Wednesday, September 11, 2013

GRABook Club: The Hunger Games

I read The Hunger Games 2 years ago, while on a flight to Wyoming.  I was so enthralled that I couldn't stop reading but I didn't want the story to end.  I loved the complexity of the characters and the tension of the story. 

My husband always talks about the day when society will fall apart, and how I'm far too soft to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.  I don't like to be outside.  I hate bugs and snakes.  My eyesight is abysmal.  I don't like to eat game.  I am allergic to everything.  I burn when I spend any time in the sun.  I refuse to camp.  In other words, Katniss would be almost exactly my opposite.  However, I am quite good at flying below the radar, so I might have a chance in The Hunger Games.

There were several things I wondered about the story, but I think the largest question I had was:  How did people end up in the various Districts...especially those who lived in the Capital?  Was it simply locational?  Was it socio-economic?  Was it plain old luck?  What do you think?

I assume that there was money involved for the residents of the Capital, but everyone else just got stuck where they grew up.  But that theory doesn't necessarily make sense in terms of a war.

The Hunger Games is the best of the trilogy (well, according to me, anyway), but Catching Fire and Mockingjay are also well worth reading.

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for The Hunger Games.  You can get your own copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins at bookstores including Amazon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Book Club Time Again! This time - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I think this is my all-time favorite book.  I grew up in an in-between era.  I was born after the Civil Rights movement but with people who were still unaware of their racism and prejudices.  It took a long time, and many corrections, for my mother to stop referring to "her black friend."  I think To Kill A Mockingbird really exemplifies things that are still wrong with society today - where skin color makes a difference in every facet of life...but no one will admit it.  Much of our society likes to think we are in a post-racial society, but we're not.  Not really.

How do I know this?  Well, I belong to a political discussion group on FB - it's comprised of a mixture of people with different ages, races, education and income levels, and views.  Mostly we keep things cordial, but discussions about race come up a lot. When you have Ivy League educated professionals discussing how race still affects their everyday lives, we are not post-racial.

In recent days, there have apparently been some interesting trending topics on Twitter - one is #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen - and is in regards to the way the feminist movement excludes women of color.  Here's the story if you're interested.  A related topic is #blackpowerisforblackmen which outlines the misogyny and racism within the black community itself.  I'm not a user of Twitter, but this sort of thing appeals - you can join in the stream of conversation.  Or you can, after the heat of the moment has passed, return to the conversation and see if you see yourself there.   Either way, I think these topics started some conversations, and that's progress.

But back to the book.  In addition to just being a good story with really well-written characters who feel like family, there are so many different messages in To Kill A Mockingbird.  There is the obvious racial theme.  There is the theme of white privilege.  There is the theme of the underdog.  There is the theme of familial abuse.  There is the theme of familial love and loyalty.  There is the theme of living an unconventional life.

 For me, I think the most important theme. the one that has stuck with me, is the theme of standing up for what's right, no matter the personal cost.  Most days, I'm not sure that I have the strength of character to always do what's right.  Other days, I'm confronted with the choice, and fortunately, so far, I've mostly chosen the right path, rather than the easy one.

I guess that's my question, then - which theme/message stuck with you the most, and why?

 After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for To Kill a Mockingbird.  You can get your own copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee at bookstores including Amazon.

*Side note:  Because I transferred high schools between my sophomore and junior years, I was able to use To Kill A Mockingbird for class assignments 3 years running.  Maybe that's why I love the book so much.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Workaround

I work for state government.  This means that when you have a problem, no one will actually let you take the steps necessary to solve the problem.  They will only tell you how to work around the problem.  I encountered this recently when I called attention to a photography issue with one of the people involved in directing our policies.  I raised a philosophical question and got a workaround in response.  (However, since I am not generally satisfied with glib answers, I responded and got a half-hearted assurance that the issue is something we really should discuss in more detail.  If nothing else, I am excellent at starting arguments!)

I thought that out in the real world, people actually attempted to solve problems instead of just working around them.  But I was amused to find not one,but two, examples of the workaround in my inbox this morning.

Google's new tab-based system for their email is...mildly annoying.  Some people find it helpful, but I don't have hundreds of emails to sort through on a daily basis.  Therefore, it's more trouble than it's worth for me to have to sort through the tabs to see what's new in my inbox.  I would probably appreciate it more if I could make the tabs, rename them, and sort accordingly, but it's not a very customizable system.  Basically, Google does an auto-sort of things it thinks are personal, things it thinks are related to social media (G+, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, etc) and things it thinks are non-spam promotional emails.  This would probably be more useful for me if I didn't take the coupons/discounts/deals bloggers advice and create a separate email account for all that crap.

This morning, however, the two emails were sent to ask me to put their emails into the primary (personal) tab in gmail.  Both are companies who were auto-sorted into the Promotions tab.  Well, that was fun, Google, but they've found the workaround to being shuffled off to the Ignore Me folder!

I wonder what the thinking behind the promotions tab was, anyway.  Companies want to show up on the front page, no matter what the circumstances are.  I also wonder if companies are pulling advertising in protest of being sidelined in their email marketing.  I look forward to Google next pulling the plug on Blogger, because it seems that they're trying to rid themselves of people who aren't paying them for something or another.  Irritating customers seems to be their current business model.

I'm also about halfway through Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, in which Google has a strong background role.  This may be affecting my attitude, because the book, at least thus far, is about a conflict between books and the digital age.  I'm a fan of books. 

Meanwhile, over at Yahoo, if they switch their logo one more time, I'm going to lose my mind!  I've seen about 3 different ones in the last couple days.  I liked the old one.  Maybe they'll hit on a new one that works, but the ones I've seen have been less than spectacular.  I'm not sure what the workaround to a new logo is, though.  Cached pages or something?   

Well, there you have it.  My internet complaints for the day...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

GRAB(ook) Club: The Fault In Our Stars

I read this book several months ago, and didn't get a chance to reread it.  But I loved the book - it made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.  It has made me a huge fan of John Green - I think I've read all of his books now.  Some are good, some are great.  This is my favorite, because the emotions he evokes seem so accurate to me.

So, a question:  What do you think about the roles (or lack thereof) of the parents in this book?

I've lived with someone who was dying.  My father had rheumatoid arthritis and the circulation in his legs gradually faded because of it.  He developed a sore that wouldn't heal, which became a gaping hole in his leg.  I didn't know what would become of that, but I knew it was not going to get better.  But still the doctors threw seaweed wraps on it and tried skin grafts and sent physical and occupational therapists - because they didn't know what else to do and they couldn't do nothing.  And so I could identify with the parents lack of real presence in this book...because there was little that I could do for my dad but sit back and watch.  To pretend that things were as normal as possible, so he didn't have to feel like I was responsible for his care, when it was still his job to watch over me (I was 22 when he died).

I believe that John Green minimized the parents as characters because it was a realistic way to portray them.  I believe that parents would have to go on with their daily lives, that they would attempt to let their children live their lives to the fullest, knowing that they wouldn't get as long a time to do so as most people.  He captured their sorrow and their frustration, but made them into great parents who knew that it wasn't about them, even though the cancer was happening to them too.

Do you think expanding the roles of the parents would have made the book better/worse/the same?

FYI, in case you cared, my preference for the rest of John Green's books are as follows:  Will Grayson Will Grayson, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and An Abundance of Katherines.  And he's pretty entertaining on Mental Floss.

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for The Fault in Our Stars.  You can get your own copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green at bookstores including Amazon.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Now That It's Completely Useless To Anyone

I have tried a bunch of different readers, since Google will be depriving me of my favorite tomorrow.  :(

I'm using Feedly at work with Firefox.  It's OK.  I don't like that it doesn't seem to automatically update - I have to refresh it. 

I'm using Bloglovin on my phone.  That's mostly because it's the only one that seems to work with an ancient (4 years old!) Blackberry.  I would like to get a new phone, but my husband refuses to pay an activation fee and additional money for data services just because the cell phone company feels like charging for it.  So, until there are no more Blackberries available on eBay...I will be stuck with an ancient phone. 

At home, I'm still deciding.  I like Netvibes, but it was very complex to import everything.  However, it does have an advantage over the other two choices.  Any site I follow with multiple pages (like The Pioneer Woman) or feeds is not showing up in Feedly or Bloglovin.  For Netvibes, they seem to be working just fine.  It's probably just a setting I haven't discovered yet, but I don't have the energy to figure it out.

Note: for all of these services I am only using the FREE option.  I'm not a fan of paying for things if I can possibly avoid it.  I'm getting used to repeating this philosophy on a daily basis, as my daughter complains that I won't let her have Club Penguin memberships or buy boosts/lives for games on Facebook.

None of these are ideal.  And I'm curious to see how they'll all work once Reader is deactivated.  But at least I have some options to make sure I keep up with things in Blogland.

What are you using?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

GRAB(ook) club and Measure of Love

My first online book club!  I really enjoyed Measure of Love.  It was both a light read and a book that made me think about the characters beyond the bounds of the story.  I related to some of Rachel's issues, while at the same time she was annoying me with her dithering.  I'm looking forward to reading Arianna's story in the next book.

Now, I have to think of a question about the book...hmmm...well, how about some creative interpretation/write your own addendum to the story:

Adam is sort of a minor character in the story. We don't get to see many of his reactions, but he seems fairly perceptive (at least at this stage of the game).  While Rachel was going through all of her issues, how do you think he was processing all of her insecurities and assumptions?  I mean, they had to be somewhat evident, right?  Was he suffering his own doubts, or was he just oblivious?

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for Measure of Love (  You can get your own copy of Measure of Love by Melissa Ford at bookstores including Amazon (

And if you read it, don't forget to leave a review!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Trying to do my part

It's National Infertility Awareness Week.  I've never really fit into the Infertility Crowd (except, of course, age-related secondary infertility...fertilization is easy!  Creating viable embryos and housing them properly is beyond my capabilities.  Except for that one time.).  So, my efforts to do something for NIAW will have to be unconventional also.

I was reading an article about an interview with Michael Pollan - I'm sure everyone but me has read his books on our food culture.  If you haven't, you probably should - all my friends seem to be big fans.  Anyway, as I read his interview responses, one sentence struck me and I couldn't let it go.  Normally, I'm pretty good about flushing the stuff I read on the internet pretty quickly, but this one sentence inspired me to find some contact information for Michael Pollan, so I could send him a little piece of my mind.  Here's what I wrote through the FB messaging system:

Mr. Pollan,
I just read an excerpt of your interview from Lucky Peach Magazine in The Daily Beast, and a part of it struck me. I'm sure it was a somewhat off the cuff remark, but it's definitely a trigger for many people. Perhaps you are unaware of the so-called Mommy Wars, in which women who do not or cannot breastfeed are made to feel inadequate. You have given ammunition for those kinds of attacks with this remark:

"But we still can’t make formula as good as breast milk. There’s still that mystery X-factor because babies raised on formula simply don’t do as well... It’s human arrogance to think we can outwit nature."

As someone who has a nephew who was failing to thrive because my sister couldn't produce enough breastmilk, and whose own daughter required supplementation with formula, I object to your assertion that babies raised on formula simply don't do as well. To me, alive and thriving is better than dead from starvation. While I agree that breastfeeding is the best option, it should not be implied that it should be the only option. Formula is a life-saver (quite literally) for many children.

Based on your words, I suspect you have not had a great deal of exposure to women who have had trouble breastfeeding. I'm sure, as an author, you know the value of choosing your words carefully. So, this is simply an attempt to let you know that this might not be an example that you want to use in the future. Certainly, formula cannot match the benefits of breastmilk, but since, for some, it's the only option, it would be better to measure your words on this topic.

Very Respectfully,

Are You Kidding Me? (I actually used my real name since it was through FB anyway, but this would have been a more amusing close.)
P.S. I found the rest of the article quite interesting, and look forward to reading your books - several friends have recommended them.

So while I don't have anything useful to say about infertility, I have tried to do my part to raise awareness of at least one women's issue.  If you have a hard time making a child, the last thing anyone should do is make you feel badly about feeding that child if you have the good fortune to get it here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's looking a little dusty around here

My poor, neglected blog...sigh.  It's been a while.

This morning, as I was taking my pre-dawn walk around the neighborhood, I was thinking about the state of medical care in this country.  I have a primary care physician, but I almost never see him.  There are two reasons for this: 1) I am rarely sick.  2) I find him to be generally useless.  I think I find him useless because he has completely bought in to the idea that patients just want a pill to make them all better.  As I was walking this morning, what occurred to me was that it's not so much patients who want a pill to make things better as it is doctors who want the patients to go away.  And they won't go away until they feel at least somewhat better about whatever is ailing them.

I've seen my primary care physician for 3 things.  First, shortly after my daughter was born, I had pain in my hand, wrist, and elbow.  He diagnosed me with De Quervain syndrome, gave me a splint, prescribed ice and ibuprofen, and said it would probably go away eventually.  Second, I went to see him because I thought I had an ear infection.  As it turns out, I injured my ear, probably with a Q-tip.  I got some ear drops for that, and the advice to stop sticking Q-tips in my ears.  How am I supposed to scratch my brain if I can't put a Q-tip in my ears???  (I think anyone who has seasonal allergies will understand what I mean by that.)  Finally, I was in a car accident and I saw the doctor for my whiplash.  It was at that point he started treating me like I was a drug-seeking hypochondriac.  I think I should have told him straight out that I was looking for a physical therapy recommendation, so he could have skipped the ibuprofen and ice routine. 

In contrast to that jerk, I recently saw a surgeon to get my umbilical hernia repaired.  Of course, it was an entirely different sort of situation, since my problem was clear, as was the solution.  But when I asked how long I should take off of work, and what the recovery would be like, the doctor was all sorts of optimistic.  I wouldn't need much more than a weekend and a couple days.  I would be done using the pain medication quickly.  I would be moving around moderately freely shortly after surgery.  I should take it easy, but I wouldn't be an invalid.

After surgery, the hospital gave me 2 doses of pain medication within an hour or so - probably enough to get me dressed and into my car.  They also brought my prescriptions to my bedside - I highly recommend that service!  I went home with 30 painkillers - enough to take the max dosage for about 6 days.  But my doctor told me I'd be done in 2 or 3 days.  So, by day 3, I was done with the painkillers.  I don't like opioids anyway, but I did feel much better.  I had surgery on Tuesday.  I took my daughter to story time at the library on Saturday (there would have been hell to pay if I hadn't - the kid loves the library).  I did a little shopping on Monday (I don't work Mondays anyway), and felt like I overdid it, so I took the following Tuesday off too.  By Wednesday, I was back at work - not doing much more than taking up space, but back at work nonetheless.

The next Tuesday, I had my follow-up visit with the surgeon.  One of his first questions was "So, are you back to work yet?"  Of course!  You told me I wouldn't need more than 4-5 days at home!  It was about that time that I realized that he had made every effort to set me up for a quick and successful recovery.  He told me it wouldn't hurt too much after a few days.  He said I'd be capable of working inside a week.  He told me most people stopped the painkillers after 3 days.  I think it was a concerted effort to create a mindset that would facilitate a more easy recovery.

Contrasting that with my primary care physician, I can only determine that it's kind of a matter of trust.  My primary care physicians trusts only that I will come and complain and want him to immediately fix things.  My surgeon trusted that I would listen to his advice and make the best recovery possible.  If I had problems, they wouldn't be due to having a bad attitude - there would be an actual complication to deal with.  My primary care physician believes that I am not well-informed, nor am I a partner in my health care.  Maybe it's because I never get physicals.  Maybe it's because I refuse to  have my pap smear done there (I have the most awesome OB/GYN ever.  How do I know?  Because he actually read my chart.).  Maybe he's just a paternalistic dickhead who doesn't believe that there are any reasonably smart people within the area he serves. 

I don't pretend to know as much about healthcare as someone who went to med school and has been practicing for a number of years.  But I'm not an idiot either.  I know many doctors are wary of treating patients like partners, because patients are so often ill-informed.  But it can be done in a subtle and reasonable way - my surgeon's method shows that.  I can only hope that more medical offices and hospitals are following that sort of protocol.  An informed patient with realistic expectations is more likely to feel satisfied with their care, regardless of the outcome.