Books read in September

I think September was a great reading month. I finished a lot of books in a variety of genres and though it wasn’t a great month for fiction, it was a fabulous month for non-fiction.


Comedy of Errors
Wm Shakespeare
While reading this I several times thought, “I think this part will be funny when I see it on stage.” But I didn’t find it especially funny while reading. The beauty of Shakespeare’s language continues to escape me, until I see trained professionals bring it to life. And they did with great verve. And Edwardian bathing costumes! Long live Portland Actor’s Ensemble!

Slim Margin
Alison Apotheker
A collection of poems by a local Portland author and teacher, as well as a mom of children who attend the school where I work. I enjoyed this collection, especially “Forty-Somethings at the Swimming Hole” and “Ground Waters” which was featured this spring in the Writer’s Almanac. I also enjoyed that I could tell when the children appeared in her life.

Tiny, Tiny Houses
Lester Walker
I passed away a delightful afternoon studying the architectural drawings in this book. Some of my favorites: Tent House, which is made mostly of nylon, but which can be folded up into a tight locked structure when you are away from it. George Bernard Shaw’s Writing Hut which could be rotated to follow the sun. 1950’s Ranch House which is a tiny version of the house we all know. Also the Dune Shack which at the time of publication could still be found in the dunes of Cape Cod.

This is great inspirational reading for anyone who dreams of having a small space of her own. It also highlights great innovations in small space technology. I’m sure I will turn to this again and again.

Ursula K. Le Guin
I read this for the library’s discussion group and I’m pretty sure I would have not finished it if I were reading it for myself. It was not a quick read and so I had plenty of time to contemplate what was going on.
What worked:

  • I liked that I got to read the bones of a historic work without actually going to the trouble of reading the historic work.
  • I liked that the story was from a woman’s perspective
  • I liked learning about all the various ancient Roman religious rituals
  • I like that I’ve finally read something by Portland author Le Guin.

What didn’t work

  • The writing style was much more ornate that I am used to. I couldn’t skim.
  • The plot device mostly had me bored. LeGuin set up the story so I knew what was going to happen in each major part of narrative, either because the Poet appeared and told Livina, or because Livina herself told us what was going to happen. So then when it did, I was never surprised.
  • It turns out that even when I’m reading a rewritten tale from a woman’s perspective sometimes I won’t really care that much about the tale.

I will be interested to see what I learn in the discussion.

Late breaking news: at the discussion group, someone pointed out that the plot device that had me bored–telling you what will happen, then it happens–is a feature of Greek Theater. Ah! Now I see.

Empowering the Beginning Teacher of Mathematics Middle School.
Short and to the point, this book is chock-full of important information and tips. I think my favorite page was the Summary of Questioning Techniques which lists several ineffective ways to ask questions and then presents several effective ways to make the ineffective question effective.

The funniest bit of advice was something along the lines of, “when your students ask how old you are, add 30 years to your current age, as that is how old they think you are.”

This would be a good book to review right before job hunting and, of course, after one secures a job and has yet to start teaching.

John Green
I’ve been quite enjoying my foray into John Green’s works. This was a great novel told from a teenaged boy perspective that includes an elaborate prank, a mystery to solve, an incredibly funny road trip, and a love story. Alternately gripping, tragic, funny and smart, this is a fabulous YA novel.

Perfect Breathing
Al Lee & Don Campbell
Too tired to exercise? No healthy cooking skills? Don’t like fruits and vegetables? Do you want to improve your health but not really exert that much effort? Perfect breathing is for you. Lee and Campbell outline the many ways “perfect breathing” (taking a full, deep breath from your belly) can benefit you. Unlike many self help books, there is no program for you to adopt, no massive changes to make to your lifestyle. All you have to do is adopt the six second breath and you are on your way to better health. Sure, there are other exercises which you can do or not do. There is even a handy appendix which summarizes all of the exercises in the books. But really, the authors would be happy if you just revert to the belly breathing you did naturally as an infant.

Housebuilding for Children
Lester Walker
Yet another fabulous book by Mr. Walker. If I had children, this book would be part of our family library. By reading this book, children can learn to build their own play houses by themselves, with little-to-no adult supervision. Fabulous. Originally this was published in 1977 it is chock full of cute pictures of 1970s tykes (both boys and girls!) building six different play structures. In an age where children can’t do anything by themselves, for fear of whatever, this is a great book.

The Lonely Polygamist
Brady Udell
I’ve been stewing over this book for days and have come to the conclusion that I just didn’t like it. It was quite readable, but I couldn’t sympathize with either of the two adult (the polygamist referenced in the title and his fourth wife) main characters. I did like the other main character, the 11 year old boy. The adult problems seemed to be of their own making and the boy had little choice. Because I couldn’t connect with the characters, I was mostly annoyed and bored.

However, the lonely polygamist makes an observation that I did find truthful: women who learned of his polygamy were always distrustful whereas men were always very interested.

I think that polygamy works (somewhat) in agricultural societies where all those children can be put to work. But in our society it seems to create a lot of excess and lost children. I would argue that in the US today, if there is going to be polygamy, it should be one woman and several men, as this will result in less children and more “means” for the family to live on. I’d like to read that book. Who would be a good person to author it?

Started but did not finish.
Teaching Mathematics in the Middle School. A Practical Guide.
Krulik, Rudnick, Milou
If by “practical” they mean “boring” this is your guide. Incredibly thorough (does anyone going into teaching in the United States NOT know what an overhead projector is?) and includes sample lesson plans. I will grind through this in January when I’m gearing up for hiring season. Right now I just can’t force myself to read this.


Well, I’ve got one more day and I’m not going to totally catch up. I’ve been working like a dog since September fifth and I was hoping that by tomorrow I would be caught up to present day. But I’ve got the by-ear harmony singing class tomorrow which will cut into the blog posting time. Even if I do four posts (my redoubling of effort goal) I will still have about three more posts on this blog, plus whatever I need to do for September for The Orange Door blog. So, I’m not to present day, but much, much closer than I was on Friday August 20.

Overall, a “good job me” award. Into the breach!

Three sentence movie reviews: Ghost Town

This had a good premise (dead people wandering around New York City and when living people walk through them, they sneeze) but was ultimately a mediocre movie. Part of the problem was that Ricky Gervais’ character swung through several different personalities in the course of the film. This wasn’t unpleasant to watch, which makes it a good “flu” movie, in my book.

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AM Mystery

A bad picture due to early morning light, but the car on the right was left running, with its lights and windshield wipers on (although it wasn’t raining.) The trunk was open and the driver and passenger seats were flung forward. It looked like it had run into something, though nothing around it looked as though it had been hit. I approached cautiously, but there was nothing to see, so I walked away. There was a gentleman outside a business and he told me that one of his employees had seen the car roll to a stop and a guy jump out, grab something from the back and drive off. Someone had called 911, so I continued on my way to work. I could hear the sirens approaching while I was at the Max stop, but I will never know exactly what happened here.

Three sentence movie reviews: Cyrus

Excellent performances by all three actors, this was like watching three great character studies. It was fun to notice the parallels between John C. Reilly and his ex-wife and Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei. Plus, any movie with Catherine Keener in it is for me.

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Probably the last place I would want to eat breakfast.

The Dancin‘ Bare is what I see when I stand at my Max stop. It’s one of those neighborhood institutions that I don’t want to get all huffy and protest-y and start petitions and force it to close, but I would be quite happy if it ceased to exist. (Portland International Raceway is the other one.) I can tell you, though that I will not be eating any meal there, even if they are offering a plate of eggs and hash browns to go along with their strippers.

An important notice from Director Park.

I checked in with Director Park back in a cold month. Now, of course, I can’t find that post to link to. Suffice to say, I wasn’t thrilled with the scale of the architecture or the sterile nature of the park. The Oregonian had an article about the park on 9/9/10 “A year after Director Park opens in Portland, visitors consider it a hit” which coincided with this picture I snapped the day before.

According to the article, “as many as 500 [people] visit on a nice day during lunch” with July’s total tally being 30,000 people. The article goes on to say that this park is the only park which has a full time event programmer and it also has part-time hosts who staff the plaza twelve hours per day.

Well. I’m sure if the much-neglected O’Bryant Square a few blocks north had someone scheduling festivals, art shows, lectures and classes, it too would be a popular park. The article closes with the following:
“Though Director has been popular in balmy weather, what happens in the rainy months ahead is uncertain.

But Rouse is so proud of the way the park has been embraced that she’s convinced Portlanders will enjoy it in winter.

“Come back in January,” she said, “and I bet you there’ll be someone sitting under the awning with a latte.”

I’m sure if the full time event planner is still planning things, there will be people about. I don’t begrudge Portland a successful park. However, I still think the scale of the park is “off” and I’m wondering why focus so much money and attention on just one block when there are other parks in the vicinity without such resources.


I’ve been putting money into a savings account to fund an emergency fund of three months of living expenses for more than 10 years. The emergency fund has been depleted time and again over the years, mostly because of emergencies. There have also been periods of employment where I could only save $25.00 per month. When you are shooting for $5100 in savings, depositing $25.00 per month can be particularly disheartening.

Still I persisted. And this month, I’m proud to say that I have reached my emergency fund’s first goal. Yip-yip-yipee! My next goal will be to have six months of living expenses in the bank.

What should I do to celebrate? Perhaps buy a pony?

Kidding. I’ll probably read another personal finance book.