Reading 2008

Book #30 – Wandering: Notes And Sketches by Hermann Hesse

This morning, while I was not sleeping, I went to my bookshelf to see if there was anything I could possibly read in a day. And there it was piled between some poetry and William Goldman, a slim volume of Hesse. Considering the mold and watermarks I likely acquired this book from a box outside A Novel Idea in Lincoln. In high school, I read Siddhartha and was enchanted by it. Hesse seemed a good addition to my shelves even if it would be 15 years before I read more of him. Wanderings is comprised of twenty-three watercolor reproductions done by Hesse (alas in black and white) with an accompanying note and often a poem. This work predates Siddhartha by a year or two in his bibliography and you can kind of see the line between them.

It’s a lovely book. I’m intrigued by the interplay between writers and visual arts, though it seems to be a rare thing. And it was nice reading for New Years Eve.

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2008 Book Roundup

I read 30 books, meeting my goal. (Even if some of them were rather slim and for a younger audience than myself.)

Distinct authors: 30
Authors new to me: 13 (same as last year)
Male to Female: 23:7
Rereads: 2
Non-fiction: 9
Poetry: 2.5 (Hesse was half poetry)

I don’t have enough Amazon.com stats to make that worth while overall, but some notables:
Most "complex" book: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie by Wade Davis with an F-K Index of 15.2 and 26.4 words per sentence on average.
Longest: The Good House by Tananarive Due at 195,522 words.

The good of this year was very good and the bad was very bad.
Tied for my favorite of 2008: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Both of which had come to me highly recommended.

Books acquired in 2008: 27
From PaperbackSwap: 10
Gifts: 3
Gaming: 5
Textbooks: 2

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Edits are done. At the moment, I’ve had two hours of sleep in the last 23 and am fried. I’m fairly convinced my editor has never worked with anyone as incompetent me and that this whole process has been an exercise in futility. That my novel sucks. ‘Course, I believe I’ve heard that by the end of the editing process many writers hate the novel they were working on. Lucinda at the Window is a claustrophobic novel and I feel like I’m going insane after combing through it twice in a month. That’s a sterling recommendation, huh? Pft.

Haven’t decided whether I want to sleep or work on waking up entirely before disc at 11:30. I’m leaning toward a shower, breakfast, and a chair-nap. Sunlight is helping this process.

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Finished this on Sunday:
Book #29 – How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

The examples in this book are woefully out-dated and How to Lie with Statistics might benefit from a revised and updated edition, but otherwise, this should be required reading. The internet is inundated with the ignorant and/or purposefully deceitful use of statistics. Chock-full, my friends. If I was Oprah-rich, this would be the book I’d give to my friends. Most of what Huff presents was not new to me, but the refresher was good.

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Probably won’t make 30 books read this year. If my own books don’t count.  I’ll do a literary round-up when I’ve caught up on everything else I’ve ignored the last two days.

Light Christmas Reading

Book #28 – Religious Freedom by Helene Hanff

I found this book via PaperBack Swap, and being a fan of Miss Hanff’s, I ordered it up. Yes, yes. It’s a kid’s history book. But you know what? It’s better than much of the history I was tortured with during my schooldays. History is a fascinating subject, but so much of it is taught in such a marrow-less, pale way. To put it in term used by fiction writers, it’s often a huge info dump without any character interaction or telling details. It’s taught in a “tell” way instead of a “show” way. Granted, when you’re in high school and you have two semesters to cover the entirety of world history, you don’t have time for more than the skeleton of dates and places. Forget the meat.

Anyway, Hanff presents several stories that lay down the religious basics of the early colonies. It’s perhaps a tad idealistic, but ya know, it’s trying to point out to kids that we do have it pretty good in the US. No body’s getting their ears cut off or tongues split, by the government, for believing in something that is against the majority. Improvement, I’d say.

Regardless, Merry Christmas!

My name’s Katherine. I’m a curly girl.

Book #27 – Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey

I have a feeling that every woman can relate their history in relation to their hair. I’m not a particularly looks-conscious person, but even I have trouble coming up with a concise overview of what life has been like with my locks.

I have thin, curly, red hair that is unlike that of any of my immediate family. When I was a kid, strangers used to come up to me in stores and ask where I got hair. Neither my mom or grandmother knew what to do with it. No, actually, this isn’t quite accurate. In texture, I have my dad’s hair. My dad always kept his short until he started to lose it in his 40s. He’s solved his hair problems by shaving his head bald. I don’t have that luxury.

I had a short hairdo until I was in my 20s. Since then, I’ve floundered around trying to find an easy way to keep my longer hair healthy and looking good. First, I tossed out the fine toothed brushes and combs. Then I gave up on hair dryers. These were two steps I discovered on my own through ten years of fighting with my hair. My hair was…better, but still often a crap-shoot. I don’t mind having curly hair, but sometimes it’s a tad unruly.  I’ve tried products that were supposed to give me manageable curls and no frizz that only gave me product-coated frizz. Then I read something intriguing in PastaQueen‘s blog. A book called Curly Girl advised her not to shampoo her curly hair. Huh.

Curly Girl‘s basic tenant is that you should love your curly hair and accept that trying to make it straight isn’t going to work. Massey, a curly girl herself and a successful salon owner, provides advice on how to make it so those curls are somewhat presentable. Amid the women’s magazine frippery, there’s daily plan for hair care including tossing shampoo in favor of using conditioner only. I’ve been following the plan for about a week now. My hair has definitely been curlier then usual and I haven’t decided whether it’s a good thing. "Washing" my hair takes longer, but it’s better off for the rest of the day.

One aspect the book doesn’t cover is how to deal with curly hair and physical activity like sports. We’re told to give up elastic bands, but not really provided with a restraining alternative.  And I doubt that a little shake will turn my hat-head back to tumbling tresses.  Still, the beauty of any plan is in it’s flexibility, and I’ve yet to  see how pretty this plan is.  I haven’t thrown out my nearly-new bottle of shampoo yet.

Capsaicin, Nurk, & Christmas Music

Book #26 – Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon

Yes, I know. That’s two kids’ books in a row, but I really did want to read it before giving it to my niece for Christmas. Not that I was worried about content. Nurk is written by and artist and writer that I very much enjoy:ursulav. I consider it a stroke of semi-genius (or at least just a stroke) that I bought a book from an artist I like in order to spread quirky humor to my niece. As expected, it was a fun and imaginative adventure, sprinkled with dry humor.

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Blog pimping: Abney Park via OMM. Currently, their Christmas album is available for download. It’s a nice change-up from the usual standard standards.

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Sparked by a recent Twitter exchange, I figure I should probably officially follow up on my adventures with Capzasin since I’ve been using it for two months now.

I haven’t had any extreme reaction to it, excepting one event which I’ll get to.  Generally, it itches slightly after I apply it and it makes my knee feel like I have a sunburn when the tissues are particularly warm, like when showering or running.  I haven’t found this to be a unbearable, and when compared to a constant gnawing ache, it’s preferable.  With longer usage, the effects seem to have lessened, but certainly not gone away as the package suggested.  The one time when I got a little worried was after a hot bath a few weeks after I started using it.  My knee ended up red and very tender.  The sensation was like when I accidentally touch the oven rack when making a frozen pizza.  Only covering the lateral side of my knee where I’ve been using the Capzasin.  Since it had been hours since I had applied it, I figured washing the area really wouldn’t do much good.  I lived with it and it stopped hurting after awhile.  It should be noted that I’m fairly tolerant to heat.  Regardless, I’m hesitant to use it on my hands. 

Now, has it worked?  That’s a tough question.  Obviously, capsaicin isn’t going to make me pain-free.  After a couple months of applying it daily, I’m running more, but I also rested my knees for a couple months previous to using the capsaicin.  As I’ve mentioned, the heat of a thousand chili peppers kicks in when I work the joint, so I generally feel the effects when running.  I consider that a subjective improvement because it has made running easier.  How much pain would I be in if I hadn’t been using the capsaicin rub?  Don’t know.  Has it decreased the inflamation?  Again, I have no data to say one way or another.  I’ll probably finish this bottle, go without for a while, and then decide if I want more.

Five to go…

Book #25 – Gypsy Rizka by Lloyd Alexander

Obtained and read mainly to get a bead on whether Alexander has any more good "girl" books. I have an overage of nieces for whom the Chronicles of Prydain are going to be too boy-adventure centric. I suppose, Gypsy Rizka is a decently girly book. There’s an engagement, a wedding and (I kid you not) kittens. Giving credit where it’s due, Rizka is a smart resourceful young lady.  But this book…  It’s the kind of book where the majority of adults are idiots and the young protagonist outsmarts them at every turn.  And for some reason, that just bugs me.  Maybe it’s because it’s too easy for my adult eyes.  More and more, I’ve come to appreciate complexity in plot.  Or, if not complexity, at least rigorousness.  A child outwitting a buffon is simple, and that would probably appeal to a young niece more than it does to me.

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No word from editor.  I was going to go for a run, but I’ve decided that a migraine would be more fun.

My fingers hurt…

Book #24 – Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

A widow, Elinore Stewart gave up her labors as a laundress and established a homestead in early 1900s Wyoming. Stewart’s letters reveal a well-read, funny woman who isn’t afraid of hard work or a few adventures, but is sheepish about her hasty marriage to the man on the land adjoining hers. While it doesn’t quite offer the big picture slice-of-life that No Life for a Lady does, it does serve as a good reminder that the "Old West" extended into the 20th century and that homesteaders were a diverse group.

Strangely, both of these books were published by University of Nebraska Press, but I picked them up at the library sale here in AZ. As with my previous reading choice, I started Letters quite a while back and finished the last two-third over this past week or so.

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I’m in the mood for light reading, but I don’t know what…

The holiday has been quite nice. Eric’s parents are in town until Wednesday, staying with his brother Mark. We’ve done the usual Thanksgiving/ton-of-football thing with them over the last couple of days. I have consistently eaten too much.

I’m slowly getting over the sinus infection I’ve had since last Sunday. I’m sure I’ll exacerbate it when I dig out the Christmas decorations from their dusty storage.

Re-joined Netflix after my Blockbuster Online queue was continually on various lengths of wait. Rather enjoying their streaming video service. The quality isn’t great, but I’m happy whenever I can watch movie *ahem* legally.