National Book Awards, states that "retellings of folk-tales, myths, and fairy-tales are not eligible" for their awards. Imagine guidelines that state, "Retellings of slavery, incest, and genocide are not eligible." Fairy tales contain all of those themes, and yet the implication is that something about fairy tales is simply...not literary. Perhaps snobbery has something to do with their association with children and women.
I love retellings of fairy tales. One of my favorite books from my "young adult" days was Ella Enchanted. I've probably read it fifty times since the time I was twelve (thirteen years ago).  The entire book feels perfectly crafted, each sentence and word fitting in perfectly with the flow of the story. In high school, I reread Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West at least twenty times. And Gregory Maguire's other book, Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister.

I love all of it. And it should be recognized as awesome. I reread Ella Enchanted again and its still perfect. I picked up My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me yesterday from the library, and I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The 150 Book Challenge [Updates]

So far the challenge is going pretty well. I finished book 29 yesterday, and I'm midway through book 30:

I've been able to cycle books pretty quickly, partially because I've mastered keeping a flow of books coming. Without new books to read, the whole process would stop.

[Amazingly, the last ten books I have read have all been by women. That happen all the time.]

One thing that has been holding me back, though, has been how cold its been here in DC. I spend 15 to 30 minutes every day waiting for the bus (I have to transfer buses, which accounts for some of that time). Its been too cold to get my hands out of my coat to hold the book, so I've been waiting until I actually get in the bus to begin reading.

I've got to read 12 to 13 books a month, which so far I've been right on: I hit 25 books the last day of February. With the last few books added into the mix, I've been finishing a book every 2.3 days on average. In order to stay on pace, I have to finish nine more books this month.

In the wings, I have one of George R. R. Martin's books in my To Be Read pile. Those have been challenging this year, because they are 800-1000 pages long, and have taken 6-7 days to complete. So far to combat that I've been trying to get through at least 100 pages of it a day, no matter what.

Right now I'm 22 days ahead of where I was last year, or 7 books ahead. So its going pretty well. Just for a comparison, here's 2010:

And here's the same time period again, this year:

Pretty awesome. More books read in the same time period.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


No really. This is ridiculous. It is a CAT FOOD COMMERCIAL, you guys!

It aired during the Oscars, and I was immediately upset.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Women Don't Read Fantasy [Excerpt]

From page 344 of A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
Beauty, they called her . . . mocking. The hair beneath the visor was a squirrel's nest of dirty straw, and her face . . . Brienne's eyes were large and very blue, a young girl's eyes, trusting and guileless, but the rest . . . her features were broad and coarse, her teeth prominent and crooked, her moth too wide, her lips so plump they seemed swollen. A thousand freckles speckled her cheeks and brow, and her nose had been broken more than once. Pity filled Catelyn's heart. Is there any creature on earth as unfortunate as an ugly woman?
 Italics are from the text.

This Brienne woman is badass: she is basically the equal, if not the better, to most men in battle. But she fails in being beautiful. And therefore is to be pitied. I almost threw the book when I read that part.

It reminded me of when someone wrote on a Huffington Post blog this of Elena Kagan's mother's reaction to her daughter becoming the first female dean of Harvard Law School:

She nodded, unsmiling, and sighed in that stoic way that was now so familiar to me. "Yeah..." then a long silence..."but I really wish she were married."
Never mind her other accomplishments...How is she doing with the menfolk?

[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Happy Birthday You Sexy Beast!

From The Pleasing Hour by Lily King (page 54):
     "He's hilarious-looking," Leslie said. "Tall for a Frenchman. Kind of like Abraham Lincoln but not half as sexy."
     "Abraham Lincoln is not sexy," Beth said.
     "Abraham Lincoln is very sexy."
[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Old 97's Should Be On Saturday Night Live [Is America Ready?]

I don't know whats been happening since I received the above blog post in my Google Reader. But it should happen, yo! Go 'Like' the petition over on Facebook.

THIS should be on teevee:

Or "Champaign, Illinois." Or whatever they feel like singing! America must be slammed with Rhett Miller's gyrating hips on Saturday Night Live. It must happen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Abortion Cat [This isn't funny...its hilarious!]

Abortion cat is coming for your kittens! Honestly, just go ahead and Google Image Search ABORTION CAT. There is more than just this LOLCAT.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Frak It Friday: Bright Eyes - "Shell Games"

Took the fireworks and the vanity

The circuitboard and the city streets
Shooting star, swaying palm tree
Layed it at the arbiters feet
If I could change my mind, change the paradigm
Prepare myself for another life
Forgive myself for the many times 
I was cruel to something helpless and weak
But here it come, that heavy love
I'm never gonna move it alone

Here it come, that heavy love
Tag it on a tenement wall
Here it come that heavy love, someone gotta share in the load
Oh, here it come that heavy love, I'm never gonna move it alone

I was dressed in white, touched by something pure
Death obsessed, like a teenager
Sold my tortured youth, pissed in vinegar
I'm still angry with no reason to be
At the architect who imagines
For the every man, blessed sisyphus
Slipping steadily into madness, now that's the only place to be free

But here it come, that heavy love
You're never gonna move it alone
Here it come, that heavy love
Tattooed on a criminals arm
Here it come that heavy love, someone gotta share in the load
Oh, here it come, that heavy love, you're never gonna move it alone

No I don't wanna play, it's a shell game
It's a shell game

Distorted sounds on a oscilloscopes 
Distorted facts I could never cope
My private life is an inside joke
No one will explain it to me

We'll be everything that we ever need
Everyone on the count of three
Everyone on the count of three
All together now

Here it come that heavy love
We're never gonna move it alone
Here it come that heavy love, playin as a cylinder rose
Here it come that heavy love, I only want to share in the load
Oh it here it come that heavy love
I'm never gonna move it alone

Thursday, February 3, 2011

White Stripes Call It Quits

Its like they wanted to be a noted band of the 2000s decade.

I'm a little upset that this means that I will never, ever be able to see them live.

The White Stripes will be missed.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The 150 Book Challenge for 2011

Last year, after making the decision to keep track of all the books I read, I finally got an accurate count of how many books I read in a year.

One hundred, thirty seven.

Or 137.

However you put it, its a lot.

Here's the end of the list:

And this year, I thought: can't I do a little bit better than that? Why not go for 150? It averages out into 12.5 books a month. Finishing a book every 2 or 3 days.

So far, its going okay:

Yeah, that's right. I included Zombicorns by John Green (apparently, the spreadsheet has it misspelled) on the list, despite the fact that its not quite polished yet. Is that cheating? Since I made the, no its not! Plus, I donated $25 to Partners in Health to get that PDF'd to me, so I totally get the credit.

Anyway. I hope I stay on target. Its a long year ahead.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fate by S. G. Browne

Fated by S. G. Browne is basically about the personification of Fate, getting screwed over by Destiny (who is also personified....and also a huge slut).

I liked it. It was quirky. And I love reading brief asides like:
The thing about Love is that she's codependent. 
The thing about Desire is that she's bulimic.
And it was nice to read. I'm still a little bit weirded out by the end, but overall I liked it.