Tilikum Crossing

bike-themed mural on approach to Tilikum bridge

sidewalk view of Tilikum Crossing with streetcar

Walked over Tilikum Crossing for the first time this morning. (I had previously crossed it via light-rail and bus.) Love how quiet it is– no car traffic makes all the difference. Too bad the west-side leg to PSU is still long light cycles admist concrete spaghetti. It all felt safe, just cumbersome. In the future I’ll probably hop a train or streetcar at the Life Sciences building.

good reading recently

more Last Stop on Market Street

I’ve been reading posts about Last Stop on Market Street when I run across them– today’s was at Latin@s in Kid Lit. I was caught by this spread:
streetscape from Last Stop on Market Street
I really like how the curve of the page coming out of the gutter on the right side makes the building look more 3-D, while the rainbow stretching across both pages keeps the gutter from breaking up the spread. Having it both ways.

Shadow Hero

I let Gene Luen Yang’s The Shadow Hero (art by Sonny Liew) languish on my library-book shelf for ages, until the library insisted I bring it back. (Maybe more people are reading his books since he was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.) I think it was the antique-looking palette of the cover, greens and browns, that made me slide by it whenever I was in the mood for a shiny superhero comic.
cover of Shadow Hero

But in fact the art is perfect for the 1930s California Chinatown setting, and once I started reading I was completely drawn in. I laughed out loud at least twice: when Hank’s mom meets a superhero while driving, and when she tries to reverse-engineer some superpowers for Hank. Later on, things get serious.

Shadow Hero is an origin story for Green Turtle, created in Blazing Comics for just five issues in 1944, by Chinese American artist Chu F. King. (This context, along with a sample from the original comic, is provided in the author’s note at the back, but I think it would also be fine to read it before the comic.)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

I dropped Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go because it was too grim for me, a la Cormac McCarthy. But this one, as noted by many bewildered and disappointed Goodreads reviewers, is totally different! Each chapter has a little synopsis of what’s happening in the ongoing Buffy-like plot… and then the chapter is about the lives of the regular kids we’re following, who are only intermittently aware of and affected by the “indie kids” fighting the supernatural. They have stuff in their own lives going on to worry about.

Brilliant. And, you know, true to the experience of being on the periphery, at most, of newsworthy events, as most of us are most of the time. The regular-kid characters were written with a lot of warmth and sympathy.

I wish I could quote out a couple of the funniest passages, but alas, that one had to go back to the library too. Anyway, he nailed what he said in this interview was the hardest part of writing the book:

I loved the challenge of writing a wild, hopefully funny, hopefully warmly satirical book about all the YA tropes while still hopefully having a serious, moving story at the centre of it.

Current read:

Kinda Like Brothers, by Coe Booth. I like kid characters who are good at playing with and caring for younger kids–maybe it’s my Baby-Sitter’s Club roots showing.

State of the Running

I spent 2015 developing what I don’t think I’ve ever truly had before: a training base. Dailymile kindly sent me this summary of my walking + running mileage for each month, starting in January when I walked two miles a day and ending in December, when I did three runs each week (7, 4, and 3 miles) and walked three miles on each non-running day:

bar graph of mileage, rising from 61 in January to 116 in December.

(I was sick in November and didn’t feel like trying to catch up, what with Thanksgiving and all.)

I called a lot of December fingernail mileage, as in I barely clawed my way through it each day. Once I spent an hour walking through hallways at the university because it was raining and I needed to stay dry for an office party. Once I got dressed for my long run as soon as I got up on my day off, and still never dragged myself out to do it, and then had to rearrange the rest of the week to make it up. I thought I would probably quit or take a break in January. But it felt wrong not to walk on January 1st… and run on the 2nd and 3rd… and I’m still going.

I am proud of this, after so long being perpetually undertrained for races, so much starting and stopping with running. But I don’t really know what I want to do with it.

Walking is easy. It makes me happy, gets me out in the daylight, and often I can do it with Sanguinity. I’ve been hankering to go hike at Silver Falls pretty soon, because we haven’t been there for years, but even our one-mile walks to the library and my commute miles have an obvious payoff in how I feel.

I would not say I’ve been enjoying running, particularly. Every single time it’s hard to get out there, and I’m glad when I’m done. Is it the cold and the rain? Is it that generalized “resistance” that doesn’t mean much of anything? It is hard to tell.

I would be happy to drop any individual run, but not running in general, apparently. When I have dropped running, pretty soon I started dreaming about it.

I don’t really care if I get faster, and going longer doesn’t appeal to me much either– more time away from home and all the other stuff I love to do. Races aren’t appealing to me right now. I guess I’ll keep this baseline for a few more months and see if spring and summer feel different.

And keep inching up the walking, because I love to walk outdoors and look at trees, and it’s fun to see the bar graph grow. And it injury-proofs me for the running.

My next run has built-in motivation: I got new shoes this month!

blue Mizuno Wave running shoe

Aren’t they the prettiest? I keep making Sanguinity admire them.

Provisional notes on the first three books I read this year

Because they were so different from each other, and because their blurbs on my book list got longer than usual, and because I’m still thinking about them.

The Lesser Blessed, by Richard van Camp. YA, though it was marketed as adult fiction. 1996. Larry, a Dogrib boy in a small town in the Northwest Territories, is trying to get through the year and cope with his traumatic past. He makes friends, or maybe frenemies, with the bad-boy new kid at school…who gets the girl Larry’s been worshiping from afar. Larry’s a mess of admiration and lust and jealousy. His mom is busy working and going to school, and the past is unspoken between them. Her boyfriend Jed is pretty great, but it’s unclear if it will all work out, no matter how much Larry wants him to stick around. It’s the 1980s, and life in town is mired in drink, drugs, bad sex, racism, poverty, violence– seriously, heavy metal music is the most reliable comfort. Beautiful writing in short sections with bursts of old memories and tribal stories mixed in. I thought the jacket copy’s “fresh, funny look at growing up Dogrib in the North” was off base… but there’s something that makes you see through the grime and teenage raunch and want to stick with this sweet storytelling kid.

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey, by Ozge Samanci. Comics. 2015. Memoir of a childhood and youth in Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s. Ozge’s family is middle-class: she and her sister can go to good schools if they work hard, but their parents worry that they won’t have good lives unless they study engineering or medicine and get good jobs. Meanwhile, the fight over secularism in Turkey and the nation’s youth and political fragility are the background to everything. One page includes a photograph of Ozge’s stencil, which has shapes, rulers…and the profile of military hero Ataturk, because drawing him badly is not an option. Ozge tries to fit in and please her family, when really she’s a weird artistic kid who idolizes Jacques Cousteau. My only criticism is that the resolution at the end felt tacked-on.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, by Sarah Manguso. Memoir. 2015. A woman who has kept an exhaustive diary for decades writes in small sections about contemplating stopping. Also about her experience of time and memory, and how it changed when she became a mother. Mostly, this book came across to me as unbelievably self-absorbed, but every now and then one of her sentences intrigued me. There’s also a note of “and then I became a mother, and understood time and the meaning of life!” and I can take only so much (not much) of that. Can’t help wondering if she would find it all so profound if she had four kids instead of one. I think I will forget this book almost immediately, but hope to remember at least these two things: 1. When she watched her baby playing with crib toys, she suddenly remembered her own toys and sensations from before she began talking, and 2. she writes her diary in the present tense.


It happened! A book I had already read won the Newbery Medal!

Unfortunately, my notes about Last Stop on Market Street leave much to be desired: “The grandmother’s relentless positivity was a little much, and the bus riders were awfully social. Still, people are usually nice to little kids on the bus.” My memory of it doesn’t separate out pictures and text, either. (The Newbery is for the text.) But I’m happy for Matt de la Peña — I really liked his YA We Were Here, about four boys breaking out of a group home and heading for Mexico. He’s so good at emotional writing that never turns flowery.

The other award winners I’d read were Rita Williams-Garcia’s Gone Crazy in Alabama (Coretta Scott King Award winner) and Jason Reynolds’ The Boy in the Black Suit (Coretta Scott King Award honor). I liked them both a lot. I don’t think Gone Crazy in Alabama is my favorite of the trilogy– I tend to like middle books, where repercussions of book one play out and things get thorny. That’s P.S. Be Eleven all over, plus it has the most of Big Ma, the character who most intrigues me. Oh, could there be some more novels about the adults? please?

So many books I’ve seen on blogs but not read. I may seek out Newbery honor Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, as an audiobook, since it also won an Odyssey honor.

Here’s the full list of this year’s honorees.

snow day!

fir trees at Mt. Scott Park with snow on the ground
no longer samesies

Portland woke up to an inch or two of pretty, powdery snow! In the afternoon it started turning toward freezing rain, and the university just notified us they’ll open two hours late tomorrow, at ten. Good job, weather, at stretching out the holiday that last little bit.

I decided to walk to the community center and do my run on the treadmill. And, since I had to carry my running clothes anyway, why not carry a swimsuit and visit the pool and hot tub afterward? This turned out to be a great plan. The ellipticals were full, but I was the only one treadmilling. I called Sanguinity when I had two miles left to go, and she joined me for the pool part. There were empty lanes in the lap pool! The changing rooms weren’t all wet, because almost all the kids were playing in the snow instead of swimming! We didn’t even have to wait to go down the water slide! And there was plenty of room in the hot tub to stretch out, while looking out at the fir trees.

It’s also a good day to curl up and read Yuletide stories. Two I enjoyed from kidlit fandoms:

The Force Hums Along

Sanguinity and I went to see Star Wars today, with Evan & Kristi! People have been so good about eschewing spoilers that I can only return the favor… so I’ll just say this movie had an incredible knack for pandering to me without being irritating! Usually a lot of winks and in-jokes and shout-outs make me feel manipulated and grouchy, but somehow it all worked and had just the right mix of nostalgia and freshness for me.

We debriefed afterwards– I sipped a milkshake under the curiously intense ceiling heaters of the Bagdad’s restaurant, and we speculated on what Stormtrooper nurseries might be like.

To avoid detailing our many excellent (but spoilerish) queries and theories, I’ll end with a link to an internet friend’s recent essay that I found poignant and true: Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi: Death, Survivor’s Guilt, and the Power of a Well-Timed Story.


sunny Mt. Scott Park on New Years Day
Mt. Scott Park, cold and sunny on New Years Day 2015
sun through fir trees at Mt. Scott Park, with green lawn
Mt. Scott Park, cold and sunny on New Years Day 2016

I cooked up black-eyed peas and the limp but tasty chard from the garden. At first the black-eyed peas smelled like dirt and not in a good way…but liberal bacon and onion redeemed them.

The Secret Life of Book Lists

My list of books read in 2015, with a line or three about each. And even more briefly, here are my ten best for the year, which I added to my LibraryThing archive:

    • Bright Morning, by Margery Williams Bianco. Her 1939 YA Other People’s Houses was also good.
    • Kiss the Girl, by Melissa Brayden. Also enjoyed Waiting in the Wings and Just Three Words, and successfully poked the library to acquire the next one.
    • Landing, by Emma Donoghue. Audiobook.
    • Earth Girl, Earth Star, and Earth Flight, by Janet Edwards.
    • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. Audiobook.
    • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. (Sadly, the sequel had only a fraction of its charm.)
    • Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain, by Hilary McKay. I’ve read them all (I think), but this one was special because of the community organizing!
    • Stuff Matters, by Mark Miodownik. Nonfiction (materials science).
    • The Turtle of Oman, by Naomi Shihab Nye.
    • The Martian, by Andy Weir.

I read an interview with Meryl Streep once– I think maybe it was a Bob Greene column?– in which she said all her movies were secretly home movies. She’d watch a scene from Kramer v. Kramer and remember what her kid was up to that week, or who she’d been hanging out with, and all the things that were going on when the scene was filmed.

My book lists are like that for me. I’ll look at So You Want to Be a Wizard and remember how excited KP was to hear I was reading it, and how she visited Portland later in the year and presented me with the sequels after one of her many trips to Powell’s Books. And how Sanguinity and I went up to Olympia to dogsit for Sara and crew, and they had a copy on their shelves, so I was reading it in the backyard while Sang designated the dogs Horrible Thing One…

Sanguinity pointing at Molly

and Horrible Thing Two…

Sanguinity pointing at Beezy

and gave them stern looks…

Sanguinity considering Molly

…that didn’t fool them one bit.

Sanguinity kissing a happy Molly's head


Or how I read Gone Crazy in Alabama in Wyoming, decompressing on a sunny morning at my friend Jenny’s house after she left for work.

Some books have webs of people associated with them– I decided to read The Martian because every single member of the Maki family liked it, and then my co-worker lent me a copy from the first meeting of her new book club, and then I gave a copy to my father-in-law that he binge-read even though he hardly ever reads fiction.

Then there are all the online discussions like the one about The Hired Girland audiobooks whose performances and the setting I heard them in are inextricable from the text. (Tiny Pretty Things while striding home in the dark amidst headlights and big trees and rain!)

It’s impossible to know all that’s coded into anyone’s book list but my own, but I still like reading other people’s. Here’s hoping for rich secret home movies for us all in 2016.