Books read in November

He, She & It.
Marge Piercy.
Another futuristic tale from Piercy concerning a woman, her son and a robot. I love how Piercy imagines the world mid-century. I hope it isn’t like that, but you never know.

Outlasting the Trail.
Mary Baumgardner O’Brien
I grew up on pioneer tales and read a lot of Oregon Trail novels. For some reason, I can’t think of a single adult novel about the Oregon Trail published in the last five years. Either the pioneer stories lend themselves better to children’s literature or our frontier ancestors are not in vogue right now.

This tale is based on the true story of a woman whose husband sets out happily for California, dragging his wife and family along. Not far into the journey, a major depression sets in, leaving him argumentative and unable to pull his weight. His wife Mary must step out of her sphere and ensure the family gets to California.

The story was pretty interesting, but I was skeptical of a lot of the thoughts put in the main character’s head by the author. They did not seem authentically eighteenth century to me.

The Importance of Being Kennedy.
Laurie Graham
This book was a delightful, breezy tale of the Kennedy clan with a Kennedy nurse as the main character. The book takes a dim view of Rose Kennedy and a dimmer view of Joseph Kennedy. The story was enjoyable and the narration was breezy and funny at times, too.

The Annotated Secret Garden.
Ed. Gretchen Holbrook Gerzman
Though I felt the annotation in this book was lacking at points, I always enjoy this story.

Pet Food Nation.
Joan Weiskopf
Why you probably don’t want to feed your cat or dog commercial pet food. My guess is, that if you read this book, you will start looking for other sources of food for your pet.

Peter Jordan
Dishwasher Pete has a book! The story of Pete’s quest during the 1990s to wash dishes in all 50 states. Jordan’s writing style is entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny at times and caused me to question the nature of success and how we define work in this country. Highly recommended. He also loves Portland.

10 Days in the Hills.
Jane Smiley
Unlike Celebutantes, this is an enjoyable novel of the Hollywood world. I enjoyed the plot device Smiley used to keep nine people in the same house for ten days, as well as the various characters. There is a lot of sex in this book and I found the scenes well written, much better than your average romance novel. The book is nice and thick, it makes fabulous beach read material.

I am America and So Can You.
Stephen Corbet.
I broke Corbert’s hard and fast rule to purchase the book, not get it from the library. Fans of the show know how funny this book is. Non-fans will enjoy it too. I read this in dribs and drabs over six weeks and there was much to chortle about. The side notes in the margin were particularly ingenious.

Bringing Down the House.
Ben Mezrich
The true story of how a group of MIT students successfully counted cards in Las Vegas and won millions. When this book came out and the author was promoting it I was fascinated by the story. I forgot about it for a few years, until the movie based on it premiered this summer. Reading the book, I can hear the conversations the producers must have had to make the story more “Hollywood.” I enjoyed both the book and the movie, though if you are going to indulge in only one, I would recommend the book.

Started but did not finish
Math Equals: Biographies of Women Mathematicians and Related Activities.
Teri Perl
More research about Mary Somerville brought me to this book, by the same author who wrote Women and Numbers. This book is written for the middle school/high school level and the Discovery Activities are more difficult. A well-done book, I may return to it in the future.

Woman and Numbers: The Lives of Woman Mathematicians Plus Discovery Activities.
Teri Perl
Research about Mary Somerville for a paper in my Historical Topics in Middle School Math. This book is suitable for late elementary school/middle school students and includes fun math activities after every famous woman mathematician.

Women in Mathematics.
Lynn M. Osen.
Well-researched articles about a variety of women mathematicians.

The Usbrone Complete Book of Chess.
Elizabeth Dalby
I can’t play chess. I know how the game works, but I have no understanding of strategy. I checked this book out in an attempt to change that, but then had no time to actually learn anything from it. The book is written for children, thus making a good introductory book for any age. It is vividly illustrated and has links to every lesson to reinforce your learning.

Slide Rule.
Robert Scaffold.
My next paper topic for the Math class.

Douglas Arther Brown.
I dated a guy who was the oldest of a set of triplets, and the three of them fought all the time. This fascinated me, and I wondered if that had to do with the fact they were too crowded in the womb, or family dynamics or other influences. So I was interested in this story of triplets, but the plot didn’t hold my attention. And usually I like books with alternating narrators and letters.

Did not even start
A History of the Logarithmic Slide Rule (very long title after this)
Florian Cajori
It was written a long time ago and skimming the introduction I found that the entire book is built on a false premise. I was supposed to read the addendum first, then read the book. It seemed too much trouble so I just didn’t bother.

Graphic Aids in Engineering Computation.
Randolph Hoelscher and others.
More books for slide rule research that I didn’t actually read.

The Slide Rule Handbook.
James Own Perrine.
And even more books for research.

Letters written in November

I kept up with my solemn vow this month, but still missed two days. I also caught up all of the Sara letters, leaving her with a huge packet of my letters to reply to on her end. After that, I turned to LEX and wrote several people who had submitted listings in the Winter issue. Though I am enjoying writing, my enthusiasm for this project is flagging.

1 November. Sara
2 November. Sara
3 November. Sara
**Letter back Sara
**3 postcards, Sara
4 November. Postcard to Sara
5 November. Postcard to Matt
6 November. Postcard to Susan
**LB re: LEX listing I posted “Do we still need women’s colleges?”
7 November. LEX Letter re: hobbies
8 November. LEX Letter re: Tuesday evening
9 November. LEX Letter re: steady correspondent
10 November. LEX Letter re: poem song etc.
11 November. Beres family
12 November. Thank you to Linda
** 2 Letters back Sara
13 November. LEX Letter “almost frugal grandmother”
14 November. LEX Letter “changed mind”
15 November. LEX Letter “horse across US?”
16 November. BroMAunts
17 November. Postcard to Sara
18 November. Jan
19 November. LEX Michael
20 November. Sara
21 November. No one
22 November. No one
23 November. Sara
24 November. LEX Gerry
**Letter back LEX Diane (food)
25 November. LEX Diane (movies)
26 November. Sara
27 November. LEX Letter “women and books”
28 November. LEX Letter “green”
29 November. LEX Letter “pen pals”
30 November. LEX Letter “last five books”

Three sentence movie reviews–Rachael Getting Married.

An absolutely fabulous movie, long and languid with much to discuss for days afterward. The kind of movie about family dynamics and people with substance abuse problems that mainstream Hollywood could never make. It really feels as if you are attending this wedding.

poster from:

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

I didn’t like this as much as I liked the book, but it was a nice way to spend an evening. Kat Dennings is absolutely mesmerizing, so much so that Michael Cera faded into the background a bit. There are some laugh-out-loud funny lines in the movie, but if you have to choose one, read the book.

Oh! I forgot that they made a major plot point change between the book and the movie that I disagree with. The book is much better. Much.

poster from

Thanksgiving Feast!

After the Turkey Trot, I spent the morning at Mom’s, reading about cats on the Oregon Humane Society’s web site while Chris and Mom cooked. My job was to bring rolls and I had finished them on Wednesday. After that cooking was finished, we traveled to Aunt Pat’s for the famous Thanksgiving dinner.

Chris carves.
Aunt Carol made a scrumptious Brussels Sprout dish.

My plate: Brussels sprouts, the Parker House rolls I made, steamed broccoli and carrots, stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, the traditional rice dressing.
It was so delicious I ate it all.
After that came a very long game of Trivial Pursuit and eventually dessert.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving.

Turkey Trot

For the past few months I’ve been training for the Turkey Trot, the annual four-mile run at the Zoo. Turkey Trot day arrived clear and cold. I took the Yellow Line Max to Pioneer Square where I transferred to the Blue Line Max that would take me to Washington Park. It was about 6:30 in the morning and workers were lighting the holiday tree. But, strangely, other workers found it important to cut back wisteria too. I have no idea why.
Sunrise over parking lot full of people waiting for the start of the race and people waiting in line for the port-a-potties.

Self-portrait before the race starts.
The race started late (grrrr) so I had ample opportunity to contemplate these banners at the World Forestry Center. The middle one I get, it’s the logo. The right one I get, it’s a picture of a big tree. The one on the left I don’t get at all. What does a family white water rafting have to do with a forest? I guess they could be rafting through the forest, but it still seems an odd choice. If they wanted to show recreation in the forest why not some cross country skiers, or snow shoeing?
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of running the Turkey Trot, it’s a pretty “ugh” course. Two miles downhill, turn around and groan your way through the same two miles you just ran, but now they are two uphill miles. Once I started I thought to myself, “I do not, in any way, shape or form, feel like doing this right now.” But what could I do? Turn around and finish with the slick actual runners in their running shorts and with their 5 minute miles? Not really an option. I persevered, and eventually finished. Dispute the very uphill portion, I ran this faster than my usual Saturday long runs which happen on flat land. The Turkey Trot is a fun run, so I don’t have an official time, but the time I kept was 50:52 for four miles. I’m not a fast runner, though I do have designs.

The “I finished” self-portrait:
Then it was a quick walk to the parking lot where Mom whisked me away to the Thanksgiving celebrations. Though there was a bit of parking lot waiting before we could really “whisk.”

Les Aucoin Plaza

I picked up my race packet for the Turkey Trot today at the World Forestry Center and came across Les Aucoin Plaza. You can find it yourself by taking the Blue or Red line to the Washington Park stop and taking the elevator to the top. I wondered as I walked by, if Les Aucoin was a person, or a french name of something. It could go either way, so I took a picture to remind myself to check.
Ah. I see he was the first Democrat congressman to represent Oregon’s first congressional district since statehood. He also spells his name AuCoin. If the plaza sign wasn’t in all capital letters, that would be more obvious. He gets a plaza named after him because he and Mark Hatfield worked their congressional magic on the east and west side light rail lines. How lovely.

And now I know.

I finally turned the heat on.

I play this game every autumn. It’s the one where I wait as long as I possibly can before I turn the heat on in the evenings. I can make it fairly late in the calendar year because I tend to run a little warmer than other people and also I bundle up. Plus, my evenings are full of cooking dinner, cleaning up, etc. There is much movement until I settle down to read. At that point I can retreat under blankets until it is time to go to bed.

The heat has been on, mind you. That other person I live with isn’t quite as active when he is home, nor is he so much into the stoicism involved in playing the game. The difference between us is that I’m convinced, in some small way, that some day I will make it thorough the winter without turning on the heat. I think of the pioneers, or even people at the turn of the century, who really had to work to get their heat. Surely they wouldn’t stoop to turning on the heat on such a comparatively warm night? Whereas Matt would rather be comfortable. So weekends, when we are both home, have been pretty warm. Comparatively. Our heat is usually set to 60 degrees. But weeknights it is just me and I regret to report that tonight was the night that I couldn’t stand the cold any longer.

Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Writer’s Almanac tells me that today is Frances Hodgson Burnett’s birthday. There was an essay about her life at the beginning of the Annotated Secret Garden and I learned what an incredibly interesting woman she was. Aside from being a Scorpio (like myself) she also published her first story at 18 and thereafter never had a rejection slip. She was incredibly popular and though we know her most for The Secret Garden–although my favorite is The Little Princess–she primarily wrote novels for adults.

She suffered tragedy in her life but she just kept going. Many of the discussions about “Magic” in Secret Garden reflect her life attitude which I would summarize as one part “power of positive thinking,” one part hard work, and one part mysticism.