Sunday, August 24, 2008

Reader's choice update!

I need to ask you guys more questions to get more comments! (I am a comment ho!)

Here is what I am committing to write about for you sometime before Oct 1:
1) settling in in Chicago (not settling for it. It was my first choice! Way better than SoCal)
2) Writing from a distance
3) THE OLYMPICS!!! (including shout outs to my bf, Raj, how the body of a beach volleyball player is my ideal body, and deep thoughts on the differences between men and women's gymnastics)
4) post-diss plans
5) after the 1st: THE STATE FAIR, including a catalog of which stick bearing foods were eaten by me, and which 4H projects were most impressive.

Here is what I will write if I can find the creativity: haiku inspired by Raj Bhavsar (I can't get the syllables right. Seriously, I've been trying. I'm not sure haiku is my medium. Shall I try a different type of formal poetry? A rondel?) and a summary of my and Topher's reality show, "So you think you can science?" Maybe we can collaborate on that, Topher?


63. The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble
Nice, light read about a group of British women who form a reading group. Most of them don't really know each other before the group and they are of different ages and classes, but they become close as the group goes on throughout the year and they all go through different life stages. I liked the characters and the book was a good read. I might have gotten more out of it if I had read more of the books the group read, as they seemed to parallel somewhat the events in the women's lives.

64. The Man I Should Have Married by Pamela Redmond Satran
This was a kind of romance novel. A woman in suburban New Jersey gets divorced and runs into a man she'd kind of had a thing with in the past. Basically the woman has to decide if her old love changed from who he was, if she wants security or excitement. It was on ok book but not really well written and although I read it recently it didn't make a big impression on me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reader's choice

First, I have been wanting a new header for a long time. I don't think it is totally right yet, but I will work on it. I am hoping to change the look of the blog a little, hopefully I won't wreck everything.

Second, I am not feeling blogging inspired lately. I have been doing a lot of writing for he dissertation, so I think that is where my dissertation energy goes. So here is my offer to you: tell me what to write about! Leave a comment telling me what you want to read about and I will pick at least 4 (if I get that many responses) to write on. Maybe I will pick more if this lack of inspiration continues!

edit: looks like I changed the whole template! Hope you like it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I am really behind, so here is an attempt to catch up some.

60. Turning Thirty by Mike Gayle
This is a kind of men's chick lit. That is, the audience is clearly women but the author is a man, the main character is a man and the book is about his romantic travails as he turns thirty. The cover even looks like standard chick lit. I heard that this was part of a foray into "lad lit" that maybe didn't quite take off? Anyway, the main character was engaging and it was a fun, light read. I would definitely read more by this author.

61. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
I have not totally bought into the Obama hype. I have not drank the Obama kool-aid. For me, all Democrats are too conservative and I don't like the two party system. The beginning of this book almost sucked me in, though. I found Obama's honesty about the problems in our political system/country refreshing. I also really like his self-awareness of how becoming a senator can lead into this cycle of only hanging out with the rich and powerful, and how that is easy to get sucked into. I found the first part of the book inspiring, but the latter part let me down a little. In the second half (ish) Obama talks about the main issues facing America and how to fix them. I appreciate that he seems comfortable with recommending new ideas that might go against general Democratic ideas (he is for federal funding for faith-based programs, for example) and also says we need to be willing to experiment to figure out how to solve problems. He also often says he does not have a pat solution to these problems. I think this is good as it is probably more realistic -- why should any one guy be able to solve the country's problems with education? But sometimes feels like a cop-out. This book is definitely worth a read to figure out more about where Obama is coming from, and it made me happier to vote for him (despite my problems with the dems, I definitely like them more than republicans!) but still left me wanting a little more. Oh, at the very least, though, people should read the section on race which I think treats the issue in a really smart and nuanced way, similar to Obama's speech after the whole Reverend Wright thing.

62. Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America by Andrew F. Smith
R got me this book (it was on clearance for $1!) due to my insane love of popcorn. It was full of interesting trivia, although not at all well-written. I really don't recommend this book unless you want a lot of random popcorn trivia and to be made very hungry.

Friday, August 15, 2008

PhD Comics

What you know vs how much you know about it

Tales of the Bus

So I get to ride the bus two days a week for my teaching jobs. It is actually not bad although I will confess to being a transit snob and enjoying the subway/train more than the bus in general. I have to walk about 10 minutes to this bus stop, but once there I have two express buses to choose from. I took the bus Wednesday which started well, it was not crowded, I had a seat next to a non-smelly person and we were on our way. Until we stopped at a bus stop and did not go again. Slowly, passengers started to notice the lack of engine noises and that the driver seemed to be turning the key again and again with nothing happening. Then she got on her phone and left the bus to look at something under the hood. At about this point we all started getting off the bus. Everyone was quite chipper, despite the inconvenience and the driver was super friendly and said she would put us on the next bus, but that it was small. She also complained about how she asked at the garage "for a good bus" and clearly was not given one. The new bus came and some people got on, but it was already small and full. I had no schedule so I waited around for another bus, which came soon after and was spacious. I also learned from this experience that if your bus breaks down the bus driver has pre-printed passes she can sign for you to take to work to prove you are late because of the bus. Awesome!

The second bus was empty so I got a seat again. There was a crazy woman on this bus, who kept screaming "Drew Pearson is dead!" in a scary exorcist voice, but other than that she was very friendly and smiled at everyone. She also spoke about how she was altruistic, but I didn't catch most of that sentence. In the end I made it to my destination just 10 minutes later than planned and I was super impressed with the friendliness and cheerfulness of my fellow bus riders in the face of the bus breakdown and the crazy lady. I think I'll leave extra early on days I teach, though, in case of further delays.

Monday, August 11, 2008


59. The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
This is another Young Adult novel by James Patterson. You may remember that about a year ago I read another YA book by Patterson, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. I liked Daniel X more than the other book as it was much more well-written. This book is basically the story of Daniel X, a 15 year old boy who goes around hunting dangerous aliens living here on earth. Like I mentioned in my review of Maximum Ride, though, there were a lot of pop-culture references that bothered me. I am really wary of this in books, as I think it is unlikely that in 10 or even 5 years a reader will know who Shia LeBouef is. I just think references like that become dated quickly, and stick out like a sore thumb.

Anyway, back to the book. A lot of the promotional stuff for this book talks about how boys read less than girls, and boys don't read because they find it "too boring". Patterson states that the purpose of this series is to get boys interested in reading and to this end the book is action-packed and has short chapters. That is all true. The book is very action packed, the main character is really likable and the story moves fast. I didn't particularly notice the short chapters, but as I mostly grab my reading time now in short spurts, I do love a short chapter. The book itself is fun and worth a read for anyone.

That all said, there were two things that troubled me here. The first issue has to do with the book itself and don't worry, it's on the back so it is not a spoiler. Daniel's parents are killed very early in a very violent way and this made me uncomfortable. I know Daniel needed to be alone in order for the story to work, but I think the violence of it went overboard. Also, Daniel says it bothers him, of course, but I never feel that emotion. Maybe this will come out more in later books, but I felt the trauma of the parents' death was alluded to and mentioned, but never dealt with.

My second issue has to do with the boys don't read because books are boring message put out by the promotional stuff. I think it is a good thing that Patterson wants to interest boys in reading. However I am not sure the boringness of books is really the problem. I feel like there are plenty of action oriented books out there. Also I did an informal poll of my male friends who read to see if they had read as kids, and if the boringness or not of books was a factor. All my male friends read as kids, but they felt like they learned to appreciate reading from their families. That is, reading was valued by their parents and/or siblings and so they did it too. This book might get a few non-readers to try reading, but I am not sure it will solve the problem on its own. It seems to me like a band-aid for a deeper issue.

Anyway, that is my thoughts on that. Go ahead and read this book for a fun read with aliens and alien-hunting. I think any young adult aged reader would probably enjoy this book, boy or girl. But I don't think it is suddenly going to start all (or many, or most) male non-readers reading.

This is a MotherTalk sponsored review (that means I got a free copy of the book).

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Hey! We got the internet! We are in Chicago! I love exclamation points!

So, as I said before all is well and our apartment is great. We had an ok drive here, although I do not recommend driving 500 miles the day after you pack a big truck in the July heat. The NJ-OH day was a little tough. The cats did really well, even Pass who on the last move apparently gave up on life and just awaited his death. This time he was definitely angry, but I think he knew he was not in danger of death. We still do not have a dresser but two IKEA shelves are filling in well. We also still do not have a couch but my brother provided use with a recliner so now we have two comfy chairs, buying us time to stalk craigslist for the perfect $50 couch.

Other than unpacking and exploring I've been busy with dissertating. I am really hoping to have a complete draft by Sept. 1, but it may be an impossible dream. I've also been digging up teaching jobs. I have two, at two different schools that are luckily not far from each other and accessible by the bus. I would love one more and the CVs are out, but we will see.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It Lives!

I am alive, R is alive, the cats are alive. We made it to Chicago and took possession of an AWESOME apartment. All it lacks is a dresser, a couch and the internet. Indeed, we will not get the internets until Aug 11 at the earliest. So, dear readers, you will have to soldier on mostly without me. I plan on hitting our local wifi coffee shop daily (our new neighborhood is even more awesome than our apartment) but I need to use the time for job hunting and mapquesting of furniture stores, so don't expect too much for awhile.