Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Salon: Conferencing, Bookmarking, questioning, and so on...

Sunday Salon.com

A query for those of you with e-book readers (regardless of brand): Do you find that your reading speed with an e-book differs from that with a print copy?

I'm noticing that I don't seem to read books on my Kindle as quickly as I read trade paperbacks, and I'm trying to figure out why. I'd understand it if I were multi-tasking - and, incidentally, I've found that the most successful way for me to read more than one book at a time is if one of them is an e-book, but if I'm doubling up, it tends to to take me longer to read both books anyway. Since the Kindle is even more easily portable than a "regular" book, I really didn't think I'd read more slowly on it, but that seems to be the case. Could it be that I'm still adjusting to it, since I've only read 4 books on it so far? Are the books I've chosen to read on it not ideal for the e-book experience? Or is it just me?

There's a whole crowd prepared to tell you everything you want to know - including why you should go - about attending Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. And some of the questions they'll be answering are also applicable to the other conference I'm trying to get you to attend, so do check out the BBCon's blog tour...but don't forget my "Book Bloggers at BlogHer'10" campaign! (Early-bird registration - and pricing - remains open until February 28.)

[whiny aside]But I'm starting to be afraid I jumped too soon on BlogHer'10 - not that I'm sorry I'll be going, but that I committed so quickly that BEA and BookBloggerCon aren't options for me now, and so many of the people I'd like to see in person may be doing the Con instead of BlogHer that I'll be missing out on both counts! Someone did suggest selling my BlogHer ticket and switching to BEA and BBCon...and if my Room of Your Own proposal flounders, I might actually think about it.[/whiny aside]

BOOKKEEPING: The Reading Status Report

Reviews posted since last report:
Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See (TLC Book Tour)

Next reviews scheduled
American Rust: A Novel, by Philipp Meyer (TLC Book Tours, Thursday 2/11)
The Wives of Henry Oades: A Novel, by Johanna Moran (TLC Book Tours, Tuesday 2/23)

New to my LibraryThing "To Read" Collection:

Admit One: My Life in Film, by Emmett James (via Lisa Roe, Online Publicist)
New additions to the Wishlist:
The Believers, by Zoe Heller
The Summer We Fell Apart, by Robin Antalek

I have no tour commitments in March, and I hope to have the chance to dig into some more of my challenge books and discretionary reading - oh, and those "someday I need to review this" books - before they kick up again. I enjoy working with TLC, but I'm starting to feel like cutting back on accepting review responsibilities really was a good idea.

BOOKMARKS: Reading-related Reading

Having kids can be a helpful thing for a writer - who would have guessed?

Some insight into how one editor/publisher selects the books she sends out into the world (and which spawn a new reading challenge!); some insights about reading to expand one's world (and mention of a new blog, Diversify Your Reading, to help do that)

Reading is one of the less expensive forms of entertainment, as discussed in this interview with Gayle of Everyday I Write the Book. Somewhat related: illustrating how using the library is good financial management

Visiting Mrs. T's middle-school English classes, who are reading a lot of good stuff (thanks, Molly!)

Why isn't there a "men's fiction" genre?

Are the words in the dictionary the problem, or is it the dictionary itself?

On the occasion of the passing of Holden Caulfield's creator, J.D. Salinger: what might the original angsty adolescent be like at age 50?

This link is for Susan, whose fiction should be in a list like this one day: 10 top rock'n'roll novels

Be honest - who wouldn't covet a wall like this?

Talk about getting paid for doing what you love! Thanks to Sheila of One Person's Journey Through a World of Books for the heads-up about DelGal's Buck-a-Book Challenge:
"Here's a great way to reward yourself for reading persistence and save money at the same time. Read as many books as you'd like, there is no minimum, and there is no maximum. BUT, here's the "catch", you MUST physically take a dollar and save it somewhere safe where it won't be spent, every time you complete a book. At the end of the year, your total money saved will be the total amount of books read, ideally the more book read, the more money saved.

Now, once Dec 31 comes, you're must spend this saved money on something fun just for yourself (no paying bills, no buying gifts for someone else!), to begin the next year... Maybe more books for the new year? A nice dinner out to celebrate reading? The possibilities are endless! Finally, once this challenge completes on Dec 31st, please let your blog fans, and fellow challenge participants, know what you decided to spend your money on by posting whatever it may be. If it's $5 or if it's $100, we want to know what you rewarded yourself with for a year of hard yet enjoyable fun reading!

In short - put aside a dollar for each book you read."
I'm definitely in! I may even put aside TWO dollars per book! It's certainly no more work, and it's even more of an incentive to read.

I hope you have a good reading week!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Week-end Review: This week around the blogiverse

Have you voted for a "Room of (Y)our Own" for Book Bloggers at BlogHer'10? It won't cost you anything, and you don't even have to be going to BlogHer'10 - I'm just asking for your support for a great idea! Will you help make it happen?

I did this a few months ago, but can't recall if I mentioned it here at the time; I've set up my "shared items" from Google Reader to go out with links on Twitter. If you like the link round-ups here, you can get even more links from me every day over there - as long as you're following me, that is!

New Arrivals in my Google Reader

Dispatches: Links of the Week

Overcoming compassion fatigue; activism has to start somewhere

Are Americans so wrapped up in themselves that they've become ungovernable?

One reason why "online safety" is another thing kids need to be taught these days. Related: the main purpose of education remains "learning how to learn"

If you're hoping to find a sponsor for BlogHer'10 (or any other conference), that has to start somewhere too; on the other hand, sometimes the blogger/marketer connection needs to come to a stop

The first (and second, and more) rules of Sing in the Car Club

And on a more serious note, I'd like to thank (again) everyone who stopped by my Sunday Salon post, or Tweeted, to offer their condolences on the loss of our dog, Gypsy, last weekend. While we were going through that, I was following Neil Gaiman's posts about Zoe the cat - stories with different details, but essentially the same ending. It was heartbreaking, and yet oddly comforting, to know someone else was in the same place at the same time.

"What's in a Name?" via Not Always Right

Bookstore | Memphis, TN, USA
Customer: “Do you have How to Catch a Mole?”
Me: “I don’t know of that book, let me check.”
Customer: “I have to read it for school.”
Me: “No, we don’t have that.”
Customer: “It’s really famous. I think Dante wrote it.”
Me: “Dante? ”
Customer: “Or someone like that.”
Me: “What class is this for?”
Customer: “English Literature.”
Me: *inspiration strikes* “You mean Taming of the Shrew!”
Customer: “What’s the difference?”

Quite a bit, actually. Ouch. What are we not teaching in the Bluff City these days?

Friday Fill-ins #161

1. Wouldn't it be easy to play hooky from work today? (yeah, I wish!)
2. I like blogging better than ever!
3. I love the taste of a Honeycrisp apple (but they won't be around much longer, so I'm enjoying them while I can!).
4. We never use the fireplace in the living room (but we use the Wii a LOT!)
5. The first thing we're going to do is get started. (huh?)
6. Rain, rain, rain, drip, drip, drip; watch out for the puddles!
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to pizza night (!), tomorrow my plans include not really having much planned and Sunday, I want to spend some time with my current reading! (although maybe I'll get to do that on Saturday, too...)

TGIF, folks!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Adventures in Car-shopping

I married a self-proclaimed "car nerd," a product of Southern California's legendary car culture, and I've learned quite a bit from him in the nearly five years we've been together. But I think he's learned that when it comes to a car that I'm going to drive myself, I'm not necessarily looking for car-nerdy things. It doesn't matter to me how fast the car goes from zero to 60. I'm not all that interested in high horsepower numbers, and I really don't care about tires (as long as they're not flat).

I'm looking for safety and reliability; I keep cars for a while, and I'd like the odds that they'll still be in decent driving condition five to seven years from now to be pretty high. I care about getting good gas mileage - I was deeply influenced by the energy crisis during my 1970s childhood. I want a car that's comfortable to drive, handles well, and is easy to park. I don't care all that much about luxury, but at this stage in my life I would like certain amenities. And I like my cars small. I'm small - I like cars that are my size. My dream car is a Mini Cooper, not a minivan.

But since something in me balks at the idea of paying much more than $20,000 for a car - which I guess clarifies that I'm neither a car nerd nor a native Californian - my dream car remains a dream. (And a minivan remains a vehicle I'd never dream of owning - along with not having a Costco membership, it's one of my little acts of rebellion against the suburbs.) I recently went out shopping for a car...

...and you can read the rest of this at the Los Angeles Moms Blog.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Talk: *Shanghai Girls,* by Lisa See (TLC Book Tour)

Disclosure: This review is posted as part of a blog tour arranged by TLC Book Tours to promote the publication of the paperback edition of Shanghai Girls (February 2, 2010). However, I had purchased this novel as an e-book to read on my Amazon Kindle prior to joining the tour, and therefore I did not receive a review copy from the publisher. *Purchasing links in this review go through my Amazon Associates account.

Shanghai Girls: A Novel by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls: A Novel
Lisa See
Random House (2009), Hardcover (ISBN 1400067111 / 9781400067114)
Fiction (historical/20th century), 336 pages

Opening Lines: "'Our daughter looks like a South China peasant with those red cheeks,' my father complains, pointedly ignoring the soup before him. 'Can’t you do something about them?'

"Mama stares at Baba, but what can she say? My face is pretty enough—some might even say lovely—but not as luminescent as the pearl I’m named for."

Book description: In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai girls.

Comments: The book description I've quoted above actually makes Shanghai Girls sound a bit more balanced than it is, in terms of the development of its primary characters. Pearl and May Chin are sisters, and the ups and downs of their relationship propel the story forward, but the book is narrated in Pearl's first-person voice. Because of that, I felt that I only got to know the other characters, including May, as Pearl saw them, and there were times I found that a bit frustrating.

But there's no doubt that the sisters' stories are joined to one another, and they have quite a story to tell. As young, carefree "beautiful girls" - basically, models for commercial artists - the Chin sisters may bicker with one another and their parents, but their lives are pretty easy; that is, until they're not anymore. When they're sold into marriage to two American brothers in partial payment of their father's gambling debts, they fight going until they're forced out of Shanghai by war between China and Japan. A harrowing trip across their home country and the Pacific eventually lands them at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, where they are held for months before they're allowed to join their husbands and new family in Los Angeles. And once they arrive there, the life they find waiting for them isn't what they expected.

Despite the general issue with character development that I already mentioned, I felt that author Lisa See drew Pearl very well. I could see her grow and become more resilient over time, I sensed the obstacles and blinders she put in her own way, and her voice kept me engaged with her story. (I still would have liked to see several of the characters - particularly May and Pearl's husband Sam - through eyes other than Pearl's, but those perspectives would have changed the novel.) See's ability to convey time and place is impressive; I was particularly drawn into the portion of the story at Angel Island, and was fascinated by the portrait of a long-gone Los Angeles. I felt that the plot itself verged on soap-operatic in spots, to be honest, but See's excellent writing made it work for me.

This is the first of Lisa See's novels that I've read (although Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has been living in TBR Purgatory for a while), and I've heard that some of her fans haven't liked it quite as much as her earlier books, partly because it's less "historical." I'll be a contrarian here - the 20th-century setting, and partial location of the story in my own city, are among the things that I found most appealing about Shanghai Girls. Despite my quibbles, I enjoyed the novel, and I'll be recommending this one to friends who seek out thought-provoking fiction, especially if they also like strong female characters and vivid settings in the recent past.

Rating: 3.75/5

*Buy Shanghai Girls: A Novel at Amazon.com

Other stops on this TLC Book Tour:

Monday, January 4th:  Suko’s Notebook
Tuesday, January 5th:  The Literate Housewife Review
Wednesday, January 6th: Stephanie’s Written Word
Thursday, January 7th:  She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, January 8th:  Book Club Classics
Monday, January 11th:  Luxury Reading
Tuesday, January 12th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, January 13th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, January 14th:  Caribousmom
Friday, January 15th:  The Book Faery Reviews
Monday, January 18th:  Booking Mama
Tuesday, January 19th:  Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, January 20th:  Dolce Bellezza
Thursday, January 21st:  Book, Line, and Sinker
Friday, January 22nd:  Word Lily
Monday, January 25th:  The Brain Lair
Tuesday, January 26th:  A Lifetime of Books

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Salon 1/24/10: Bookmarking a Room of Your Own

Sunday Salon.com

Well, I'm trying again this year...it still may not happen, but I'd hate NOT to give it a shot. And I'm hoping you can help me do it!

I've submitted a proposal for a Room of Your Own session at the BlogHer'10 conference (New York City, August 6-7) dedicated to book blogging. Here's the description:
Track: Passions

Some of us started blogging just to talk about the books we read. Others of us like to talk about the books we read, but don't really want to build our blogs around them. Most of us probably expected we'd be mostly talking to ourselves - but we don't, or at least not for very long. We find each other all the time, and great conversations result.

Some of the things book bloggers like to talk about:
  • Writing effective, informative, and enjoyable reviews
  • The pros and cons of getting review books, including publisher/author relationships and disclosure requirements
  • Issues in publishing, like e-books and cover controversies
  • Genres, subgenres, and crossovers
  • Reading challenges
  • Favorite books and authors (duh)
  • The book-blogging community!
This session would welcome those with dedicated book blogs, those who sometimes post about books, and those who like to read books and would like to make them a bigger part of their blogs.
I know some of you are planning to attend the Book Blogger Convention in May (also in NYC), and are more interested in that (and BEA) than a general blogging conference, but we're still bloggers, right? The "Passions" track at BlogHer'10 is meant for focused, interest-driven blogs, and two of the six break-out sessions will be Rooms of Your Own (food, fitness, fashion, and art bloggers have the other slots) - I'd love us to see book bloggers in one of them! Even if you don't think you'll be there for it, will you help make that happen? (Thanks to Sassymonkey for helping already!)

You don't have to be going to BlogHer'10 to vote for a session, but you do have to be a member of BlogHer.com (joining is easy and free!). To vote, all you have to do is sign in on the site and click a link to indicate that you "would attend" the session described - it's all hypothetical, and not a commitment. (And if you'd be interested in helping to present the session, click that link too!) Voting is open until February 28 (which is also the day that early-bird conference registration ends), and then the BlogHer'10 organizers will make the final call.

BTW, are you thinking about going to BlogHer'10?

BOOKKEEPING: The Reading Status Report

Reviews posted since last report:
When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of America's Women from 1960 to the Present, by Gail Collins

Next reviews scheduled
Shanghai Girls: A Novel, by Lisa See (TLC Book Tours, Wednesday 1/27)
American Rust: A Novel, by Philipp Meyer (TLC Book Tours, Thursday 2/11)

New additions to the Wishlist:
Don't You Know There's a War On?: The American Home Front, 1941-1945, by Richard R. Lingeman

BOOKMARKS: Reading-related Reading

The discussion of the week: racial portrayals and "whitewashed" covers in YA literature. The author's response; a publisher boycott proposal; an outside perspective; thoughts on reading consciously. Somewhat related: considering racial diversity in Fantasy lit

It's probably the ultimate reading challenge for most of us: making time for it in the first place

A mom who is proudly not reading books for grownups

Speaking of Book Blogger Con and BEA (as I did earlier in this post), do you need a place to stay? Here's one you may not have thought of

And, in the Self-Serving Links Department: Thanks to A Novel Challenge for including a mention of the Blogging Authors Reading Project!

Peter from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations (where the books are so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime) has issued an Open Call for book-club recommendations:
It seems the book club community has recently discovered Flashlight Worthy Books' book club recommendations. From the feedback, not only are the list very much enjoyed, but people are clamoring for more. That's where you come in. While I've read plenty of books, I'm looking to book club members to contribute new lists -- themed, annotated lists of highly discussable books.
He suggests a few ideas to get you thinking:
Can you name and describe 5+ flashlight-worthy, discussable books that follow a theme? Maybe "7 Great Books that Revolve Around Food"? Or "6 Women's Memoirs That Will Start an Argument". How About "5 Discussable Novels Set in Africa"?
(Personally, I kind of like the argument-starting memoirs idea, and can think of a couple right off the bat...)

Peter invites you to check out the lists already posted at Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations and think about what you might add. You can e-mail your ideas to him at Info AT flashlightworthy DOT com.

For those interested in these things (mostly me), I just thought I'd note that this is Post #1100.
And the post count probably won't grow by much this week - I'm not in much of a blogging mood, frankly. (Most of this week's Salon post was composed in bits and pieces over the last several days.)

I'm very sad to tell you that I had to have my dog Gypsy put to sleep this weekend. She was 13 years old, and had been with me for over eleven years. It's going to take a while to get used to her not being around...and I may not be around as much for the next little while, either. Thanks for understanding.

(This post was originally published earlier this morning. I reformatted it to move this part to the end and posted it again, because this was probably not the best way to start it off if I really would like you to read the whole thing. And to everyone who has commented so far, thanks so much for your kind words and condolences.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Week-End Review, 1/22/10: This week around the Blogiverse

Not too many distractions this week - the link round-up actually IS mostly links! Go forth and read, and have a nice weekend!

New Arrivals in my Google Reader

Books Blogroll

Dispatches: Links of the Week

When the whole world is your community, compassion can be complicated

"Real" kids, "not-real" kids, and "shiny happy stupid" ideas kids learn from their parents; parents may need to learn that "average" kids are all right

So much for the good ol' days (and even the not-so-old days)

Some people shop till they drop - others would rather drop shopping (Not me. I like shopping - as long as I actually find what I'm shopping for!)

From the "sad but true" files, an obituary notice

Is Facebook wearing out its welcome? Also online: contemplating changes in the mom-blogger-marketing sphere; more perspective on brand/blogger relationships.

On the other hand - considering truly going offline and disconnecting

Whose blog couldn't stand a few improvements? The Blog Improvement Project continues into 2010, now with a blog of its own - check it out!

"Senseless Sensibility," via Not Always Right
Bookstore | Everett, WA, USA

Customer: “Do you have the movie Sense and Sensibility?”
Me: “Yes we do, did you want the British or the American version?”
Customer: “I don’t know which one it was, but it has two parts.”
Me: “I think that would be the British version.”
(I take her to the section and show her the movie.)
Customer: “Yes, that’s it! I’ll take it!”
Me: “Great! Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Customer: “Does this movie use subtitles?”
Me: “Ma’am, it’s British.”
Customer: “Well I don’t know! I’m not an English major!”

I don't know. I seem to come across people regularly for whom English is apparently a foreign language, even though they were born and raised in the good ol' USA. (Then again, I've heard that what we speak here is "American," not "English," so maybe that explains it.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tuesday Tangents on Thursday - "No Theme" Edition

I touched on this in yesterday's post too, but in case you missed it:

You may recall that I promised to donate $1 per comment received on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday's posts to the Red Cross for Haitian earthquake relief. You've helped me raise over $40, which I added to the donation my family was already intending to make and sent to the Red Cross yesterday. Thank you for all of your comments here over the weekend! (And if you'd like to make your own donation, please feel free to use the widget in my blog's sidebar.)

Whenever I comment on a blog that uses word verification, I'm considering mentioning the "word" I get within the comment itself. Sometimes it's an actual word, and sometimes it's something that has word-like potential. Occasionally, it's somehow relevant to the post or the comment, which always amuses me. Do you ever pay attention to those "words" yourself?

I write about a couple dozen checks a year. I've paid bills online for a while, and have eagerly used my debit/check card for in-person shopping for well over a decade (I'm not as comfortable using it online). I sometimes forget not everyone has embraced these things, though, and then I get stuck in line at the grocery store behind someone paying with a check - it always surprises me that anyone still does that! Do you? Personally, I'm very happy that I don't have to cart a checkbook around with me any more - even the doctor's office takes Visa and MasterCard now.

According to Feedburner, this blog broke the 500-subscriber threshold on Tuesday, after inching close to it for weeks. Then again, Feedburner also showed subscribers in the low 300's a couple of days last week, so I'm not entirely sure I trust it, whether the news is good or bad. Still, I couldn't help being excited to see that 500+, even if only for a day. How much do you obsess about your blog stats?

We've had a drought in California for a few years, and while we've been getting rain just dumped on us here in SoCal this week, it's premature to assume the drought is over. The rain is welcome...up to a point. The mudslides it brings to areas that were burned during last year's fire season are not so welcome. The thunderstorms and tornadoes (yes, really!) that it's brought this week are unusual and quite unwelcome, especially around my house. They've actually pushed us to make a difficult decision we've been struggling with for months. I'm not ready to talk about it here yet, but I'll probably need to talk about it soon, just to help myself sort though it.

In the meantime, I may be around less than usual during the next week or so. But enough about me - what tangents are you going off on lately?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weekend/Wednesday Assignment #302: It's for Charity!

Karen's question for the current Weekend Assignment is a rather timely one, in light of the recent tragedy in Haiti and the celebrity telethon this Friday night:

Weekend Assignment #302: What charities do you donate to regularly, if any? Why or why not?

Extra Credit: Do you remember what you most recent donation was for?
I'm probably not as charitable as I should be, or could be, these days - it's fluctuated over the years. But since I've spent nearly my entire working life in the financial management of nonprofit organizations, more than half with companies that qualified as charities (organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, if you care), I have a pretty good grasp of how heavily donation revenue affects these organizations' ability to do the work they do.

If you've actually visited my blog itself lately (not just reading it through your feed reader or Facebook), you may have spotted the "Support the Haiti Disaster Relief Effort" widget in my sidebar. It links directly to the Red Cross' website for online donations to their International Response Fund. Blogger made this widget available to its users last week, and I installed it right away. The Red Cross has always been the place where I make donations to help recovery efforts after disasters. They may not be perfect at the corporate level, but I appreciate the fact that they always have trained people ready to respond quickly to natural and man-made disasters, and I'm happy to support their efforts. I will be sending $41 to them this week - that's the amount generated by the $1-per-comment-received pledge I made here last weekend, and I really want to thank everyone who pitched in for that! My family will be making a donation of our own to the Red Cross as well.

When I belonged to a church, I made regular weekly offerings, but since I don't have that outlet any more, my donations tend to be more erratic and on an as-needed or on-request basis. I also don't participate in the annual United Way campaign at work, since I'd rather give my money directly to the organizations and causes I want to help, but that's just a personal preference. (My employer does receive some support via United Way, but if I want to "give at the office," I'll actually give to the office.)

Some of the causes I support aren't necessarily the first things that come to mind as "charities." For example, I'm a sustaining "Star Member" of KCRW, one of the LA area's NPR stations, which means they automatically get $10 from me every month. I was a member of the Memphis Zoological Society for several years after I no longer worked for them (or even lived in Memphis), and I feel guilty about letting it lapse. My support for them comes from personal knowledge of what they do, and I really should get around to joining again (especially since several of their member benefits are reciprocated by other zoos). When friends have participated in fundraising activities for certain charities, such as the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life or the Komen Foundation's 3-Day Walk and Race for the Cure for breast cancer, I'll usually donate on their behalf if asked. Then I'll turn around and ask them to donate for me when I do the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk, which I do every fall, along with the rest of my family (and to which I make my own donation as well), in honor of my mother.

My husband and I may not be exactly where we'd like to be financially, but we're well aware that we're better off than a lot of people in so many ways, so if our money will help an organization or cause we believe in, we'll do our best to support them if we can. The decision to give to one charity or another can be very personal, so if you don't want to mention your favorites specifically, I totally understand, but I'd love to know your thoughts on charitable giving in general.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ten on Tuesday: The Embarrassing Music Edition

When I mentioned this week's Ten on Tuesday topic, "10 Songs You're Embarrassed You Like," to my family, I phrased it as "10 Songs You're Embarrassed to Admit You Like." My 15-year-old asked, "If they're embarrassing, why would you tell anyone?" For a long time, I would have considered that a totally reasonable question.

I've always been much more tentative about sharing musical tastes than almost anything else. I may have a hard time narrowing down my favorite books, but I'll tell you some of them if you really want to know. I don't mind telling you what foods I like best, or what movies I've watched over and over, or which TV shows I want to own on DVD.

But music's different. We tend to respond to music at a more visceral level, and it can be harder to articulate what appeals about a particular song beyond "I love that!" or "Ew, change the station!" Also, in my experience, other people are more apt to judge you based on the music you like, especially during the teen and young-adult years (I've done it. Sometimes I still do it, although I'm far from a young adult these days), and that's made me skittish about revealing my favorites. Sharing iTunes libraries with my husband-to-be was a big step for me.

I'm trying to let go of that, and as I've come into middle-adulthood, it's gotten easier. I've grown much more comfortable about reclaiming music I enjoyed before I was old enough to know I "shouldn't" like it, and I've tried to become more open to music that's outside my norm. And I've grown to accept that I have been, and will always be, uncool, so why not just admit I like what I like and get on with my life? Besides, you've probably got some musical embarrassments of your own, so hopefully you won't judge me on mine!

I'll start with a few songs no one's going to find in any music library of mine - for me, they're only meant to be listened to in the car, when I'm driving by myself and I can crank up the radio to sing along. They're all loud and unapologetically dumb, not at all in keeping with the image of myself I like to present...and I've loved them for years:

"Rock and Roll All Nite," Kiss - And party every day...(OK, I lied. This one's in the shared iTunes library, but technically it's my husband's.)

"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," AC/DC - It was a tough call between this and "You Shook Me All Night Long," but I went with this one because I think it's funnier.

"Pour Some Sugar On Me," Def Leppard - I have no defense other than the fact it's ridiculously catchy (let alone just plain ridiculous).

The 1980s were the source of many embarrassments for those of us who remember them (the hair! the makeup! the shoulder pads! Saved By the Bell!). The musical embarrassments were not only documented on record (and cassette, and later CD), but on video too, shown around the clock on MTV.

"Everybody Have Fun Tonight," Wang Chung - Everybody Wang Chung tonight! (This one's in my husband's iTunes library, but not mine.)

"Cold Hearted," Paula Abdul - If I really wanted to embarrass myself, I'd say "Opposites Attract" (the video she made with the cartoon cat), but even for this exercise I won't go that far. I actually used to do a pretty decent Paula Abdul impression, which is one indicator she's not much of a singer.

"Mickey," Toni Basil - My husband hates this song. I can't resist it - and I don't even have a cheerleading past as an excuse.

"Friends in Low Places," Garth Brooks - One of the numerous individual exceptions to my general "I don't listen to country" policy, it's another one I like because it makes me chuckle. By the time this song came around, the 1980s were pretty much over (although, as we know, they came back not too long ago).

Now the '90's are long over too, and so are the '00's, but I can still find songs I'm embarrassed to enjoy:

"Rockstar," Nickelback - It's inherently embarrassing to admit anything by this band is even tolerable, but I just think this song is kind of fun. (But not enough fun to spend $1.29 to download it, so no one's going to find this one in my iTunes library either.)

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," Beyoncé - My husband is occasionally thrown by what he finds in my iTunes library, and this was one of the more recent surprises. But I am a total sucker for a good hook, and this song has two killer ones.

"SexyBack," Justin Timberlake - I've never broken down and bought this song, but if I stumble across it on the radio, I always stick around. Again, it's the hook that brings you back, as Blues Traveler once said.

I'll give a special mention to some songs that I probably should be embarrassed to like - the collected works of "Weird Al" Yankovic. However, with no shame at all, I will cheerfully admit to being a near-lifelong fan of his.

Your turn now - don't leave me alone out here! Tell me one of your embarrassing musical favorites. I've asked you not to judge me on mine, so I won't judge you on yours either ☺.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book talk: *When Everything Changed*, by Gail Collins

Disclosures: I purchased this as an e-book to read on my Amazon Kindle. *Purchasing links in this review go through my Amazon Associates account.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins

Little, Brown and Company (2009), Hardcover/E-book (ISBN 0316059544 / 9780316059541)
Nonfiction (history/society), 480 pages

Opening Lines (from the Introduction): "On a steamy morning in the summer of 1960, Lois Rabinowitz, a 28-year-old secretary for an oil-company executive, unwittingly became the feature story of the day in New York City when she went down to traffic court to pay her boss' speeding ticket. Wearing neatly pressed slacks and a blouse, Lois hitched a ride to the courthouse with her husband of two weeks, Irving."

(from Chapter One): "In January 1960, Mademoiselle welcomed in a new decade for America's young women by urging them to be...less boring. 'Some of you dowear a cautious face,' the editors admitted. 'But are you really - cautious, unimaginative, determined to play it safe at any price?'"

Book description: When Everything Changed begins in 1960, when most American women had to get their husbands' permission to apply for a credit card. It ends in 2008 with Hillary Clinton's historic presidential campaign. This was a time of cataclysmic change, when, after four hundred years, expectations about the lives of American women were smashed in just a generation.

A comprehensive mix of oral history and Gail Collins's keen research--covering politics, fashion, popular culture, economics, sex, families, and work--When Everything Changed is the definitive book on five crucial decades of progress. The enormous strides made since 1960 include the advent of the birth control pill, the end of "Help Wanted--Male" and "Help Wanted--Female" ads, and the lifting of quotas for women in admission to medical and law schools. Gail Collins describes what has happened in every realm of women's lives, partly through the testimonies of both those who made history and those who simply made their way.

Comments: American society has changed at an amazing pace in the last fifty years, especially for women. In 1960, when Gail Collins begins the narrative of When Everything Changed, most white, middle-class women were married, stay-at-home mothers well before their thirtieth birthdays; they may have worked before they married, but their choices of acceptable careers were limited - sometimes by convention, sometimes by actual barriers to entry, including the law. It was more expected for poor women to work, even if they had children, but they were still primarily responsible for family and housekeeping as well. While the suffragists had succeeded in winning women the right to vote in 1920, progress for women in society essentially stalled after that. When it was proposed that non-discrimination on the basis of gender, as well as race, be added to the Civil Rights Act, it was essentially a joke aimed at derailing the law's passage in the first place.

The Civil Rights Act passed anyway, and together with Title IX, the legal framework was put in place for women's rights and opportunities to expand dramatically. And with that framework, women's consciousness began to expand too, and they began to question and reshape the social framework as well...ultimately, by the early 21st century, bending some of it back toward where it started.

As Jill of Fizzy Thoughts noted in her review of When Everything Changed, it's rather difficult to review this book fully, because it includes so much material. However, it's a relatively fast and very engaging read (if I'd had more time to spend with it, I'd have finished it sooner). There are some topics and people on which I'd have liked to spend more time, but I don't think Collins missed or shortchanged anything that really matters. The book was enlightening about so many things: the women in the civil-rights movement (whom the men wanted to keep in the background); the early triumph and ultimate defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, and its role in the rise of modern-day conservative politics (by the way, did you know that around the same time Congress originally passed the ERA, they also approved national child-care legislation? I didn't know it; if that had sustained some momentum, the lives of working moms could be so different); the perception of women as portrayed in popular culture, from That Girl to Mary Tyler Moore to Clair Huxtable, and reflected back as role models. Collins' approach embodies the "personal is political" tenet of modern feminism; much of the story here is oral history, told through women's experiences. While she spends time on plenty of prominent women - Gloria Steinem, Sandra Day O'Connor, Hillary Clinton - the stories of little-known women who also spent time in the trenches and lived out the changes are equally important here.

Collins is a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, and brings her journalist's approach to the writing here - it's very straightforward and direct, with plenty of references and endnotes. I read this on my Kindle, where the endnotes are actually links - it's a much more efficient approach, and I definitely liked it better than flipping back to the end all the time.

Rating/Recommendation: 4/5

I'd highly recommend this for participants in the Women Unbound Reading Challenge - it's an outstanding overview of the myriad changes American women have experienced over the last fifty years. I'd recommend it for women of my own generation - those of us who came of age in the late 1970s and 1980s - who may have grown up thinking that some things would be different by now, and are trying to figure out just what happened. I'd also recommend it for women of the generation after ours, who may not realize just how different a lot of things used to be. And I'd recommend it to enlightened men - and men who would like to be enlightened - as well, but only if they seemed interested in the first place.

Challenge Commitments
: Women Unbound (1 of 5), RYOB Challenge 2010 (1 of 20)

Buy When Everything Changed at Amazon.com

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon.com

This is going to look a little bit like a book-related Sunday edition of Tuesday Tangents, but here goes:

The Blogging Authors Reading Project is LIVE!
It's my first hosted challenge, but you'll notice I'm not calling it a "challenge" - it's a reading project, and not a very complicated one, either. Will you join me this year in reading books by authors who blog? Check out the announcement post, and if you're in, let me know with a comment over there!

And here I go, asking for another comment - but this time, it's for a cause:
In case you missed it, this past Thursday was designated as Delurker Day across the blogiverse.
Following the lead of a couple of other bloggers, I decided to donate $1 per comment received on that day's post to the Red Cross' Haitian-earthquake relief efforts - and I'm keeping it going all weekend! Every comment this weekend - whether on the Delurker Day post, the Weekend Review, or this one - will mean another dollar to help address this crisis, so please speak up!

Just to share a couple of other things I'm excited about:

I hadn't intended to mention this yet, but I'm so looking forward to it that I can't sit on it much longer. In addition to hosting my first reading challenge, I'm also co-hosting a read-along beginning in February - my first time doing that too! My co-hosts are Heather J. from Age 30+...A Lifetime of Books and Rebecca of The Book Lady's Blog, and it's been fun planning with them. Hopefully, you'll be interested in reading  The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell along with us (re-readers and newbies welcome)! We'll be announcing the details in a few weeks, and we're allowing a couple of months for reading the book and posting about it.

On May 4, I'll be the guest on "That's How I Blog!" on Blog Talk Radio, hosted by Nicole of Linus's Blanket. The show will air live from your laptop (or desktop) at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific time; it will also be archived for later listening online, and can be downloaded as a podcast (which is how I'm catching up on earlier shows). We'll be chatting about books, blogging, and whatever other topics Nicole and the folks in the chat room decide to ask about. We'll also have a 20-Minute Book Club. I'll mention it again when it gets closer, but couldn't keep myself from telling you now!

BOOKKEEPING: The Reading Status Report

Next reviews scheduled
When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, by Gail Collins (Women Unbound Challenge) (yeah, I FINALLY finished it!)
Shanghai Girls: A Novel, by Lisa See (TLC Book Tours)

New to my LibraryThing "To Read" collection:
The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister
Life After Genius, by M. Ann Jacoby

New additions to the Wishlist:
Here Lies Arthur, by Philip Reeve (feeding an old, dormant interest)

BOOKMARKS: Reading-related Reading

It's happening on May 28, and I won't be there - but will you? Registration is open for the Book Blogger Convention, to be held in New York City just after Book Expo American ends. What's it all about? The FAQ page tells all!

Lisa of Books on the Brain has posted the results of her own informal survey about reading challenges - have you weighed in on them yet?

Amy's question of the week: Why do you - or don't you - read dystopian fiction?

Jen Forbus at Jen's Book Thoughts is looking for bloggers to participate in her first-ever Theme Week: "Detectives Around the World."

A nice overview of the changes in the book world - reading, publishing, blogging, etc. - over the last decade

The right book at the right time, and other things: what are your reading peculiarities? Somewhat related: buying books you know you'll have no time to read

Happy reading this week!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Week-End Review: This week around the blogiverse

$$ Delurking and Donating - Keeping it Going! $$

While I was soliciting comments here on Delurker Day, I also managed to do some delurking of my own, dropping more comments than I do most days. (To be honest, there are many times I'll share a link to a post, here or on Twitter, instead of commenting, because I'm either busy or lazy.) Here are some stats on the visits I made as of 7 PM last night:

Blogs where I commented for the first time: 6
Blogs where I have occasionally commented, or haven't commented for a while: 21
Blogs where I comment semi-regularly: 3

Following the lead of a couple of other bloggers on Delurker Day, I decided to donate $1 per comment received to the Red Cross' Haitian-earthquake relief efforts - and I'm going to keep it going all weekend! If you didn't delurk yesterday, please do it today, or tomorrow, or Sunday, on the Delurker Day post - that's where it'll count for cash! (Of course, I always appreciate - and respond to - comments on any post, any time, any day!)

Also, if you'd like to make a your own donation to the Red Cross, I've installed an official Blogger widget in the sidebar of the blog that will make it very easy for you.

New Arrivals in my Google Reader

Watch this space! As I mentioned in my Bloggiesta wrap-up, I have begun adding new blogs to a special "trial" folder in Google Reader. Once I've had a few weeks to get to know them, I'll decide if they're keepers - and if they are, that's when I'll mention them here.

Dispatches: Links of the Week

Life's more interesting when parents and kids are interested in each others' activities, but sometimes it's easier when the kids aren't so interested in what you're doing

Feeling that you're where you belong (or belong where you are); or, contentment is underrated

Speaking of being where you belong: have you ever felt that your blog isn't really your place anymore, and you're not free to say what you really want to? (That's when it's good to have blog friends who'll let you guest-post it at their place.)

And now, a few links from the lighter side:
How cute is your pet? Enter him or her in A Novel Menagerie's 2nd annual "My Beautiful Baby" Contest - send in the picture that will get the votes! (But if I decide to enter my Gypsy again, your pet won't be getting my vote - sorry, but that's just the way it is!)

Well, I finally know what to call the fake name I use at Starbucks - my "chai-dentity"! The term was coined by my friend Anna Lefler and was recently accepted by UrbanDictionary.com - check out the entry and give this new word a thumbs-up!

Who needs teeth anyway? Rot 'em right out of your head with Cupcake Pebbles and cotton-candy pudding! Also food-related: the Lost characters make sandwiches

Blogthings Quiz of the Week

You Are Most at Home in the Living Room

You're the type of person who always feels relaxed at home. In many ways, it's where you're at your best.
You love to chill out at home. You are not the biggest homebody in the world, but you appreciate the time you spend there.

There's nothing like having a few friends over to watch a movie or just talk in your living room.
You are proud of the home you've created, and you love to share it with others.

I'll probably be in the living room a bit during this three-day weekend - where will you be?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

See you, hear you - Weekend Assignment meets DELURKER DAY! (Updated)

It seems somehow appropriate to be posting my response to Karen's latest Weekend Assignment on Delurker Day. Her question concerns seeing and hearing, and since I especially want to see and hear from y'all today, it's perfect timing!

****UPDATE: There's a new widget in my sidebar for donations to the Red Cross Haitian-earthquake relief effort. Inspired by some other bloggers, notably Nenette at Life Candy, I will donate $1 per comment on this post to Haitian relief - I hope that encourages even more delurking today! (And if you'd like to make a donation of your own, feel free to go through that widget.)****

Weekend Assignment #301: Which are you more satisfied with, your eyes or your ears? Why?

Extra Credit: Which would be easier for you, being nearly blind or nearly deaf?

I've talked about my eyesight around here before, haven't I? I can't imagine that I haven't, but since I can't find a link, I'll go with the short version.

I have been told by several eye doctors that I have the worst uncorrected vision they have ever seen.(no pun intended). (Trust me, there's an award you don't want.) I began wearing glasses when I was just three years old. I switched to contacts at 18, but since it's now established that contact lenses can slow the progress of nearsightedness in kids and adolescents - because the corrective lens is placed directly on the eye - I wonder if I should have changed sooner. Then again, since I also have astigmatism, I had to wait for a lens that could handle that along with the myopia, so I'm not sure starting with contacts earlier was even an option, back in those long-ago 1970s.

In any case, my eyes have reached the point where glasses don't provide strong enough vision correction; unless I have corrective surgery (which will require lens implantation, since I'm not a LASIK candidate), I must wear contact lenses. However, for the last several years, I've needed to top them off with non-prescription reading glasses - thank you, 40th birthday!

Given that sad history, I guess I'd have to say I'm more satisfied with my ears, if only by default. My hearing isn't too bad (yet!), although static, background noise, bad cell-phone connections, and poor enunciation make it hard to always understand what I hear. (To be honest, sometimes I don't completely tune in, either, especially if I'm already having trouble understanding because of one of the other factors I mentioned. However, I think that's a mental thing, not necessarily a hearing thing.) Besides, they're fairly small and cute, and I'm glad I finally got up the nerve to get them pierced last year (yes, at the advanced age of 44!); I like being able to wear earrings now.

As far as the extra credit goes, I guess that being nearly blind would be "easier" for me, since I'm already used to being visually impaired. And even though I'd really rather keep what vision I  do have, I think I'd prefer losing it to going deaf. After all, I could always switch to audiobooks if I couldn't read printed ones...

So, if you had to pick just one, which would it be - seeing or hearing? Since today is officially Delurker Day across the blogiverse (many thanks to Chris at Rude Cactus for the heads-up on that!), I would especially like to SEE and HEAR your comments today! If you don't have any particular opinions on this topic, that's fine - just say hello, or ask a question, or tell me a random fact about yourself. This is all about the blog readers, so please make your presence known wherever you go in blogiverse today - comment, comment, comment!

Delurker Day
badge by Aimee Greeblemonkey

photos via stock.xchng - NOT my eyes and ear!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Announcing my first hosted reading challenge: The Blogging Authors Reading Project

I am going ahead with my first original reading challenge, and I'd like to invite you to join me! However, because so many of us have stated that we couldn't possibly join another challenge this year, I'm calling it a "Reading Project" instead.

The Blogging Authors Reading Project is pretty much what it sounds like: reading books by authors whose blogs you also read. In some cases, I read one of the author's books first and then learned he or she had a blog, which I checked out and liked enough to follow; I've come to know others as bloggers first, and then sought out their books. Such books are becoming a notable chunk of my TBR collection, and I'd like to make some headway with them this year.

Since this is my first hosted challenge, I'll make it pretty simple:
  • Go through your blog subscriptions, feed reader, or bookmarks, and note which of the blogs you read regularly are written by published authors.
  • Check your TBR collection and/or wish list to see if you have unread books by any of those authors.
  • Commit to reading a certain percentage (not number) of those books by December 31, 2010.
  • Your reading list should be based on the author blogs you read and books you have at the time you sign up for the challenge, with one exception (see below*). You may find new author blogs during the year - I'm sure I will. The authors whose blogs you read may publish new books during 2010 - I know at least a couple of my own blogging authors have books coming out this year. While you're more than welcome to read those blogs and books, they will not count toward your challenge commitment - otherwise, you'd have to revise that throughout the year. (I had to draw a line for myself, so it will apply to other participants too!)
  • Crossover with other challenges is allowed and encouraged!
The authors whose blogs and books you include in the challenge are totally up to you, but here's my own list of candidates, from the blogs on my "author blogs" blogroll:

The Bright Side of Disaster and Get Lucky, both by Katherine Center
Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life, by Quinn Cummings
Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? And Other Question I Wish I Never Had to Ask, by Jancee Dunn
ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes, Year 2, by Susan Helene Gottfried
Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
Janeology, by Karen Harrington
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (on Kindle)
Nothing but Ghosts and Undercover, both by Beth Kephart
Bitter Is the New Black; Bright Lights, Big Ass; and Such a Pretty Fat, all by Jen Lancaster
Outtakes from a Marriage, by Ann Leary
Zoe's Tale, by John Scalzi
Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner

I'd love to say I'll read every one of these books before the end of the year, but I'll set my goal at 70% (12 out of 17 books listed). Since some of them will be options for other challenges I'm doing - they'll all count for the Read Your Own Books Challenge, for example, and several will qualify for the Memorable Memoirs Challenge as well - I think that goal might not be too far-fetched.

*The one exception to the "books on hand" rule is this: the rockin'-in-every-way Susan Helene Gottfried has offered a free e-book of her latest Demo Tapes to participants in the Blogging Authors Reading Project. If you'd like one, mention it in comments when you sign up!

Speaking of signing up...I really hope you will! I'll be doing this anyway, but I'd love to have company. I'm not setting up a Mr Linky yet, so if you're in, here's what to do: Make a sign-up post on your own blog, link back to this post within it, and come back here to leave me a comment. (If you don't have your own blog, just leave me a comment.) And if you have any questions about the Blogging Authors Reading Project, please leave those in the comments here too - I'll answer them in the same place.

UPDATE: I've created the Twitter hashtag #bloggingauthors for this challenge, if anyone wants to tweet about it!