29 February 2008


just because book memes are fun (look for another one in a day or two). and because i don't really feel like grading at the moment.

to join in the fun, copy the list and then:

Bold the ones you’ve read,

italicize the ones you want to read,
cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole,
put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf,
and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. +Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. +To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind(Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien)
8. +Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. *A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. +Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. +Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. +Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)
17. *Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. +Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
20. +Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
22. +The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. +Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. +The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. +Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. +Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. +East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. +Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. +1984 (George Orwell)
35. *The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. *The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. *I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. *The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. *The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. +The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. +Bible
46. +Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. +The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. +The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. +A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
53. +Ender's Game(Orson Scott Card)
54. +Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
55. +The Great Gatsby (Scott Fitzgerald)
56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. +Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. +The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. +Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. +The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy) {i read half of it, anyway; and that's got to count for something with a 1500 page book.}
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. +One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. +Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
70. +The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. +Bridget Jones' Diary (Helen Fielding)
72. +Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. *The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. +A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. *The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)
83. +Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. +Emma (Jane Austen)
86. +Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. +Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. *The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. *Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. *In the Skin of a Lion (Michael Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. +The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. +Ulysses (James Joyce)

27 February 2008


so i've been swing dancing for three months now. and i'm still loving it. so much that i'm at atomic three or four times a week either taking classes or social dancing. i've learned so much that it often becomes a jumble in my head. and now i'm learning to lead, too. why not throw another challenge in the mix?

but i'm not writing just to update you on my swing dancing progress. i'm writing to invite you to support a fundraising event atomic ballroom is sponsoring--the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon. in its first year, this event raised about $50,000 for City of Hope, one of america's best hospitals for cancer. last year (the dance-a-thon's second year), it raised $100,000. this year they hope to raise $150,000. all profit goes directly to the hospital. and the venue and all of the entertainers, instructors, and organizers are offering their services free, so the vast majority of the money raised will be profit.

i'll be dancing in the dance-a-thon. i'm asking you to make a donation if you're interested. any little bit will help--$5, $10--whatever you can spare. to make a donation, visit my page at the dance-a-thon and scroll to the bottom of the page until you see the yellow "donate" button. designate an amount for your donation (you don't have to donate $100), write a dedication if you'd like to, and click the "donate" button. you'll be prompted to provide your credit card info, etc.

if you'd like additional info, leave a comment with your email address and i'll send you more info. and if you're in the area (southern california) and would like to come dance, do!

thanks for your help in supporting a great cause!

21 February 2008


apparently barack obama is the perfect boyfriend. just look here and you'll see what i mean.

he wanted me to have some cupcakes. and he gave me chocolates. and carried my bookbag. and picked me up at the airport. and lent me his coat. all of which j(wh) has done for me. (at least i assume j(wh) wants me to have cupcakes since he knows i love them.) and j(wh) is the most perfect boyfriend i've ever had (please forgive the sap).

but you know--j(wh) hasn't folded me an origami crane yet and barack has. nor has he built me a robot (although he owns one). and barack has. apparently barack edges out j(wh) in terms of perfect boyfriend-ness. which is precisely why we should all vote for him. don't you want the president of the most powerful nation in the world to be perfect boyfriend material?

19 February 2008


just read this, also on slate's the XX factor. it's a nice accompaniment to my post from last night. i'm all for recognizing the realities of sexism and naming them openly so we can try to change our society. but identifying sexism with such imaginative license? i couldn't agree more with melinda henneberger that it does far more harm than good--both by detracting from very real problems and by reinforcing stereotypes that lead moderates and conservatives to dismiss feminists as ridiculous.

18 February 2008


i didn't follow last week's brouhaha over david shuster using the phrase "pimped out" to describe chelsea clinton calling superdelegates on behalf of her mother's campaign. i heard enough to know there was a brouhaha. and to know that hillary clinton threatened to not participate in the next debate NBC (shuster's network) sponsored and that the campaign called on NBC to fire shuster. but honestly, i think stories like this get overplayed.

i have encountered a bit of talk about it in the blogosphere. some people defending shuster. some praising clinton for her strong response. but what got me thinking about this long enough to actually care was a couple of posts at slate's blog, the XX factor. in his guest post at the blog, daniel gross briefly documents the clintons' long history of forgiving, including hillary clinton's forgiveness of her husband's philandering (for which i've heard other women criticize her). and then he asks why the clinton campaign would reject shuster's apology and suspension as sufficient recompense for his ill-advised choice of words on-air.

i found the post interesting, but i found gross's explanation (clinton is currently sliding; she's losing to obama; she's hurting financially) insufficient. the question itself was provocative. it seems to me that clinton has played the 'woman-as-victim' card on occasion and this seemed another such moment. stir the outrage. rile up the female vote. point to all the good ol' boys and how they couldn't possibly treat a woman fairly.

now i recognize that sexism remains a problem. and i see how sexism has colored responses to clinton's campaign. but i just don't believe that playing the victim is the best response. or even a productive response. i think strength and competence and intelligence and graciousness are much better responses. the moral high ground.

i think a couple of the XX factor's regular bloggers offer more interesting, if slightly tangential, answers to gross's question about the clinton campaign failing to "forgive" david shuster. clinton has siezed the opportunity for a little emotional blackmail--either of the female vote or of the sensitive aught guys (who are of course stereotypically liberal). and i really think there is an effort to "slap around" the female vote to make women feel like they must vote for clinton simply because she's female.

of course clinton's campaign has not wholly been a manipulative emotional appeal to women (and sensitive aught guys). no one could win with such a campaign. and i appreciate the good things about clinton. but i get frustrated by the attitudes i've seen about the "historic" competition between the first woman candidate and the first black candidate for president. yes. it's historic. i think it's fantastic. but beyond that it means very little when it comes time to walk into a polling booth. because identity politics should have little--if anything--to do with voting. to say that i should vote for clinton because the two of us both have vaginas is as sexist and backwards as saying men should vote for obama because they all have testicles.

14 February 2008


i have a real problem. i don't feed myself. not properly. a typical morning goes like this:
  • wake up
  • putter around for a while essentially accomplishing little to nothing
  • shower, hair, teeth, etc.
  • listen to NPR (while doing all of the above)
  • panic when i realize i have less time left than i thought to plan a lesson (or do whatever other pressing thing needs to be done)
  • leave home in a flurry of bags and books (i almost always have two and often three or four bags slung over my shoulder when i walk out the door; my neighbors laugh at me for this)
notice anything missing? i eat breakfast before leaving home maybe once or twice a week. and i almost never pack a lunch in one of my copious bags. sometimes i have the time to actually buy something that resembles breakfast. of course, it usually involves unhealthy food--cheese, lots of eggs, bacon, lots of white bread, or all of the above. sometimes it's just a candy bar from a vending machine. and lunch? occasionally i walk across the street from campus and get a salad at the veggie grille. but usually it's fast food. pizza. burrito. burger. fried chicken. soda. fat. greasy. nasty. i don't like the way it makes me feel to eat like that. unclean. hyped on caffeine and sugar. loaded down.

worst of all? when i don't feed myself, i get cranky. and unproductive. and discouraged. it's not only physically unhealthy that i don't feed myself better--it's also psychologically and emotionally unhealthy.

on days when i don't eat, i find myself four hours after a normal breakfast time needing to eat but not able to decide on food. and when i think about the easy, fast alternatives, their grease content depresses me and makes me not want to eat them. so i procrastinate eating even longer. but i know that when i finally do eat, i feel better. almost immediately. so eventually i cave and eat the nasty food.

here's my challenge: i need to eat. but i need ideas of what to eat that's relatively easy and relatively fast (because time and effort are the most common reasons i don't eat in the first place) and relatively healthy. so if you've got ideas, i'd love to hear them. recipes. ingredients that are good to keep on hand. lunch food that packs easily in a paper bag or a lunch cooler. things i can eat easily in the car or on the go. because really--at 32 i should be able to feed myself, don't you think?


and seven. because for valentine's day, you get two kooser treasures.

Screech Owl

All night each reedy whinny
from a bird no bigger than a heart
flies out of a tall black pine
and, in a breath, is taken away
by the stars. Yet, with small hope
from the center of darkness
it calls out again and again.

This Paper Boat

Carefully placed upon the future,
it tips from the breeze and skims away,
frail thing of words, this valentine,
so far to sail. And if you find it
caught in the reeds, its message blurred,
the thought that you are holding it
a moment is enough for me.

i love these two. because i've spent so much of my life hoping for love. and no matter how much that hope seemed to simply disappear in darkness, i never lost it. and because loving feels like sending something fragile out into the world, knowing it could so easily be tattered and torn. but also knowing that if it's received, it's enough. even if it's no longer what you thought it should be when you sent it out. it's more beautiful when i let it be without trying to fit it to 'shoulds' and 'oughts.'

13 February 2008


The Bluet

Of all the flowers, the bluet has
the sweetest name, two syllables
that form on the lips, then fall
with a tiny, raindrop splash
into a suddenly bluer morning.

I offer you mornings like that,
fragrant with tiny blue blossoms--
each with four petals, each with a star
at its heart. I would give you whole fields
of wild perfume if only

you could be mine, if you were not--
like the foolish bluet (also called
Innocence)--always holding your face
to the fickle, careless, fly-by kiss
of the Clouded Sulphur Butterfly.

what a dilemma--the whimsy of a butterfly or the lure of fragrant flowers. i admit--i could be distracted momentarily by the butterfly. but mornings full of scents i love bring peace. i think i'd choose the bluet morning...


j(wh) is not alone in his concern for the wellbeing of muppets everywhere. apparently they've not only been skinned to make slippers, but also to make inexplicable clothing. j(wh) recently sent me a link to this:
in the blogpost that accompanies the image, jessica comments:

"It seems like as soon as I asked the internet about the whereabouts of Mischa Barton, she appeared all over the place and on the cover of everything.

Sadly, it seems as though she's been using her downtime to do something unspeakable to Oscar the Grouch, not even giving him the honor of being an entire coat, but simply making him into sleeves. As a huge fan of the seminal tune 'I Love Trash,' -- truly, it's neck and neck with 'Rubber Ducky' as the best Sesame Street song ever, in my opinion, with honorable mention going to 'C Is For Cookie,' I wonder if PETA has a Muppet Division?"

if oscar the grouch is not safe, what is the world coming to? he can't even be accused of being annoyingly cute and lovable...

12 February 2008


In the Alley

In the alley behind the florist's shop,
a huge white garbage truck was parked and idling.
In a cloud of exhaust, two men in coveralls
and stocking caps, their noses dripping,
were picking through the florist's dumpster
and each had selected a fistful of roses.

As I walked past, they gave me a furtive,
conspiratorial nod, perhaps sensing
that I, too (though in my business suit and tie)
am a devotee of garbage--an aficianado
of the wilted, the shopworn, and the free--
and that I had for days been searching
beneath the heaps of worn-out, faded words
to find this brief bouquet for you.

i wish i could make such beautiful bouqets out of words.

11 February 2008


In a Light Late-Winter Wind

In a light late-winter wind
the oak trees are scattering valentines
over the snow--dark red
like the deep-running, veinous blood
of the married, returning
again and again to the steady heart.

This leaf is yours, friend,
picked from the heart-shaped hoofprint
of a deer. She stood here
under the apple tree during the night,
kicking up sweetness, her great eyes
watching the sleeping house.

i love watching leaves fall--drifting aimlessly towards the ground and then, sometimes, catching an updraft and dancing back toward their homes before succumbing to gravity again. and i love that kooser has turned them into little tokens of love.

10 February 2008


another treasure from ted kooser's book of valentine poems:

Chocolate Checkers

In a tiny green park, chopped out
of a corner of Commerce, I saw
two men in rags with their backpacks
lying beside them. Red nose to red nose
and old boots toe to toe, they were
playing a game of chocolate checkers,
using candy for pieces, and eating
the pieces they'd won from each other
and laughing like crazy.
It was Commerce
who'd given this park to the city,
and Commerce looked on--the bank
and the telephone company
standing behind mirrored windows,
disapproving--not of chocolate checkers,
per se, but of that kind of people,
laughing and playing with candy
on an imported Italian marble table
with neatly set black-and-white tiles.

09 February 2008


a couple years ago, my friend pam told me about then poet laureate ted kooser's valentine poems. a simple poem written and mailed each year for valentine's day. i helped her find a handful of his poems online and was struck by their earthy simplicity. so when i saw a collection of his poems titled simply valentines during one of my many visits to a bookstore, i picked it up. i immediately fell in love with the first poem. today i bought myself the book, after having picked it up longingly at least half a dozen times. here's the first poem:

Pocket Poem

If this comes creased and creased again and soiled
as if I'd opened it a thousand times
to see if what I'd written here was right,
it's all because I looked too long for you
to put it in your pocket. Midnight says
the little gifts of loneliness come wrapped
by nervous fingers. What I wanted this
to say was that I want to be so close
that when you find it, it is warm from me.

i loved it so much that i wanted to share.

08 February 2008


these are my slippers:

last night j(wh) came in when he brought me home and i made us a pot of ruby fruit tea (mmmyummy--my favorite tea). and, as i am wont to do, i took off my shoes when i got inside. but it was a bit chilly in the house, so i put my slippers on. they're new. i got them on clearance for $4. and $4 instead of $20 for a pair of fuzzy, cozy slippers covers a multitude of sins--including garish orange. i mockingly asked j(wh) if he liked my ridiculously orange slippers, to which he replied (with a snort):

"those are genuine muppet skin!"

and that is one of many reasons he's so wonderful.


sitting in jack-in-the-box. on the internet. feels very strange for a fast food restaurant to have free wireless access. i foresee future visits, though i think they'll involved more diet coke or dr. pepper than food. the food is lousy. but the internet--it's great. no matter how weird.

07 February 2008


i've toyed with the idea of giving something up for lent for several years--ever since i lived in boston. i remember walking to the T on ash wednesday and being mystified by the smudges on my fellow commuters' foreheads. although i'd grown up in southern california with lots of catholic classmates, i'd never seen (or at least never noticed) ashes on people's foreheads for ash wednesday. it took me a while, that cold february morning in boston, to make the connection between the smudges on foreheads and the beginning of lent.

i'm not much for making apparently empty sacrifices--giving up chocolate or soda or whatever simple indulgence and then returning to previous habits once you've fulfilled the barebones of the sacrifice. but i like the idea of using this kind of structured sacrifice as an opportunity for reflection and change. and if the change needed is giving up soda or sweets--that's fine by me. in fact, i could probably do with consuming less of both.

but the change i need? i need to get out of my damn bed in the morning. i'm not talking about getting up early or about not sleeping in. nor am i talking about not taking a few minutes after waking up to cat-stretch and then curl back up in my bed and enjoy its cozy warmth while i think about my day.

here's what i am talking about: when i get overwhelmed by all of the things going on in my life--things which i'm not really managing well--little things become obstacles to my acting. stupid little things. like what i'll wear. or what i'll eat for breakfast. or the fact that there's laundry piled on my floor. and too often i react by laying in my bed stewing. sometimes i stew over the stupid stuff. other times i stew over the big stuff. either way it's incredibly unproductive. and it usually means i don't eat; it sometimes means i don't shower; and occasionally it means i don't make it to appointments.

obviously this is not okay. the thing is that i know if i'll just get up and take care of those little things, i'll have a good start to my day. and it will take me less time to shower, eat, and start a batch of laundry than i spend stewing. and i won't have the hunger-headache to deal with or the guilt over not getting something--anything!--done.

so for lent i'm giving up my bed--or rather the self-flagellation staying in (or getting back in) bed represents. time to simply do the things that need to get done.

05 February 2008


4:00 on super tuesday and i've just come home from voting. our polling place is at the fire station only three or four blocks from my house. i always love going there to vote. they roll up one of the big doors on the front of the station house and voters line up out onto the drive way, chatting casually as they wait their turn to step up to one of the nifty electronic voting machines, scroll their way through the ballot, and, having confirmed their vote on the paper trail, push the bright red "cast vote" button. this time there was no line. i simply signed in and walked straight into a booth to vote. and since i'd done my ballot research beforehand, it was a simple matter of choosing barack obama (non-partisan voters can vote in the democratic primary in california), checking off yes or no for each proposition, and confirming my vote.

i love the feeling i get when i vote. there's a sense of connectedness at the polling place, of strangers participating in something larger than themselves. and this election has been particularly exciting (even if i've also been particularly irritated at how early the campaigning started--i'm all for severely limiting both time and funds a candidate can spend on campaigning). part of me wants to stay tapped into the news all evening so i can follow the results, hoping that obama pulls enough delegates to keep the race competitive. another part of me is too nervous about it to follow and so doesn't want to check until the results are all in and there's a clear-cut result. i honestly can't remember ever feeling this way about a primary election and only once feeling this way about a general election (2004--curses on george w. bush!).

oddly, although i've been following the campaign rather avidly and have supported obama from the get-go, i've resisted becoming involved. my friend george is a bit disgusted with my refusal to volunteer. and i've been a little at a loss as to how to explain my resistance. i spent an evening talking it through with her, but mostly i was making excuses, never quite able to explain more clearly than that it would make me feel yucky to try to campaign on someone's behalf, no matter how much i supported him/her. that's not to say i won't talk about the candidates and the issues--i've done plenty of that. but i didn't feel okay about volunteering.

after receiving three emails from friends imploring me to vote in the last 24 hours, i understand my own reluctance better. one of those emails was a simple plea to vote. no partisan element to it. no endorsement of one candidate over another. just a request that i vote. that didn't bother me at all. i think everyone should vote. but the other two offered unsolicited advice about their candidate, mitt romney--about his strength of character; about how he has what it takes to save us from the desperate straits in which we find our nation; about doing everything in our power to get him elected. one of these authors managed to write without presuming that all of her email's recipients would agree that romney is the best candidate. the other one simply assumed that everyone receiving the message would agree that romney (i refuse to refer to him as "mitt") is the man for the job, and this in spite of the fact that this particular friend knows that i'm liberal and disagree with the kind of conservative politics romney stands for. in spite of this difference in tone, i was pretty disgusted by both emails.

i admit that part of that disgust has to do with my opinion of romney. i think the best single word to describe his character is "smarmy," rather than "good" or "trustworthy." and (much more importantly) i not only disagree with most of his approach to policy and governing, i find some of his opinions frightening in the extent to which they disregard what i consider vitally important and basic principles and rights. but my distaste for romney, his persona, and his positions, isn't the only source of my distaste for these emails. i simply don't like receiving this kind of unsought petition for my vote--one which is, moreover, premised on fairly empty platitudes about character and inflammatory rhetoric about us needing salvation and romney providing it. it's precisely this manipulative over-reliance on the rhetoric of ethos or the rhetoric of pathos (which far too often excludes the rhetoric of logos, which should be the most important) that bothers me about campaigning in general. i certainly don't want to receive it on a personal level. and i don't ever want to be a purveyor of such campaigning, no matter how much i believe in the candidate or how successful the tactics may seem.

instead, i'll join in my other friend's plea: if you haven't yet and you still have the opportunity, go vote. if you've missed your chance today, don't miss it when the general election rolls around in november. i don't care who you vote for or what you think of the various candidates running; i just care that you exercise the right so many in this world don't have.