Tuesday, August 30, 2011

need non-fiction now

I'm picking the book for our book club next month, and I need suggestions!

When I got home from our meeting tonight and I immediately went to our bookshelves and pulled approximately half the books off as possible selections. Life of Pi by Yann Martel - always a classic book group read. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga - a dark and fictional look into India's economy. Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros - Chicana lit full of beautiful and brutal prose. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez - inspiring and tragic (need I say also Latina).

Luckily, I decided I'd chose something from the "topical non-fiction" genre. I think I made that term up, and define it as non-fiction that is based around a topic of interest rather than biography or general history (e.g. math, physics, medicine). I don't read as much there, so my choices are more limited. A good thing. I have a few ideas, but would love more suggestions.

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow. Pros: An accessible book about math, which I find different and interesting. Some of the puzzles he presents would be fun to talk through together. Cons: While the book was fascinating, it was a little slow in parts. The math topic may turn some people off.

Outliers or What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. Pros: Very engaging writing, easy to get through. May be able to pair "Outliers" with a chapter of "The Drunkard's Walk" for an interesting contrast/comparison for people. Cons: I haven't actually read either of these. But maybe that's a pro because I love to read new things.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Pros: brings up really interesting history of both culture and medicine. Cons: drags a little, not sure how much discussion it will lead to.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Pros: quick read on a relevant topic for everyone. Cons: a little preachy. Bonus: I could play this awesome clip from NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", from 2:45-6:45 in particular. (It's really worth clicking on the link, I promise.)

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Pros: Really engaging historical fiction. Cons: Not "topical" and not "non-fiction". How did this one get on the list?

What book should we read? And please, suggest more.

Friday, August 26, 2011

friday photos - birthday!

The beginning of the month marked Genghis's first birthday. It's hard to believe it's been so long. Or maybe not so hard to believe.

A few of my favorite Genghis-isms at this age.
  • He purrs like a Star Wars Wookie.
  • He spends 10 minutes each morning practicing saying "Uh oh!" in his crib before getting up.
  • He toddles around the house, with a walk that looks like he just got off a horse.
  • If we leave our bedroom door open he either (1) goes into stealth mode and in absolute silence sneaks in to get into whatever electronic or choking hazard is closest at hand or (2) makes a wild and raucous run for it, choosing speed over caution.
  • He says "bath" (aah) and "hot" (aht - tahhh).
  • He sits by our bookshelf, paging through "Animal Farm".

We had a party for his birthday. Mostly for us, but some of the adults came with children too.

Blowing out the candle. This "cake" is actually just leftover batter from cupcakes that I threw in a bread pan. Good for Genghis to plunge headfirst into.

The progress of eating his cake and ice cream.

Father and son.

Decorations. After the food had been eaten and the balloons pulled down or popped.

Photo wall. Loved this idea, which I got from Janssen.

Said cupcakes. They have peanut butter cups inside of them. Mmm.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

At letter #20!

At the beginning of the year, I started Project alphAmuse. It's a crowd-sourced children's alphabet book done via blogging. I post a letter of the alphabet, people submit sentences using that letter, and then everyone votes on the best sentence. I've also been illustrating each of the winning sentences.

We're voting on letters S and T now (#19 and #20 in the alphabet). Check it out (and vote!) here: http://alpha-musing.blogspot.com/.

Here are a few of the illustrations I've done so far.

If you want to follow the alphAmuse blog for the last 6 sentences and the rest of the illustrations, then subscribe here: http://alpha-musing.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

You can also subscribe to http://alpha-musing.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default to see all the comments and sentence submissions.

Monday, August 22, 2011

wasn't i supposed to take a class on this in college?

We just got back from a family reunion in Utah, during which we had brief training on how to clean a house. As I listened to tips and tricks with toothbrushes, magic erasers, scrubbing bubbles and vinegar, I realized that I know next to nothing about cleaning. Well, thanks to my 2010 Survey of Household Chores, I know I should wash my sheets more than once a year. But really, that's about next to nothing, huh?

Then I was looking through my closet for something to wear (also a recent topic of this blog). Why is my closet full of clothes I don't wear because they don't fit right, aren't comfortable, don't match anything, or aren't right for the occasion?

And this morning I had a conversation with a friend about paying more for better quality goods. Real wood. Shoes that last. Produce that is delicious.

All of this led to me spending Genghis's afternoon nap trying to write a personal, comprehensive self-help guide to my life. A plan to live well, in budget, and with enough leisure time to enjoy it all.

I'll let you know when it's done.

In the meantime, perhaps I'll advise my children to take Home Economics because no bets they'll learn it from me.

And now follow my stream of consciousness to a funny conversation I heard at a Wendy's in nowhere Indiana where I was stopped for dinner on a long drive home. The conversation was between 4 fresh-out-of-highschoolers, although this snippet is just 2 of them. The girl was talking about starting school at the local college the next day.

Girl: I'm so nervous for tomorrow! It's like, do I bring a backpack? I had to buy tons of books for my classes. What do I do with them?

Guy: You can bring a backpack. Everyone does.

Girl: (whew!) Oh really!? My brother totally said that no one has backpacks. I didn't know what to do. And then I have this hour break in my schedule from 11 to 12. What do I do then?

Guy: Whatever you want. Study.

Girl: But where do I go? I'll be, like, all alone.

Guy: Just go wherever you want. The library?

Girl: Oh, I'm so nervous. What's your schedule like?

Guy: I have some classes in the morning?

Girl: So will you be around at 11?

Guy: Yeah.

Girl: Okay, you totally have to come find me. I'll be like the dorky one that doesn't know where to go. Please, please, please!

It made me wonder if I was like that when I started college. Most likely, yes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

friday photos

Happy Birthday Genghis!

We had 2 parties, one at the Gong family reunion in July, and one on Monday. Here are photos from the former.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

yes, i'll have fries with that!

Some people wish there were another hour in the day so they could accomplish more.

I am not one of those people.

Sure, I usually have an unfinished to-do list at the end of the day. But I'm certain that an extra hour wouldn't help that. I would just put more on my to-do list. In the end, an extra hour simply means more work. No, thank you.

Last week, though, I had the rare experience of having, not just an extra hour, but a whole extra day. I was coming home from a conference. Abe and Genghis were coming home from a family reunion. I got home just fine. The others' flight was canceled, so they had to stay a full day more. For me that meant one full, unexpected day with no dependents under my roof.

What, oh what, would I do with all that time?

I found out about this situation while still driving home, and I spent 2 hours in my car envisioning afternoon matinees, decadent desserts, no alarm clock, dinner at a fancy restaurant. Heck, mini golfing. The world was open to me (should I be embarrassed that my imagination extended only to putt-putt golf?).

Of course, I ended up spending 8am-6pm working. To be fair, I did have a scheduled work engagement from 8-1. It wasn't all my fault.

What else made the list?
1. A super-sized McDonald's lunch. I have been craving a McD's cheeseburger for weeks. Someone should give their Director of Advertising a raise.
2. Quesadillas, with a virtuous salad.
3. Two episodes of Glee. I think it's a first and last for me. I felt like I needed to get in touch with today's youth. Check. Genghis, never go to high school.

The good news was that my extra day was pathetic enough to make me grateful for my family when they came back. Who knew that a family could be more fun than two corn tortillas with cheddar cheese?