Books read in March

Man, there’s a lot of nonfiction going on this month? What’s up with that?

Positive Addiction
William Glasser
This book is a bit dated it its psychological theories, but makes some good points. The author examines two groups of people: those addicted to running and those addicted to meditation. He supports such addictions, and sees great benefit to getting yourself addicted to some sort of positive activity. It also includes tips to establish your own positive addition.

Uprooting Racism
Paul Kivel
The guide (maybe even The Guide) for white people wishing to examine their own racism. Also the guide for white people who are sure they are not racist, but are concerned about other people’s racism. (Note: both of these groups most likely has some white privilege things to acknowledge.) Each chapter ends with discussion questions making this a very good book to use for a study group. Well written and recommended.

Mediterranean Women Stay Slim Too.
Melissa Kelly
I’ve successfully cut back on the reading of diet books, something of a hidden addiction for me. But I seem to have not actually divested myself from books that are about being slim and still eating good food. It isn’t such a bad thing. This book has a lot of good recipes and points. However, its tone can be slightly grating. It is clear from the text that the author grew up in a family that valued food and the communal ritual of eating food together. Today, the author runs a restaurant where she can continue this tradition. I am happy for her, and wish that we were all raised the way she was and strive to eat the way she does. That said, I think she may have laid out a bit of a tall order for most Americans.

Juliet, Naked
Nick Hornby
(first “Lucky Day” book)
I was excited, but cautious, about this book as I really love Nick Hornby’s writing, yet really did not like A Long Way Down. Happily, this book captures all the gleeful Hornbyesque dialogue and descriptions. As Hornby is aging, so are his characters. Because I am aging too, I don’t mind a bit.

The setup of the story was delightful, as were the life and musings of an aging former big deal rock star.

Math: Facing an American Phobia
Marilyn Burns
I was reading part of this book for an assignment at school and Burns was so funny, I just kept reading for pleasure. Burns analyzes why the vast majority of the country “hates” and “can’t do” math, and also points out that any efforts to teach math in a different, possibly more accessible way, are often loudly protested. It seems that people want their children to learn math in exactly the same way they did, even if the result was that they themselves hate math and describe themselves as not very good at it.

That makes me a little crazy. But Marilyn Burns, though troubled and confused about this, cheerily looks at a variety of math strands, how we use them in daily life, and how she would teach them in a classroom. This was so witty, interesting and thought provoking, I recommend it to everyone, not just “math” people.

Search for Dinosaurs
Another in the “Choose Your Own Adventure“-esque series from my youth. I had a very difficult time with this as my eyes tend to glaze over at words like “Mesozoic” and “Jurassic” and so I had trouble picking up the clues from each chapter.

Downtown Owl
Chuck Klosterman
I’m just going to say right now: prepare yourself for the ending. You will be breezing along enjoying the story and the writing and Klosterman’s incredibly unique way of seeing things and then BAM! The ending just hits you over the head and there is no real resolution and you will walk around in a kind of book daze for the next week feeling angry. But it is an anger tempered with some other emotions such as embarrassment–Why didn’t I see that coming?–and rationalization–Well, it is his book and he can end it anyway he wants, and indeed there were so many other memorable parts.

Ultimately, this is an awesome book, with several laugh-out-loud-read-them-to-any-one-who-is-willing parts. People who have spent any amount of time in a small town would enjoy the explanation of the change in the Town of Owl’s mascot, which I meant to read out loud to my mother, but the book went back before that could happen. His competing analysis of George Orwell’s 1984 from an adult/teenager perspective has clearly been fermenting inside of him for years, possibly since high school. The hidden rules of the single woman in a small town are hilarious, as are the twin internal monologues during a conversation between a man and a woman in a bar.

“Glee” is one word to describe how I feel when I read Chuck Klosterman. In this, his first work of fiction, I felt a sustained glee for 250 of its pages. Those last six pages? Be prepared. They are coming.

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout
Yet another book that I didn’t have to wait for 187 people to bring back from the library. I love, love, love the “Lucky Day” cart at the Kenton branch library. I also loved this book of interconnected short stories. I didn’t love Olive Kitteridge, but I came to respect and feel sympathy for her, which I think was the point.

The Pleasures of Cooking for One
Judith Jones
I liked that the focus on the cookbook is using your leftovers in two or three delicious meals. I’ve found this method in cookbooks with “normal sized” portions, but this was the first time I’ve seen it in a “cooking for one” cookbook. I enjoyed Judith Jones chatty tone and her discussion of techniques and equipment used in cooking for one. This cookbook seems to me to be very French inspired, which is fine with me, but might not be good for some. Overall, it was good enough for me to buy in hardback, which says a lot.

Started but did not finish:
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
Mildred Armstrong Kalish
I would like to read the rest of this book as I always find depression-era tomes interesting, even if they make me feel guilty for not scraping the extra bit of egg white out of the eggshell with my finger, as the author pointed out the women in her family always did. Nothing was wasted.

Three Sentence Movie Reviews: Sunshine Cleaning

This has two great actresses I love and I expected to like it. But it was boring and incredibly dissatisfying. Matt went grocery shopping for an hour in the middle of it, came back and guessed what had happened in his absence, it was that predictable.

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Three sentence movie reviews: The Blind Side

Given all the anti-racism reading I’ve been doing I expected not to like this movie. After all, it’s the quintessential–as my friend once referred to the genre–“white woman swooping in to save the poor black kid in the projects” genre. But, darn it, Sandra Bullock is charming and fun to watch and she wins me over every time.

Now go read the book.

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Three sentence movie reviews: Young Victoria

Kinda slow in the middle, but as my mother observed, “When nothing is happening, you can just look at all the pretty things in her hair.” Emily Blunt is very good as the young queen, the politics are well explained and Albert is very cute. A good movie to bring your knitting with a somewhat complex pattern to.

ps. passes the Bechdel test. Two women? Yes. Who talk to each other? Yes. About something besides a man? Yes! (Though if you count the British Throne as masculine, this would be a no)

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Three sentence movie reviews: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

I thought I would be a fan of this movie because 1) I love Roald Dahl and 2) I love George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzmann, Bill Murry, Wes Anderson etc. However, I was mostly bored and the entire time I had the feeling, “I should be enjoying this more.” But I didn’t.

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School of Ed

Having received my master’s degree from Portland State University, I spent a lot of time in the School of Education building. For unknown reasons, the School of Education shares a building with the School of Business on the PSU campus. I always felt that the building accurately mirrored society’s view of both education and business.

Here is where the two building meet. The right side is the School of Business, the left the School of Education.

The school of business has a lovely tan brick exterior and windows. Inside, it has multimedia rooms, nice carpeting and has clearly been remodeled recently. It is light and airy and quite pleasant to be in.

The school of Education has a strange metal facade and very high clerestory windows that let light into the computer lab, but few other places. The classrooms are cramped and dark and have few windows and the interior probably hasn’t been renovated since the building was built. It is an ugly, depressing building. The fact that just on the other side of the building is light and air and beauty makes it that much more depressing.

I’ve been in a lot of schools in a lot of different states and I can tell you that they have all (save the private schools) look much like this school of education. When I was studying at PSU we used to say that they built the building that way on purpose, so we could start getting used to depressing surroundings. When people say that schools should be run “like a business” I think of the differences between the school of business and the school of education and chuckle.

Today’s the day! Kenton Library!

My first look at the Kenton Library. I love it! It is small but beautiful.

The Fiction section. This takes up half of one of the side walls.

A look at the ceiling. This is not a flattering shot–I was feeling shy with my camera–but the library’s website tells me that this is a barrel ceiling. When seen in person it looks a lot less “home remodel” than this picture implies.

My favorite part of visiting today was the fact that there were two of nearly every book in the fiction section. I’m sure that once people start checking out books it won’t look like this for long.

This cart is a new feature they are piloting at this branch and one other. It’s called “Lucky Day” and it features books with massive amounts of holds. If you come to the library, you might find a book that you have on hold. You, gleefully excited, can check it out for three weeks. There are no renewals, and you can only have two lucky day books at once. I am VERY excited about the Lucky Day cart. I did not take home the Sarah Palin book.

In fact, I was gleefully excited to find this book, which I had on hold. Based on the number in the queue I was, and the number of copies the library carries, it was going to be a long wait. Instead, I took it home with me today.

The teen (YA in library-speak) section is up front and they had many copies of all the Twilight books strategically placed in the window as bait.

The library also has laptops to check out , a huge “media” collection (DVDs, CDs, etc) a very large children’s section and a 32 capacity meeting room. I can tell already that I am going to like this library.

Changing Libraries

When I moved to Portland in late 2001, I got myself a library card before I got a driver’s license. Since that point, the Central Library has always been “my” library. At the time, I lived downtown, but even when Matt and I relocated to close-in Southwest, the Central Library was still the one for me. When we moved to North Portland, miles and miles from the Central Library, it was still the one I visited the most, due to the fact that I could stop by after church, as the library was located conveniently between church and my Max stop.

Until this month North Portland had two libraries: one located only a bit out of the way (North Portland Branch on Killingsworth) and one located fairly far away (St. John’s Branch.) But this week, North Portland gets a new library located right in my neighborhood. One could say that it was located around the corner from me, depending on how you draw your corners.

So today, during the week of the Kenton Library‘s opening, I changed “my” library from Central to Kenton. It was both a sad and happy moment.

Shipping Container

I happened to be walking through Northwest Portland today and came upon a very fun find in this tiny building. “Is that a shipping container?” I thought to myself, and I strolled closer to investigate.

Indeed, it is a shipping container, modified to be a business! This pop up second story probably lets in a lot of light.

The shop was not open, so I couldn’t see what the interior looked like.

It’s very fabulous front window provides a little peek inside. A google of the name brings up a website ( that is still under construction, but provides a link to a Facebook page that says this:
Aylee & Co. is an exclusive collection of jewels featuring semi-precious gems and metals with an emphasis on asymmetrical design, lots of layers and old Hollywood GLAMOUR! Each piece is made locally by designer/metalsmith, Aylee Cody.

Now I want to be a designer/metalsmith with a cute shop in a converted shipping container!

Or maybe I just want to live in a shipping container home. See here.