Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Fill-ins #61 (3)

Friday Fill-Ins #61

1. I'm looking forward to as little upheaval as possible next week - so I can get some work done!
2. I don't handle frustration very well, especially when I'm very hungry.
3. Cereal is something I could - and do, either hot or cold - eat every day.
4. Warmth and sunlight make me feel cozy, then sleepy, when they come through the window and I'm on the sofa.
5. 44th birthday, here I come!
6. I don't like and don't want tattoo(s).
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting home from work before 5:30, tomorrow my plans include coffee with my sister and time with my husband (and hopefully some reading and writing too), and Sunday, I want to get some work done before my nephew's birthday party!

There's something to be said for consistency...

You may recall the nerd test I posted about last fall, where my score came back as a "cool history/lit geek." (Or you may not...)

Thanks to Melody, I've been able to take another quiz on the same topic, and it looks like the results are pretty much in line with the last one:

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it's eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.

Social Nerd

Science/Math Nerd

Drama Nerd

Gamer/Computer Nerd

Artistic Nerd

Anime Nerd


What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

I am not at all surprised by the major classification. The math-nerd score is by virtue of my profession, I suspect. I didn't expect the "drama nerd" ranking to be so relatively high, though - drama queen, perhaps, but that's not the same thing. And I've never considered musicians all that nerdy to begin with.

You know you're welcome around here even if you're not a nerd, of course! But if you think you might be - or know quite well that you unapologetically are - take the quiz and see what classification you fall into, then come back and let me know your results!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who's sayin' Hussein? Florinda Hussein Vasquez, that's who

This one is for the MOMocrats.

We here at MOMocrats have decided to make today an impromptu "Just Call Me Hussein" Day in response to people like Bill Cunningham who is obviously still seven-years-old.

Bill needs to learn how to use his words so in order to remind him that making fun of people's names is not polite, we are using our powers as mothers to teach this naughty little boy a lesson. Today, for "Just Call Me Hussein" Day, we are sharing stories about how childhood bullies—because they are bullies—tried to make us feel bad about ourselves by mocking our names.

Bill Cunningham and others like him who try to imply that Barack Obama is a "terrorist" because of him, consider yourselves in a time out. No, more than that: You're Grounded!

If you'd like to participate in MOMocrats' "Just Call Me Hussein Day," simply title your blog posts like I did above and either link back to this post in yours, or leave a comment with your link below. We will find you and link you!
Kids can be jerks sometimes. We remember that. To be honest, sometimes we were the jerks ourselves. And much as we hate to admit it - and we try to raise them to be "better than that" - sometimes our kids are too. Some kids outgrow it, and apparently some don't.

The MOMocrats decided to respond to recent comments emphasizing Barack Obama's Arabic middle name, implying an association with "the terrorists" (made at a campaign event for John McCain, who distanced himself quickly), by recollecting some of their own experiences being teased, laughed at, or unpleasantly singled out because of their unusual names - or some other personal factor. Some kids have a laser-sight for weakness.

If you don't think a short, skinny (back then!), four-eyed, frizzy-haired bookworm with an oddball name like Florinda got picked on for numerous reasons, then you grew up on a different planet than I did. Any of those physical attributes (?) was certainly plenty of cannon fodder on its own, but the combination was, shall we say, not pleasant. My attempts at smart-aleck rejoinders tended to backfire on me, as well.

But the name. "Florinda Elizabeth Lantos" was a pretty big name for someone as small as I am, and the ways that "Florinda" can be mangled are quite creative. "Florenda," "Felinda," "Lorinda," "Florlinda," "Dorinda," "Florina," "Florida"...and I'm sure there are others I can't remember. Most of them are perfectly nice names - except "Flo." The lazy people would give up on trying to pronounce my name at all and just start calling me "Flo." Don't do it. No disrespect to any Flos or Florences, but the name will always signify big hair and "kiss my grits" to me, and that is just not my style or image in any way.

My last name was of a not-very-common ethnicity, and frequently was altered to "Lamppost" by my grade-school classmates; that was one reason that I was happy to change it when I married for the first time, especially since the new last name was pretty WASP-y. I wasn't unhappy to change it when I married for the second time either, but now there's a different ethnicity question. Tall Paul's last name actually sounds like a better fit with my first name than any of the others I've had, but I'm concerned that people will encounter it and assume English isn't my first language, which would be a problem, since no hablo Español.

An unusual name will make you stand out, like it or not, and as a kid you might wish your parents had been a little less creative. I've never thought my name particularly suited me - it's a bit too exotic - but I've grown into it (so to speak), and I can't seriously imagine being called anything else. My experiences have taught me the importance of respecting and acknowledging people's names, and getting them right, and addressing people as they want to be addressed. And as I've grown into my name, I've outgrown people who would pick on it, or on me because of it. But this week's news events make me think that not everyone does outgrow such things. It wasn't funny then, and it's really not funny now.

So call me "Florinda." Florinda Elizabeth Lantos Pendley Vasquez. And just for today, call me "Hussein" if you want to. Just don't call me "Flo."

"Randomness" meme: "Bookworms"

I found this one via Alisonwonderland. She actually does this meme pretty often, but this week's topic caught my attention (for obvious reasons), so I decided to play too.

randomness...feed your mind and your blog

week of February 24: Bookworms
If you're like me, your a bookworm. I love to read. Whether it be a book, magazine, back of the cereal box...anything. However I do prefer a good long novel. So for this week, lets talk about our fav books.

1. Do you like to read? What is your fav book? author?
Did you notice the title of this blog? :-) Honestly, reading is one of the things that makes my day, every day. I love reading books, discovering new books, writing about books, talking about books, shopping for books - but I do seem to spend less time with all of that since discovering the joys of Blogland.

I have read so many books that it's impossible for me to pick a favorite, so I'm going to pretend that wasn't the question, and tell you a few of my all-time favorites: The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe; the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin; The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver; Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler; Wonder Boys and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon; Brightness Falls by Jay McInerney; Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides; and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (I love the whole series, but that one's special for me).

Some of my favorite authors are (again) Michael Chabon, Jodi Picoult, Anne Tyler, Jasper Fforde, Nick Hornby, Sue Miller, Christopher Moore, and Ann Patchett - I can't single out just one of those, either.

2. Do you hate it when they turn a book into a film?
I try to keep an open mind, so I won't say I hate the idea on principle. Sometimes I'm rather puzzled as to how the adaptation could possibly work when I first hear about it, but it does work. Heaven knows there are plenty of times when it doesn't work, though... However, I couldn't possibly answer this question with a blanket "no," considering how much I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy - as films. I'm actually somewhat ambivalent about the books, to be honest (don't hate me, please).

3. Has a book ever changed your life? How?
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott comes pretty close. I read it at the right time, I guess, during a pretty rough patch in my thirties. I love Lamott's direct, conversational tone and her honesty, and this book is genuinely inspirational in so many ways - for writing, for faith, for life, just as the subtitle says.

4. Do you tend to borrow books from the library or do you prefer to buy them?
I am definitely a book buyer. I have a hard time reading on anyone's timetable but my own, so I like to have my books right at hand when the mood strikes. (But I do usually buy paperback to keep the expense down.)

5. Which book are you planning on reading next?
I should read Atonement by Ian McEwan for my upcoming Book Club meeting, but I have read it before and I just saw the movie, which refreshed my memory enough that I may just bluff my way through the discussion. Since I have decided to be irresponsible and not re-read it, I just started Intuition by Allegra Goodman, and Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis is on deck after that. (If you've read one or both and have a recommendation or opinion to share, please do!)
This week's Booking Through Thursday query concerns favorite literary heroines, and it's going to take some time and thought. I'll be back with my answers later, but in the meantime, you can check out who other players have selected!

Book Club at the movies: "Atonement"

Drama, 2007

My book club has watched the film versions of our book selections before. In fact, there was a period where it seemed like we were only selecting books that had been made into movies. However, I think this may be the first time that we've had a book going at the same time that the movie version was still in theaters, and since a couple of our members are finding the reading to be rather slow going, they discussed a Saturday-night theater outing. I've actually read the book before and have planned to re-read it as soon as I finish my current read, but our meeting is closing in now, so I thought the movie could serve as a quick refresher.

If you're unfamiliar with the plot of Atonement, in either book or movie form, I'll be careful to avoid spoiling it. However, it essentially concerns a house party at an English country house in the summer of 1935; a child's interpretation of some incidents she observes that day; the destruction created by her telling of those observations; and a return to the characters several years later, after the Second World War has begun and the girl has begun to grasp the effects of what she did. The story switches viewpoints and moves back and forth in time, which can make it a bit confusing, but the threads do all come together.

Some comments from my March 2003 "journal entry" about the book on BookCrossing (it was that long ago?!?):
This is definitely not a quick read. The writing style is very straightforward, so that in itself is not hard to get through, but much the action is internal and the story is definitely more character- than plot-driven. I felt the central characters were well-developed and that I could understand, if not necessarily empathize with, them.

The central themes revolve around the idea that there are consequences to our actions, including the actions we take through our misunderstanding or misinterpretation of other people's actions (think about the times you've jumped to a conclusion and acted on that, and learned something later that made you realize your reaction was a mistake based on a mistake). There's also the idea that no matter how much we try to make up for those wrong actions, we may never be granted forgiveness or make reconciliation.

I found the book to be very engaging in some parts, emotionally true, and ultimately both sad and affirming. I think I won't forget it quickly. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read it, but I'm left feeling more respect and admiration than real affection for it.
Obviously the writing-style comment doesn't apply to the movie, but I think there was a good transition to cinematic vocabulary. The movie uses visual imagery well, and there's aren't a lot of long speeches. While the internal lives of characters never really translate well to film, it works here, and the storytelling is more spare and straightforward, although certain elements are played up more - the romantic ones, as might be expected. The second and third sections of the book are more blended in the movie, and I thought that worked too.

As it turned out, I remembered more of some parts of the story than I had thought, and I'd forgotten others, but they came back to me quickly. I think there's a good likelihood that I'll still read the book again, but I have to be honest in saying that I think the movie jogged my memory well enough that I'm not sure I'll knock myself out to do it before my Book Club meeting on March 7th.

Oh, and a message to Keira Knightley: Please, sweetie, eat something!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Unconventional relationship, independent marriage

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: no one except the people involved in a relationship really knows what goes on there, and sometimes they're not all that sure either. That's one of my core beliefs about relationships. Another is that I don't believe that there is just one single perfect soul-mate match for everyone - if there were, the odds against their ever finding each other would be just enormous. Having said that, though, there are some people who match up so particularly well that they're very, very lucky they've found each other. (I'm in that group, and it took two marriages for it to happen...so I think that makes my point.)

Relationships fascinate me, and unconventional relationships hold particular interest. In some ways, my view of them is similar to my stance on the far more serious topic of abortion - not my choice personally, but I respect and support your rights and your choice in the matter.

To return to my original point, though, I should note that I don't have a lot of experience with the "unconventional" relationship myself. Some might say I don't have a lot of relationship experience, period, having only had serious involvements with two men in my life (both of whom I've ended up marrying - and these days, I would suggest that second marriages really are pretty conventional). I'll admit that I was open to the concept of a less conventional relationship after my divorce - living together, or an exclusive relationship that maintained a degree of independence and separate residences - but that's not what I've ended up with, and I'm happy. For one thing, there are kids involved, and their sense of stability is important. For another, like it or not, there are certain ways in which a committed relationship without the proverbial "piece of paper" isn't recognized legally or socially, and those ways matter. There's also the fact that a public statement of commitment is meaningful (not to mention big business).

But just because you're part of a married couple, that doesn't mean you have to follow one specific model of marriage, especially in these modern times. You and your spouse can choose to live separately. You may choose to be childless. You may even choose not to "forsake all others" - and the others you're not forsaking may be of your own gender (honestly, I hadn't realized that marriages like this still existed) - but I grant you that you're really pushing the conventionality (and institutional) limits at that point. However, one thing that these unconventional options have in common is that they're all ways of responding to the need to retain an independent sense of self within a "coupled" context. On that note, the New York Times recently ran an article about one couple's response to that need:
AT many weddings, the officiant talks about how a husband and wife should be like two pillars on a porch: separate but together. In their marriage, Jennifer Belle, a novelist, and Andrew Krents, an entertainment lawyer, take the separation part to the extreme. It is almost as if they are afraid of spending too much time together...

After they started dating — and even after marrying — she still put her writing before everything else. Mr. Krents, also a workaholic, barely noticed. They have never been the kind of couple to stare into each other’s eyes. They’re too busy staring into their BlackBerrys.

After their wedding, the two often and happily went their separate ways. In fact, they even started married life separately. She began their honeymoon alone (he couldn’t find his passport), checking into their suite in Venice and thoroughly enjoying herself without him... He found the passport, showed up four days later, and the honeymoon (what was left of it anyway) turned out to be blissful...

He describes her as an unconventional, sometimes unreachable, wife. “Dinner isn’t on the table at a certain time every night,” he said. “She’s out, she’s writing, she’s teaching workshops. Who can ever find her?”

She also has trouble tracking him down. “When we first started dating, he just wanted to make me happy and make my life better,” she said. “We would talk about my career and my books. Now, I feel like I have to make an appointment to call him on his BlackBerry to talk about myself for one second.”

...Now that they have two children, and she is working on another novel, the marriage has become “one big competition for time alone,” Ms. Belle said.
“Andy’s desperate to work all the time, and I want to work,” she said. “I spend a lot of time saying things like, ‘My work is important, too!’ I must say that 25 times a day.”

....For a couple that craves and fights for time alone and apart, how do they stay together? One way, they said, is by pretty much ignoring their relationship in the same way a writer ignores a blank page.

“I try not to think about marriage,” Ms. Belle said. “It just seems impossible to me. It’s wondrous. It’s like trying to understand the meaning of the universe.”

I'm already saying it again: No one really knows what goes on in a relationship...well, you know the rest. Whatever makes it work for you, seriously. I understand the craving to hold onto a sense of yourself, and I'll admit that after a few years on my own, it's a higher priority in my second marriage than it was in my first (and if it had been a higher priority then, some things might have been different). But looking at a relationship like this from the outside, it occurs to me that some of the aspects that truly define "marriage" to me - a sense of partnership, openness to compromise, and togetherness - don't seem to be evident here. Granted, they don't have to be evident to an outsider. They don't even have to be evident to the couple, as long as they're in agreement about what they want from their marriage. That's one of the reasons for describing a relationship like this as "unconventional." Whether it's "healthy" is a whole different question.

I actually think that it's a good thing that we're living in a time and place where unconventional relationships don't seem so out of the ordinary. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ten on Tuesday 2-26: Movies You've Meant to See...

I like movies, but my husband is quite the maven - one of those people who grew up watching The Late Late Show. Occasionally, he is surprised - and at other times dumbfounded - by the gaps in my cinematic experience. Now, there are some movies I've never seen because I just don't want to - and perhaps I am close-minded about it (or so he says), but great car chase scene notwithstanding, I really don't care if I never see Bullitt, and I can live quite well without ever seeing a John Wayne movie - or a Planet of the Apes one, for that matter.

On the other hand, I have been making an effort to catch up on some of the classics during our three years together, and I finally saw Some Like It Hot and The Philadelphia Story within the last year. The "31 Days of Oscar" series running on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) this month is giving us a chance to record a few films, some of which I haven't seen, and some of which neither of us has gotten around to yet. In any case, my Ten on Tuesday list of "10 Movies You've Intended to Watch, But Haven't" is probably going to skew a bit on the "old" side, but they're not all classics - some of them are movies I should see more for pop-cultural-literacy reasons than film-history ones, and a few are mentioned just because I've intended to watch them, but haven't yet. Since we're really not into the movie-renting habit - we go to movies or watch them if they show up on TV, but if we buy a movie for our DVD library it's usually one that at least one of us has seen already - I can't say when some of these gaps might be filled.
  1. It's A Wonderful Life - Seriously. Never seen it. We have it on DVD, and we've intended to watch it during the holidays for the last couple of years, and just haven't gotten to it. Then again, I didn't see A Christmas Story for the first time until 2005, and if there's not a lot of time for Christmas movie-watching, I'll probably just choose to watch that again, to be honest.
  2. The African Queen - TCM has come to the rescue on this one; we recorded it last weekend, and it's just waiting on the DVR box.
  3. North by Northwest - TCM got this one for us, too.
  4. The Aviator - Not an old classic, but parts of it do involve the classic-movie era
  5. Dr. Strangelove - Not having seen this one's a gap on both the film-history and cultural-literacy fronts...
  6. Sideways - Also not an old classic, but we have the DVD in our library, and I haven't seen it (although my husband has) - this one has a pretty high nerd-factor rating, so it has that in its favor
  7. For Your Consideration - I'm a fan of Christopher Guest's "mockumentaries," but missed this one from last year
  8. School of Rock - I saw part of this a couple of weeks ago on TV, but would really like to watch it straight through and commercial-free at some point
  9. Rushmore - Another one I've seen parts of, and I know a few people who really liked it - and I'm one of the few people I know who really liked The Royal Tenenbaums, so I guess I should get around to this one
  10. and 10.5. Plan 9 From Outer Space - This has often been cited as "the worst movie ever made," and I've always been curious to see for myself. It might be fun to watch a double feature of this and Tim Burton's film about its creator, Ed Wood, starring a sometimes-cross-dressing Johnny Depp.
Can you think of any movies on your own "I've been meaning to get around to this" list? Visit Ten on Tuesday to see what other players haven't seen yet, and get some more ideas.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Weekend Assignment #204 (8) - My Favorite Year

There's a movie called My Favorite Year, in which comedy writer Benjy Stone looks back on a particular week in the year he remembers most fondly. That's the main inspiration for this week's Weekend Assignment:

Weekend Assignment #204: Is there a year in your life to date that you remember with special fondness? When was it, and what made it so special?

Extra credit:
Are you likely to have an even better year in the future, or is that year simply unbeatable?

Well, as one might expect by now, I'm going to fudge this assignment a little, because I really can't pick just one favorite year. (I can't pick one least favorite year either - that would be most of the stretch between mid-1999 and late 2004, and fortunately, it is not the topic of this assignment.) By the time you've reached my advanced age - 44 next month - it's nice if you can look back fondly on quite a few years in your past, and it's difficult to single out one as "the best."

I lived 36 of my nearly 44 years in the 20th century, so I decided it was OK to choose one favorite year from that group, and another post-2001. Both of my favorite years were transitional ones containing ceremony and changes.

I think of 1987 as my first real "grown-up" year. Although I'd been married and a mom for three years by then, my (first) husband and I started out our married life living with my parents, without whose help we would have had a much more difficult time managing a baby and finishing our undergraduate degrees "almost" on time (we took five years all together). They helped with child care and we contributed to living expenses, while also saving money from part-time work toward getting out on our own after graduation. For the most part the arrangement worked well, but things often got tense between my mother and me during the last several months, and it seemed like we would be moving out at just the right time. (Looking back from a parental perspective, though, I wonder how much of the tension on her side came from knowing that her little birds were leaving the nest; my sister was also graduating from college that spring, and while she'd gone away for school, she'd also made it clear she had no desire to move back home afterwards.)

Senior year of college was a busy time for both First Husband and me. We both had full class schedules; I was active in several campus groups; he had his own activities and part-time work, but his biggest project was his grad-school applications. He applied to four chemistry programs and was actively courted by three of them; after campus visits, it didn't take him long to decide that his first choice was Cornell. By then, it was springtime, and we were preparing both for our commencements (we weren't at the same college, so I actually earned my bachelor's degree about three weeks before he did) and a cross-country move

from Florida to the Finger Lakes region of New York. I'm a New York native - the city, that is, and had been no further north than Poughkeepsie at that point. First Husband, and our son, were both Florida natives and had no idea what genuinely cold weather was like.

We departed for Ithaca, NY at the end of June, taking about five days to drive up from Tampa Bay with a stopover in Atlanta. Our son Christopher's third birthday occurred during our first week in our new home, a two-bedroom apartment in one of the student-family-housing complexes on the edge of the Cornell campus. We were getting to know some of the other grad students, both married and single, but not many of our new friends had children; as a novelty, Christopher became something of a mascot among the group.

Grad school in the sciences is pretty much a full-time job, but I needed to get to work myself. Since I had majored in business, I was ready to start my career, and even though a small college town didn't offer a big range of opportunities, I was set against taking just any student-spouse office-clerk job. As it happened, I lucked into a temp job in the university accounting office in August, and was hired full-time in November. The work wasn't quite what I'd expected or prepared for, but it was valuable first-job experience all the same (even though it took some years' distance for me to appreciate that properly). My life as a working mom began then, too; and with a three-year-old only child, the timing for the social setting preschool was just right.

I liked having our own place, keeping my own house, spending time with my growing child - who was already starting to read at three-and-a-half, which was a joy to my book-loving heart - and getting used to our new town. Since our move had been so recent, we stayed in Ithaca during the holiday break - and we had a white Christmas (but not until the second day)! The university closed its offices for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, and the snowy break was a fine way to cap an exciting year.

My favorite year of the 21st century - so far - was easier to pin down; 2006. The excitement began on February 5th, when my (second) husband (to be) proposed to me at sunset in Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, California. My first wedding had been a small and quick one, and while Tall Paul and I agreed that we didn't want anything elaborate - given that it would be a second wedding for us both - he was open to something "more" than I had before. You can read about all of it here and here - but suffice it to say that I greatly enjoyed my time as a bride-to-be, and my day as a bride, and am still enjoying every day with my husband!

The wedding-related hoopla wasn't the only big thing that year. We didn't have a honeymoon, but we had a couple of great vacation trips earlier in the year. Tall Paul and I had our first travel experience together in May, when we visited San Francisco for several days. We were carless by choice in the city; our hotel was on Nob Hill, at the intersection of the Powell & Hyde and California Street cable-car lines, so we wandered the city via cable car and on foot. We had great seats for a game at AT&T Park; our Dodgers were in town to play the Giants, and they almost pulled out a win. We rented a car on our third day and took the scenic drive down to Monterey - our stay in that area is what I'd like to repeat in that road trip I wrote about last week. We returned to San Francisco just in time to fly home.

In early summer, just after school let out, we spent a few days with the kids, the dog, and my soon-to-be Mom-in-law at the family fishing cabin in the Eastern Sierras, in between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. No one really fishes much since Tall Paul's father passed away, but it's still a beautiful, quiet, relaxing place to get away. One day we drove down to the ski resort at Mammoth Mountain, and I must say that it's strange but fun to be playing in snow during the third week of June.

But even with no shortage of remarkable events, what makes 2006 my favorite year is really the fact that it was the first full one that Tall Paul and I had together. Sharing our everyday lives together makes me think that maybe there's an even better year ahead of us, but I'd really be just fine if there isn't.

The Weekend Assignment is posted each Friday at Outpost Mâvarin; a roundup of responses goes up the following Thursday, so if you'd like to join in, you've still got some time!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Scraptacular #5

One thing I enjoy about this roundup is introducing myself to other bloggers via link - they see it in Technorati or their stats tracker for the first time and think "What the heck is this about?" I'd love to know if anyone who found this blog that way has stuck around. But it also makes me happy to show the link love to old blog-friends. If you've been checking out links here every week, I hope you're finding them enjoyable too.

Before I get too far into it, though, I just wanted to remind you about the Dewey Donation System Book/Fundraising Drive! There's a link to it in the sidebar too. There are incentives and prizes to be won by random donors, but the real incentive is the joy of giving books and helping the kids.

New in Google Reader this week
(it was a big one for additions):
Working Dad: An Unauthorized Guide to Parenting, via Rebel Dad
Spudd Soup, via a guest post for On Balance (personal blog covering a range of topics, as often happens) Awake at the Wheel, via IttyBiz (personal development topics and more)
Happily Even After, via The Anti 9-to-5 Guide (marriage and relationships)
Tomato Nation and Velcrometer - part of my continuing mission to add TWoP-related blogs to my subscription list (Velcrometer's actually an e-mail subscription, since I couldn't find a feed option - what's up with that, M. Giant?)
Pam's Coffee Conversation, via BlogHer (thoughtful commentary on issues, politics, and religion)
Blogging Basics 101 (just what it says it is, because learning is good), via Sunshine's Wednesday roundup on ...and the Pursuit of Happiness
Stuff White People Like, via too many other blogs to mention - this was the consensus link of the week!

Book stuff NOT related to the Dewey Donation System
Several reviews caught my attention this week, and I'm making note of these books for my post-Easter trips to the bookstore (since you may recall that I gave up book-shopping for Lent, and I have stuck to it so far!):
John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth, by Elizabeth Partridge, via The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Sleep, Pale Sister, by Joanne Harris, via Bell Literary Reflections
Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali, via Caribousmom (I actually have this author's previous novel, Brick Lane, in my long-term-TBR collection, so I suppose I really should read that one first...)
An Absolute Gentleman by R.M. Kinder, via So Many Books, So Little Time

I'm not a participant in The Sunday Salon, but some of the book-bloggers I follow are, and if you're always on the lookout for more book-related discussions, you should know about it. It even has its own feed-subscription options.

Blogging about blogging
Bea of Bub and Pie makes another Harry Potter connection, and two bloggers confront their addiction - I know just what they're talking about, and you might too. But are you willing to get this personal on your blog?

Links that I can't quite fit into a theme, but want to include anyway
The ins and outs of Human Resources (and best of luck to both Laurie and Deb)

Your car as a reflection of yourself; your house as a reflection of your kids, like it or not

I've lived in Florida, and can testify to the truth in this - heed the warning! And I really do have to agree that this is one of the coolest things about living in Southern California.

The Academy Awards are tonight! Given our weather forecast today - and what's going on outside my window right now - that's going to be one soggy red carpet (although I think they've put up tents over it or something). in any case, thank goodness I'm at home. If tthe ceremony were still held on a Monday evening, I'd be calling in sick to the office. Now Sunday is the night to see the stars in your own living room...but can you imagine one of them coming to your house for dinner? Honestly, what's not to love about George Clooney?

Good luck in your Oscar pool, if you have one!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Fill-ins #60 (2)

Friday Fill-Ins #60

Janet put this week's prompt up early, so I had thought I'd get these done and posted this morning. So much for plans. But this actually is going up on Friday evening, West Coast time, and that feels like a minor accomplishment.

1. Getting away from the everyday routine is the best thing about traveling.
2. I love a good fleece throw and a cup of hot chocolate when I'm cold.
3. I often use humor to try to reduce tension.
4. I'm reading One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson right now; I like it, but I need to finish it (and start on Atonement for my book club meeting in two weeks! Luckily, I read it a few years ago, so I can bluff if I have to...)
5. Bodily functions is are something I dislike talking about.
6. When I visited Memphis last spring, I most looked forward to seeing my friend Cherie, and the Zoo where I used to work (oh, and eating barbecue, but that's in a different category).
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting some shopping done and catching up on some blog-reading (actually, both are done as I write this), tomorrow my plans include errands, catching up on American Idol episodes on the DVR, working on this week's Scraptacular post, and hopefully some reading, and Sunday, I want to read, write my Weekend Assignment, and have some family time!

Now THAT hits the spot...or not

I found this Find Your Spot survey via Alisonwonderland. It's a bit more comprehensive than a BlogThings quiz - the questions go into a lot more detail. After selecting your preferences about various local amenities and their importance to you, you'll get a list of 24 "top spot" U.S. cities, in no particular order, that might be good places for you to live. Give it a try yourself!

My list didn't include a hometown for either my inner or outer Californian. Like Alison, I'm going to guess that this is due to the fact that my housing-cost selection was probably too low - that is, I didn't check the most-expensive option. But realistically, I think both my Californians are staying where they are for at least the next ten years, thanks to things like school-aged children and custody arrangements. There's also the consideration of extended family here too, and parents who aren't getting any younger. In the meantime, perhaps we might make some travel plans...the results are food for thought, anyway.

Portland, Oregon
Never been, wouldn't mind visiting...

Seattle, Washington
Never been, wouldn't mind visiting - but could someone please let me know one of the four days a year when it's not raining? :-)

Little Rock, Arkansas
Funny, this list gave me several cities within a reasonable drive from Memphis, but not my old hometown itself. I've driven through Little Rock a couple of times, but never stayed...does that mean anything?

Knoxville, Tennessee
My son spent five years there (GO VOLS!), and I never made it there till the week of his college graduation, last spring. He really liked it there, though, and I liked what I saw of it; I'd go back, but not during a football weekend.

Long Island, New York
Depends what part of "Lawn Guyland" you're talking about... (My sister is probably snorting over this one)

Providence, Rhode Island
I think I drove through there once when I lived in Connecticut as a child...don't remember much about it.

New Haven, Connecticut
Not where I lived as a child in Connecticut - and back then, other than Yale, New Haven didn't have a lot to recommend itself. Maybe things have changed....

Hartford, Connecticut
Apparently this thing thinks I should move back to New England. I can't say I've considered that very much - I don't think I'm that up for the winters anymore.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Drove through it once...

Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Part of Pennsylvania's state-capital metropolis, along with Harrisburg - never would have crossed my mind, to be honest

Nashville, Tennessee
Conflicted about this one due to my Memphis roots, and the long-standing music-city rivalry between these two towns

Boston, Massachusetts
NOW we're talking! I love Boston - it's my favorite East Coast city. It does have that New England winter issue, though...

Charleston, South Carolina
Never been, wouldn't mind visiting...

Augusta, Georgia
Funny, I said golf was not at all important to me...

New York City, New York
My birthplace! I think I'm too old to deal with it all as a resident now, though...but I'd really like to go back as a tourist. (Tall Paul and Tall Girl are going next month; he's one of the parent chaperones for her drama-class trip.)
Lexington, Kentucky
Never been, haven't really thought about visiting

El Paso, Texas
Totally wouldn't have crossed my mind. No offense to any El Paso-ites, but I've always gotten the impression that nobody really wants to live in El Paso. I'm going to take an "el paso" on this suggestion, but thanks anyway.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Visited a couple of times as a child, and hadn't ever thought about being anything other than a visitor...

Baltimore, Maryland
Never been, wouldn't mind visiting...and since it's not far from DC, where my son lives now, chances are probably pretty good that I eventually will get there!

Worcester, Massachusetts
More candidates from New England...Can't recall whether I've been through here or not

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Drove through once, and would actually like to go back

Jacksonville, Florida
Sorry, nice try, but this one's on the El Paso list. I have no intention of living in Florida again, and even if I did, it would not be in Jacksonville.

Fayetteville, Arkansas
Go Razorbacks! No, can't do it...

Medford, Oregon
Never been, hadn't thought about visiting, but you know, why not? Of course, this isn't just my decision, so I hope that my husband's list (assuming he takes the survey too) has at least some of the same cities on it that mine does!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Booking Through Thursday 2-21: "Format"

btt button

All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?

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!

Well over 90% of the books in my home library are paperbacks - the large format, "trade" variety. (And when I say "large," I'm talking about the size of the book itself, not the print - although I don't doubt that the day is coming for that too, and probably sooner than I'd like.) Even if price and storage space were non-issues, I'm pretty sure that would still be the case.

I think I've mentioned before that I'm a book buyer rather than a library borrower; I like having books at hand whenever the mood strikes, and I very much prefer being the first to read them, so I don't frequent used bookstores either. I'll notice when new books come out in hardcover, but there are very few that I'm not willing to wait to read until the paperback edition comes out. However, when someone has asked me for a Christmas or birthday gift idea, I have been known to give them the titles of a few new hardcovers - and I will buy hardcovers as gifts for other people myself.

I don't do much genre reading, and since it seems like that's what is getting published more often in the smaller "mass-market" paperback size these days, I don't have nearly as many books of that format in my collection as I used to.

I find the large paperback more comfortable to read than a hardcover, especially if I'm reclining. They're also generally smaller and thinner than hardcovers, so they're more easily portable; if I'm shopping for a new purse, I'll actually consider how much room it has to accommodate a book. There's no dust cover to come loose or tear. Since I try to make sure I have a book with me nearly everywhere I go, I do think about these attributes. Also, even though we've said money is no object here, paperbacks are still less expensive than hardcovers, so I can buy more of them! It's a good thing we also said storage space isn't an object either, in that case.

But unlike HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, I tend to believe that all of these book formats will continue to co-exist peacefully for some time to come, and I doubt they'll be fully replaced be e-books any time soon.

What do you think? Do you have a book-format preference? You can find out other readers' opinions over at Booking Through Thursday.

Plan for the weekend: Bring a book to bed!

I've always been one of those people who loves to read in bed. It's part of my nighttime winding-down routine, a signal to my body that the day is done - which is why if I want to stretch out and read at any other time of day, I try to stay on the couch instead so I don't doze off. Some nights I don't get through too many pages before my eyes start to close, but if I don't read my way into sleep, something just doesn't feel right. Fortunately, I do have plenty of other places and times for reading, though...I'd never finish anything if I only read at bedtime!

Thanks to BlogHer Books CE Sassymonkey, I've learned that this Saturday, February 23, is a day for all bed-and-book people to call their own - it's the First Annual Bring a Book to Bed Day! Here's the plan:
My holiday is called BRING A BOOK TO BED DAY and it will be celebrated on the last Saturday in February every year. This year, BRING A BOOK TO BED DAY will take place on February 23rd. How do you celebrate? First thing to do is stay in your pjs the entire day. Next, pick a good book and then, go to bed. Unplug, relax, and curl up with a good book. You can celebrate alone, with your loved one, or your entire family. All you have to do is to take time to read and let your imagination take off.
Realistically, I won't be able to observe the full day - I'm already committed to doing certain things on Saturday that will require me to leave the house and, therefore, be out of my pajamas. But this certainly sounds like my kind of holiday, and I'm going to do my best to celebrate it, even if just for an hour or two (or however long I can stay awake!). Will you be joining the fun too?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Turnabout is fair play(?) (updated 2/21)

I got this via e-mail from one of my girlfriends last week:



Classes begin Febuary 2, 2008

Class 1 - How To Fill Up The Ice Cube Trays --- Step by Step, with Slide Presentation.
Meets 4 weeks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 2 - The Toilet Paper Roll --- Does It Change Itself?
Round Table Discussion. Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours.

Class 3 - Is It Possible To Urinate Using The Technique Of Lifting The Seat and Avoiding The Floor, Walls and Nearby Bathtub?
Group Practice. Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 4 - Fundamental Differences Between The Laundry Hamper and The Floor
Pictures and Explanatory Graphics. Meets Saturday at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks.

Class 5 - After Dinner Dishes --- Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Kitchen Sink?
Examples on Video. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 6 - Loss Of Identity --- Losing The Remote To Your Significant Other.
Help Line Support and Support Groups. Meets 4 Weeks, Friday and Sunday 7:00 PM.

Class 7 - Learning How To Find Things --- Starting With Looking In The Right Places And Not Turning The House Upside Down While Screaming.
Open Forum. Monday at 8:00 PM, 2 hours.

Class 8 - Health Watch --- Bringing Her Flowers Is Not Harmful To Your Health
Graphics and Audio Tapes. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7: 0 0 PM for 2 hours.

Class 9 - Real Men Ask For Directions When Lost --- Real Life Testimonials.
Tuesday at 6:00 PM Location to be determined.

Class 10 - Is It Genetically Impossible To Sit Quietly While She Parallel Parks?
Driving Simulations. 4 weeks, Saturday noon, 2 hours.

Class 11 - Learning to Live --- Basic Differences Between Mother and Wife.
Online Classes and role-playing. Tuesday at 7:00 PM, location to be determined.

Class 12 - How to be the Ideal Shopping Companion
Relaxation Exercises, Meditation and Breathing Techniques. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours, beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 13 - How to Fight Cerebral Atrophy --- Remembering Birthdays, Anniversaries and Other Important Dates and Calling When You're Going To Be Late.

Cerebral Shock Therapy Sessions and Full Lobotomies Offered. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 14 - The Stove/Oven --- What It Is and How It Is Used.
Live Demonstration. Tuesday at 6:00 PM, location to be determined.

Upon completion of any of the above courses, diplomas will be issued to the survivors.
I've seen variations on this before. Most women will chuckle at the list. Many - myself included - will roll their eyes along with the chuckle, and express gratitude that their men don't need these classes (well, maybe they could use one or two...no, honey, I'm not saying you do!). Some women will be nodding fervently in agreement and looking for the registration forms, which is a sad thing if you ask me. Plenty of men would ignore this completely. Others - and my guess is that they're the ones whose women don't think they need these classes - will understand that it's a joke, but be somewhat offended by it anyway. And women who would be offended if this "joke" were going in the opposite direction should have some empathy about it. I don't think it's a question of political correctness, just consideration and simple courtesy.

I'm involved in several women-centric groups, mostly online, and my husband and I have periodic debates about the exclusion of men from them. He makes the point that if it went the other way, sexism would be charged all over the place. My answer is that it does go the other way, and it has for a long, long time, so women respond in kind. But should we? People aren't nearly as fixed into traditional gender roles anymore, unless they choose to be - but even as women and men have made inroads into each other's spheres, some things remain sex-segregated.

Lindsay Ferrier of the Suburban Turmoil blog has a column of the same title on Nashville Scene, and recently wrote there about excluding a stay-at-home dad and his child from her playgroup, which is attended by three-year-olds and their moms. Her reasons had more to do with the possible effect on female camaraderie among the moms than anything against the dad, but the negative response she got from the online-dads community - some of whom are at-home dads, many of whom aren't - prompted a follow-up column.

(UPDATED 2/21 to add a link to a related post and follow-up discussion at On Balance.)

I've only been a stay-at-home mom for brief periods between jobs, and obviously I've never been a dad of any kind, so I'm merely an observer on this one, and these are a few of my observations:
  • On a private, social level, there really is a level of camaraderie and commonality among the members of single-sex groups that's different from that in mixed ones. Even in a mixed group, the men and women frequently drift off to associate with their own kind, for that very reason. While the laws of physics dictate that opposites attract, it's usually more "like attracts like" on a social level.
  • On a private, social level, I'm pretty sure it doesn't legally qualify as discrimination...but I'm not a lawyer and if you really need to know about that, check into it for yourself. (I'd love for anyone with knowledge on this to weigh in with a comment, by the way.)
  • One can cite all sorts of reasons for it - biological wiring, social conditioning, some combination of elements from both categories (and staying far away from the "Mars and Venus" thing) - but women and men do tend to interact differently with people. Granted, that applies to everyone at an individual level, but some traits are more associated with one sex than the other. Along those lines, women and men may want and need different things from the groups they belong to; dads may need more practical help and less general "support" than moms seek from their groups, it's suggested here.
  • The practices of exclusion for exclusion's sake start back in the playground days, and sometimes it seems like they never do end. Sometimes there's a reason for the exclusion, and it may even be a good and justifiable one - but sometimes it's just plain mean.
It's a variation on the old Groucho Marx quote on not wanting to belong to any club that would have him as a member, but why would one want to belong to a club that clearly doesn't want her or him as a member? That's my question. The desire for group acceptance starts back in the playground days too, but if we already have, or can find, groups where we are accepted, why do we get hung up on the ones where we're not?

And if one tries to live by the Golden Rule of treating others as you'd like to be treated yourself, it's hard to see exactly how turnabout is fair play. Again, it's consideration and simple courtesy - a couple of the other things we should have been learning in the playground days, and better ones to hold on to.