Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best Books Read in 2011 Part 2


This book goes into the housing crash, and who predicted it and invested in its inevitability. The book reads like a novel, but is true. The story about the investor who has Aspergers was particularly great. As well as the story is told, it did leave me frustrated in that pretty much nothing has been done to fix the problems that caused the crash and the people who caused it have not been held responsible.
This is a book about a little girl from immigrant parents with uncontrollable epilepsy. It is about the trials Hmong refugees faced in the U.S. It is about the challenges two parents faced when getting treatment for their daughter's seizures. It is about the short-comings of western medicine and western medical attitudes. Having epilepsy myself I was very sympathetic to the family in this book.
This was a great book that gives hope to activists and makes you fear marketers. It also convinced me to keep my house clean for a few weeks in trying to reduce the damage caused by the broken window effect. Unfortunately keeping a clean house really cuts into my reading time and I my house once again fell victim to the broken window effect.
There is a roost of crows that gathers about 10 miles away.  Every evening in the fall and winter you can watch thousands of crows from as far as 15-20 miles away flying toward it.  It always makes me wonder why they go there every night and what are they doing?  I got in a theme of reading crow books (this one and Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness were my favorite). Crows are my new favorite animal.
Another theme I got into was reading about people who lived in the Puget Sound area in the early 1900's. I came across a list of books in More Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason about Cascadia and decided to read a few of them. I plan on reading more from the list as well. Did you know that octopus attacks were a problem back then? Granted in the two books that featured octopus attacks the octopi (wikipedia says its octopuses, but that just doesn't sound as cool) were provoked, but still--OCTOPUS ATTACKS! The accounts of these people using row boats for daily transportation between islands that are miles apart just boggles my mind. In the fall, winter, and spring that could not have been pleasant.

Historical Fiction

This was a book I came across for checkout on my Nook at the library. I had read some of Donnelly's books before and liked them, but felt that the plot devices she used were a little too cliche. But as this was what was available I read it and I was pleasantly surprised that I really liked it. It is a story that takes place in modern times and during the French Revolution.  The French Revolution is awful, and it makes you wonder how in the world people can be so crazy, but other than the disturbing history the book was good.
Having read the above book I decided to read the newest book in the prior series I had read.  I think this was the best of the three. I can definitely see improvement in her writing.
So that sums up my list for best books in 2011. I want to apologize if my writing is bad. I write these late at night and sometimes wonder about myself...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Best Books Read in 2011

2011 was great for reading books.  It has been a long time since I have read so many good books.   Because there are so many I'll separate them into categories, and probably spread them out in a couple posts.  You can see all the books I read in 2011 at librarything.

My brother gave me this book on my birthday and this was a very excellent fantasy series. What I most appreciated about these books was the fact that the series wasn't just one long story separated into three books. It was actually three stories about the same characters. Having a heroine as the main character is always a plus. ;) I will definitely be re-reading these as some point.
Dave Duncan is by far my favorite author. He is very prolific (4 books coming out in 2012!!) and all his books are good, and many are all-time favorites of mine. This is the first book of a two part series, while on it's own it was good, but not great, but when the second book came out this year I had to re-read this one, and as a whole the series was great!
My sister gave me this book a long time ago in revenge for me giving her Twilight. She wanted to give me a book that would prevent me from doing anything productive for an extended period of time. Fortunately this book draws you in, is well written, and isn't for teenage girls. BUT she did get her revenge in that the second book took years before it came out. But finally it did. Of course I had to re-read the first book and then read the second book. Both were excellent and very well written. Funnily my brother called me a few weeks ago aiming to tell me about these books, but I had already read them. ;)
If you haven't heard about the Hunger Games then you might be living under a rock. Personally I felt the series started off strong and kind of fizzled at the end, but even so I recommend them.

Education and Learning
This book has an amazing summary of knowledge about the benefits of exercise--all benefits taht do not have anything to do with weight loss or cardiovascular fitness. He starts the book discussing a protein called BDNF. It is nicknamed miracle grow, because if you sprinkle this protein on neurons in a petry dish they will grow and connect. Growing and connecting neurons signifies learning. BDNF floods the spot in your brain that handles memory when you exercise! Just think about the ramifications of this in regards to public schooling and their cutting of recess and PE. It has been common sense since schools were created that children need exercise, but recently we are ignoring that common sense, and this research points out that we are essentially shooting ourselves in the foot (or head as the case may be). This book also discusses how exercise is more effective at treating depression than medications. How it helps with anxiety, and even prevents aging and reduces your risk of Alzheimer's. Unfortunately it isn't written in the most entertaining fashion, but the information provided is fascinating and is something everyone needs to know.

I read a handful of books by Paley this year and they were all wonderful. She has an interesting style in that her writing tends to be a journalistic account about the happenings in her classroom. Lots of it is simply descriptions of the stories the children tell, and the games they play. I found it fascinating that the games and stories her pupils played and told are exactly the same stuff that comes out of my own children's mouths despite them being a generation or two more recent then the children she wrote about. The universality of super hero and doll play is fascinating. But in this particular book she explores the success she has had in getting teaching children to include and not exclude. It is extremely touching, uplifting, and fills you will hope.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 in Review

I always feel like there is so much I want to do and so little time. With the girls running around I feel like it is hard to accomplish anything.  But, when I decided to summarize my year for a Facebook status I found out that I had ran 1085 miles, read 68 books, and sewed 25 items of clothing, except it was really 28 because I forgot a few things.  I really did get a lot done in 2011.  Shocking!

Last year I said I wanted to:

Sew a pair of jeans.  I've already done this, but my first pair had some mistakes.  I have more denim ordered and should get a perfect pair of jeans sewn within the next month.  
The denim I ordered ending up being lame, the stretch was length wise instead of across the selvedge.  They are wearable, but not perfect (thus why they never made it in a post).  I just bought some more denim.  Hopefully third time is a charm?

Sew a jacket.  
Yes!  It turned out really nice.  I was impressed with myself. Got to get a post up.

I am committed to running the Capital City Half Marathon in May.
I ended up running the Snoqualmie Half instead.  I ran a 1:41.  A bit slower than I was hoping, but considering I had pretty much taken four years off of running I was satisfied.  But training for that made me realize that always training to run faster and farther is exhausting (and a bit demoralizing since I am running so much slower than my PR's). Before I had kids I could do it and was able to relax while I wasn't running, but I do not have that luxury anymore.   I ended up slowing my pace down, and running a lot of trails, and running became really enjoyable, it felt good, and I ended up running even more than when I was training for the half(it helped that running was the only thing keeping me sane while weaning of anti-convulsants).  I ran a few trail races, and found out that I have finally mastered dominating the downhill portions.  My last race was a 10k with four huge hills and I actually passed people at the end!  I really can't think of any other races I've ran where that has happened.  Next year I am planning to do a lot of trail races!

I want to work on having less waste.  I buy lots of bulk items at the grocery store, but don't bring my own containers.
Didn't do too great at this one.  I'm too forgetful.

I want to eat more fish, preferably at least 3 times a week
Sometimes I did this.  But I haven't had fish in at least a month.

Be more ethically minded in my purchases.  Everything we consume has ethical ramifications.  Usually the cheaper something is, the more unethically it was produced.  I want to limit my purchases to only things we need, and I want them to be of good quality.  I want to make more of our clothes and buy more things used (I am going to have to overcome a snobbish attitude for buying used).  I don't want to be swayed by advertising, and I don't want to buy random crap. Sadly this is a hard goal.
I did pretty good at this.  I started shopping at thrift stores and have been impressed with what I find.  Getting great deals is cool too.

I am going to have a garden this year!  I thought I would be able to start a late one after we moved, but wasn't able to make it happen.  This year I will. 
My garden was amazing.  I have never been able to grow anything in my life, but I planted stuff and it was a jungle of food!  Hopefully I can have success again.

  • Climbed Mt Dickerman with my sister.  Which was super hard due to all the snow on the trail, but really amazing.  
  • Floyd and I took a trip to Vegas.  I had very low expectations for Vegas, but it was better than I thought.  We had a lot of fun.
  • We went camping as a family at Padilla Bay.
  • We did our annual golf/massage weekend at my uncles cabin where my aunt has the absolute best massage therapist ever come and give us massages by the river.
  • Floyd's first complete year of being a professional poker player was great.  
  • The girls are growing and learning and doing all sorts of amazing things.  

2011 was a good year!

I'll do a recap of my favorite books from last year in a separate post.