Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reading books

My friend stonebender drew my attention to this and I am following his example.

The Big Read thinks the average adult has only read six of the top 100 books they've printed below.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read [note, I'm skipping this part]
3) Underline the books you LOVE. [why no designation for ones you hated?]
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ (if you want) so we can try and track down these people who've read only six and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

What a strange mix of classics and popular fiction (much of which won't stand the test of time in my opinion).

Thursday, June 26, 2008


The Supreme Court today held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a firearm and keep it in your home. See, e.g., Volokh Conspiracy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I am a fan

of all things ray-gun, that is. Like this!

Hat tip Deb Geisler.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Based on the evidence in my yard while I was weeding this morning, there are plenty of bees in my neighborhood. The honeysuckle and jasmine were covered in dozens of bees, and the Japanese holly was hosting a few too.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Imagine that a person is standing at the end of the block you live on, threatening to kill you. You're reasonably certain they can do it, too--they have the ability (physical strength or a weapon, or both), they're demonstrating intent by moving toward you. Are you allowed to defend yourself from this attack, and if so, how?

Imagine that a person is standing at the door to your home, ditto.

Imagine that a person attending one of your parties, who previously was behaving like an entertaining and welcome guest, suddenly threatens you. What then?

Imagine that someone you love whom you have specifically invited into your home does it. What then?

Now imagine that each of these people, instead of intentionally threatening you, is simply the unknowing carrier of a usually-fatal illness. They don't intend you any harm; they don't even know they're exposing you to risk. Any of your answers change?

What about if their illness causes permanent injury but is never fatal? What steps, if any, are you allowed to take to prevent them injuring you this way? How far might you go to keep them from causing you this injury? Say their illness would take your vision, or your right arm; something serious that results in life-long need for accommodation of this disability.

Now imagine all of these situations represent pregnancy; the fetus is threatening your life or health, instead of an independent adult. Does that change your answers? If so, why?

After all I am Scots (well, one of my g'g'grandmothers was)

The official Jewish Tartan. Approved and registered by the Scottish Tartan Authority.


That is the sound of my cow-orker making 3 cartwheels down the hall...well, 2 and a half, the thunk is her foot hitting the door in the middle of the last one. We've been gathered in the lunchroom munching on bagels (courtesy of the firm) and giving our orders for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate from the coffee shop downstairs (courtesy of the firm). Later we will order in Chinese food (on the firm) and play games (Apples to Apples, for example). The office is closing early, too.

Where is the firm? On retreat. All the attorneys are out golfing this morning, then this afternoon they will meet and talk about the business of the law firm.

Of course we do have our work, too, but we're helping each other out to get it all done by lunchtime.

I do appreciate my employers.

Learning a lesson

A friend of mine reads no fiction. None. He reads biographies, histories, textbooks. And he influences me in other areas, so I am not surprised that I am not reading any fiction books right now (this week). I'm reading three non-fiction books! I'm reading a biography, a teaching book, and a philosophy book.

Each is challenging me in different ways. Each is teaching me different things--not always what the author intended, but unintended consequences are part of life. Each is dense enough, rich enough, that I get mental dyspepsia if I read too fast or too much at once. (Well, okay, one of them I sped through in less than a day, but I am reading it again to learn it, not just achieve reading it.)

These books are making me anxious for time to write and think. I wish I had a more interruptible life so that I could stop and write about all the thoughts I'm having; it's hard to remember, later. I carry a notebook and writing utensil but I can't, for example, write while I'm driving or type up a post while I'm trying to finish transcribing a dictation tape at work--but my thinking doesn't stop.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More numbers on income class

Rich in the state of Oregon, defined as the top one-fifth annual family incomes, starts at $109,000.

For Connecticut, the top fifth starts at $144,000 per year.

For Washington DC, at $157,000 per year.

Source: Baker, Lisa, "Measuring Wealth," BRAINSTORMNW Magazine (June 2008). I have a call into the magazine asking for sources.

While these numbers don't include an explicit comparison of cost of living, I believe it is implicit in the numbers.

To a bicylist coming down the road the wrong way

What, you think that because you *can* do it, that makes it all right? We call that the power philosophy, and generally in Western civilization it's considered immoral.

Studying a text

Most of my reading is casual entertainment; I read a lot of fiction. A *lot* of fiction, maybe 2 or 3 books a week on average. Once I read a graphic novel, and it required a different skill set for interpretation than reading straight text in our usual arrangement of lines set in paragraphs, only one column per page, read top to bottom; I had to learn the conventions for reading comic books, which are partly dictated by the shapes the author and artist have made on the page (what order do you read the boxes in? What about when text or picture slops over from one box to another?), and to examine the pictures for parts of the story that weren't revealed in the text.

Reading non-fiction is again different from either of these. Sure, you can read it the way you do fiction -- at least, I can. But I don't get much out of it, I don't learn much from the text when I read it as a story. Learning is a completely different skill.

The word "learn" sounds like "leyn" to me, the word for learning the Torah and the other books of Jewish wisdom. It's more than just reading; you study the text line by line, even word by word, picking apart the possible explanations and allusions, discussing your reaction to what you've read, arguing with others reading at the same time.

I'm reading three texts right now that will benefit from this more deliberate approach. I am very excited at the possibilities of each of these three books, and I'll be writing the occasional essay about each of them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

TAB Privilege strikes again!

Apparently the City of Portland is planning a special event: closing the streets to motorized traffic in one neighborhood, on Sundays. The streets will be reserved for pedestrians and bicyclists.

I wonder whether it has occurred to the sponsors that some people with mobility issues need motorized vehicles (like the bus or a car) to get around; others with "invisible" disabilities (like asthma) can't walk for long distances. I think this is a huge waste of tax dollars.

Hat tip Jack Bog's Blog.

To the moon, Alice!

Where do you go to test vehicles for the next moon trip (2020)? Moses Lake, Washington. (That would be the state of Washington for you east coasties.)

It might not rain on the moon. Nor is there a lot of wind.
But moon dust kicked up by astronauts, rockets and rovers can damage gear, as the Apollo program showed. One of the main reasons NASA picked Moses Lake from a list of 20 potential field sites was the fact that local soils resemble those on the moon, Bluethmann said. The engineers also liked the combination of flat, open terrain and rolling dunes in the 3,000-acre off-road-vehicle park where they set up shop.

"It's got a lot of lunar qualities to it," Bluethmann said.

And you can get locally-experienced advice about what tires to use.

The vehicle was originally equipped with knobby tires, Bluethmann said. But the scientists swapped them out for smooth versions at the suggestion of a local farmer familiar with the sandy terrain.

Hat tip Girlhacker.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To my husband, re: our commute

Mind Hacks reports a study that found a meaningful correlation between higher numbers of bumper stickers on a car and incidence of road rage by the driver of that vehicle.

The study authors postulate that bumper stickers function as territory markers, and drivers who use a lot of territory markers confuse the etiquette of public space (the road) with private (their cars).

Both number of territory markers (e.g., bumper stickers, decals) and attachment to the vehicle were significant predictors of aggressive driving. Mere presence of a territory marker predicts increased use of the vehicle to express anger and decreased use of adaptive/constructive expressions.

Hrm...we have a bumper sticker on our car...but only one!


While I'm working to return my rotator cuff to full service, I've been thinking a lot about the privilege of the temporarily able-bodied. I'm not TAB right now, I have a disability: I have limited use of my left arm.

I can't pull a door open (or pull one closed behind me) with that arm, or pick up and carry a heavy package; I can't twist my arm behind my back or across the front of my body, so dressing is more difficult. I wake in the night in pain and struggle to find a comfortable posture, using a pile of small pillows to adjust the support of my usually-adequate mattress. Even pulling up or shoving down the covers hurts, and getting on and off the bed is a new dance of balance in a different direction from before. Driving was hard at first (and so I didn't drive for a few weeks--the pain has calmed down and my range of motion has increased so that I can drive now).

I had to change my usual seat on the couch, because I used to lean on my left arm quite a bit. I can't hold up a book in that hand, neither hard cover nor paperback. I can't knit, because even though the actual motions don't seem as if they'd hurt, the strain of holding my arms in that position for more than a few minutes aggravates my shoulder and causes pain.

We're all only temporarily able-bodied. Any injury or normal aging can take away from us the freedom not to think about whether all the details of the world are arranged to make things easier, or even just possible, for people who are not able-bodied. Look around your life for the easy physical tasks you take for granted, and take a moment to wonder whether you could still do them if you had a minor but chronic injury.

Tangible results

I'm holding in my hands the tangible results of a lifetime of experience: Meditations on Violence, a Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence, by Rory Miller. That's Rory in the links section in the sidebar of this blog, Chiron Training. This book is more than just martial arts and violence; Rory explains the kinds of violent encounters, the human predators and their preferred attacks, and handling the aftermath of a violent encounter. Steve Barnes has written a Forward for the book.

Buy it and read it. This book will teach you about the physical mechanics of real-world violence and how training does and does not prepare you. Rory's straightforward style is peppered with dry humor. I can't recommend this book enough.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More than ettiquette

The New York Times has a new etiquette blog, Social Q's, and one of today's answers has a line that resonates with truth:

[T]he ability to differ in a civilized way speaks volumes to your character.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Twoson the Graduate

We made the 4-hour round trip last night to attend Twoson's high school graduation. I'm very proud of him!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Injury and treatment

Turns out I have a rotator cuff injury/inflamation. I saw the orthopedist today over the lunch hour and he gave me a shot and some exercises; I go back in a week. It's some better already, and as soon as I file one federal pleading for one of my bosses I'm going home to ice it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

What happens when something you know to be true, that you believe deeply in, that you have incorporated into your mental model of the world and based other decisions on, turns out to be false? How do you shake the very foundations of your opinions and strategies and remake your philosophy when you find out you were wrong?

Some (not all) of the people I know are up to it; they're bright and committed to the truth. I wonder whether they'll accept the truth.

Bush didn't lie. According to the Rockefeller committee report, there was substantiating information and/or evidence supporting the president's statements:

On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."

On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."

On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."

Presentations by elected Democratic officials implying the contrary conclusion are just politics as usual.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Design choices

My husband doesn't wear ties. I think the last time he wore a tie was probably our wedding! But Fashion Incubator shows a military tie that would make any frequent tie-wearer happy. It has a well-designed system for keeping the tie ends from flapping around: after you tie the knot, you insert the narrow end through a fabric loop on the back of the wide end (like a belt loop) and then button it to your shirt. Yes, the narrow end has three button holes, measured to line up with the military blouse you will be wearing with the tie.

Now that's good design. It has nothing to do with form, because the design features won't show when the tie is worn, but it is all about function. No need for a tie bar or tack to keep tidy and neat, it's built into the tie.

I go through a lot of doors with handles that are far less well designed that this tie; that's a well-known example of poor design, handles that don't automatically indicate whether you're supposed to push or pull on them to get the door open. I think about design issues a lot.


I have a lot of problems communicating with other people who use metaphors, because (as I am wont to relate) metaphors depend on an underlying agreement about how the world works, and I often don't participate in that agreement, so the metaphor is an epic fail for me. This is an excellent essay that I found useful and full of thinking meat, and I recommend it. Excerpt:

Years ago, when I visited somewhere and my hosts left the television running in the room where we were talking, I interpreted that as rudeness and I felt unwelcome; I felt that if they had been interested in our conversation they would have turned the tv set off. My attitude toward my hosts -- and my behavior toward them from then on -- was affected very negatively, even though the television's sound was turned so low that it was nothing more than a background noise.

Then one day I read Camille Paglia's casual statement that the television is the modern hearthfire, and the lights came on at last in my mind. I wouldn't expect people to put out the fire in their fireplace because we are sitting near it talking; I wouldn't interpret their hearthfire's soft crackling noise as rudeness or a signal that I'm not welcome. Why on earth would I feel any differently about their television set? The change in my attitude and behavior toward both the television and my hosts was instantaneous and permanent. Neither logical argument nor coercion could have duplicated that effect.

Hat tip Suzette Hayden Elgin.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Flying the flag

The Navy is coming in...there's a ship docking just a few blocks east of my office building. One of my bosses has binox in his desk and I pulled them out to check: sure enough, the ship is flying an Oregon state flag. Too cool! You know that can't be standard equipment, somebody must send them a state flag to fly while they're here.

This isn't a regular liberty port, we only get the Navy once a year for a few days at Rose Festival. (There are some Canadian ships, too, and some US Coast Guard ships.) Because we aren't flooded with off-duty sailors year-round, we treat them very well. We used to have dial-a-sailor, where you could call up and offer to take a sailor to dinner or the drag races or a family picnic, but I read elsewhere that program is discontinued this year.

Welcome to my home town, sailors!


The New York Times reviews Jim Sheeler's new book, Final Salute, about how notifications and funerals are handled for fallen soldiers. And I'm dizzy from the spin:

Mr. Sheeler took one of the great underreported stories of the Iraq war and brought it to light.

Underreported? Is there somebody with a warm body temp and IQ over 80 who is unacquainted with the lack of presidential attendance at soldiers' funerals? The only people I can imagine not knowing about this are some survivalists in the high desert who don't know anyone in the military.

And apparently the NYT doesn't think the book goes far enough to explain the perfidy of "hiding" the deaths:

Mr. Sheeler’s readers may not have realized, for instance, that dead soldiers’ coffins have been hidden in cardboard boxes (ostensibly to protect the coffins), toted by forklifts and stowed in the cargo holds of passenger planes.

Ostensibly? The NYT would rather the coffins got banged up in the cargo holds, or maybe attacked by demonstrators? Graffitoed maybe? How are the coffins supposed to be transported, by private jet, individually? That would be more money being spent on the war, you know, so if they did it that way, we could be twice as mad at the size of the Iraq war budget!

And just in case you aren't sure what emotional reaction to have, the NYT is kind enough to spell it out for you:

included here is a shocking image — by Todd Heisler, now of The New York Times — of commercial airline passengers looking out plane windows at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada, trying to see what is happening beneath them. Down there, in the cargo hold, a Marine honor guard is preparing to deliver the flag-draped coffin of Second Lt. James J. Cathey to its final resting place.

Wow, I wasn't shocked. I was touched. It was a beautiful picture of people looking out their airplane windows. I read their expressions as mournful, empathetic, and respectful--just like I would be in that situation.

Since Mr. Sheeler followed the individual stories of several military men and their families (no dead female soldiers are included in the book), “Final Salute” seemingly qualifies as an extended human-interest story. To some extent that’s what it is, if human interest includes the pain and frustration of surviving the death of a loved one (or breadwinner) in battle.

Don't mistake this for human interest-after all, individual human life and death and mourning isn't interesting. We must portray this politically to make it interesting!

The NYT sucks.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ready to wear

If my mother could have laid out a length of her love for me, and I could have cut and sewed it into just what fit me, how much happier we both would have been. But in spite of the fact that we love each person differently, love doesn't come bespoke; we have to take what's on offer, for the most part. Oh, you might could raise a hem, or let a waistline out a bit, or change the buttons, if you have a very skilled tailor, but if it doesn't fit, it's a disappointment very difficult to overcome.