Friday, October 30, 2009

October Reads

My audio book adiction has not subsided. I may have read/listened to 19 books in September, but that was nothing. In October I read/listened to 24 books. The exact numbers are 18 audio books, 3 e-books, and 3 paper books. Here is a quick review of each.

How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot – YA – Exactly what you would expect given the name. It is a predictable story with very one dimentional characters. Fun, but not overly thought provoking.

Ordinary Ghosts by Eireann Corrigan – YA – A teen boy who deals with lots of teen issues in a very different manner than what is commenly found in YA books for girls. Longer review here.

That Summer by Sarah Dessen – YA – Another great Sarah Dessen novel. This one is about a girl whose sister gets married shortly after her father gets divorced and her idea of family is turned upside down. Longer review here.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen – YA – This YA adventure is about a girl whose best friend is pregnant with her dead boyfriends baby. At the same time the MC breaks out of her overprotective parents clutches by dating a reble. Longer review here.

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen – YA – One of my favorite Sarah Dessen novels. This one is about a loner girl who spends the summer with her aunt and ends up finding herself in the process. Longer review here.

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen - YA - A mean girl who regarlaly uses and abuses he men in her life is tamed by the love of a kind hearted boy. Longer review here.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham – YA – A sixteen year old girl with terminal lucimia works her way down a list of things she wants to do before she dies that aren’t normally provided by the make-a-wish foundation.

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flag – Women’s Fiction – Overly preachy, gave up half way through. Continuation of Elmwood Springs story. Longer review here.

The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman – Non-Fiction – A fairly dry account of the current economy. Insightful, but not as entertaining as I was hoping.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner – Historical Fiction (faint hints of steampunk) – A fast paced story about the French Revolution and the love between a mistical gypsy boy and a doomed aristicratic girl.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Fairy Tale – A heartwarming remake of a Brother’s Grimm classic. A princess who's finds herself and her ability to lead after her title and power are stollen.

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes – Childrens – A unique view of children dealing with death as one 12 year old girl processes the death of one of her friends.

Animal, Vegitable, Miricle by Barbara Kingsolver – Memoir – An interesting account of a family that spent a full year eating no food grown more than 100 miles from their home. Longer review here.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner – Non-Fiction – An interesting take on economics that is more peculiour statistics than economics. Very similar to Malcolm Gladwell books.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowery – Children’s/Historical Fiction – A touching account of the nations of Denmark’s mission to smuggle all their Jewish residence to Sweeden during WW2, told from the point of view of a ten year old girl.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer – Young Adult/SciFi – Another gripping forbidden love story. This one is an invating alein falling in love with a human, as opposed to Meyer’s better known human/vampire love story. I actually like the Host better than Twilight and am looking forward to the release of the next book in the searies.

Paradise Lost by John Milton – Classic – Reading this felt way to much like homework. It may be the grounding of a lot of modern western thought, but it still reads like a text book.

Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers – Travel – I would love to go on a three year vaccation through 158 countries, and the economy lesson was somewhat insightful. But for the most part this book made me more jealous than inspired.

I Like You by Amy Sedaris – Hospitalty/Humor – Laugh out loud funny! Amy Sedaris may be even more entertaining than her brother. And it sounds like she throughs great parties.

Naked by David Sedaris – Humor/Memoir – I actually like David Sedaris’s early stuff better than is more recent stuff. It is hard to sympathis with a guy wining about being a gazillionair. But a fat guy hanging out at a nudist colony is pretty funny.

Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak – Graphic Novel – A marrage of classic literature and classic comics that is highly entertaining. Longer review here.

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan – Women’s Fiction – A gripping tale that sheads light on the country of Berma/Myamair. Unlike Adventure Capitalist, this story made me glad I was at home reading and not being held captive in the jungle.

A Mad Desire to Dance by Elie Wiesel – Literary – A glimps inside the pyschoanalys of a crazy jew. The story was interesting but it wasn’t exactly Night.

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop – Historical Fiction – A touching account of a twelve year old mill girls strugle to obtain an education and fight for child labor laws.

Joke of the Day
Why did the librarian slip and fall?
Because she was in the non-friction section.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keep Your Preaching in the Pulpit

Ever since “Fried Green Tomatoes” took the world by storm back in the mid 90’s, I’ve been a fan of Fannie Flagg. But I wasn’t able to bring myself to finish “Can’t Wait To Get to Heaven”, it was just to preachy to stomach. In this addition to the Elmwood Springs sogga, Aunt Elner dies and goes up to Heaven where Neighbor Dorthy is God. Something about being told the meaning of life over a piece of pound cake rubbed me the wrong way.

Normally religion in literature doesn’t bother me all that much. As a kid the Chronicals of Narnia were some of my favorite stories, and they are so overly Christian they might as well be called the Gospil According to Aslan. My early faith may have been shaped more heavely by the words of C.S. Lewis than the apposil Paul, but I never cared because I always loved the stories.

Two of my other early favorites were Candid and The Pilgrams Progress. In those books the Christianity isn’t even symbolic, it’s just right there in the open to see and deal with. But I never felt like I was being told what to think or feel, I was just experiencing an epic tale. In the same way as I’ve never felt tempted to convert to peganism when I read Homor.

I’ve never had a problem with religions symbolism in fiction. Religion has always played a big part in human culture and often drives people’s thoughts and actions, so it should hold a place in the things we read and write. Many of my favorite books have had characters that were Orthodox Jews, or Budists, or Hindus, or Muslums. I like learning about different people whose experineces are different than mine, and containing religion in literature is an important part of that.

What bothers me is when one character gives another character a sermon, that is so poinient I know it’s really just the author preaching to the reader. That is what I can’t stand. And that is why I put down one of my favorite author’s latest book midstride. I didn’t even dissagree with the sermon, I just didn’t want to be preached at.

Joke of the Day
Jesus and Moses went golfing. When they got to a lot water hole, Moses laid his ball up before the water for the easy shot. Jesus looked at the pond and announced, "If Tiger Woods can do it, so can I." Then he hit his ball straight into the pond. He turned to Moses and said, "Part the water so I can get my ball."
Moses did as Jesus asked, and Jesus went down and got his ball. After retreaving his ball he did not lay it up for an easy shot over the water trap but instead announced, "If Tiger Woods can do it, so can I." He swung again, and landed in the water again. And again he asked Moses to part the water.
Moses was now feeling frustrated and encouraged Jesus to lay up for the easier shot. Jesus would not listen and again hit his ball straight into the pond. This time when he asked Moses to part the water, Moses said no. So Jesus walked out on the water to get his ball himself.
The group behind them caught up and looked out to see Jesus walking on the water and asked, "Who does he think he is, Jesus?"
Moses turned to the golfers and replied, "He is Jesus. He thinks he's Tiger Woods."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sarah Dessen

I have officially found a new favorite author. I read “Along for the Ride” by Sarah Dessen back in August and loved it so much I went on to read her other 8 novels in the two months that followed. Sarah Dessen writes young adult novels that typically deal with girls in difficult situations. Here nine novels deal with topics from making friends, devorce of parents, rape, falling in love, eating disorders, death of parents, teen pregnency, growing up, death of friends, domestic violence, concentual sex, bullying, child abuse and neglect, and much more.

At times Sarah Dessen’s stories are funny, but for the most part they are serious and often sad. The thing that makes these books stand out as so exceptional is the development of the secondary characters. Every single person who enters the page is interesting. People are almost never what they seem at first. The stories narators are regularely surprized as they come to see new sides of the people around them. This complexity of all the characters in her stories makes them seem more real.

Sarah Dessen’s stories are all set in the same place (actually two places). 7 of her novels are set in the town of Lakeview and 2 are set in the town of Colby. The town of Lakeview is referenced in one of the Colby books, and the town of Colby is refrenced in two of the Lakeview books. The characters in these books all go to the same two high schools, and they all hang out at the same hot spots around town. This overlap in setting ties into the complexity of the minor characters. It makes the reader think that even the unnamed people in the background have interesting stories to tell – and reading Sarah Dessen’s other novels will in fact tell those stories. There are even two named characters that appear in multiple books.

Here is a list of all of Sarah Dessen’s books and a quick summary of each. These books are listed from most recently published to first published. In general I like Sarah Dessen’s more recent work better than her earlier work and would recomend reading her newer stuff first.

Along for the Ride – Auden, an overachiver with immature parents graduates from high school and realizes she has never had a childhood. During her last summer before college she goes on a quest to experience all the things she missed during the first 18 years of her life. Her quest begins with food fights and bowling, and ends with learning to ride a bike and falling in love.

Lock and Key – A seventeen year old Ruby is abandoned by her mother and ends up living with her astranged sister who she hasn’t seen in ten years. Ruby’s understanding of family changes as she gets to know her sister, makes new friends, and discovers one of her friends is being physically abused by his father.

Just Listen – Annabel is supposed to be the girl who has everything, she has been a professional model since she was in diapers. But her older sister has a serious eating disorder and the previous summer Annabel was raped by her best friend’s boyfriend. Annabel struggles to find the strength to admit the truth about her life and to find a friend willing to listen.

The Truth About Forever – Fifteen year old, Macy has done everything she can to live a perfect life ever since her father died a year and a half ago. When her mom, a work aholic realator, gives a party Macy ends up helping the caterers in the kitchen as everything that could go wrong does. Macy then gets a perminate summer job with the caterers and discovers that life doesn’t have to be perfect and missing her father is okay.

This Lullaby – Remy is basically a total bitch. At the beginning of the summer, her mom marries step-dad number 5, so there is grounding for Remy’s anti-love mentality. In a twist of the normal bad boy story, in this novel Dexter, a nice boy, is able to tame Remy and break down her cold hearted exterior.

Dreamland – This is the only Sarah Dessen book that I really didn’t like. Caitlin is a fifteen year old girl who falls in love with a drug dealer shortly after her sister runs away from home. Her drug dealer boy friend then begins to regularely beat the shit out of Caitlin, and she lets him. In the end Caitlin’s parents figure out what is going on and she gets help. Still the story is grusom, none of the characters are likable, and I just really wanted to believe that this sort of thing never actually happens.

Keeping the Moon – Colie has the worlds smallest self-esteem, even though her mother is a modivational speaker. When her mom leads a modivational tour of Europe, Colie is sent to spend the summer with her ecentric aunt. Colie gets a job at the local dinner, makes friends for the first time in her life, and falls in love with the loner boy who works as a short order cook.

Someone Like You – Halley’s best friend Scarlet discovers that she is pregnent. Too bad the father died in a motor cycle accident. Halley falls in love with Macon, Scarlet’s dead boyfriends bestfriend. Macon is a total bad-boy that Halley’s overprotective mother refuses to let her see. Eventually Halley realizes Macon is no good and redirects her energy toward helping Scarlet prepair for motherhood.

That Summer – Haven’s older sister gets married the same summer as her father remarries. All of her ideas of family are turned upside down as people move in and out of her life. Haven befriends one of her sister’s old boyfriends, in hopes of grabbing onto a happier past. She learns that not everything in her past was as perfect as she wants to remember and comes around to accept the changing family that she has in the precent.

Joke of the Day
A duck walked into a drug store and asked for a tube of lipstick.
The attended said, "That will be $4.99."
The duck said, "Just put it on my bill."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Food for Thought

I tend to spend somewhere between 40-60 hours a week listening to audio books (or occationally reading). This means that a lot of the things I think about are inspired by the things that I read or listen to. A lot of my past blog posts have been poorly descized book reviews that have really just been my opinions on what I ever I most recently read/heard. I’ve decided that I enjoy this format and am going to keep it up.

So let’s talk about “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. In other words, let’s talk about food, where it comes from and why we eat it. In “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, Barbara Kingsolver encourages readers to figure out where their food comes from and to eat more locally grown food. The story actually begins with her moving from Arizona (the land of giant cities and zero food production) to a small farm in Verginia.

I live in Oregon, a traditionally agricultural state. Portland is a very rainy city. That doesn’t mean that we get a huge annual rainfall, because down pours are very rare. Instead it starts drizzling every October and doesn’t stop until June. It is always gray, and the sky is constantly spitting on people. It is basically spring 9 months of the year, so things grow really well and everything is green all the time. The people are green too, meaning everyone recycles, more people bike communte than in any other US city, and the local food movement isn’t a new conversation topic.

I like vegetables and I’m not affraid to eat organic. My favorite resteraunt is Seasons and Regions (which serves only seasonal regionally grown food, and it’s always delicious). I also subscribe to Organics to You, a local home delivery organic food service. But this stems mainly from my wanting to eat a variety of produce and often being to lazy to go to the grocery store.

But the biggest step in the local food movement is the grow it yourself step, and honestly that is the part that just makes me roll my eyes. You see, my husband is a little bit OCD when it comes to food production. He loves to generate eatables on a massive scale, and spending a Saturday baking 30 pies to then stick in the freezer is just good clean fun as far as he is concerned.

So this is what I am currently living with: Two barrels of wheat that my husband threshed at an antique farming exobition last summer – we still have get it milled before we can bake our own bread with our own wheat. A freezer full of fish, mainly salmon, halibut, stergion, rock fish, crab, and clams – catching your own food may sound very economical but I know how much he spends on gas for the boat and promise you that it is a lot cheaper to buy fish at the grocery store. 75 bottle of wine needing to be bottled and another 75 bottles just starting to ferment – that’s right grapes are one of the primary crops grown in the willamette valley, we have a grape vine in our yard, and have been making 75 bottles of wine a year for the past five years, even though we drink at most 20 bottles of wine a year, and the stuff doesn’t taste very good so we never give it away to friends. About 100 tomatos rotting in my yard – we have a garden every year but the only things that we can get to grow are tomatos and green beans so we end up with way to much of both of those and nothing else. We did freeze about 20 pounds of green beens this year but the uneaten tomatos were just left to rot.

So we might not be as self sustaining as the Kingsolver family, but we aren’t bad. It is common for us to eat a meal in the summer where none of the food every touched a grocery store shelf – fish we caught and produce we grew. Who cares if we have three freezers all full and a wine rack with about 400 bottles of homemade wine on it none of which will ever be drunk. If the appocolips comes, at least we wont starve.

I enjoyed reading “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” and would recomend it to anyone interested in where their food comes from. But I still feel a little bit fearful of the slow food movement. My brother just told me he plans to make his own butter and bring it to my house for Thanksgiving, and did I mension that I am currently living with two barrels full of wheat.

Joke of the Day
Found on the seal of a bag of bagles:
Made the old fashioned way

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Boy Books / Girl Books

There are pleanty of girls in this world that read "Harry Potter" but not all that many boys who would admit that they read "Gossip Girl". The break down of girl books and boy books is something that parents and teachers like to deny, but it still exists. I read a lot of girl books. Most of the YA that I read is clearly geared towards teenage girls, and most of the adult books that I read would be classified as womans fiction or chick lit. This of course makes me wonder, what are all the boys reading? Steven King? Science Fiction? Comics?

I recently picked up the book "Ordinary Ghosts" by Eireann Corrigan primarily because it was a YA novel with a boy protagonist and I honestly couldn't remember the last time I read a boy book. In many ways it was very similar to the YA novels written for girls that I read. It's about a 16 year old boy whose mom just died and his brother ran away from home - a typically happy teen adventure. But here is the huge difference. In girl books, the girls spend endless hours talking to their friends. Feelings are over shared - how else would the story move forward? But in "Ordinary Ghosts" the troubled teen regularely refers to his best friend as a duche bag and keeps all of his emotions locked tight inside.

Are girls and boys really that different? Or are writers simply enforcing steriotypes? I've always been a tom boy. I don't think there has ever been a time in my life when I had significantly more female friends than male. As a teen I didn't call my male friends duche bags, but maybe they were only willing to stay up half the night talking about their feelings with me cause I was a girl. Oh wait we weren't discussing our feelings, I was beating them at video games. Shoot.

Thinking about gender rolls in childrens literature also makes me think about gender rolls in our society in general. I am a female engineer, which isn't all that common. A few years ago I actually worked at a company where I was the only female engineer in the entire office. There are two big factors that have enabled me to become a female engineer.

First, I'm dyslexic, which means while I am a smart person who is good at math and science - I have always sucked at reading. Many smart girls are encouraged to go to law school where they can read and talk a lot. Or to become doctors where they can heal people. Only the smart girls who don't know how to read are encouraged to go hang out with the geeky boys and take things apart.

Second, I'm a tom boy. I have always had female friends. But I've always had male friends too. In elementry school when I was the only girl invited to a boys birthday party it didn't bother me. I enjoyed climbing trees with the boys as a kid and beating them at video games as a teen. So when I got to college and realized I was the only girl in my mechanics of meterials class, I didn't freak out. I expect a lot of smart girls walk into engineering classes full of geeky boys and then say, hey maybe I should just be a doctor instead.

Now that I have read a boy book that basically encouraged boys to repress all their feelings, I'm wondering what type of reverse descrimination boys are being faced with. Given todays economy, nursing is the most stable job market. There will always be sick people and you can't outsorce medical care. So it makes sence for more boys to go into nursing than manufacturing. But nurses actually talk to their patience, while factory workers get to play with giant mechines and they don't have to talk to anyone. Maybe that is why there are now more wemon working in the US then men.

Joke of the Day
A beautiful blond walks into a casino and bets $20,000 on one roll at the craps table. She then tells the men running the table that she always feels more comfortable betting naked. She strips off all her clothes and rolls the dice. As soon as the dice lands on the table she screams with delight and starts jumping up and down, hugging the men opperating the table. She then picks up her winnings and her clothes and walks away. After she leaves one of the men says to the other, "So what did she roll?"
"I thought you were watching the table," the other man replies.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

PG Personality

Since I have taken up the hobby of writing Young Adult novels, I have been reading a lot of YA. From emersing myself in the world of books written for teens, I've noticed a basic theme. Making mistakes is a part of growing up. Breaking away from the ties of parents and teachers and forging out on ones own is an important write of passage that is critical to every coming of age story. But how true is that to real life?

I was what you could call a "good kid". More honestly, I was often teased as a teen for having a PG peronality. One of my friends went so fars as to call me "every parents wet dream". My parents were good about allowing me to grow up. Once I past the "no running in the street" stage they simply "trusted me to make smart and healthy choices for myself." Oddly, I did. I never felt even remotely tempted to do anything reclouse or illigal. I don't want to do drugs or hang out with a bunch of drunk idiots now, and I didn't want to in high school either.

That doesn't mean my life was perfect. I still had to deal with mean girls, boys, and the whole not knowing how to read thing. I just navigated though it all by acting responsible and generally trying to survive high school while placing myself in as little harm as possible. And now, 15 years later, I'm reading books about teenagers who spent months flowndering before minding their footing and finguring out how to grow up. I really like a lot of these books, heck I even write them, but I have to wonder how well I would have related to them back when I was a teen.

I just read, "Someone Like You" by Sarah Dessen. I have recently fallen in love with Sarah Dessen's writing and have been gobbling up all of her novels. While the plot is fairly complex, "Someone Like You" is basically about a 16 year old girl who breaks out of the clutches of her overly clingy parents and makes a few mistakes as she learns to think for and take care of herself. The story has a belivably happy ending, and while the main character flounders a bit, she never does anything so reclouse that she completely destroys her life. I really enjoyed reading "Someone Like You", but when I was a teenager I didn't like the movie.

"How to Deal" staring Mandy Moore is the movie adaptation of "Someone Like You". It came out several years ago. I watched it then and didn't like it all that much. I haven't rewatched it yet, so I don't know how well in mirors the book. But I do remember as a teenager, thinking that the characters in the movie were stupid. I couldn't understand why acting like an idiot was such an important part of growing up. Why couldn't teens simply use their heads and take care of themselves? Why was being recless and stupid such an important part of every teens DNA? Why couldn't the media admit that a lot of teenagers have PG personalities, and they are more than capable of serviving on their own.

There are some really great YA books out there that star "good kids" who deal with realistic teenage delemas without feeling the need to turn to a life of crime. And there are also a lot of reckless teenagers that wouldn't be able to relate to a story staring every parents wet dream. I really enjoy Sarah Dessen's writing and enjoyed reading "Someone Like You" at age 30. But back when I was 15 and my favorite authors were Chiam Potok and Mark Twain, I'm sure I would have been able to relate to any of the characters.

Joke of the Day

An engineer is out walking and he comes across a frog. The forg says, "I'm a beuitiful princess, if you kiss me I'll turn back into a princess and love you unconditionally."

The engineer puts the frog in his pocket and continues on his way. The frog crys from his pocket, "I'm a trapped princess. Give me a kiss and as thanks for freeing me I'll shower you with love and affection."

The engineer takes the frog out of his pocket and looks at it for a minute before putting it back. "Please, I'm a beautiful princess. Why won't you kiss me?"

"Look," said the engineer. "I'm kind of busy right now and I don't have time for a relationship. But a talking frog is kind of cool."

Friday, October 16, 2009

There is nothing wrong with my vission!

Well that isn’t entirely true. I am near sighted, and I’ve caught my eyes on fire twice now. But besides things being blurry when they are far away, I see exactly the same as you. I don’t see things upside down, or backwards, or anything crazy like that. As far as I know, no dyslexics see things upside down or backwards.

I’m not sure who started this nasty – dyslexics see things backwards rumer, but it has blown way out of perportion. I remember in the early 90’s there were people trying to get dyslexics to wear multi-colored glasses in order to fix their non-existant vission problem. Who came up with this crap? And why did people waist their money on it?

Most of the official research on dyslexia in the last decade or two has been grounded on actual facts and not a made up vission problem, but this seeing things backwards rumer doesn’t want to die. Why are people so willing to believe this myths?

The most logical reason for this misconseption is that sometimes dyslexics mess up their letters and accedentally write one backwards. In case you haven’t noticed this, almost all preschool and kindergarten children make the exact same mistakes. Writing letters backwards isn’t the result of a vission problem, it is the result of being an early reader that doesn’t fully know the alphabet yet. Dyslexics are just more apt to stay at this level for years as oposed to weeks.

The thing that I find the saddest about this massive misconseption is that it is leading to misdiacnosis. Recently I was talking to a friend and it came up that I am dyslexic. She then went on to say that she thought she was probably dyslexic too. As she elaborated on her achedemic problems and her continued inability to read above a third grade reading level (even though she is now in her late 30’s) it became overwellmingly clear to me that this woman had dyslexia. Then she went on to say, “But I don’t see things backwards or anything, so maybe I’m not dyslexic, I’m just slow.”

Granted this woman was in school at the peak of the seeing things backwards hox, but I sertainly hope that modern children aren’t falling into this same trap. If your kid has normal eyes, but is unable to comprehend the symbolic representation of sound, guess what – they are dyslexic. If they do see things backwards, they have some freeky vision problem and should probably see an optomotrist.

So in conclution, let me say one final time. Dyslexics do not see things backwards. Dyslexia is not a vission problem, it is a comprehension of the symbolic representation of sound problem. Not the same thing.

Joke of the Day
A dyslexic walked into a bra.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Names are very important, which is whyI blogged last week about my need to name myself. But it's even more important to think about the names we give others. Parents, don't destroy your childrens lives by misspelling their name on the birth cirtificate. And authors, don't piss off your readers by misnaming your characters.

A name says a lot about a person in a single word. The girls names of Ethal, Shaniqua, Jennifer, Lakshmi, and Maria probably conjur very different images in your mind. Names can add diversity to a story or help enforce a time and place.

The worst thing a writer can do is give all their characters the same name. I haven't seen this in any recent novels, but it's very common in the classics. A grandfather, father, and son all named John. This may have been a common occurance back in the day, but it seriously adds to the confusion factor when a reader constinantly has to stop and ask, okay which John is this again?

While coming up with different names for all your characters is uber important, lately a lot of authors have been taking this to the weird zone. We live in crazy times, and just like parents are giving their kids names like Tuesday and Moonshine, authors are expressing thier creativity on the titles they give their characters. I recently read a book with a protagonist named Ever. I was constantly having to stop and figure out context. Every time the word Ever appeared in the text, I had to figure out if it represented a name or an adverb.

It can be confusing to give characters to similar of names (Taylor and Tyler or David and Davis) but it's also a bad idea to give a character a name similar to a common word. I just read a book with a character named Sumner. In and of itself that is not a bad name, except that he was regularly referend to in sentance that read "the summer I spent with Sumner." The word summer was used so often in the story that I found myself stopping to clarify almost as much as I did while reading about Ever.

I've also noticed a trend of authors using the same obsure names. In the last two months, I've read three books with a teenage character named Haven. Granted in the year 2008 there were 481 girls in the United states named Haven, making it the 631st most common girls name, just beating out Irene and Maeve. So while this name is uncommon, it does exist. But in the early ninties when all these teenage characters named Haven were soposidly being born, the name was nowhere near the top 1000 names. But 193 girls were named Isamar in 1992, so why aren't I reading about any of them?

Joke of the Day
Some other names to aviod giving your children or characters:
Anita Bath
Ben Dover
Cody Pendant
Denny Juan Heredatt
Frank N. Stein
Huang Annsaw
Ima Hogg
Jaqueline Hyde
Joe King
Patty O'Furniture
Pete Zaria
Phil Landers
Rita Book
Stu Pitt
Tyrone Shoes
Warren Peace

Monday, October 12, 2009

What to Read

There are a lot of reasons why I love Portland, and one of them is Wordstock. This past weekend the Oregon Convension Center was taken over by a gient book fair, with ten stages and more than 200 authors giving readings. I wasn't able to make it on Saturday, but I did listen to 10 authors speak on Sunday. Simply being at an event that was so boustarously celebrating books was invigorating.

Oddly the event left me thinking about what I read, and how it relates to who I listened to speak. More than half of the authors who's talks I attended where people whose books I had already read. Some of them were even people that I personally know. Most of the authors who I haven't read yet, were writing in a genere that I read prolifically - so chances are high that I would make my way to their titles eventually.

But I only bought one book at Wordstock, and it was in a genre I never read. It was a graphic novel. It was also awsome! Masterpiece Comics is a compliation of classic literature parities told in the form of classic comics. Adam and Eve is told in a Blondy Comic Strip, Withering Hights is told as Tales of the Cript, Candeed is Ziggy, ect. The author was very personable, I found his presentation funny, and I enjoyed chatting with him afterward when I had him sign my book.

But if an author whose books I already know and love had been speaking on a different stage at the same time, I probably would have skipped Masterpiece Comics. This has made me wonder what else am I missing. What great gems of literature am I passing buy simply because they are housed on an isle of the bookstore I never walk down.

So I need your help. Please recomend 5 books in 5 different genres, so I can do a better job of rounding out my reading list.

Here are my 5 books for you:

Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak - Graphic Novel

Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison - Memoir

Beneath the Marble Sky by John Shors - Historical Fiction

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time India by Sherman Alexie - Young Adult

Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos - Women's Fiction

Joke of the Day
A chicken walks into a library and goes up to the circulation desk. He says, "book, bok, bok, boook." The librarian hands the chicken a book. He tucks it under his wing and runs out. A while later, the chicken runs back in throws the first book into the return bin and again says, "book, bok, bok, book, bok." Again the librarian give the chicken a book, and the chicken runs out. Within a few minutes, the chicken is back and the librarian gives him a third book. But this time as the chicken is running out the door, she follows it. The chicken runs down teh street, through the park and down to the riverbank. There, sitting on a lily pad is a big, green frog. THe chicken holds up the book and shows it to the frog, saying "book, bok, bok, book." THe frong blinks and croaks, "read-it, read-it, read-it."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Servival Skills

A fellow dyslexic blogger over at Teh Dyslexic Storytellers Blog had a post today about the rules of faking it. Basically what a dyslexic child has to do to pass as literate. I am a big fan of coping skills, but have employed different tactics and thus feel the need to add my own list.

1. Listen carefully - If you don't have an autographic memory, practice your listening skills as much as you can and do everything possible to commit everything you hear to memory. Listening is the most powerful tool a non-reader has, never forget that.

2. Memorize lots of books - Once you have mastered your listening skills, start memorizing every book that is ever read aloud to you. Any dyslexic child should be able to resite a minimum of 100 books, turning the pages at the right time. This skill will be invaluable when forced to do book reports or read aloud in class.

3. Find something else you are good at - For me it was math. It is a lot easier to do metal math that mental spelling, so I forced myself to excell in math as a child. If you are performing above grade level in one subject it is easier for people to overlook the fact that you are underpreforming in another subject.

4. Embrace the audio book - I still listen to lots of audio books and don't see any reason why any dyslexic shouldn't be listening to audio books. Public librarys have lots of audio books available. Audio bookworm is a netflix for books on CD type service that is great. And RFB&D (recordings for the blind and dyslexic) is just playing fabuolous. If you don't know how to read, you probably aren't reading this blog, but you should belong to RFB&D - because text books on tape is a gift sent straight from heven.

5. Problem solve - When given a situation that seems impossible, find a new solution. If your keyboarding teacher expects you to type faster than you can read, don't read while you are typing. If you are required to write an inclass essay study spelling words related to the topic instead of the facts associated with it. You are the one who knows what problems you're facing, and you are the one who can find the solution. Never expect it to be the solution that your teacher gives you. Just accept that you know yourself better than anyone else and only you can determine what it will take for you to servive.

6. Stay confodent - Many dyslexic people have gone on to achieve greatness, and there is no reason why you can't be one of them. If your dream in life is to be a secretary - you will never achieve your goals. So just be the boss instead, and hire a secretary to correct your spelling for you. If you can't be average - be exceptional instead.

7. Learn how to read - If you are severly dyslexic, this is quite possibly the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. But do it anyway. Get help for any sorce you can, and find a way to crack the code that is your own mind. If you can do this one impossible thing, then you truly can do anything. Don't let yourself stand between you and the rest of your dreams.

Joke of the Day
Dyslexics of the world UNTIE

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Play's The Thing

Last night I saw Becky's New Car at Portland Artist Reprotory Theater. The show began with a state ment, "When a woman says she wants new shoes it means she wants a new job. When she says she wants a new house it means she wants a new husband. And when a woman says she wants a new car it means she wants a new life." Then two hours of hillarity followed in which Becky went on to tear appart her current life and eventually drive away in a new car. The play wasn't overly thought provoking or insightful, but is was very funny, and I throwly enjoyed it.

The play was written so that the actors were always cognisant of the audience. At times various cast members would ask audience members questions. At one point when Becky was feeling over worked, she handed me a stack of papers and asked me to do some colating for her. In this play the audience interactions all added to the humor of the show. It also lead me to think about the human connection involved in theater that isn't present in other story telling mediums.

Occationally Broadway shows such as "Spamalot" and "Pippin" will turn to the audience and invite people to join in a sing-a-long. When listening to the Original Broadway Cast CD, or watching a DVD taping of a live show, these sceens seem really stupid. But when sitting in the audience, these group interaction activities are always really fun. And I think that is the point. Theater isn't meant to be experience on a CD or a DVD, it is meant to be seen live, and there should be a relationship between the cast and audience even when there isn't a sing-a-long or some impromptu colating.

When I was five, my parents took me to the Oregon Shakesphere Festivial in Ashland. They were a little bit nervious about setting their rambunction children loose in an Elizabethen theater. But the lady at the box office told them, "Just put your kids in the front row and they will see a show that they will never forget." So I got a front row seat to watch Twelth Night, and you know what, the lady at the box office was right. Twentyfive years later, I still remember that night. The language was arcaic and the costumes were strainge. For a lot of the show, I was very confused. But then at one point about half way through the play, two of the actors got in a fight and one through a bucket of water at the other, and I got wet. I was right there in the front row, and I got wet. The story was so alive that I felt the water, and I will never forget that feeling.

I love to read (or listen). I like watching movies. And I'm farely addicted to television. But out of all the story telling mediums, theater will always hold a special place in my heart. Because I've never gotten wet reading a book (unless I was outside and it started to rain). And I've never been asked to colate while watching a movie. And there is something truly magical about being touched by a story as it unfolds.

Joke of the Day
Sid Ceasar, holding up repaired pants:

Monday, October 5, 2009


I heard an NPR news article about doodling a while back. The idea behind the story was that doodling is an effective note taking practice because it disingages part of the mind without distracting from the task at hand. According to NPR, Bill Gates and several other highly successful buisnessman often doodle during meetings. Since most people often have their attention divided, the doodler is more engaged than the person who’s mind is wondering completely.

I don’t really think of myself as a doodler, but I am far more likely to scribble in the margins of a piece of paper than to take actual notes. Still the requirement to multi-task in order to focus on something rings true for me. My guess is that I could count all the times my full attention has been focused on a single thought on my fingers and toes. My mind is always divided, and I have gotten very good at channelling my energy in several directions at the same time.

That is the real reason behind my reading 19 books in the month of September. I think of my thoughts as living in two realms. There are the things that I see and feel and there are the things that I hear. If I am only hearing something my mind will make up pictures for myself to see, and if I am only seeing my mind will make up words for me to hear.

When I was in school I listened to audio books because I didn’t know how to read. But listening didn’t give me anything to see, and I often let my mind wonder. Then I discovered video games. By playing video games at the same time as I was listening to my text books, I was able to distract the textile and visual aspects of my mind, enabling me to focus more clearly on the things that I was listening to and my comprehension increased.

I still occationally play video games while listening to audio books in the evening and on weekends. But the majority of my listening is now done not as a primary function but a secondary one. For my job, I am an engineer. That mean that I spend 40+ hours a week living in a world of numbers and pictures and very few words. It is easy for my mind to wonder, I start making up stories and filling my mind with words as I am working. In order to keep myself focused on the tasks at hand, I listen to books. I comprehend the literature I am listening to now, just as well as I comprehended the text books I listened to while beating Super Mario Brothers. But I’m not really listening for the sake of listening. I’m listening to keep myself focused on my work.

I know that it sounds backwards to consiously divide my attention in half. But it is oddly effective. One day last week I accedently left my I-pod at home and had to go through an entire day in silence. But of course it wasn’t silent. The lights were buzzing, the guy in the cubicle next to me was talking, and the voices in my head were doing their best to entertain me. I was so distracted all day, I hardly got anything done. Listening to audio books is definately a more effective time management solution. And averaging 5 books a week is keeping me much more in touch with the current literary trends.

Joke of the Day
Have you heard of the ADD computer virus?
It periodically erases your RAM but your computer runs at 1000 Mhz and multitasks like a supercomputer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What's in a Name?

So, I’m totally un-googlable. The problem is that I have way to common of a name, and on top of that I don’t even know what my name is most of the time. I’ve decided that I need to do a better job of branding myself. Because currently, I’m hard to find on the internet.

The name on my birth certificate was “Katherine Marian Elliott”. The name on my current drivers licence and passport is “Katherine Elliott Scott”. I go by “Kate” about 55% of the time and “Katherine” 45% of the time. On this blog my name is listed as “Kate Scott”. I have three email addresses, the part before the @ for the accounts are “katemelliott”, “Katherine.Elliott.Scott”, and “Katherine_Scott”. When I attempted to google myself this is what I found.

Kate Scott – not in first 400 pages
“Kate Scott” – not in first 100 pages
Kate Scott dyslexia – 1st
Kate Scott spelling – 4th (jumped to 1st after this post was published)
Kate Scott writing – not in first 100 pages (jumped to 9th after this post was published)
Katherine Elliott Scott – not in first 100 pages (jumped to 1st after this post was published)
“Katherine Elliott Scott” – 5 pages, all me, all random (now 6)
Katherine Scott – 8th, my facebook account
Misadventures in Spelling – 1st
Dyslexia Jokes – 6th
Famous Dyslexics – 58th

So what does this all mean. Well for one thing it means that this blog is easy to find on google when people are looking for dyslexia jokes. But it is very hard to find when people are looking for me, me, me. And if for some crazy reason an agent or editor wanted to google me, me, me, well they would be completely out of luck.

So I’m thinking that I need to put a little effort into naming myself. Like it might be a good idea to have my facebook page, my myspace page (which I haven’t checked in like a year), my linkedin page (which I have never checked at all), and this blog all be listed under the same name. Then maybe I can figure out a way to make that one name link to me when people type it into google.

So here is where I need your help. What should my name be? I am thinking of this more as a pen name, than the thing my mother calls me. What name should be listed on the covers of all the books I’m soon to sell? Because it would probably be a good idea to start placing some claim on that name now. So please vote in the poll above - sorry I couldn't figure out how to include the poll in the text of the post, feel free to make fun of me if you know how to do this properly.

(Poll is now closed - here are the results. If you still want to vote simply voice your opinion in the comments section)

Kate Scott (0%)
Kate Elliott (0%)
Katherine Scott (0%)
Katherine Elliott (14%)
K.E. Scott (57%)
Katherine E. Scott (14%)
Katherine Elliott Scott (14%)

P.S. – Just for kicks I googled my college roomates name, which is very unique. Her parents made it up by combining several family names into one creative new treasure of a name. So she is 1st, 3rd, and 4th in google. She might be 2nd too, I didn’t actually click on the webpage, but I didn’t recognize it as undenyable her. I like my name, but when attempting to create a web presence having three first names is a bit of a drawback.

Joke of the Day
What do you get when you cross a dyslexic, and agnostic, and an insomniac?
Someone who stays up all night wondering if there's a Dog.