Tag Archives: reading

2016 Reading List

23 Apr

It’s an older post I never finished, but I thought I would publish it because this might give ideas to people at home because of Coronavirus.

One of my big goals for 2016 is to read more.  Yes, textbooks and class notes, but also (and mostly) books for enjoyment and betterment.

 

Here is the big challenge list:

Click to access reading%20challenge%202016.pdf

I might stick to that, but I also have my own ideas as well.

 

Books I’m interested in trying:

-ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

-GUNS GERMS & STEELE

-KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL

-SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE

-THE HINGER GAMES

-ONCE IN A GREAT CITY:  THE STORY OF DETROIT

-THE PENTAGON’S BRAIN

-jane eyre

-lord of the flies

-a passage to india

-gullivers travels

-the absolutely true story of a part time indian

-death of a salesman

-divergent

-the godfather

-THE MAZE RUNNER

-A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM

-THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST

-OUT OF THE DUST

-THE SCARLET LETTER

-THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

-UNCLE TOMS CABIN

-atonement

-the hunger games

-the road

-kite runner

-divergent

-the help

-the shining

-into the wild

-a clockwork orange

-shutter island

-the godfather

This Weird Thing Happened to Me in 5th Grade

14 Jan

I was a teacher’s kid.  So pretty much, whatever teacher was best, my parents could request and get for me.  No problem.

The fifth grade teachers all came to my fourth grade class to introduce themselves.  It would be the first time we’d changed school buildings.  My elementary at the time only had space for K-4, then you went to the middle school for 5-8, then HS for 9-12.

There was an old gal, with a whisper of a voice.  No way did I want some soft-spoken grandma!  There was some fat lady who looked mean.  Nope.  The known best teacher in the fifth grade (who pretty much every parent requested)

came in and I instantly had a strong dislike/aversion to her.  She was in 4 inch heels.  Totally impractical, uncomfortable, and girly.  How the fuck was she supposed to watch us in the gravel at recess?  Her outfit was a form-fitting pencil skirt and suit jacket.  I instantly thought she was ridiculous.  I was like, offended, by her.  WTF?  The teacher I set my heart on looked athletic.  She had short blonde hair, wore comfortable looking sneakers, and in the Q&A portion said she loved sports.  Travis, the boy who had ended up with every same teacher I’d had from 1-4th grade enthusiastically wanted in her class.  So did I.

I knew my parents wanted me to have the best (most girly) teacher, but I insisted I wanted the sporty one.  And they let ME pick.

I was still a kid.  Not aware of fashion, oblivious of any pre-teen stuff.  I was not cool at all–that wasn’t even on my radar.  Still a baby really.

My best friend had many older siblings, so she was more interested in teenage things.  She liked makeup and wanted boobs very badly.

The teacher played music in the background of class, and I liked that.

The class held up posters to a song that went with a book we read, Bridge to Teribithia? I can’t remember exactly, but I do remember how proudly and excitedly each group raised their poster during the assigned portion of the song.

The teacher talked about going to the re-up of Woodstock Music Festival and how the people from New York had funny accents.

We read Where the Red Fern Grows and watched the movie, too.  I was disappointed the death scene wasn’t the graphic depiction we had read in the book.

She also talked about how Ellen (the sitcom of Ellen Degeneres, which was in it’s non-notorious early days) was so funny.  And that made me watch it.

My teacher’s endometriosis falls like a blanket over the entire year, touching everything.  Making a great impact.

We had silent reading what felt like a lot, and the teacher let us sit under our desks.  It felt like a fort, and I really liked that.  My best friend introduced me to magazines:  YM, Seventeen, and Teen mostly.

My class continuously went out to the track.  I’m not sure if this was normal for my teacher with every class, or if she just wasn’t feeling well a lot and took us outside to have a break.

We had substitute after substitute, and that felt like having no teacher at all.

The other kids were happy we weren’t doing that much, like they were able to get away from something.  But I like learning, and I felt a little disappointed despite the fun.

That was when you could still watch any ol’ movie in school.  I must have seen every Disney classic out in that span of time, and I must have watched The Lion King at least 5 times just in school.

I loved to write, and my teacher gave (just) me (that I know of) a blank journal that I could fill up because she noticed that I had an interest in writing poetry.  I felt special and I felt like she recognized potential in my writing.

Math had always been a struggle for me, and 5th grade was the year I really fell behind and never caught up–mostly due to so many subs and so much track-walking.

Our teacher asked my best friend and I to take flowers she had received (from her boyfriend? if I remember correctly what she said) into the empty classroom while everyone was at recess.  My best friend was nosy and initiated snooping through the teacher’s desk drawers–she had candy in there.  Though not enough that we would go unnoticed if we took some.

I put my middle finger to my eye in a covert flipping off of a particularly annoying substitute that made known I was a teacher’s kid–a label I had been trying to downplay after graduating out of the school both my parents worked at.

One day, the class was silently reading (seated at our desks) and the teacher called me up to her desk.  She was practicing her signature over and over and asked me which one looked the best.  While I was scrutinizing the names on the paper, out of the corner of my eye I could see the teacher unzipping her pants.  Remember, the whole class is in the same room, just feet away, reading silently.  I quickly pointed at whatever signature, said “that one,” and started to make a hasty retreat to my desk.  She asked, (and I’ll never forget this as long as I live) “Would you like to touch my ovary?”  I said a quick, “No thanks” and rushed back to my seat.

I don’t think she was trying to be a perv or anything like that.  I think she knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, and had an interest in science.  And she thought it might be educational?  And we were inside a room full of other kids, not obscured or private in any way.  I thought it was odd then and I think it’s super-strange today.  What was she thinking?

And I wasn’t shamed or secretive about the incident at all.  I told my best friend (a known blabber-mouth), my parents, it wasn’t something I kept quiet.  Today, that teacher would probably be fired for doing that, maybe even get hauled into court and possibly labeled a sexual offender.  But this was the 1990s and I guess everyone just thought–‘hmm, that’s weird, and maybe poor judgement…’

I mean, I have suffered no psychological damage from it or anything, so I’m glad nothing really came of it.  Though my mom is adamant that she did go talk to that teacher, and even swore at her (which doesn’t sound like something she would do), but I have zero recollection of that at all.  None.  And I feel like I would.  So I guess a conversation was had.

Mostly, I use that as a funny story to bring up that sounds far-fetched.

 

goals achieved in 2019 and goals for 2020

2 Jan

-kept up on in-a-row runs

On January 2nd, I will have run at least 1 mile every day in a row for 6 years and 1 day!  2192 days in a row!  Go me.  At this point, this one would be harder to break than follow.  So it you’re dedicated, in-a-rows really do work.  Pick one habit that’s really important to you and try it.

 

-continued making a weekly menu, grocery list, and sticking to that at the store.  And shopping at Winco.

We stuck to this pretty well, and it worked.  We just have to continue maintaining it.

-Continued to put on makeup and fix my hair every day for work.  
I wore makeup every day.  And I fix my hair!
-Drink 12 cups of water a day.
This one varies depending where I am, what I’m doing, the temperature, etc…  I have mostly been very good about drinking water.
-went to the doctor.
Did it.  Will probably have to do it again soon.  Don’t enjoy it.  Mostly because I hate logistics and having my schedule messed up.  But I need to get my Rx renewed and also find a dermatologist.
-dentist twice a year.
fail.  I need to find a new dentist now that I have a real job with real insurance.  It’s on my calendar.

-Floss daily.

I flossed 197 days last year.  53.97% of the time.  That’s just about 3.5 days per week.  I mean, I’ll take it.  Tiredness is most certainly a factor.  But hopefully it’s a little better in 2020.  I will try to get it done earlier in the day this year–that might help.

-workout at least 5 days a week.
We worked out (above and beyond the mile) 165 days last year says my Daylio app.  That’s 45% of the time, which is a lot better than I thought!  We can (and will) do better, but I’ll take nearly half of the time.  It’s built into our work day schedule, but it gets a lot harder on holidays and sometimes weekend, or when it’s very cold or hot, or the afore-mentioned appointments.  I think once we get into the routine we’ll want to do it and it will be easy to keep up.
-cook at home and meal prep on weekends to make the week easier.
Mostly.  And it sure helps a lot.  We live cheaper and make better choices when the food is waiting for us.  As I was standing at work today, I decided I need to give us more credit for this one.  It’s a lifestyle change and it’s cool that we’ve managed it a lot of the time.  I keep food ideas on my Google calendar.  Then we make a menu or what we feel like, or what a holiday or event dictates.  Then break it down into ingredients.  And that becomes the shopping list.  Which I write in the order of the layout of the store we go to so it’s fast to grab things.  Then we 98% stick to the list at the store, only putting things in the cart that are on our list.  Then we do a cooking.  And put things into split tupperwares for every day at lunch (saves money, saves calories), and put the rest in bigger tupperwares to grab throughout the week.  It takes some time but I get hangry a lot and having things at the ready keeps my decisions cheaper and healthier.
-pay off the Visa. 
I submitted double the minimum every month, but there is still money on it.  Moving and unemployment made it a little crazier than I’d like.  But it’s a work in progress.  It wasn’t for lack of trying.
-read.
Failed.  I started off with very technical 800 page book, then slogged through it.  By the time I finished I was a little burned out.  Then, all the commuting ate up my time.  And changing jobs was a whole big thing.  Etc, etc…  This next year we’re going to ease back into it by reading at least 10 min a day because that’s just 1% of my waking hours so I don’t feel overwhelmed by that.

 

Ok, so all of that.  And in 2020:

 

Save money for a car before November.

Do that by eating out and ordering in less.  Get what we can from the dollar store.  Price compare between Amazon, Walmart, and Costco when getting non-grocery items.  Do bountiful baskets to eat more produce and save money.  Use less, waste less.

 

More time for creative endeavors.

Spend 1% of waking hours doing each thing.  We’re setting the interval timer app to do 4 times of 10 minutes.  Each 10 min segment works out to 0.9% of our waking hours.  So even though I get antsy and feel like I need to be doing something “important” it is so much easier to think of it as a small portion of my day.  Makes it more manageable.  I think as we get in the groove, we can add more activities or lengthen time spent, but one thing at a time.  I just want to make a habit of including creativity into every day.

 

I might add more goals later, depending on how the ones on this list go.  And I think I’m going to do the monthly evaluation blogs again, because those really helped me keep tabs and stay accountable.

The Road review: A meandering trip to nowhere

22 Dec

Pulitzer Prize or not, I didn’t like it.

If I (wrote this) turned this in as assignment it would be marked down and handed back full of red.  Firstly, there is hardly any punctuation in the whole book.  The reader has a difficult time even determining who is saying what.  It’s distracting.  But bigger then that, the basic questions, who-what-where-when-why are not answered.  The text isn’t fleshed out.  The plot is non-existent–there’s no arc here.  Not in the story, not in there characters.  There are GRE words, but no detail.  Using big words doesn’t make something good writing.  And this is not–there I said it!

Sometimes I feel like things that are difficult to understand make people feel like they SHOULD understand them.  And people will give accolades and praise, because they feel there MUST be a deeper message, but are embarrassed they didn’t ‘get it’.  I’m looking at you “Jacob’s Ladder,” and “Lost Highway.”  Well, sometimes things don’t make complete sense, because the author didn’t do good work.  They didn’t put any pieces together.  There IS no answer.  I think this is one of those works.  It’s unfinished, but because it’s written with large words and a smooth voice, people think THEIR comprehension is the problem, not the writing.

It doesn’t tell us what caused the apocalypse–or when.

The book doesn’t say where they are, or even allude to it.  I think they’re in North America, but I really had no clues.  The man and boy speak English, so they could be nearly anywhere.  The boat has Spanish, which could be almost anywhere, but maybe Mexico, South America, Spain, or since it’s a boat, just travelers.  They are by an ocean.  We are not told any cues for which one.  Is it even a real place?  It’s a cop-out not to include this information, because in this desolate world it no longer matters.

The book doesn’t inform us the names of the characters, their ages, or their backgrounds.  Again, even if identities are stripped, and this information doesn’t matter in this bleak new situation, it’s a cop-out not to include it.  I don’t find that justification enough just to skip it–that’s lazy writing.

I’m guessing the boy is about six?  Because he still openly cries, which boys don’t do for very long, but he’s a little bit independent in that he can walk by himself.  And the man is very handy, cares about the boy, and has a will to survive, but other than that we are told very little about him.  And why is he coughing?

The superficial dealing with his mother is obviously just so the reader doesn’t wonder why she’s out of the picture, but hardly does her justice.  P.S. what kind of patriarchal book portrays a mother who would kill herself leaving her young son behind?  I don’t think very many women would do that, caring husband/father or not.  She’d either stay or euthanize the boy too.

The dialogue is sparse and stilted.  And I don’t think it’s very realistic.  Kids usually chatter on, and ask tons of questions.  I would think if you had all the time in the world, you’s do nothing but talk to each other.  But I guess it’s supposed to show how–what’s the point?

Nothing happens.  And the things that do happen, are repetitive.  They walk.  They see some sort of house/shelter/boat in the distance.  The boy is scared and doesn’t want to go.  The man goes in and looks for things in order to survive.  They come away with some meager supplies, old food, and new clothes or blankets.  They wash, eat, sleep, then walk again.  Repeat.  Who cares?  Why would the audience care?

The plot doesn’t go anywhere.  What’s the point?

I feel like this is probably one of those books you have to study in class.  The boy is supposed to represent good.  The man represents maybe humanity or survival/ingenuity or doubt of man or tenuousness of life?  The gray waves are a symbol of the bleak foreverness they are in.  The ash is destruction, nothingness, and bleak.  Is it worthwhile to persist in living?  And there are many God undertones.

I gather the subtext is more important than the story itself (which is fairly pointless).  BUT I wasn’t studying the book, didn’t have a guide, and didn’t really ‘get’ the subtext’s message.  So I didn’t love it.

I wrote the above before trying to find an analysis.  I wanted my opinions and judgments to be uncolored by “answers.”  And one of the first things I read, I’ve pasted below because I whole-heartedly agree.

 

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6288.The_Road

The Road is unsteady and repetitive–now aping Melville, now Hemingway–but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees.

In ’96, NYU Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made it so complex and full of jargon the average person wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. He wrote a conclusion that would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense.

The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of these trusted judges. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). Unlike Sokol, McCarthy didn’t do it purposefully, he just writes in an ostentatiously empty style which is safe and convenient to praise.

Many have lauded his straightforward prose, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road:

“He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods.

Then they set out down the road again.”

Simple? Yes. Precise and purposeful? Hrdlt. The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary descriptions is not straightforward, but needlessly complicated.

We’re supposed to find this simplicity profound–that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, making the old seem new, showing the importance of everyday events–but McCarthy isn’t actually changing the context, he’s just restating. There is no personality in it, no relationship to the plot, no revealing of the characters.

Perhaps it is meant to show their weariness: they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate boredom to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant.

Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville:

“The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves.”

There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. In another sentence he describes‘dead ivy’, ‘dead grass’ and ‘dead trees’ with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them ‘shrouded in a carbon fog’–which sounds like the world’s blandest cyberpunk anthology.

Another example:

“It’s snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom.”

McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville’s theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy’s is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like “There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within”.

Often, McCarthy’s gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class:

“. . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.

People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . .”

I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I’d almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov’s first law, since his awkward prose harms human ears.

Sometimes, smack in the middle of a detailed description of scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text.

One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is ‘don’t just add big words because you can’, it’s self-indulgent and doesn’t really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book–more textual flotsam for us to wade through.

The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself–it all made the book overblown and nonsensical.

It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don’t know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what ‘The Road’ was about (it was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, with a busfull of nuns hiding a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.

Without mentioning specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps up, neat and tight. It certainly bears out McCarthy’s admission on Oprah that he “had no idea where it was going”when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac.

As you may have noticed from the quotes, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn’t. The most complex mark is the a rare comma. It’s not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, either—he fills up on conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn’t bother to mark any of them.

He also doesn’t use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it’s just another snatch of ‘poetic license’, and then determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited to a ridiculous scene.

It’s not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same:

Father: Do it now.
Son: I’m scared.
Father: Just do it.
Son: Are we going to die?
Father: No.
Son: Are you sure?
Father: Yes.

Remember, you won’t get little tags so you know who’s speaking, it’ll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation:

Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (Stares off in silence)
Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (More silence)

And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense. The characters are always together, each the other’s sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another.

But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in.

At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming, punctuating every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. Cannibals and dead infants are an okay (if cliche) place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters react histrionically does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic in the first place. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your ’emotional moment’ isn’t working. It’s the literary equivalent of a laugh track.

You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world–his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan boy with an AK can see how children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one.

But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer PTSD, their reactions are more akin to angst.

Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves.

There is no joy or hope in this book–not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive.

There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness.

The Road is a canvas painted black, so it doesn’t mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no contrast, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny–but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on.

This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did.

And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children they mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism–where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them–these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people.

They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish.

And it all depresses me–which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life.

But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don’t even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist.

And that ’emotionally pure, isolated author’ is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she’s asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much insight on the topic.

Looked at in this way, it’s not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision–an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy–or any American author–to win a Nobel any time soon.

This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive–a bloated reputation will carry you only so far.

But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners–usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass put it:

“the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill”

To any genre reader, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste, the same one LeGuin has often lamented: that of the big name author slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk ‘how it’s really done’–but know nothing about the genre or its history, and just end up reinventing the wheel, producing a book that would have been tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of their lit fic critics know anything about other genres–any sort of bland rehash will feel fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look in the first place.

So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of human suffering. I couldn’t say if McCarthy’s other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any part of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn’t help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted–only proved that he no longer has anything worth saying.

“Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists … Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what’s always distinguished bad writing–flat characters, a narrative world that’s … not recognizably human, etc.–is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world … most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?”

-David Foster Wallace

 

May Goal Accountability [more of a new-goal brainstorm]

3 Jun

Now, a short break before I write about the rest of the move.  Yes–there’s a 2nd leg!  But just like I had one week to “rest” and unpack, you get one post to refresh.

Normally, this would be time to evaluate my monthly progress on my New Year’s Resolutions.  But there is a reason the statistics are against actually accomplishing those goals:  It’s difficult to write specific, reasonable ones that are pertinent at one time of the year.  And I’ve had a lot of life changes this year already, so I have to do a re-set.  That’s OK, I’ll pursue other goals.

I’m still very excited to maintain:

1.  run at least 1 mile 1st thing in the morning every day.

2.  Drink 12 cups of water a day.

splash

As for Audiology goals.  Here’s the thing–despite my 4.0 and volunteerism, experiance, and tutoring.  I am 2nd on a wait-list.  And you know what that means.  I’ve been 2nd, 7th, and 13th on veterinary wait-lists.  I’m much less starry-eyed now, so I’m taking it as a no.  But I didn’t freak out.  But I also don’t know what my plan is either. . .

2015 Aspirations (in no particular order):

-read

-Collect a minimum of 2/mo positive moments in a jar

-Floss daily and brush twice daily for an adequate time

-rekindle more romance and good feeling with Cool.  Really SHOW more love.  Be sweet = make a spontaneous gesture, do something for her, that I maybe don’t normally do.

-Make a menu, do a grocery list, grocery shop, cook.

-walk, do weights, circuits, plyo–stay active in this sedentary job.

-brainstorm my next step and long-term life goals, then create steps to achieve them.

-make time to blog

I’ll try to think of more or just refine these

Lots of Little Things

7 Jan

My future is on hold as I wait to hear from my (1) potential school. Again. And I only have 1 because the others just weren’t feasible. Either I couldn’t take my family–mate and cats (Seattle), or we couldn’t afford housing (everywhere), or there were no jobs (Idaho), or the moving expenses were too much because it was farther away (Kansas). So I’ve had to put all my eggs in one basket. Again.

But what do you do? I have to live within my finances and this is it. So I’m waiting, but trying to squeeze so many things into the time.

-Delve into my professional journals

-Prepare, plan, and PAY for the interview

-Get apprised of the general news

-Clean things out, organize, and pack

-organize school supplies and notes

-Read things I haven’t had time to finish (or start as the case may be)

-Cook

When I write it out, the list doesn’t seem overwhelming, but all those things do add up to a lot of time. So I’m trying to do lots of little things every day.  We’ll see how productive I can be.

I felt like I had more to say then this, but I guess that’s really it for now. . .  To flesh out the post, I’ll talk about what I learned about Hearing Aids and The Brain (journal article)

-Children have best results if they are implanted with their cochlear implant no later then their 1st birthday.  Cortical responses can differentiate neural signals initiated by an auditory signal from random noise.  In lay terms, Cortical Responses give information that a signal has proceeded through a device and is being interpreted by an infant’s brain.

-auditory evoked potentials can be used in pediatrics to estimate aided audibility, assess speech discrimination, and

-Hearing aids raise the sound, but also the noise-floor.  Altering signal to noise ratios can interfere w/biological codes that encode stimulus intensity level–which has implications for design of future hearing aids.

-People with hearing loss have to use working memory to understand auditory cues.

more toorrow–this article is MUCH longer than I thought.

What I Learned from My July Issue

5 Jan

As mandated by by 2015 New Years resolution, I’m trying to stay aprised of my new field. I have journals, e-mails from professional memberships, community forums of AuDs and students, and the internet to leaf through. The goal: Just to remember anything–or the gist of what the audiology field is about, what’s important, and what’s new. So here’s what I learned today:

bling h-haid

-only 20% of those who COULD benefit from hearing aids, get them.
-Those who seek treatment, wait an average of 10 years before being fitted with their first hearing aid.

-91% of adults have a cell phone, and 60% have Smartphones.
-The fastest growing demographic of Smartphone users are 55-64 years old.
-74% of people aged 65 and up have a cell phone.

To connect the phone to hearing technlogies, AuD’s should:
1] stay apprised of new technologies and be ready to answer Qs

freq inside cochlea

-over 50 OTC products claim to alleviate or cure tinnitus–none of them are FDA approved.
-AuD Tinnitus Eval
1) detailed case history
2) review current meds & side-effects
3) review diet + supplements
4) establish a timeline of any meds/nutrition changes and notice of tinnitus
5) otologic exam
6) blood work
7) comprehensive audiological eval (include otoacoustic emissions)
8) self-assessment tool for tinnitus handicap

fractal 406

This one’s short and sweet and really just getting into the routine and getting started.  I’ll post some new info periodically (at least once a week, probably more) as I learn new stuff.  This is exciting and will help prepare me for my interview–school–my career.

A Look Ahead–2015 Goals, Not Resolutions

1 Jan

Last year, having a monthly post with my goals already written out was really helpful.  I liked doing a monthly accountability check–even if it was boring for you to read.

This year, I think I’m going to have less goals, but no less important.

Gorge N1 2014

2014 Maintenance Goals–keep these going!

The key is to be specific, but not box myself in a corner.  And to be mentally prepared to do it, have a plan, and establish a routine.

A]  run at least 1 mile 1st thing in the morning every day.

B]  For school I would like to read and outline all my textbooks before school begins in the fall.  Additionally, I think it’s worth mentioning (to myself) that I want to keep up on making my flash cards and study sheets as close after class as possible–for every class.  All semester.

C]  I want to be better about collecting my positive moments in a jar (minimum of 2/mo), as well as listing (in my head) what I’m thankful for daily.  As part of this, I want to appreciate nature, love, and things I already have.  Worrying can only take up a maximum of 15 minutes/day.  EVERY day.  Also, I need to remember to do my very best, but not stress out and look for perfection.  It’s a fine line.

D]  Dental health.  Floss daily, brush twice daily for an adequate time, and find a way to make the dentist happen at least once in the next year.

2015 Aspirations (in no particular order):

#1:  Get the money.  Make it, keep it.money

a)  I would like to do the 365 day money challenge where you save a dollar +1 every week of the year.

b)  Sell a minimum of 1 item on Craigslist per month and have one yard sale.

c)  Apply for every funding opportunity at UU, and go for scholarships once I’m eligible for them.

#2:  All about the AuD.Audiogram-Familiar-Sounds

a)  read the journals, e-mails, forums–and the national news (minimum of average of 1/wk)

b)  practice and prepare for the interview (at least 1 question/wk)

c)  really follow-up on observing an AuD.  I need at least 3 hours for admission to UU, and of course it’s important that I get more.  It would also be ideal to get it in a variety of settings, but I’ll start with the minimum of 3 hours and scale the goal up from there if I can accomplish it.

#3:  Cool.Spring Finals 001

This is highly dependant on Cool’s bipolar, anxiety, and medications.  I want to be more affectionate, dare I say, sweet and less judgemental.  I will look at this as a continuum though since this is very dynamic area.  I’ll try to be one level more than the responsible that I always am then Cool’s current mood state.   I define this as:  tolerant = overlook silliness, don’t engage or poke the bear.  Affectionate = say random I love yous, introduce touching (nuff said, and you get the idea).  Sweet = make a spontaneous grand gesture, do something for her, that I maybe don’t normally like or do.  So if she’s having a terrible month, being a real jerk, irritable, mean, and lazy–I’ll try to be both responsible AND tolerant.  If we’re having an awesome month without problem, I’ll try to not only be affectionate, but go the extra mile to sweet.  So I’ll rate Cool’s behavior on a level of 1 (awful) to 3 (beautiful) and try to be tolerant, affectionate, sweet in accordance with that.  This way the goal is more in my control and works with whatever is happening to Cool.  Mental illness complicates things, but I want to rise above it.

#4:  Make a menu, do a grocery list, grocery shop, and cook. I think if I start out simple in order to establish a routine, this will go better.Easter 022

a)  I thought of the 7 easiest meals I know how to cook:   quesadillas–>tacos, spaghetti–>fancy pasta, mac & chee–>add-ins, PB&J–>grilled chee, oatmeal–>add-ins, eggs–>scramble, pigs in a blanket–>snake bites.  We can start with the easiest version, then move to the more complex as we get into the groove.  If we really find success, we can branch out with new dishes.

b)  I’d like to start with 5 days of cooking per week (with opening a can of chilli, stew, hash, soup, or bag of salad for a cheat day) and hopefully grow it to all 7.  So that takes care of the menu and helps the cooking.

c)  We can grocery shop once weekly, let’s say optimally Sunday morning, but if that’s not possible Sun-Tues (to save time).  I WANT this one, it’s just hard to make it a habit.

#5:  Prepare, but don’t stress out.Laurel's pics 026

I want to do everything in my power to set myself up for the move, for school, and excelling throughout the school year.  I want to work continuously on this one, doing at least 1 thing every week towards the future.  I’ll start with a big 3:

a)  Starting all these goals

b)  Completing my taxes and FAFSA just as soon as I receive my paperwork.

c)  Finally cleaning, organizing, and packing (pick one new area every non-work day).

d)  Then set a monthly deadline for at least one additional task.

To help me accomplish these 5 new goals and maintain the 4 older ones, I’ll do a monthly accountability post like last year and make a poster I can see daily.

Camels in Nevada

20 Jun

And yes, Joe Cool, but also the other kind was also in the state for awhile.Kidron's NV pics 063

I grew up in Dayton, and we had historic camel barns downtown.  And yet, I never really knew the story of camels in North America.  So last time I was at Walla Walla, I snatched up a book (The Last Camel Charge:  The Untold Story of America’s Desert Military Experiment, by Forrest Bryant Johnson) on the subject.  I highly reccommend the book, even though the NV history for which I purchased it was less than a chapter long–probably less than a page.

NV Feb 2010 147

Here is more or less (less) the short version of the story, copied from various (less reputable/researched) sources:

-Purchased by Jefferson Davis when he was the US Secretary of War in 1855.  He purchased 77 bactrian (two hump) and dromedary (one hump) camels in the Near East for southwest desert transport (2).

-Middle-Eastern Dromedary (1).

-Congress funded a small naval expedition which was quickly dispatched to the Arab nations along the Mediterranean. After eight months, this naval “Noah’s Ark” returned (4).

-US Camel Corps put together back in the mid 1800’s (3).

-The idea was to find alternate means of transportation in the dry and rough climate of the South Western United States. To put the plan into motion $30,000 was set aside on March 3rd, 1855. Although it took awhile traveling to the Middle East, the US eventually had 34 camels (3).

-Several handlers from the Middle East were also brought with the camels. The most famous was a Syrian named Hadji Ali, although he was called Hi Jolly. A second later shipment brought the number of US camels up to 77 (3).

-Edward F. Beale maintained the animals could haul materials for the military in the arid West. They could carry more than horse or mules, and they had a legendary ability to survive without much water (1).

-could carry 600 pounds for 30 miles in desert conditions without water (2).

-After their trial run, Beale put the camels up on his friend’s ranch, claiming that they should stay in California for future use if a war with the Mormons of Utah ever occurred. His friend, Samuel Bishop utilized the camels to haul freight on his own ranch and back and forth to Fort Tejon. The route taken to Fort Tejon passed through lands controlled by the Mojave Indians who often attacked civilian transports, but avoided any military soldiers. As Bishop was a civilian and the camel experiment currently officially a civilian experiment, no soldiers were with the camel caravans traveling from Bishop’s ranch to Fort Tejon. A large force of Mojave Indians threatened Bishop’s teamsters, forcing Bishop to order them to mount the camels and charge the attackers. The surprise charge of the teamsters on such strange beasts did in fact rout the Mojave Indians and also went down in history as probably the only camel charge in the west, which ironically was performed by civilians as opposed to the military (3).

-There are rumors of a few more experiments performed with the camels. They are attributed to the US army when it was still trying to find a use for the beasts. The first involved using the camels in an attempt to perform a pony express or “camel express”. Sadly in both the first and second attempt the camel dropped dead from exhaustion. It was determined that although the camel could carry enormous loads and travel for extended periods of time with little rest, food, or water, it was not an appropriate steed for a mailman to speedily deliver the mail, especially since its maximum speed appeared to be no faster than the mules already used to deliver the mail. In the second experiment, the army turned the camels over to a survey crew, mapping the Nevada / California border. The expedition became lost, was forced to abandon their equipment, lost their mules, and grew hopeless of ever surviving to see civilization. The camels took over the mission, led the crew back to Visalia, and saved the surveyors (3).

-The Civil War distracted the army from the experiment and the Deputy Quartermaster General for California got permission from the Secretary of War to sell off the animals.  A corral was built on the southern part of the arsenal property and all the camels were gathered from all over California to be auctioned off.  The local youngsters of Benicia earned extra money hauling water to the barns.
The 34 camels which were auctioned off brought a total of $1,495 in 1864 and were purchased by Samuel McLeneghan to haul freight to Nevada mining camps (2).

-By November 1863, the California Camels were put up for sale and purchased largely by zoos, circuses, and mining operations with a few camels going to private individuals such as Beale himself. Those camels remaining in Texas were sold off in 1865, though the government later reclaimed some of them as stolen property and then promptly released them into the desert on their own (3).

-Sam McLeneghan purchased ten of the Army’s Dromedaries for hauling supplies in the territory. Camels brought salt to mills in bothVirginia City and Austin (1).

-On his way to Virginia City with ten camels in 1864, McLeneghan stopped in Sacramento and staged a “Dromedary Race” in the city’s Agriculture Park. Some of the camels were recruited into circus acts; others were used by private freight-hauling and road construction outfits. Eventually, many of the poor beasts were abandoned in the desert, where some survived for years. Angry Wells Fargo stagecoach drivers complained of camels all the way from Lake Tahoe to Ely. Their teams panicked at every encounter with the strange, humped creatures. Even 30 years later, some wide-eyed prospector would stride into a Comstock saloon, belly up to the bar and tell the bartender of the bizarre “mirage” he had seen (4).

-They were resold again but only a few were purchased and the remaining camels were released into the desert where they startled travelers for years (2).

-In 1875, the Nevada legislature prohibited camels on public highways to safeguard horse traffic. This effectively ended the commercial use of camels (1).

-In Lyon County [my county of Dayton], if you let your camel stray, they threw you in jail for 30 days (4).

-The act was repealed in 1899 (3).

-Operators set many camels free while selling others to circuses. For decades, various people throughout the West reported seeing the wandering beasts throughout Nevada and the southwest (1).

-The last surviving camel died in 1934 in the Griffith Park Zoo in Los Angeles (2).

-Camels later assumed a different role in Nevada history and culture. In 1959, the revivedTerritorial Enterprise reported the results of a fictional camel race held in Virginia City. To the delight of residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the event as fact. The following year, actor-director John Houston, in northern Nevada for the filming of The Misfits, heard of the contest and became determined to ride in the “second annual” camel race. Virginia City held an actual competition, Houston won, and the annual camel races grew into a tradition celebrated to this day (1).

1)  http://www.onlinenevada.org/camels

2.)  http://www.beniciahistoricalmuseum.org/ArsenalHistory/arsenalhit_1860.htm

3.)  http://www.weirdca.com/location.php?location=36

4.)  http://www.thestormking.com/tahoe_nuggets/Nugget_190/nugget_190.html

 

The WHY of Resolution

9 Jun

Here, instead of May also sucked, is WHY I want to achieve each goal:

I.  WorkCI fish

I think I’m sticking to it here.  I just have to change my priorities, that’s all.  From 100% vet assistant, dedicated to a fault loyal worker, to Miss Audiology studious, family-oriented gal.  And it’s a constant decision, but I’m doing it–changing my priority over.

II.  Love

Cool is my mate and I want her to remain in my life.

A.  Support, but don’t be responsible for Cool.

-She will never learn if I always cushion the blow.  Things will never change if I don’t let them.Coolie-saurus

B.  Appreciate one thing daily.

-I easily find fault–seeing the silver lining is much harder.  And it’s important for love, longevity, not to mention Cool’s psyche that I voice the (many, many) awesome things too.

C.  Weekly massage

-It’s good for our backs.  Touch is good for a relationship.  It’s a time to relax.

D.  Cook frequently

-It can be themed.  It can be healthy (we know exactly what’s in it), and it’s cheaper than restaurants.  It brings us closer as a couple.

III.  Educationskull 2

I’m pretty frustrated that my schedule in May disallowed school.  But that just makes me all the more motivated to get on it now.  It’s so, so, so important to make this my priority, because otherwise I will be working at vet hospitals for life–which I would hate.  My job stresses me out, gives me little satisfaction, and is frustrating mostly.  I have no other marketable skills, so I need a 4.0 in order to get the AuD and have a better schedule, more routine, and mainly–the regulation the human side enjoys.  Vet techs and assistants need a union–but that’s another post.

IV.  Time

A.  Get up at 4 AM; B.  Study min of 3x/wk campus_rec UNC bears

-I just need to manage it and form a routine this summer–which circumstances have disallowed so far.  This sets the tone for all the goals and my uber-important sleep schedule.

C.  Read for pleasure daily

–  I love reading, own a lot of books, and learn a lot when I do.  Plus it’s relaxing, and requires concentration.

V.  Moneymoney

A.  Be smart about food expenses

-Ultimately, this is about the long term.  The more money I have, the more school expenses are taken care of, as well as vehicle maintenance.  And this will enable us to move to Colorado one day and do things we want to do, and live like we want to live.  So to sacrifice now will pay off down the road.

How:

A.  Don’t go in to stores or in proximity to restaurantsWalking about-July 2012 022

B.  Don’t go into public hungry

C.  Wait to make purchases–to save, work extra, or become realistic

D.  Enjoy free fun; nature

E.  Go without.  Do I NEED it?  Can I simplify?

F.  Minimize travel; keep expenses low

G.  Save at least $5 a month

–  Money adds up.  All those little stupid expenses add up–but so do all the good decisions.

VI.  ExerciseFreeStrider

Because I don’t want to be obese.  And I want to reach my mile goals, and eventually (when I can afford a pool membership and buy a bike and accessories) complete a triathlon.

VII.  Food

My nemesis.  My enjoyment in life.  This just needs to be honed to be wary of calorie uptake/expenditure and $$$.  And the how:

A.  seasonal Costco run

B.  Grocery Outlet on Sunday

1.  No Safeway ever.

C.  Prepare 1 meal in my kitchen daily.Easter 023

D.  Cook together on weekends

E.  Watch, AND manipulate calories

-Because I’m good at calculating, but not planning or changing my habits.  I want to establish good eating habits.  Especially for when my metabolism slows down and my personality is set.

VIII.  Drink

Because it’s a problem in my family and for my genetic makeup.  Because it runs counter to my goals.  It messes up my sleep patterns.  No one wants to end up “like that.”  And because you are only as old as your liver.

To accomplish it:

A.  More water

B.  Replace bad behaviors by being busy doing productive thingsLL's 28th birth-month 076

1.  Make routines around abstinence/break drinking routines

C.  Get Cool to be more supportive

D.  Drink later in the day to reduce amt

E.  Again–Change thoughts; erase routines

So in June, and for the rest of the summer I can turn over a new leaf.  And May wasn’t a total failure, because I cleaned the b’jesus out of our apartment, got my maine coon buddy, and earned cash (to fix Rusty) house-sitting.