Monday, April 30, 2012

April 2012 Books

I made my way through a HUGE pile of library books this month so there are many non-fiction books on the list again this month. I am now tired of non-fiction and am diving back into the huge pile of novels stacked up on the shelf next to my bed.

  • Inside the Mind of BTK: The True Story Behind the Thirty-Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer by John Douglas
    • I like reading true crime books (and I noticed that the two I read this month both have the word "true" in their titles in case we think they are "fake" crime books I guess) and I haven't really picked one up in a while.
    • Note to self: do not read true crime books just before going to sleep. This book was creepy. Well, the murderer was creepy. But now safely in jail forever.
    • Nice closure after reading a short story by Stephen King, based on the BTK case, wherein he imagines how the wife of a serial killer might finds out about her husband.
    • B
  • Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case
    • I am a big fan of Jeff Jensen's, based on his writing for Entertainment Weekly, and this graphic novel was based on his dad's search for the title serial killer.
    • I wanted to like this but the story was convoluted and sometimes it just didn't make sense, seemingly skipping over things so that I felt lost while trying to understand what the artwork was trying to say. 
    • C
  • Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild by David Stenn
    • I read Stenn's biography of Jean Harlow several years ago and really enjoyed it. Harlow was a GREAT personality and it is tragic that she died so very young (only 26). I try to catch an occasional Jean Harlow movie on TCM every once in a while and I am never disappointed watching her. It's not that she was a great actress but she was such a presence that you can't really take your eyes off her whenever she's on the screen.
    • Clara Bow is much more of a mystery to us today. Her movies are almost never shown on TCM, probably because most of them were silents, so I haven't even seen one. She was famous for being the "It" Girl and, according to this book, was one of the biggest box office stars of her day.
    • Anyway, the book was interesting and Ms. Bow had a horrifyingly awful personal life.
    • B
  • Plastic: A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel
    • All about the history of plastic and how it is such a huge part of our lives. The story is told through eight plastic products: comb, water bottle, Frisbee, IV bag, lighter, credit card, chair and bag. These eight items also make up the title word on the cover!
    •  We learn about the chemistry of plastic and the inventions of all eight items. Plastic IV bags, for instance, were a huge improvement over the glass bottles used formerly. IV fluids dispensed from glass via gravity which meant they needed to be hung higher over a patient's bed. This made them extremely dangerous in combat hospitals. Not to mention all the broken glass.
    • B+
  • The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester
    • This tells the story of the Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, and Alice Liddell, the girl for whom he wrote the Wonderland tales.
    • It focuses on Dodgson's photography of Alice Liddell, specifically of the photo on the cover of the book.
    • We learn about the invention of photography and we learn what happened to Alice after those years.
      • Apparently Reverend Dodgson and the Liddells had some sort of falling out but no one knows why. Dodgson kept a daily diary but the months covering the period of estrangement were excised and destroyed by his heirs. Stupid heirs.
      • Speculation today generally focuses on whether Dodgson had a thing for little girls. It's easy to imagine that from our modern perspective. He took photographs of young girls, often while they were unclothed but with their mother's permission. Obviously times were different.
        • I was just going to write that there are no mothers today who would give permission for anyone to photograph theirs daughters unclothed but watching one clip of "Toddlers and Tiaras" makes you wonder if that's really true after all. Sad.
    • I wish the book had included more photographs than just the one on the cover as the narrative describes many of Dodgson's photographs. Thank you Internet!
    • B
  • Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail by Caitlin Kelly
    • Kelly, a 50-year-old freelance writer feeling the sting of recession via less assignments, gets a job at a North Face store in her local mall.
    • She writes about how hard the work is, the people she works with and the customers she interacts with and then complains some more about how hard it is.
      • Did I mention she only worked one shift a week?
      • It's hard to take it all seriously when she didn't NEED to work this job while some of her coworkers are working as many shifts as possible while using public transportation just to get to work.
    • One of her statistics says that malls have turnover each year of 100%. This is based on the fact that employees get minimal (if any) training or support from corporate offices. They DO get minimum wage though. So most people who work retail move to a better job as soon as one comes along.
    • We read a lot about the "customers from hell" who frequent the upscale mall where North Face is located.
    • And you can hardly call your career in retailing "unintentional" when you know going in you'll be taking notes and writing an expose on the whole thing.
    • C-
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
    • Mr. Bryson and his family purchase a former vicarage in England and via its layout and floor plan gives us a history of humanity.
      • For example, what's a cabinet? A place to store things that usually has a door. Then why do we call it the President's Cabinet? 
        • Cabinet meant little cabin, a small room off the hall where the king (or lord or whatever leader) met with his advisers for some privacy. Who knew?!
    • We learn about cleanliness via the bathroom, not a big concept until relatively modern times. Most people NEVER bathed in their lifetimes! Bleah. One more reason NOT to go back in a time machine if you ask me!
    • I loved this book!
    • A+
  • American History Revised: 200 Startling Facts That Never Made it into the Textbooks by Seymour Morris Jr.
    • I usually love these kind of books. But this one, well no.
    • About 10 pages in the author starts talking about "Gone With the Wind" (movie) and says how it didn't even win any Academy Awards. The Best Picture that year was "Wuthering Heights". Um, not even close. "GWTW" won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Color Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Editing. "Wuthering Heights" won Best Black & White Cinematography and that's all.
    • So now I'm on my guard as I read. Then I read that Abraham Lincoln was preparing to give the Gettysburg Address in 1862, a year before the actual Battle of Gettysburg was fought. And that John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for Why England Slept even though he really won it years later with Profiles in Courage.
    • F
  • Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik
    • I was going to write that this book was "kind of dry" but that would be a really bad pun.
    • Interesting but a slog. Without the Hoover Dam the American Southwest might not have developed as much as it has. The dam supplies electrical power to a huge part of the area and its water made possible the farming of the Imperial Valley, naturally a desert area.
    • Most interesting fact: The first death on the Hoover Dam project was a surveyor, J.G. Tierney, died in 1922 while looking for the best dam site. Exactly thirteen years later the last man died on the project: Patrick Tierney, son of J.G. Tierney.
      • Not a single mention of Mrs. Tierney, however, who must have hated the Hoover Dam with every fiber of her being after losing both her husband AND son to it.
    • C+
  • The Sexual History of London: From Roman Londinium to the Swinging City -- Lust, Vice and Desire Across the Ages by Catharine Arnold
    • The title pretty much sums this one up: it was FASCINATING!
    • Who doesn't love to learn more about the history of prostitution?
    • All it makes me think is that there has always been prostitution and there always will be. WHY don't people get off their high horses and figure out a way to decriminalize it? Or at least make the punishments more severe for those who partake of the services of a hooker? Supply and demand, people, supply and demand. 
      • If only it was possible to do away with child prostitution and sex slavery while allowing those women who CHOOSE to sell their favors to do so. But this will never happen, Nevada brothels being the lone exception I guess.
    • B+
  • Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings
    • Mr. Jennings is famous for his record winning streak on "Jeopardy".
    • He has a very snarky writing style which gets annoying fast but the content is interesting, if you like geography (and I do).
    • We used to learn geography in school. It is a subject that encompasses more than just maps. You learn about populations, imports/exports, natural resources, climates, ecology and much more. At some point they changed geography into "social studies".
    • I just did some quick research on the 'net and found a 2006 survey of Americans ages 18-24 and 33% couldn't locate Louisiana on a map. (Morons.) And 47% couldn't locate the country of India. Just one more way Americans are becoming dumber with every passing year.
    • I had no idea what geocaching was before I read this book. I said this to CPA Boy and he replied, "Yeah, where they hide things and you find it with GPS." My husband is a man of much hidden knowledge!
    • B-
  • Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks
    • I picked this up as kind of a companion to the Clara Bow book because Louise Brooks is mentioned a lot, generally praising Clara, so I figured her book would go into more depth of her views. It did not.
    • It did cover her time in Hollywood, though her best and most well-known films were made in Europe. Her story is interesting but the book is more scattered, skimming over years of her life with no real detail. At one point, suddenly, she is married to a person mentioned zero times up to that point. 
    • I had already read how she was such a great writer and I just don't agree. Here narratives are choppy and it's not always easy to follow the story.
    • I will stick to watching her famous movie: "Pandora's Box" (her most famous role as Lulu).
    • C-
  • The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
    • I had never heard of this case, about a dismembered body found in New York City. The parts were found in different areas (the head remained stubbornly missing) and led to a man and woman who had participated in a crime of passion. The man got the electric chair and the woman 9 years in prison.
      • The crime is the central tale by which to hang the somewhat more interesting tale of how William Randolph Hearst's newspaper, the New York Journal, began competing with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World.
      • The competition between the papers led to grisly searches for the poor victim's head, all covered in gory detail in the newspapers.
    • In those days the newspapermen (and they were almost ALL men) would do anything for a story: plant (fake) evidence, lease the entire building where a crime had been committed to keep the rivals out, and so on. 
    • Hearst had enough money to fund these gambits and it led to even more egregious behavior on his part, mainly drumming up propaganda to jump start the Spanish-American War (Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!). 
    • B
  • Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
    • Cute. More a humor book than a memoir but it's not really going to make anyone laugh out loud.
    • I like Ellen, not just because she's a fellow Louisianan! But I am not a daytime TV watcher in general (except for my late, lamented soap opera "As the World Turns") so I don't see her talk show except maybe a couple of times a year.
    • B-
 The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
    • This is a children's book and I can see why Martin Scorsese wanted to film it. It's a very visual story, even if you removed the illustrations.
    • The illustrations will go for several pages, perhaps from a wide shot of Paris all the way, page-by-page, to a closeup of an eyeball. This illustration style made the 500+ page book zoom by in about an hour for me.
    • I have seen several of Georges Melies' films, including his most famous "A Trip to the Moon" where the rocket lands in the moon's eye. Literally.
    • I still really want to see the movie but will need to wait for the DVD or hope it's on HBO eventually.
    • B+
  • The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
    • Lady Chardonnay raved about these books a while back so I was able to snag the first few in the series from Paperback Swap. This is the first book.
    • The story is told in first person by Isabel Spellman, the adult daughter of a family of private investigators. Isabel has a strong love for "Get Smart" which is also probably my favorite TV show from the 1960s ("Bewitched" is probably next on the list, if you were wondering).
      • I recognized every episode description of "Get Smart" she refers to in the book! But I do think it was annoying how she footnotes EVERY SINGLE MENTION of KAOS with "The International Organization of Evil." Um, I read the first footnote so I didn't need six or seven more to reiterate what you already told me.
    • It was cute and a quick read so I will definitely read the next books in the series.
    • B+
  • 16 books read
  • 14 non-fiction
    • 3 biography
    • 3 true crime
    • 8 general
  • 2 fiction
    • 1 children's
    • 1 mystery
  • Grades
    • A: 1 (1 A+)
    • B: 10 (4 B+, 4 B, 2 B-)
    • C: 4 (1 C+, 1 C, 1 C-)
    • F: 1 (the first F of the year!)
Happy reading!

Friday, April 27, 2012


No real theme to this post, just random thoughts.

In 1940 Census news, we found my mom's family! My Uncle Bill was in Portugal but he called Dad back and gave him the information necessary to find Mom and her family in less than 5 minutes. It turns out that the move to what I think of as "my grandparents' house" on Chestnut Street (in New Orleans) wasn't actually made until 1941. Mom always thought it was in 1940 which is coincidentally when Dad's family moved to the house in San Mateo that I think of as "my grandmother's house".

If I was super-wealthy I would love to own each of those houses. But then it wouldn't be the same because all the furniture is gone and each house has been remodeled to a great extent. And of course none of my grandparents are still alive. Dad's dad died in 1959 so I never got to meet him. Dad's mom died in 1984. Mom's mom died in 1987 and her dad in 1992.

I can't believe 20 years have passed. And yet my grandparents are always WITH me, you know? I have not been to either of the houses since before they died so I am able to imagine them still living there, just like I remember them. I see them in my dreams every once in a while too which is so nice.

I am still working my way through a big pile of library books. I have branched out to fiction so I was able to get The Invention of Hugo Cabret in 2 days. I would've needed to wait months for it to come through on Paperback Swap. I really wanted to see the movie but our local theater was only showing it in 3D. It's not that I hate 3D (I'm ambivalent) but that it cost $2 more and I am cheap.

(Actually, in college, I got to see a 3D showing of "Creature From the Black Lagoon".)

Another book I picked up at the library was The Mindset Lists of American History. I had high hopes for this book but I thought it would cover things on a year-by-year basis. Instead it uses a generational jump, where every list is about 13 years apart. The lists and accompanying essays basically set out what that year's high school graduate has always known to be true. (For example, for the Class of 1996, Elvis has always been dead.)

I would have loved to see the Class of 1980 covered but they went with 1983. (And the one before that was 1970.) It seems silly but 3 years is a pretty big difference in cultural terms. I know this from experience because CPA Boy is from the Class of 1983 and there are several things that are different for us. Our joke is that I watched several TV shows when they originally aired; he only saw them in syndication, if at all.

It's the same issue I have with being (technically) a part of the Baby Boomer generation, which covers those born 1946 to 1964. Being on the tail end of that range means I really have nothing in common with the Baby Boomers of the 40s and 50s. "Baby Boomers start retiring this year!" read a headline in 2009 as the 1946ers began turned 65. MY age mates won't reach retirement age until we are 67 in 2029!

Generalizations about the Baby Boomers are really about the older members!

That is my spiffy new scanner which I will try out once I finish writing this post. You can feed things through it or roll it across the item you want to scan. I have so many things I'd like to digitize and this looks like a nice, fast way to do it.

I finally have all the Disneyland pictures from the trip we took with my in-laws in 2009. CPA Boy, his parents, his siblings, their spouses and their kids all made their way to Southern California for a trip generously financed by my mother- and father-in-law. There were 17 of us and we could all fit into one Pirates of the Caribbean boat!

I had all the pictures from 4 out of 5 families and I just got the last group last week. Yep, we are on top of things in the Smith Family!

Now I will be able to pick out the best and make a digital scrapbook for my in-laws. And I can scan the memorabilia with my new scanner!

It's time to add a new pin to my Schulz Museum collection. As part of my membership (the museum is just up the freeway in Santa Rosa) I get a new pin every year. I made a hanging display of red felt.

I also made some displays for all of CPA Boy's season ticket holder and other commemorative pins for the Oakland Athletics. His pins go back to 1988. Instead of using a rectangular piece of green felt he wanted them to look like home plates. They came out pretty cute.

The Boy is apparently looking for a job. He does not have one yet though. Details as events warrant.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Digital Picture Fun

It used to be so simple: take pictures and get them developed. Because it wasn't cheap to purchase film and pay for processing the pace of photos coming into our lives was reasonable.

Now those days are over.

With digital cameras we take HUNDREDS of pictures. The new pace of photos is INSANE. And the time suck? Transferring them to the computer and then figuring out what to do with them all? It sucks all right.

The pyramid up there uses the acronym STORE: Shoot, Transfer, Organize, Retrieve, Export.This is easy to do when you stay on top of it all. I'm pretty sure most people don't do this. They end up like me: a bunch of pictures on a photo card or in a zillion files on the computer and we just groan when we think about looking at any of them or trying to organize them properly.

I much prefer going through piles of photographs than looking at them on the computer!

Speaking of looking at things on the computer, the 1940 Census detail is now available to the public on the Internet. The U.S. Government releases the individual detail 72 years after the census is performed (aggregate data comes out as soon as possible because the figures relate to Electoral College votes and House of Representative seats, among other things).

Right now you need to have a pretty good idea of exactly where someone lived in order to find them, specifically where they were living as of April 1940 when the census began. The data is available by "enumeration district" and you pretty much need to search page by page within the enumeration districts pages. Of the ones I've looked through they range anywhere from 1 to 60 pages long.

My dad knows the address where he lived in 1940 so he was easy to find. What was funny was that Dad was listed as a GIRL (one of his older sisters was listed as a boy). My grandmother's name was Theodora; Dad's is Theodore. We guess the census taker heard them as the same name and assumed Dad was a daughter.

We have not been able to find my mom as her family was not listed where we thought they'd be. And since Mom is no longer here to ask my dad has a call in to my mom's older brother to see if he knows where they were living in 1940. New Orleans is just too big to start a random search through each enumeration district. If my uncle has no better information we may just need to wait until they create a searchable database of the data. That is supposed to take up to a year before it's available.

I also looked through all 7 enumeration districts for Petaluma because we thought that was where CPA Boy's grandmother was living. I did not find them (and it's certainly possible I missed them) so we thing they hadn't arrived in Petaluma just yet from Iowa. We know that Grandma lived in Petaluma by the time she was 13 in 1942 because that is when she met Grandpa. We also hope to find his other grandparents in Santa Rosa but we are not sure where they lived in 1940 either.

It all comes down to more time pouring over a computer screen and one can only take so much of that!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HOW do you pronounce it?!

I just spent a couple of hours organizing my scrapbook supplies. It's what one does before getting started on the meaningful part of scrapbooking. I still have some sorting to do on various piles of photos and memorabilia but that can wait.

The thing is this: I am a (lazy) perfectionist. I don't like to start something unless I am perfectly ready. And since I'm pretty much NEVER "perfectly ready" it's easy to put off starting a project. I think it's time to get over this. When I complete a project I am almost always happy with the results. (Maybe I'm just happy that I COMPLETED something!)

For example, I have a big box of various things related to me and my husband such as cards included with flowers or candy, all our business cards over the years, our old driver's licenses, pictures of our cars, mini-golf score cards, and so on. None of this stuff is truly sortable by date/chronology, as my perfectionist soul would normally want.

I have decided to let go of that silly plan. Instead I have grouped like with like and I'm going with that. And it means I will put together an album of mementos relating to my husband and me. And to quote Martha Stewart, that's a good thing!

In another example, I am totally behind on putting together my son's school and scout albums but the honest truth is, he just doesn't give a crap right now whether he has memory albums or not. So why should I worry about it? I can pick it up again some other time. Or not.

See, I'm letting go!

Speaking of my teen sluggard, I found this and it made me laugh:
If only he had a calendar for me to write this on!

On a slightly more interesting topic, I read a LOT. So I have a pretty big vocabulary as a result. What I don't always have is a good grasp on how certain words are pronounced! I keep a dictionary by my bed so I am always looking things up but here are a few that slipped by...

Yosemite - As a Louisiana girl I can pronounce all sorts of interesting place names like New Orleans, Tchoupitoulas Street, Thibodaux, Metairie, Lake Pontchartrain, Belle Chasse, Biloxi and Chalmette. But I only saw "Yosemite" in Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Yosemite Sam. I must have missed it when they said his name because I thought this was pronounced as 2 syllables: YOSS-mite. I just thank my lucky stars I never had the opportunity to say this OUT LOUD! No doubt I heard the proper pronunciation once I moved to California. (Should be: yo-SEM-it-ee)

Continuum - Shouldn't this be pronounced like vacuum?! Even so, the "only-in-my-head" pronunciation was con-ti-NOO-um. I may actually have learned this from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" thanks to the character Q and the Q Continuum. So see? Star Trek is EDUCATIONAL! Luckily, this, like most of these examples following, is not a word that comes up in casual conversation! (Should be: con-TIN-you-um)

Superfluous - Okay, maybe I do use this one in casual conversation sometimes, but I know it's not super-FLU-us. Although CPA Boy and I say it that way because it's funny to us. (Should be: soo-PER-flu-us)

Detritus - I heard Gil Grissom say this on CSI years ago and once again thanked my lucky stars that this is not a word on my conversational radar. I thought it was DEH-tri-tus rather than the correct de-TRY-tus.

Paradigm - This is an overused word. In any case I never had any opportunity to speak it out loud. When I read it in an article I think I just assigned it the pronunciation PAR-uh-dig-um because then I knew how to spell it. (Should be: PAR-a-dime)

Versace - NO reason for me to know this because I will never buy this brand (it's too expensive and I'm too cheap) and the only place I saw this was in magazine ads. I learned how to pronounce it from that paragon of learning, Nomi Malone as portrayed by Elizabeth Berkley in "Showgirls" (egad, that's an awful movie!). Her character is complimented on her outfit and she says, "Thanks, it's Ver-sase." (Two syllables, not the correct 3) The other characters make fun of her stupidity and I'm thinking, That's how *I* thought it was pronounced! Oh well, I'm Greek, not Italian; how was I supposed to know?! And then the poor designer was murdered and it was on the news so everyone should know how to say it now. (Should be: Ver-SAH-chee or -chay?)

Peridot - This is a yellowish-green gemstone so I never was interested in it (rubies, diamonds and amethysts for me!) but I assumed it was called per-uh-dot. Apparently it can be pronounced that way but the usual is per-uh-dough.

Chalcedony - CHALL-suh-dough-knee, anyone? No? I heard this on QVC just last month. It's another stone used in jewelry that's actually called kal-SAID-uh-knee.

I know there are more words for this list but that's all I've got for now. Please share if you have any words of your own to add!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm Back!

Sorry for disappearing for a while! My niece has been staying with us while her dad is in the hospital in San Francisco. When we have company they either get The Boy's room and/or my office. Since this was more of an open-ended visit, she got the office which is where my computer lives. One good thing, I got to say this to The Boy: "Your cousin is coming to stay so you need to clean your bathroom!"

But today her dad is going home after WEEKS in the hospital, poor thing. He had some blood clot issues as a result of back surgery earlier this year. Very scary.

Hmm, I was going to write about My Son the Sluggard but I am too pissed off to recount the tale. Yesterday he told me he would begin looking for a job today and he has not come out of his room once all day today. It's now 5:37 p.m. I didn't really believe he'd follow through but still.

[Oh wait, the shower just started so it must mean he's going out with his girlfriend tonight. One thing about the girlfriend: she solved the lack-of-hygiene problem.]

And now CPA Boy is almost home so I don't have more time to write right now.

So I guess I'll be more "back" tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

March 2012 Books

It's funny: when I count up the number of books I've read for the month and I think to myself, What a puny amount of books! But I average at least 2 books per week (not even counting magazines, news articles, and blogs) and that's pretty good, given how busy a desperate suburban happy housewife can be during the week.

One of the benefits of Paperback Swap is the sheer number of books arriving at my post office box each week: at least two per week. Which explains my HUGE "to-be-read" pile of over 60 books! (And our rather high postage expenses because I mail out books too.)

One of the drawbacks of PBS relates to non-fiction. Those books move very slowly through the system. Some never move at all because no one ever posts them. So I hit the library website and put a bunch of non-fiction books on hold there. I currently have 13 library books here at home and 13 on request at the library. That's a lot of non-fiction!

  • Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, From Arsenic to Zinc by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
    • This is one of those fun books of stories about science, in this case related to the elements of the Periodic Table. I never took chemistry in high school or college but I think I would have really liked it: it seems math-y which greatly appeals to me. (Also fun and math-y: classes in logic in the philosophy major!)
    • At the same time, while I enjoy a book like this immensely, I remember NOTHING after I'm finished. So I have no tales to share. I seem to pick up a book like this every few years but to really stick in my mind I need much more reinforcement.
      • Seriously, I can tell you all sorts of dates, names and events from English or Roman history because I have read a buttload of books on those subjects. But 2 or 3 books about chemistry over the course of 15 years and I can tell you nothing.
    • Even recalling very little, I loved this book.
    • Book grade: A

  • Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom by Kristin van Ogtrop
    • A quick read by the editor of "Real Simple Magazine". It's comprised of a lexicon of terms which are then filled in with stories and lists that many working moms can relate to and get a chuckle of recognition to boot. Cute.
      • Yes, I know I am not a "working mom" by definition but I have been in the past and, even without a full-time job, it's not like I get to do whatever I want whenever I want!
    • B
  • An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
    • A rare example of a non-fiction book without a yard-long subtitle!
    • This book was really interesting! In the first chapter, he makes the point that, based on current research, hunter-gatherers really worked less than settled farmers overall.
    • Spices and the drive to find them lead to the age of exploration (Columbus was searching for a faster way to the Indies partly to find spices and cut out the middlemen). 
    • Standage's last book, A History of the World in 6 Glasses, was interesting too, covering beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and soda in a historical context.
    • A
  • American Rose: The Life & Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott
    • I have been interested in Gypsy Rose Lee since watching the movie "Gypsy" as a kid. I recall that the usual Friday night TV schedule was pre-empted and "Gypsy" was shown instead. In any case, I was enthralled by that musical. In hindsight I realize how sanitized it was but I still love it: Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell, what's not to love?
    • This book is a biography of Gypsy Rose Lee and of the burlesque era. Gypsy's mother Rose really was even worse than the movie portrayed!
    • A-
 Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding by Jessie Sholl
    • In the past few years several TV programs have featured hoarders so by this time most of us are familiar with the concept. In fact, two of our pet rats (Cocoa and Puff) were adopted from a rat hoarding case several years ago in Petaluma. And I think even our most recent rat family rat members were rescued from another rat hoarding case.
    • This book is one woman's story and it is more about her coming to terms with her mother's issue than it is about the mother getting "cured" of hoarding. Apparently hoarders have an extremely low "cure" rate so I wonder how much help any of those reality shows are. You can clean up a hoarder's home but the odds are good that they'll just start hoarding again.
    • B-
  • The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee
    • No, not a typo. Her middle name is really "8".
    • Interesting book. All I could think about was Chinese food after finishing the book so this past weekend CPA Boy took me out to Lily Kai, a Chinese restaurant close to our house. Yum!
    • I learned:
      • Fortune cookies -- actually a Japanese treat that might not have become tied to Chinese restaurants had not the camp internments of the Japanese-Americans occurred during WWII.
      • General Tso's Chicken -- a dish unknown in China. Rather the General is an actual historical figure. Kind of like if we went to China and discovered a dish called General Grant's Chicken. I've never had General Tso's chicken as it is always served on a bed of broccoli. Barf.
      • Why Chinese restaurants are almost always staffed with actual Chinese people -- there's quite an (almost) underground market for workers and restaurant owners.
      • Chinese people prefer the leg and feet of a chicken; they are the most costly parts in China. Americans prefer the breast meat, viewed as bland in China.
      • Chop suey was popularized in America before the turn of the 20th Century but it has mostly fallen out of favor. I don't think I've ever had it.
      • Chinese food is extremely popular in India (where it is the most popular food after local Indian food), Great Britain, America, and many other places.
    • Darn, now I'm hungry for Chinese food again!
    • B+

  • The President is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth by Matthew Algeo
    • See what I mean about subtitles?! This pretty much tells you all you need to know about the book!
    • Cleveland, whose first name was actually Steven, had a growth in his mouth that was feared to be cancerous in a time when the "dread disease" was not referred to by name. On the heels of Ulysses Grant's slow death by oral cancer a few years earlier, Cleveland did not want the American people to lose any more confidence during 1893, the first year of the largest economic depression faced by the United States until the Great Depression.
      • The big issue in those days was gold vs. silver. Money was backed by gold and the "Silverites" wanted to replace it. Now it all seems kind of silly to modern eyes since our money is back by, um, nothing (the full faith and credit of the United States actually).
      • The presidency was weaker in those days; all the biggest decisions were made by Congress and the Supreme Court. But President Cleveland faced an economic situation very similar to that of today. History really does seem to repeat itself, in generalities at least even if the details are different.
    • Other interesting Cleveland facts:
      • His wife, age 21, was the youngest First Lady ever (she was 27 years younger than her husband) and the first to remarry after she was widowed (Jackie Kennedy was the only other presidential widow to remarry).
        • Cute story: When she was an old lady in her 80s she attended a State dinner under her second married name, Mrs. Preston. She commented to President Eisenhower that she used to live in Washington DC. He responded, "Oh really? Where in Washington?" One can only imagine his surprise when she would have responded, "Here in the White House."
      • One of their daughters, Esther, was the only presidential child born in the White House.
    • A
  • Lost to Time: Unforgettable Stories That History Forgot by Martin W. Sandler
    • Chapters on Cahokia (city built in today's Illinois by Native Americans and abandoned before Europeans arrived), the Sultana (Civil War era steamship that exploded and killed more people than the sinking of the Titanic), and several others. None of it was that interesting and it was written in a way that several pages information could have been shared in a few sentences.
    • C-
  • 8 books read
  • 8 non-fiction
    • 2 memoirs
    • 1 biography
    • 5 general history
  • 0 fiction
  • Grades
    • A: 4 (3 A, 1 A-)
    • B: 3 (1 B+, 1B, 1 B-)
    • C: 1 (1 C)