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Friday, November 30, 2007

OK, I lied - just one more thing...

This is actually a PSA of sorts. In case you hadn't noticed it yet, there's been a tweak in how comments get posted on blogs like this one (Blogger-hosted ones).

The way I understand it, if you want to leave an identified comment that links back to your own blog or profile, it's not necessary to have a Google account - you should be able to use any OpenID, including your Wordpress or Typepad ID, for your folks who blog on one of those platforms. Just sign in with that ID when you comment:

The drop-down menu for Sign-in will give you your options. The "nickname" option will let you leave a name, but no link, with your comment. (You could be anonymous if you want to, but I hope you won't.)

The details are here, including how to enable the drop-down box on your Blogger blog, since they haven't exactly made that common knowledge yet (it's officially an "in draft" feature).

Thanks to Working Girl (a non-Googler) for asking the question that gave me a heads-up about the change, and to the very useful Google Operating System for the scoop.

(And speaking of changes in commenting procedures, have you noticed the recent option to be e-mailed with follow-up comments? It can save you time checking back for responses, but it could also send you a lot more e-mail, since it sends you all subsequent comments, not just those from the blog author. That could keep your Inbox very busy when you're on of the early "good cooperations" - this post has 51 so far - on a Bub and Pie post. The option works on a per-post basis, though, so you can pick and choose which posts you want to follow. Literary Feline says she's taken a liking to it.)

NaBloPoMo - all over but the reviews

A post a day for 30 days. That's all anyone had to do. And now it's done. (Actually, according to my NaBloPoMo tag, I did 50 posts in 30 days. Yikes.)

The daily-posting part wasn't so hard for me, since I was almost doing that anyway. I made it a little tougher on myself because I'm a stickler; I don't always feel that memes are "real" posts, so I've felt the need to do two posts a day on some days when one post was a meme. I'm an inconsistent stickler, though, since a "non-daily" meme that involved more writing might be allowed to stand as the post for a day, especially if that day fell on a weekend.

I did add a few new blogs to my Reader subscriptions this month, and I've been working on my blogging-community relationships via the wonderful "post a comment" feature, but exploring new-to-me blogs is probably the aspect ofNaBloPoMo that I was weakest in, and would try to improve next time around.

I'm really glad I joined in on NaBloPoMo. I'd do it again next year, too. I think the timing presents a challenge, since Thanksgiving happens in the midst of it, but unless NaNoWriMo gets rescheduled, I doubt this Na..Mo is going to move either. (Could be worse, though - could be December.) However, now that it's reached the last day, I'm looking forward to going back to having my weekends mostly off from blogging...and I actually won't be around my computer this weekend, so see you on Monday!

In the spirit of the season...

...Sunshine is hosting yet another contest! And everyone's a winner, because this isn't really a contest - more like a party, and everyone's invited. The prize is the joy of giving - and, if you e-mail her about what you're doing this holiday season to make your world a little bit nicer, a cool holiday button for your blog. (If you're reading this post in a feed reader, click through to the blog to see the one I got! I promise it won't shoot your eye out...)

The details are here and here, but essentially it comes down to this - what do you already do, or plan to do this Christmas/Chanukah/solstice, just to be nice to other people? It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to save the world, it might be something you do every day or just once a year - the point is that it's giving of yourself, just because.

Sunshine will be keeping up a running post all month recognizing people's "niceness" at this time of year when a lot of people really do seem to be a little nicer. (That's one good reason to wish it was Christmas every day.) I love the idea.

One thing about not being a regular churchgoer is that you don't have one of the most obvious outlets for participating in helping your community, and I have to admit I'm not much for volunteering, so most of the little things I do stay within my own daily circle. Then again, if charity really does begin at home, I guess I'm doing OK - but maybe I need to move to a bigger neighborhood?

In any case, my "neighborhood" includes my office. I not only make the coffee there every morning, but I buy the coffee, as well as the supplies for the office candy jar (good candy, may I add) - out of my own pocket, except when my boss gives me hard time about it and makes me get reimbursed (and I ignore him most of the time - I work in accounting for a nonprofit, so I know we have to watch expenses).

Some time in mid-December, I'll host a holiday breakfast for my office, and I'll bake most of the offerings myself (muffins, coffee cake, sweet rolls). At least half of the treats, and maybe more, will be made from Weight Watchers-friendly recipes.

Then there are the really little things I like to do often, like make sure my husband's water bottles are filled and chilled, pick up a coffee for my sister, and give away books to anyone.

This is the season of giving, but there doesn't have to be a season for giving - so what do you give to make someone else's day a little better?

(I'm not sure this is quite the kind of giving we were thinking of...)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Booking Through Thursday 11-29: "Rolling"

btt button

Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on?

I don’t so much mean something like reading a series from beginning to end, but, say, a string of books that all take place in Paris. Or that have anthropologists as the main character. Or were written in the same year. Something like that… Something that strings them together in your head, and yet, otherwise could be different genres, different authors…

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Sometimes I find that this happens, but it's rarely by design. In fact, if I'm looking over the back-cover summaries to decide which book I really want to read next, I'm probably more likely to avoid one that seems to share many elements with the last book I read - I don't want to find myself in a rut, you know. That's one reason I'll try to read nonfiction after every couple of novels...I'd rather mix things up a little, I guess.

I do sometimes find that I get on a roll with some of my blog post topics, though. There are times when it seems like many bloggers get caught up in a particular subject around the same time, and I want to join in, so I'll find that I'm writing several posts on a similar theme within a period of a week or two. But that wasn't the question, was it? Getting back to the topic, I suppose my blog reading gets on a roll sometimes, but my book reading is less likely to do so.

Ask yourself a few questions...

I have a bit of a fascination with personality tests. I'm not sure if it's motivated more by wanting to understand myself better or wanting to see if someone else has me pegged, but I'm frequently intrigued. It seems I'm a bit hard to pin down, though - I can take the same test more than once and get different outcomes. Not dramatically different, mind you - not enough to end up in an entirely different sphere, but enough to reflect some sort of change in orientation.

For example, I've taken the MBTI in several different formats, and I'm usually certain to come out as with consistent results in Attitude and Lifestyle preferences, but fluctuating in my Functions (Information-gathering and Decision-making); I am an I-something-something-J. Wikipedia's entry sums up the various attributes nicely, in case you're unfamiliar with them (or, like me, tend to get confused):

Functions (S-N and T-F)

Sensing and Intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals with a preference for sensing prefer to trust information that is in the present, tangible and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches that seem to come out of nowhere. They prefer to look for detail and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those with a preference for intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. They tend to trust those flashes of insight that seem to bubble up from the unconscious mind. The meaning is in how the data relates to the pattern or theory.

Thinking and Feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. Both Thinking and Feeling types strive to make rational choices, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (S or N). Those with a preference for Feeling prefer to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it 'from the inside' and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. Those with a preference for Thinking prefer to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent and matching a given set of rules.

Attitudes (E-I)

People with a preference for Extraversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. If they are inactive, their level of energy and motivation tends to decline. Conversely, those whose preference is Introversion become less energized as they act: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. People with Introversion preferences need time out to reflect in order to rebuild energy.

Lifestyle (J-P)

In addition to the two Function pairs and Attitudes, Myers and Briggs identified that individuals also had a preference to show either their Judging function (T or F) or their Perceiving function (S or N) when relating to the outside world. Myers and Briggs called this one's "ambassador," that is, the one sent forth to deal with the world.

Myers and Briggs taught that types ending in J show the world their Judging function - either T or F. So TJ types tend to appear to the world as logical, and FJ types as empathetic. According to Myers these types prefer to have matters settled.

Those types ending in P show the world their Perceiving function - either S or N. So SP types tend to appear to the world as concrete, and NP types as abstract. According to Myers, these types prefer to keep matters open.

I recently took two different MBTI tests within a very short time period (this was the first one); I came out as ISFJ in one, ISTJ in the other. I'm inferring from this that the questions asked about information-gathering preferences must make a difference in whether I score higher as Thinking or Feeling - and honestly, I think that's accurate. In some situations I'm more objective, and in others I'm not. Sometimes I do come across as more logical, and sometimes more empathetic.

There are sixteen possible combinations of MBTI attributes - in-depth descriptions can be found here - and, according to the Kiersey Sorter, the combination of Information-Gathering and Lifestyle attributes can be sorted into four Temperaments: SJ/Guardian (administrators/conservators - that's mine), SP/Artisan (entertainers/operators), NF/Idealist (advocates/mentors), and NT/Rational (engineers/coordinators). I think I'm probably in the right niche with this one, since those attributes seem to stay consistent.

The second MBTI test I took was this one, thanks to Bub and Pie's fascinating "Myers-Briggs Analysis of Harry Potter." She has concluded that the series is "all about the SJs and SPs" - unfortunately for me, I'm in the SJ camp with Dolores Umbridge, although she does find some more welcome associates for me there too, like Molly Weasley and Minerva McGonagall. However, she also offers a link to each MBTI type and an associated Harry Potter character; according to that, I'm either Hermione (ISTJ) or Hagrid (ISFJ), which seems like a rather curious mixture to me, but I can live with either one.

Knowing one's MBTI type can be useful in understanding how one deals with the world, but there are lots of other personality tests and classifiers out there. I found the Interaction Style Assessment Test via Penelope Trunk. It's similar to an MBTI test in that it asks questions about how you approach information, decision-making, and other people, and evaluates your responses to determine which of four Interaction Styles defines you best. (The link is to my own result - which I think is pretty accurate - but the page describes all four styles, and provides a useful grid to help identify where and how each works most effectively.)

So now I've learned I'm officially an IS-something-J Contemplator. And based on my own self-knowledge prior to taking these tests, I have no disagreement with any of those findings - they're pretty much confirmation. (The "I" was never in dispute, anyway.) Having said that, I'm not sure it would be a good thing to be taken by surprise by the results of your own personality tests - although I guess I hadn't realized Hagrid and I had quite so much in common.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wiki Wednesday 11-28-07

Time to learn something!

1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
Valvatida is an Order of starfish in the Class Asteroidea, which contains 695 species in 165 genera in 14 families. The Order encompasses both tiny species, which are only a few mm in diameter, like those in the genus Asterina, and sea stars, which can reach up to 75 cm like species in the genus Thromidia. Almost all species in this order have 5 arms with tube feet. This order is primarily identified by the presence of conspicuous marginal ossicles, which often characterize most of the species. Clamp-type pedicellaria are usually being the main type of pedicellaria in this group.
The Wikipedia item has some nice starfish pictures.

No simple answers

There are some things in our lives that no one else really can, or should, decide for us, although other people are usually happy to offer their opinions (solicited or not). There are some decisions that, no matter how much data we gather or how much contemplation we give them, we may never be objectively sure areunequivocably "right." It seems like a lot of those questions come up in the general arena of family - children and partners in particular.

Children provoke endless questioning well before they're a physical factor in our lives. Do we want them at all? How many would we want? How do we want to raise them? (That one has far too many sub-questions to get into.) Can we afford them, and is it worth it?

A recent article in Business Week suggested that the answer to the second part of that last question might be "Well, maybe not..." Not in a financial sense, anyway, in modern times. Karyn McCormack cites research suggesting that in modern industrialized countries, where child labor isn't normally a fact of life and children don't contribute financially to their families' support anymore, kids don't generate any "return on investment" for their parents, other than the intangible rewards of raising them. It's an emotional investment, but as the article discusses, there can be an awful lot of money that gets put into it, particularly if the children are growing up with many of the things considered part of a normal, middle-class American upbringing today (and you're trying to set aside money for their college educations on top of all that). That's a choice, though, and not a requirement of child-rearing, and sometimes that seems to be forgotten. If you really feel like you can't afford to have kids - maybe you can't, or maybe what you can't afford is raising them the way you might prefer to, or think you're supposed to (because our marketing-driven society says so); but as Carol Lloyd points out in Broadsheet's response to the article, this isn't really one of those things that responds well to cost-benefit analysis. In my own experience, parenthood didn't exactly happen at an opportune time from a financial, educational, or career standpoint, and we made things work out with the resources we had. And if we had waited until a more economically "suitable" time, some other thing might have been off. But in a number of ways, my son wasn't raised according to the "normal middle-class American standard," and he seems to have turned out pretty well despite any relative deprivation.

Whether your decision to go ahead and have children is based on economic, emotional, or other factors - or it comes along at a not-exactly-opportune time - it can change the dynamic with your partner. Sometimes that change is a deliberate choice to make the kids a higher priority than the relationship. Sometimes it just happens, and it's not really noticed until some incident triggers the realization that it's happened.

Ayelet Waldman wrote a piece for the New York Times a couple of years ago that I'd read about, but didn't actually locate and read for myself until recently. Her concerns were more along the lines that the dynamic with her husband didn't seem like it had changed - at least on her end - after four children, and she questioned herself as a mother because her love for her husband hadn't taken a back seat to their kids. In theory, I'm in Waldman's camp here. A couple who chooses to make their lives together can lose the focus on their lives together when their children become the main thing between them, and - someday, eventually - when the kids head out on their own, it can be difficult to find the way back to each other. Sometimes it can't be accomplished, and that's something I've learned from experience. I talked Waldman's line during my first marriage, but practice didn't exactly follow it, and that's part of why that marriage is history now.

My second husband and I won't be having any more children than we each had when we started, and while that's not the only reason each of us makes our relationship the priority - various other lessons learned from our respective first marriages come into play as well - it's no doubt a factor. But those are our decisions, and another couple might do things differently. Hard as it can be to accept at times, most of life's more interesting questions don't have one single right answer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The missing link

This is a bit of a follow-up to my "Beginner's Guide to Blogging" post this past weekend.

I really didn't talk too much about links in that post, other than in reference to profiles and blog that don't post much except for links - that's what I meant by "being in the 'linky-linky' business" - but Penelope Trunk has a really good discussion about them. I don't know whether my friend's blog - if and when she gets it going - will be one that makes use of links regularly. If she's mostly writing about family stuff, chances are it won't use them a lot, other than to point to supplemental information about things they do (or to friends' blogs).

But Penelope talks about several ways of linking, and how and why a blogger might use them. These examples are all appropriate on a personal blog, and I've selected them because I've used them (some more than others):
True-love link Sometimes I’ll fall in love with a link and structure a whole post around it. Like this one. And sometimes I’ll save a link for a year before I use it. Usually my links are very serious - to back up some point I’m making. So I think of it as a treat for me and the reader when I throw one in just for fun. Like this one, about how to recharge and iPod using an onion and Gatorade. Self-referential link Most bloggers have pet topics they go back to time and again. So it’s helpful to a reader if the blogger links to a few of the other posts on that topic to give the current discussion context. I do this a lot, but I learned to do it from the team of writers at Techdirt. Those guys are great at linking to other stories they’ve written on the same topic. I don’t read Techdirt every day, so if I happen to be reading, I can get a history of a given topic by reading their links. (This is one that you can't really use much until you've built up some post history, but I learned to do it from Penelope. It felt weird at first, and in some ways it still does, but I did it at the beginning of this very post.) The friendly link Blogging is a conversation, and it is much more fun if you are part of it, instead of just talking at people. One of the great pleasures of blogging is linking to someone who I don’t think knows that I read their blog. A link to someone is like saying, “I really like what you’re writing and in fact, I want to share it with everyone I know.” A blogger trades on ideas, so recognizing another blogger’s ideas with a link is a big deal. And it’s so easy to do, considering how nice it makes people feel. So do it. (Yes, linking to someone's great post in order to share it is a pleasure - and so is unexpectedly discovering that someone else has linked to you! That's why it's called "sharing the linky love," I guess.)

Hat-tip link Sometimes, a blogger finds a very obscure piece of information, and links to it. Then, a blogger who regularly reads that blog also links to the obscure piece of information. It’s pretty clear that the second blogger got the information from the first blogger. And in this case, a nice little hat-tip is a courtesy - to say that actually, the stellar Internet research comes from someone else, not me. I do this often. For example, when I read this woman’s post because she blogged about me, and then I blogged about a link in her post. Here’s an example of someone railing against a blogger who did not follow the etiquette. (I'd consider this one a variation on the "friendly link" myself, but it's important. One of the things that's great about blogging is that it's so easy to give credit where it's due, and there's not excuse not to.)

I'm on record as not always agreeing with everything Penelope advocates, so I'm glad to be linking to her and on the same page for a change.

My observation is that some posts are mostly writing, and I don't really see the point of sticking a link in just to have one, if it's not really relevant to what you're talking about. But if what you're writing is in reference to, or inspired by, something you've read elsewhere on the Web, it's easy to paste in a link in addition to any quotes you use - and not only is it easy, it's appropriate and correct to do so.

"Link"="connection" - and isn't that why we're out here doing this?

Ten on Tuesday 11-27: Ten Best Games

I'm interpreting this prompt very generally - I don't play many games these days at all, and I've never been one for computer or video games, so here are ten games I like, regardless of where or how they're played.

Trivial Pursuit - I rocked the original version 25 years ago, and I'm still pretty good at the general-knowledge version.
Scrabble - This is the unofficial "official" board game of my family (all permutations).
Dogopoly - This is one of the many new variations on Monopoly, based on collecting dog breeds. It's the favorite board game to play with my husband and stepkids.
Battleship - It only takes two players, and it's really quick to learn.
Frogger - Back in the mid-80's, this was one arcade video game that I didn't totally suck at.
Ms. Pac-Man - I sucked at this more than Frogger, but it was still fun.
Yahtzee - This was one of our favorite games to play when my son was a kid.
Parcheesi - This was another favorite from that same era.
Hearts - The unofficial "official" card game of my ex-husband's family. They play the "killer" variety, in which the goal is to dump as many points on other players as possible.
Solitaire - The old-fashioned kind that actually uses cards; I've never actually played it on the computer, believe it or not. Its primary advantage is that it only takes one player.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I was a working wife

...Still am, actually. I was a working single woman in between marriages, too, for what that's worth. But that's not really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about being a "work wife," an "office spouse" - a role that seems most likely to develop in medium-to-large workplaces that aren't heavily dominated by one gender or the other.

I was part of an office marriage for a few years, and sometimes I miss it.

Elizabeth at Career and Kids recently posted a query about "work spouses," and, like her, I've been encountering the idea quite a bit in my recent reading, so it's gotten me thinking about it.

I met the man who became my "office spouse" over four years ago, not long after I started my current job. He worked in another department and wasn't actually in the same office, but our jobs required us to communicate with each other regularly, and a couple of projects we worked on together early in our relationship gave us a chance to get to know each other. We found we worked very well as a team, and understood each other professionally. Since we were also among the few people in the agency who actually did the kind of work we did, we were able to help each other; and since we were in different offices, we could vent to each other relatively freely.

But it was the fact that we also hit it off personally that made this relationship different from just being effective co-workers. We were the same age, so we had common frames of reference, and we had similar perspectives on a lot of things. We enjoyed talking about all sorts of non-work-related things and sharing our stories, and we learned both work and life skills from each other.

There are certain boundaries that must be observed in these relationships, but ours was really never in much danger of crossing them, since we knew that we didn't have some of the risk factors. I was still quite freshly single when we met, after having been married almost half my life, but he was a family guy; his family consisted of his long-term partner and their three adopted children. I can safely say that he was probably the first man I developed a close and trusting relationship with post-divorce, and today I'd say we're like siblings, but I'm not sure our friendship would have developed the way it did if I hadn't known that girls weren't his thing, which made him "safe." If your office-spouse relationship has inherent limits like that, even if you do socialize outside of work, I'm inclined to feel that your other outside-of-work relationships have little to fear from it.

My office marriage broke up almost two years ago, when my "husband" got another job, and now we face the normal challenges of maintaining a friendship when people have busy lives that don't include daily encounters as part of the routine - you know how it is, we don't talk to or see each other nearly as much as we'd like. No one has taken his place in my work life, and if someone has take mine in his, he's been nice enough not to tell me.

Even though my office-marriage experience was a good one, I'm inclined to think that it's an area that should be approached with caution. If your relationship has limits such as incompatible sexual orientation, there are certain complications you're just not likely to encounter. If you and your office spouse are both single and "available" outside the office, and you're both so inclined, you might find yourselves moving into the sort of relationship explored in the new book Office Mate, and that's got its own set of complications to navigate ("love contracts," anyone? Thanks to Deborah Siegel of Girl With Pen for the tip-off) - although, for most adults, work probably is the most likely place for meeting a potential dating partner, so it may well be worth the challenges. However, if one or both of the office spouses are married or partnered to other people outside the office - and sexual orientation is not an obstacle - boundaries are crucial. Non-work relationships, unfortunately, don't always act as "inherent limits." (Unfortunately, I know this personally from someone else's office relationship.Have I mentioned that I was married before?) A couple of months ago, Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog offered a few tips on how to avoid an office affair, and that's something that anyone who's part of an "office marriage" needs to be very mindful about.

One other thing to be mindful about concerning these relationships is that they really need to be between peers - your office spouse really needs to be someone who is neither your assistant, your subordinate, or your boss. My boss has jokingly called me his "office wife" a few times, and that's OK as a joke, but in real life, that's totally not happening.

An "office spouse" isn't necessary, but it can enhance your life at the place where you probably spend more time than you do with your family anyway. I don't think it's something to be sought out in itself, but under the right conditions, these relationships can be beneficial; but then again, office "platonic friends" relationships can be very positive as well, and less potentially complicated.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's beginning to look (a little) like Christmas

There are plenty of places - mostly places like Target - that have been looking like Christmas ever since early October, when the Christmas trees and the Halloween decorations were living next door to each other for a few weeks. And I think there have always been people who started on their Christmas-gift shopping (or -making) months ahead of time, but they weren't always accompanied by suitable music when they were doing it in August. That is, unless they were doing their shopping in places like a store that we visited during our Tennessee trip back in May of this year, where it's Christmas all year long - at The Incredible Christmas Place, it's been that way for 20 years.

Despite my weakness for Christmas-themed stores, and my hobby of collecting Christmas-tree ornaments from places I go on vacation, I'm pretty much a traditionalist as far as my official recognition of the start of the Christmas season - not a day before Thanksgiving. I've been kind of superstitious about doing much Christmas shopping in advance ever since the year that First Husband bought my gift during a vacation trip in early June, and moved out on the second weekend in December. There have been several years when it was quite difficult for me to get my psychological landscape looking much like Christmas at all. Also, I've lived over half my life in places where the physical landscape is, let's say, meteorologically unlikely to look much like the popular images of Christmas, period.

But now it's time. Santa has brought up the rear of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - while I rarely watch it, I did grow up near New York City, and this tradition that's as old as my father is part of my frame of reference - and officially ushered in the season, shopping and all. (I avoid the rites of Black Friday, which is still a big event for many, regardless of the crowds and the alternative of shopping online.) Theoretically, we could start decorating the house any time now, but since we want to do it when the kids are here to be part of it, it's probably not going to get done in earnest for another couple of weekends. From now on, I'll officially stop ignoring Christmas decorations elsewhere. We've put out the call for wish lists from various family members, particularly the younger ones, and chances are we'll be at a store or two with those lists some time this weekend.

Tall Paul and I had been eagerly looking forward to one of our new holiday traditions, but pledged not to rush it; however, we decided the time was right after Thanksgiving dinner. We were latecomers to A Christmas Story; when we discovered prior to our first holiday season together that neither of us had ever seen it, we bought a copy of the DVD so we could share the experience. Last year we introduced my stepkids to the trials and triumphs of a 1940's, small-town-Indiana Christmas, and this year all of us watched it with the grandparents. (My dad grew up in that era, if not that locale, and he thought it was a hoot.) I hope we can watch it more than once this year - it's the rare comedy that seems like it gets funnier on repeated viewings - and I'd like to see it become a post-Thanksgiving-dinner tradition around here.

I think one of the things that makes me sad about the way that the Christmas season seems to start so early is that it seems like it ends too soon; the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas didn't actually start until Christmas Day, after all. If we're going to spend so much time on the preparation, wouldn't it be nice if we spent more of it on the celebration? That's another thing I'd like to see become a tradition around here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

So you want to start a blog, do you?

I got an e-mail from a friend the other day:
I have to ask you about how to set up a blog page. My friends in (my former hometown) want me to create one to keep them updated. Only thing is... I don't know where to begin. Any advice would be most appreciated.
Try not to laugh, but among my offline friends, I'm considered something of a blogging expert. I suspect that's because almost none of them do it (hey, Cherann!); when you have a niche to yourself, you get to be an expert, I suppose. But I've really had to think about what to tell someone who's truly starting from scratch in the blogiverse.

I made a short-lived attempt at blogging back in the summer of 2006, but I really didn't know what to do with it at the time, and it lay dormant until March of 2007. At that point I decided I'd use it as a record of my reading, and I re-launched under a new name; since it wasn't long before I was blogging about quite a bit more than just books, the "randomness" part of my blog's title was covered. But I'd been reading blogs for awhile, thanks to my rapidly-expanding Google Reader subscription list, and my son has been an on-and-off blogger for a couple of years, so I'd had some exposure to the concept before I joined the party.

Since I really don't know whether that's true for my friend or not, I'm inclined to tell her to begin by reading some blogs, to see what's out there. The very first thing my friend should do is to sign up for a free Google account, if she doesn't already have one; this will allow her access to Google Reader and lots of other great services. (No, I don't work for them...) Someone suggested that I just tell her to hit my blogroll for starters, but since my blogroll's kind of a mix, I'm thinking of giving her a selection of the "personal blogs" (heavy on the "mom" variety) that I keep up with, since that seems like the type of thing she has in mind. Some of these are on many people's blogrolls, but there's good reason for that:

Bub and Pie
Busy Mom
A Daily Dose of Zen Sarcasm!
Friday Playdate
It's Not All Mary Poppins
Parenting Without a License
SoCal Mom
Verbatim
Woulda Coulda Shoulda

(She can subscribe to all their feeds via Google Reader - 0r Bloglines, if she prefers not to Google. And if I didn't list your more work- or book-related blog here...well, that's exactly why - different focus, that's all.)

I would also recommend a rather lengthy but entirely worthwhile homework assignment: earlier this year, Jennifer Satterwhite put together a great multi-post series on BlogHer covering all the basics of starting a "mom blog." I'm not entirely sure this is what my friend wants to do, but since her reason for doing it is to keep friends updated, and she has a family and all, I'm thinking it's something along those lines; in any case, I thought the series was a terrific primer for any sort of personal blog. And in my observation, unless you stick very strictly to a news-and-info niche or you're in the "linky-linky" business, nearly every blog, and especially the non-commercial ones, makes at least the occasional detour into the personal.

Part I concerns selecting a blogging platform. For someone new to the game, I'd say to go with one of best-known free options, Blogger or Wordpress.com. I'm on Blogger, where all you need to get started is the aforementioned Google account. Sign in, decide on a title (Part II) and a URL, pick a template, and you're ready to roll. I've found it easy to learn my way around. I've noticed that one advantage that some of the other platforms have over Blogger is the ability to respond directly to commenters via e-mail rather than posting a reply, and I'd like that option, but aside from that I'm not unhappy with my platform.

One thing my friend will have to think about seriously is whether or not to use her own real name, and the names of her family members, in her blog. Since she's writing it for friends, she might feel freer to use real names - but the thing about the blogiverse is that you never know who'll find you. (That's one of the things that makes my husband nervous, since my blogging activity isn't exactly veiled.) Jennifer discusses several approaches to this dilemma in Part III.

If you're going to be blogging about what you and your family are up to, you might want to include pictures (Part IV). Some bloggers aren't at all intimidated about doing that, and they're probably using their kids' real names too. I'm not really sure why you'd use the mixed approach of showing their images but not using their names, but some bloggers do go that route. Others will post pictures in which the kids' faces are somehow blocked or obscured, but adults are identifiable. That's pretty much what I do here.

Pictures aren't a blogging requirement, of course, but they're easy to post and can be part of your content. However, most of what makes a blog what it is are the words. And when the words are about your family, you do have to consider carefully how much you want to reveal about them, whether or not you're using real names and faces (Part V). Granted, whether the words are about your family, your work, your hobbies, your neighborhood, or even in response to a meme, you still have to think about how much of yourself you want to put out there because, again, you never know who'll find you.

Jennifer gets into the "being-found" part of blogging in Part VI. I think many of us start out blogging with the expectation that no one's going to read a word of it, but before long we may start hoping that will change and we'll want to be found. If my friend starts her blog, she has a built-in audience in the friends who have asked her to do it. If those friends are bloggers, they may start linking to her, and eventually her posts will show up in searches, and she'll be discovered by the outside world. And if my friend follows my first suggestion regarding blog-reading and involves herself in the conversation by leaving comments (linked to her blog profile, of course), she'll be found by even more people - I know that I check out the profiles and blogs of my commenters, don't you? (Maybe that's how you found this blog.)

With help from Jennifer, this is my Beginner's Guide to Blogging. I'm pretty sure that at least some of you reading this have no need for any of this information, but you may have some of your own ideas to share. If you do, please leave a comment, and I'll include it in what I pass along to my friend.

UPDATED 12/11 to add a link to this post, "Advice for New Bloggers." She makes some of the same points I already have, but offers some additional perspectives about blog development and inspiration.

The day after - a Thanksgiving meme

I'm thankful for memes when I need ideas for posts, and for the other bloggers who are glad to let you make off with them. I found this one on Thursday evening via Laurie at Team Building is For Suckers, but I've adapted it for post-Thanksgiving Day responses.
  1. Where did you celebrate Thanksgiving this year? At home with the family
  2. Did you travel to get there? No, that was the point of staying at home
  3. How much time, if any, do you have off work for the Thanksgiving holiday? Two days, but I had to use vacation time to get Friday off
  4. Did you do the cooking? Yep. I haven't done it for a few years and I actually wanted to. It turned out well and I'm glad I did it, even though I was on my feet a lot (not a daily thing when you have a desk job)
  5. Did you have turkey or something else? We had a cut-up whole chicken, marinated in a lemon-herb-garlic mixture and baked. No one in the house particularly likes turkey, so we go our own way
  6. Do you ever go out to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner? We did last year, and my husband particularly disliked the experience, which is another reason we stayed home this year
  7. Do you eat Thanksgiving dinner earlier, later, or at the same time as you usually eat dinner? Earlier - around mid-afternoon
  8. Did you go to a church service on Thanksgiving day? Even when I did go to church regularly, Thanksgiving wasn't a Holy Day of Obligation, and I don't really go to church at all anymore...this is a long way to go to say "no"
  9. Will you, or have you ever, volunteered at a soup kitchen serving Thanksgiving dinner? Never have, but I might...never say never
  10. Do you enjoy cranberries? Nope
  11. Did you get a free turkey from anyone this year (employer, grocery store bonus program, etc.)? No, and if I had, we wouldn't have eaten it anyway (see #5)
  12. What are you thankful for? See previous post.
  13. Did you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade? No - I usually forget it's on, to be honest; and as a SoCal native, my husband's loyalty is to the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day
  14. Have you ever actually gone to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC? No
  15. Did you watch football games? No, why should it have been any different from usual? I'm not a football fan (I'm the one who went for a drive on Super Bowl Sunday and came back engaged to be married, you know)
  16. What is your favorite Thanksgiving Day tradition? I don't think I have one
  17. Did you help do the dishes after dinner? Since I did the cooking, my husband and mother-in-law kicked me out of the kitchen at clean-up time
  18. Do you like pumpkin pie? Oh, yes, and mine turned out just yummy!
  19. Was there someone you wished you could be with this Thanksgiving? My son, but he'll be here at Christmas
  20. Will you go Christmas shopping on “Black Friday” or are those people just crazy? I get up early to avoid people, not crowd stores with them. I have to take my dad grocery shopping today, but plan to stay away any other stores as much as possible!

Friday, November 23, 2007

iPod Random Ten 11-23-07

I'm not sure my iPod's going to get played today (day off work, woohoo!), and I'm hoping to do some iTunes shopping this weekend and update my playlist, so these ten songs may never actually be played in this order. But anyway:

"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding," Elvis Costello, 200 Cigarettes (movie soundtrack)
"When You Were Young," The Killers, Sam's Town
"Dear God," XTC, Skylarking
"Antichrist Television Blues," Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
"You Won't See Me," The Beatles, Rubber Soul
"For You," Bruce Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey
"Up the Junction," Squeeze, Greatest Hits
"Section 12: Hold Me Now," The Polyphonic Spree, Together We're Heavy
"Rehab," Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
"Pulling Mussels (From a Shell)," Squeeze, Greatest Hits

Aside from the questionable "randomness" of two Squeeze songs showing up so close together, I like this lineup. I think I'll make sure I get to hear it after all before I do that update.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank you, thank you...

My son refers to this day as "Gorgefest," but all the food is just the trappings. This is one of the many, many blog posts that will go up today in recognition of the American Thanksgiving Day.

This is actually one of my favorite holidays, and it's not all because of the good eats - I think it's great that we have a day officially set aside to be grateful for all the good that we have in our lives, and to remember that even when it seems like there isn't any, there probably really is if we take a few minutes to think about it. Then again, there's nothing - other than time and the general business of life - that should stop us from doing that more often, or even every day.

The things that brighten my world, every day, are all people:
My husband - I appreciate him all the more because it took more than 40 years for us to find each other. With our first wedding anniversary just past, I hope we'll have many more years together to make up for the ones we didn't have.

My son - He's 3000 miles away, and I guess he's officially a grownup now...but I think he's turned out OK. He's spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend's family, and they'll be with us at Christmas; I hope they're thankful for each other.

My stepchildren - They're the best anyone could wish for, and they're giving me some more time (even if it's part-time) to do "mom stuff."

My sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and father - Since my family was spread across the country for so many years, having us all in the same town now is a strange and wonderful experience.

My friends - both offline and online, no matter how long I've known them or how I met them
There are a few other things I'd like to mention my appreciation for as well:
My job, despite all the aggravation I've had with it this year; I may not love what I do, but I'm pretty happy with the place where I do it (and the fact that it helps pay the bills!)

My dog, for all she's been through with me

My trip back to Tennessee last spring, and the chance to introduce my husband to places, people, and food (!) that shaped much of my life

My home - California is by no means perfect, but it's got many things that are hard to find anywhere else (and I mean good ones this time!), including the husband I'd never have met if I hadn't moved here five years ago.
See those links I worked into some of the items I mentioned? This blog - and everyone it's introduced me to - is among the things I'm thankful for this year. Becoming a participant in the online community has broadened my world.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for giving up a few minutes of your time reading my random ramblings! (And if all the sentiment and sappiness is upsetting your stomach - that is, if it's not those third helpings - check out Laurie Ruettimann's palate-cleansing take on Thanksgiving gratitude, with a big grain of salt.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Complaint Department; or, the evolution of an optimist(?)

I know this week we're supposed to focus on the things we're thankful for, but let's be honest - sometimes it's pretty darn hard to feel grateful. Sometimes there's no silver lining in sight. Sometimes we're just not happy. Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project has some interesting tips on how not to be happy:

-- Hone your powers of discernment so that practically nothing can meet your standards, and be sure to tell everyone else how the food, performance, or service fell short.

-- When someone bugs you -- whether it's a stranger talking loudly on a cell phone or a relative repeating the same maddeningly stupid jokes year after year -- tell as many people about it as possible. You may even need to see a therapist twice a week to talk about your grievances sufficiently.

-- Avoid any physical effort. Drive everywhere, and when at home, get off the sofa as little as possible.

-- Cultivate habits that keep you feeling stretched and overwhelmed. If you're short on cash, overcharge on your credit card. If you're busy at work, stay up late cruising the Internet or flipping among cable channels. If you don't have enough time to yourself, make complex plans that will take lots of time and errands to manage -- say, plan an elaborate birthday party for a two-year-old.

She also suggests that for some people it's just less work to be unhappy. (That seems in line with my suggestion in an earlier post that it's less work to be a pessimist.) She's being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I think the message is fairly clear - you can do something to change your situation, and that "something" is not complaining!

I'll listen to people's complaints up to a point, but after awhile I tend to lose patience, whether or not I express it. And I really lose patience listening to myself complain. I used to be dedicated to not being The Complaint Department; one of my girlfriends and I held to the motto that "if you can't do anything about it, shut up about it!" And I still try to operate that way most of the time - I try to figure out what I can do about it, and then I do it, and move on. I've read that "venting" really isn't all that constructive sometimes anyway. And for a self-professed "realist"/pessimist, I'm actually pretty good at trying to find something good in a bad situation - I'll give you a few examples in just a minute.

And yet, as I was mulling over these things one day recently, I was on my way to work, complaining about the traffic again. I do what I can about that, too - leave early, monitor the traffic reports, know alternate routes - but some days none of it helps. I'm getting tired of myself being tired of it.

But if I'm going to be in complaining mode anyway, there have been a few things in our lives lately that warrant it:
  • Taking my car in for maintenance, having other repairs done on top of that, and not getting it back until 4 days and $2300 later. (Fortunately, my husband let me use his car, and he took the piece-of-junk rental that the dealer paid for.)
  • Still short-staffed at the office, and I'd say I'm so tired of the turnover, the frustration, and work left late or undone that I could scream, but I'm too tired to bother; yet fortunately, I've somehow gotten a lot of my work more current even with all that, and it looks like we'll have a change in that situation by early December.
  • This isn't really a complaint, more of an observation/frustration - why do I sometimes have an overflow of ideas for blog posts, and sometimes there's nothing? I try to draft them up a few days ahead of when I intend to post an entry, and I'm blowing through my stockpile for this week. It only really matters right now because of NaBloPoMo, but I get anxious about the well running dry or something. Fortunately, I do have the rest of this week covered (but only up to Friday, so I need to get on that!) - and who knows what will come along in the next few days to offer inspiration?
Well, what do you know? I guess complaining and venting can be constructive sometimes - writing this actually did make me feel better.

I'm also glad I was able to find a bright side for every complaint - could I be turning into an optimist after all these years?!

Wiki Wednesday 11-21-07

Time to learn something!

1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!

And this week, it's another wiki geography lesson:

Collingham is a village 3 km (2 miles) south east of Wetherby in West Yorkshire. It is in the Leeds metropolitan district. The clergyman, the Reverend William Mompesson was born there in 1639.

The River Wharfe runs through the village towards Wetherby as does the main A58 trans-pennine road. The A659 also passes through the village.

The village has two pubs, the Old Star Inn and the Half Moon Inn, where Oliver Cromwell is said to have spent the night after the Battle of Marston Moor. There is also a Post Office, a variety of shops and service businesses, a sports centre and a primary school. The village church is St Oswald.

The village school, Lady Elizabeth Hastings Church of England Primary School, is located off the Harewood Road opposite the cricket pitch.

The Wetherby golf course also extends all the way to the river at Collingham.

The village ajoins the neighbouring village of Linton and the neighbouring town of Wetherby. Between the three places, the only break in buildings is the crossing over the River Wharfe. Between Collingham and Leeds, the A58 is mainly built up by the villages of Bardsey and Scarcroft and the hamlet of Bardsey Cum Righton. Occasionally, in between the close villages is a small amount of open green land.

Collingham is also home to Collingham And Linton Cricket Club.
Planning a visit? Collingham's amenities include:

The village has two pubs, The Half Moon on Harewood Road and The Old Star on Leeds Road. The former public house The Barleycorn on Main Street has since been converted into an Italian Restaurant.

Set within a small modern shopping precinct 'Elizabeth Court' are most of the villages shops. There is an off licence, a fish and chip shop, a travel agency, a pharmacy, a clothes shop, a bathroom shop and a dentist. Set adjacent to this there is a further small parade of shops containing a convenience store and a newsagent and Post Office.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Together apart

Relationships can take many forms. Couples aren't married, and live in separate homes. Couples live together, but aren't married. Couples get married, and live together. Couples are married and live together, but one member feels like a single parent because the other isn't around very much. And here's a couple (via AisleDash) who are married, but live apart in the same city.

In a recent article in Self magazine, Judith Newman describes her 14-year marriage, during which she and her husband have never lived together (although he does spend the night at her apartment three times a week or so, and they have twin sons). She cites some statistics from the US Census Bureau (2006) that 3.8 million married couples in this country don't live under the same roof, so apparently this couple's not as unique as one would think - it's officially known as "living apart together."

It's an interesting account, and it got me thinking:

For most people, keeping separate homes would be a much more costly arrangement, but due to peculiarities related to their living in New York City, this couple actually saves money living apart. Not that this is their main reason for doing so, but it's a factor.

But aside from practicality, Newman claims that the reason she and her husband live separately is that apart from their love for each other, they have nothing in common (emphasis mine). They have very different habits, interests, likes and dislikes. Their relationship takes the expression "I love you, but I just can't live with you" to a different level; most of the time, couples in that predicament just end up getting (often amicably) divorced. Given that, it's commendable that they've found a way to make this work, although she acknowledges that they probably fight at least as much as, and maybe more than, couples who cohabitate (married or not).

I think having "alone time" is very important for individuals, and that some time apart benefits every couple, but I have my doubts that large amounts of it are really good for a relationship. If you and your partner are lucky enough to have a big enough home to allow each of you a room (or at least a space) of your own, I think that's a great advantage - but spending the majority of your time there probably isn't one, as far as your partnership is concerned.

Also, having been in two marriages and through one divorce, I've really come to believe that - like it or not, and popular music notwithstanding - love is not all a couple needs, unfortunately. I believe that for a relationship to grow and last, a couple needs commonalities. Having shared interests and hobbies is a big plus, but more important are shared values, and compatible worldviews and life goals. Living together day to day is one important way to help develop the commonalities between people and help them take root, since I think that sort of companionship is one reason couples want to be couples in the first place.

I don't think living together is a requirement of couplehood by any means, but I'm not sure I understand going so far as to marry - and have children with - someone with whom you don't want to share a home, and all the aspects of life that are part of that. Having said that, though, I have believed for quite some time that no one really knows what goes on in a relationship except for the people in it - and sometimes they're not sure themselves. Separate married lives work for Judith Newman and her husband, and apparently many other people as well - but I don't think that would work for me, and I really don't think I'd want to try it and find out. Would it work for you?

Ten on Tuesday 11-20: Ten Reasons It's Great to Be a Woman (or Man)

Obviously, I can't speak from experience about any reasons it's great to be a man...

I'm going to qualify this list, based on my book club's recent discussion of A Thousand Splendid Suns, and make it "Ten Reasons It's Great to Be a Woman in 21st-Century America." We may still have a long way to go, but we've truly come far...
  • We have choices and control over our lives that our foremothers probably could never have imagined.
  • We can explore and develop ourselves according to our own rules and not rigid social roles.
  • We have the opportunity and access to the education that lets us learn how the world works and figure out our place in it.
  • We can decide when, where, and how we want to grow our families.
  • We can work if we have to.
  • We can work if we want to.
  • If we don't have to work, or don't want to work, we can do that too.
  • If we do work, we can work at pretty much anything we want to do - "women's work" covers a lot more territory than it used to.
  • We have the right and the freedom to express ourselves, which lets us fight for our other rights.
  • We can vote if we want to - and even if we don't particularly want to or don't like the options we have to choose from, we should do it anyway!
I think this is a terrific prompt for Thanksgiving week, since it's based on appreciation of who we are and what we have. Why do you think it's great to be a woman (or man, assuming that any of you besides my husband actually read this)?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Caught up in a net(work)

I've talked about my ambivalence over the the whole concept of "networking" before, but I think I'm making some progress in getting out there. The strangest thing about it so far is that this well-documented introvert with a timid streak and a fear of rejection has become someone who doesn't wait to be asked - in formal online-networking settings, I've extended more invitations than I've received. But they keep being accepted, and I guess that gives me some confidence. My exposure and involvement in the blogging community is slowly growing too, as I join memes and find new blogs through old favorites; and people are finding me too.

(And for the record, being an introvert doesn't mean you can't have decent people skills, as Pam discusses in this post. I think it's my shy tendencies that work against me more in that area than my introversion, since although I've assumed for years that the traits go together, I've read recently that it ain't necessarily so.)

I recently had the chance to review this book on online networking for women. I thought it was very good, except for the part where the authors make their case that online networking doesn't replace the offline variety - it's a "clicks and mix" thing. Bummer. I was really hoping to escape the "mix" part, but author Diane Danielson has kindly offered me a copy of her earlier book on that topic, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot from it - thanks, Diane! In any case, till I'm ready to wade into all that, I'll keep it going here on the internets. In addition to my own little corner of the blogiverse here, you can find me here and here, if you'd like to. (And really, if you're a working mom - WAHM or WOHM, whichever - or even an I'm-going-to-work-again-someday mom, why aren't you over at Work It, Mom? Please pay a visit, and if you like what you see, join the community - and then ask me to join your network! :-D)

But if good old face-to-face networking is unavoidable, there's some great advice on making personal connections in this post from Pamela Slim's Escape From Cubicle Nation blog, in which she talked about a 9-year-old networking whiz she met while at the playground with her kids. These are some of the lessons she learned from this encounter:
  • Be interested. ...Ninety percent of new networkers focus on their own elevator pitch and sounding important. Instead, follow the sage advice I heard from Jim Collins a number of years ago: Be an interested person, not an interesting person.
  • Be real. ...Instead of puffing out your chest and trying to sound important as you connect with new people, be down-to-earth and let them know what you are feeling. Don't be afraid to say things like..."These networking events always make me feel slightly queasy. Do you want to go grab a drink?"
  • Notice what is important to the person you are networking with. ...(I)f you are communicating with someone in person or online, pay attention to what is important to them. Read their blog, their books, and note their interests. We are all creatures of ego, and it is hard to resist someone who really notices what we like. (Note to the single among you ... this is good dating advice too!)
  • Ask for an introduction. ...Don't be so polite that you miss the opportunity to shortcut a connection to an interesting person. The worst that can happen is that someone refuses to make the introduction, and you can gracefully move on to another way of connecting.
  • Be nice to everyone. ...Too often, I see people brush anyone off who doesn't fit their "target profile." What they don't realize is that the receptionist, waiter, college student or elderly woman at the grocery store that they treat rudely could hold a golden key of introduction to someone they desire. Not to mention that it is just bad karma.
According to the authors of The Savvy Gal's Guide to Online Networking, the cardinal rule of networking in any setting is making sure the other person is comfortable. For some people, it seems to come naturally, but it makes sense - focusing on the other person, by definition, makes you less self-conscious, doesn't it? And that makes everyone more comfortable. I'll keep working on it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The reading life (a meme)

This reading meme comes via Dewey at the hidden side of a leaf (open invitation, no tags - I'll do the same. Join in on your own blog if you want to.)

1. Do you remember learning to read? How old were you? I don't really remember learning to read, but I know that I was reading by myself before I started kindergarten, so I assume I was somewhere between four and five years old at the time. I remember bringing in one of my own books to read aloud to my kindergarten class, and I was the only one in the class who was capable of that. I also remember that once I could read on my own, I really didn't enjoy having anyone else read to me any more.

2. What do you find most challenging to read? These days, anything where the print is too small! (I'm serious.) However, I think this question is in reference to content, and in that case, it's anything highly technical, strangely structured, or without a good narrative flow.

3. What are your library habits? I'm mildly embarrassed to admit that for quite some time, they've been nonexistent. I'm a book buyer rather than a library borrower - my schedule has brought me to prefer reading books on my own timetable, and I like to have them right there at hand when the mood strikes. (However, I did just donate two bags full of used books to the Friends of the Library bookstore, where my dad volunteers two mornings a week - does that count?)

4. Have your library habits changed since you were younger? Yes, I actually used to go to the library, especially during my school and college years. Since then, I've obtained a library card in almost every place I've lived, but haven't really used one for at least five years.

5. How has blogging changed your reading life? I think I'm reading fewer books, and not reading them as quickly, due to the time I spend writing on my own blog and reading (and commenting on) other blogs! However, I consider that time well spent. I've also found that I'm reading books a bit more attentively and critically, since I know I'll be writing about them.

6. What percentage of your books do you get from: New book stores, second hand book stores, the library, online exchange sites, online retailers, other? I don't really have a handle on the numbers, but I'm not very big on used bookstores (I find them very tiring), so nearly all my books come from new bookstores or online booksellers - and occasionally from Target. Any used books I acquire are usually passed along to me by someone I know personally, who has already read them.

7. How often do you read a book and NOT review it in your blog? What are your reasons for not blogging about books? Occasionally, but I really can't think of an example since I got serious about the book blogging, which I started to help myself remember what I'd read in the first place. Last year, before my blog, I read several books related to wedding planning because I needed the information, and I don't think I would have blogged about them; I'm not sure I'd blog about my occasional forays into reading self-help books, but I'll decide that for certain the next time I read one.

8. What are your pet peeves about ways people abuse books? Dogearing pages? Reading in the bath? Books left open face-down on the table drive me crazy (and yet I occasionally do it anyway).

9. Do you ever read for pleasure at work? I always have a book with me, and I used to be a regular lunch-hour reader - but these days I tend to spend that time at my desk, catching up on blog-reading and -writing instead.

10. When you give people books as gifts, how do you decide what to give them? I tend to give certain people - mostly women - bookstore gift cards more often than actual books, unless I want them to have a copy of a book I've already read myself and think they'd like. My father is easy to buy books for - he'll read nearly anything, but is particularly interested in sports and history. Humor and funny fiction are good genres for both my husband and my son. But unless I know a person's tastes quite well, I'll take the cautious way and buy them books they choose for themselves.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reading list

Via Alison's book blog, I've found The Lists - Books for the Obsessive Reader. If you're always on the lookout for reading ideas, this is a blog worth checking out.

Alison's attention was caught by this list of 100 Most Influential Novels by Women Writers. I've marked the ones I've read at some point in my life with a *.
  1. Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind*
  2. Anne Rice, Interview With the Vampire
  3. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  4. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (I read The Hours, but I guess that's not a substitute, is it?)
  5. Virginia Woolf, The Waves
  6. Virginia Woolf, Orlando
  7. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
  8. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (saw the movie, never read the book)
  9. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence*
  10. Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome
  11. Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
  12. Nadine Gordimer, Burger's Daughter
  13. Harriette Simpson Arnow, The Dollmaker
  14. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale*
  15. Willa Cather, My √Āntonia
  16. Erica Jong, Fear of Flying*
  17. Erica Jong, Fanny
  18. Joy Kogawa, Obasan
  19. Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
  20. Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child
  21. Doris Lessing, The Grass Is Singing
  22. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird* (but I've never seen the movie)
  23. Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time
  24. Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres*
  25. Lore Segal, Her First American
  26. Alice Walker, The Color Purple*
  27. Alice Walker, The Third Life of Grange Copeland
  28. Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon*
  29. Muriel Spark, Memento Mori
  30. Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  31. Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina*
  32. Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  33. Susan Fromberg Shaeffer, Anya
  34. Cynthia Ozick, Trust
  35. Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club*
  36. Amy Tan, The Kitchen God's Wife*
  37. Ann Beattie, Chilly Scenes of Winter
  38. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God*
  39. Joan Didion, A Book of Common Prayer
  40. Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays
  41. Mary McCarthy, The Group
  42. Mary McCarthy, The Company She Keeps
  43. Grace Paley, The Little Disturbances of Man
  44. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
  45. Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter*
  46. Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart
  47. Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood
  48. Mona Simpson, Anywhere But Here*
  49. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon*
  50. Toni Morrison, Beloved*
  51. Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
  52. Sylvia Townsend Warner, Mr. Fortune's Maggot
  53. Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools
  54. Laura Riding, Progress of Stories
  55. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust
  56. Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower
  57. Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits
  58. A.S. Byatt, Possession (tried to read it; I think I got through about 50 pages)
  59. Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
  60. Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle
  61. Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
  62. Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
  63. Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca
  64. Katherine Dunn, Geek Love
  65. Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
  66. Barbara Pym, Excellent Women
  67. Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
  68. Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant*
  69. Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist*
  70. Nancy Willard, Things Invisible to See
  71. Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry
  72. Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Disturbances in the Field
  73. Rosellen Brown, Civil Wars*
  74. Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra
  75. Harriet Doerr, The Mountain Lion
  76. Stevie Smith. Novel on Yellow Paper
  77. E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News*
  78. Rebecca Goldstein, The Mind-Body Problem
  79. P.D. James, The Children of Men
  80. Ursula Hegi, Stones From the River*
  81. Fay Weldon, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil*
  82. Katherine Mansfield, Collected Stories
  83. Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills
  84. Louise Erdrich, The Beet Queen
  85. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
  86. Edna O'Brien, The Country Girls Trilogy
  87. Margaret Drabble, Realms of Gold
  88. Margaret Drabble, The Waterfall
  89. Dawn Powell, The Locusts Have No King
  90. Marilyn French, The Women's Room
  91. Eudora Welty, The Optimist's Daughter
  92. Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries*
  93. Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John
  94. Tillie Olsen, Tell Me a Riddle
  95. Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
  96. Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head
  97. Anita Desai, Clear Light of Day
  98. Alice Hoffman, The Drowning Season*
  99. Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
  100. Penelope Mortimer, The Pumpkin Eater
This isn't officially a book meme, but if you're intrigued by the list too, mark off the ones you've read and take note of the ones you'd like to. I see I've got a lot of room to work with here.