Rabbit rabbit! No actual rabbits pictured; this is my customary photo of our nearest neighborhood park on New Year’s Day. Cloudy and mild today.
Last night Sanguinity and I went out to the street at midnight to look at some of the fireworks we were hearing in the blocks around us. Then I could hear Canada geese overhead too. I hope they were able to resettle quickly.
One of the reasons I resist New Year’s resolutions is that I tend that way anyway and am in the middle of a bunch of campaigns:
So adding anything because it’s January 1st, no.
We were all set for New Year’s Day good-luck food, but as it turns out the can of black-eyed peas had a 2012 expiration date and the collard greens were yellow at the top. Is this symbolic? Is the fact that we ate them and they were fine?
Now for a full weekend after this quiet holiday. Luxury.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is usually a lie I tell myself as I fail at thinking of presents and posting cards and packages and decorating and baking so that everything is in place no later than the morning of December 25th. As things slip, I go, “Christmas is really twelve days, I can send New Years cards instead,” et cetera, but then actually as of the 26th it’s over and I uncomfortably forget what I haven’t done. I hate feeling behind, and Christmas is pretty much a month of feeling behind, starting in late November.
This year I’m conducting the experiment of treating the twelve days of Christmas like it’s for real. The post office is running late anyway, and I have way more days off work after (the first day of) Christmas than before it. Today is the sixth day of Christmas. Christmas is half over, half yet to go. I’m writing “Merry Christmas!” to people (who celebrate Christmas) without waffling about sorry-it’s-late. I unwrapped my chocolate orange after dinner tonight. (Granted, I have it now because I forgot I had it on the first day of Christmas.) Mostly, I’m trying to operate in that holiday sense of time where you can do pointless fun things and there’s no list, or at least not a fixed and urgent one. We’re still in a pandemic and I think officially supposed to be gentle with ourselves when possible? so it seems like a good time to try it.
This is harder on days I’m working, did you ever notice that jobs really cut into one’s free time? but we’ll see how it goes. I’m also enjoying New Year’s being just a slightly differently flavored couple of days in the middle of Christmas, stripped of all that anxious resolution to start something off right.
Traditional new year’s photo of the park:
It may not look as inspiring as it has other years, featuring neither snow nor sunshine, but after the nasty cold that consumed a week of my life, I was happy to get out on a walk and see it.
I pulled together my 2019 reading list yesterday, and my favorites were all kidlit:
I read Mao and Me again, last night and this morning. It’s a picture-book memoir of the Cultural Revolution, seen through the eyes of a boy age 3 – 13. I love the art, with lots of black ink and several images together on a page.
But most of all I love how somehow amidst the big events and big emotions there is room to sit there quietly beside the author with it all. The ending is part of this:
For a number of years now I have lived abroad, but I return to China regularly to see my family. My parents have not moved. The city of my childhood has changed a lot, yet my apartment building has stayed the same and the tree in the courtyard is still there.
I don’t know if this has explained it at all, but I’m not that much of a picture book person and I haven’t been able to bring myself to take this one back to the library. (I mean, I will. There are limits on renewals. So I will, eventually, buy a copy and take this one back.)
I concluded that the alphabet is laminated and staff mark it up… but for awhile I pictured people shelving until all the letters looked weird and they forgot the alphabet and needed a cheat sheet.
Happy Labor Day! Being a little bit active in the AAUP is one of the few things I’ve done that’s felt usefully political in the Trump years—when elected representatives seem unlikely to keep or change their positions in response to my phone calls, and donations seem like a miniscule drop in the political-money ocean. Last week I sat in as an observer during bargaining; the union believes things go better when as many of the people actually affected as possible are in the room, even silently. (Even reading a book or typing away on a laptop. Donuts were also involved.)
We do interest based bargaining, so for the entire hour I was there, they were at step one of seven, framing the problem to be talked about. It’s easy to see why bargaining starts in the summer even though the contract’s not up til the end of November.
Not all chapters of AAUP are negotiating collective bargaining agreements; I enjoyed this account of guerrilla organizing by adjuncts in my hometown.
Unusual that two pieces in one week would make me think anew about dashes—
em dash compared to a semicolon in this one, as in
I thought hanging out would be great—a chance to finally see the city, just like Aunt Lillian wanted.
I thought hanging out would be great; it would be a chance to finally see the city, just like Aunt Lillian wanted.
And here, an en dash for a relation that isn’t numbers or dates or place names, like author–editor relationship or either–or, and how it differs from a hyphenated adjectival construction:
Amir was an Asian–British scholar and something of a polyglot.
Amir was an Asian-British scholar and something of a polyglot.
In the first example, with an EN DASH, Amir’s Asianness and Britishness have equal weighting. In the second, with the HYPHEN, ‘Asian’ is modifying ‘British’ and carries less weight.
Things to keep an eye out for in the wild, anyway.
Sanguinity and I flew to Colorado for my mom’s 80th birthday. Mom was unwrapping some stored picture frames and found my tiger towel, and my sister’s elephant towel! They were gifts from my aunt, but I don’t remember that– in my memory I always had this towel, or at least since I was an infant with the towel that had a pocket in the corner to make a hood. Tiger and elephant hung in the bathroom.
That’s all there is to this story. I’m excited. My towel and I, reunited!
On our anniversary last Monday, I worked in the daytime and Sang taught in the evening. It was Thursday that we finally got around to walking down the street to the Delta Cafe to celebrate.
I love the Delta’s cocktail menu. This time the lavender-and-vanilla Pink Lady called to me. I ordered it without considering whether it went well with deep-fried catfish bites and okra. It did not. I didn’t care.
The music was 100% Aretha Franklin.
We had a tipsy, romantic walk back to the house. The air was clearing out after several days of wildfire smoke. At home a new episode of Elementary was waiting for us.
Campus errands took me past a belated Holi dance party today.
On the way back, another plaza was strewn with Wilderness First Aid practice subjects, each with two or three people trying to revive them. I tried to take a photo of that too, but it Failed to Save. :-O
I’m putting the last touches on my 2017 book list– there were too many books for which I jotted down only the titles before they went back to the library. Now I’m adding in dates, noting whatever impressions of them remain in my head, and finding their place in the list. Next year, I mean this year, I’m going to try a spreadsheet so it’s easier to put in order.
The first book I finished reading in 2018 is Mitali Perkins’ You Bring the Distant Near.
The writing is so assured– the characters seem real, like we’re just dipping in as the three generations live their lives. The resolutions do mostly involve romance, in a way that makes me wonder if Perkins is a Jane Austen fan. (Or maybe it’s just that Sanguinity and I watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility last night while we waited for the new year.)
It’s been a peaceful holiday season. Christmas was with Sanguinity’s parents, which feels traditional now– eating cookies and reading Yuletide fic on the sofa-bed upstairs while televised football filters up from below. My favorite kidlit-fic this Yuletide is “Completion”, by oxfordRoulette (2106 words). It’s about Lirael from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series; it has domesticity and refuge, two of my favorite themes. It’s post-canon, so I did miss the Dog.
It’s been a season of good food, too– I made fudge, and Sang gave me a tofu cookbook and made ma po tofu for us. The sun has been shining. I think I’m ready for 2018. Best hopes and wishes for us all!
Happy new year! I still have three more days of Christmas in which to finish up my holiday correspondence, but other than that I’m back, and so are most of those around me. Sanguinity and I had a good few days with her parents– I’m not usually one for posting photos of presents I receive, but check out the awesomeness from my in-laws:
I’m still working on my list of books that I read in 2016. I’ll post a link to it when it’s done, but in the meantime here are
Ten Top Picks from 2016
Beware the Power of the Dark Side! by Tom Angleberger. Children’s, 2015. An authorized novelization of Return of the Jedi. By contract, Angleberger had to use all the movie dialog exactly as it was performed– but he makes use of authorial asides, retcon, and description to set his own pace and tone. A fun reading experience for someone who knows the film well and is also interested in how books are put together. And it must have been a blast for him to write, as a longtime fan!
Tumbling, by Caela Carter. YA, 2016. Audiobook narrated by Emily Eiden. Follows six girls at a fictional US Olympic Trials meet. I learned a little more about gymnastics, and the drama was satisfying without becoming over-the-top soap opera. The narrator had “young” speech patterns like vocal fry.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. Fiction, 2014. Space opera featuring a small cast of varied species, on a long-term work assignment in space. Fun!
The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness. YA, 2015. For every story of outsider high school kids fighting supernatural powers, there’s a townful of regular kids trying to figure out their regular lives. Each chapter begins with a paragraph or two about the “indie kids” and what their TV show plot would be… then the rest of the chapter is the regular kids’ story, with only occasional intersections with the supernatural plot. The regular kids and their friendships were well-drawn, too. Best book I read this year.
Lucy and Linh, by Alice Pung. YA, 2016. Lucy gets a scholarship to the fancy Melbourne girls’ academy, where her race, low-income family, and immigrant background ensure she is very much alone. She observes the political machinations at school and tries to navigate her new social milieu and its repercussions at home. I loved her relationship with her baby brother, and her mother’s quiet speech about the value of their close family. Pair with both Counting By 7s and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.
The Cosmopolitans, by Sarah Schulman. Fiction, 2016. A retelling of Balzac’s Cousin Bette (which I haven’t read), set in the Village in the late 1950s. A middle-aged white single woman’s dearest friend is the gay black man who lives across the hall, but when her ambitious cousin shows up, all the relationships shift. The characters have to re-interpret the past and learn new patterns. Beautifully stylized, with themes familiar from following Schulman’s career. This version of French Realism lets Schulman take her time and lovingly develop all the details of 1958 New York and the characters’ inner lives.
Ludell, by Brenda Wilkinson. Children’s, 1975. Ludell lives in Georgia in 1955, a poor black kid in an all-black community. No school lunch program yet– the teachers sell hot dogs, soda and candy at lunchtime. Blue jeans for girls are just coming into fashion. Great details. I liked the immersion in black culture and the dialect (“nem” for “and them”). The dialog tags had a lot of shouting and yelling that reminded me of the Harriet the Spy books. The rest of the trilogy was also good. I hope to write a Wikipedia article about this author.
Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew. Comics, 2014. The Green Turtle was the first superhero drawn by a Chinese American artist, Chu F. Hing, during WWI. He wanted to make the Green Turtle Chinese, but his editor wouldn’t let him. So Green Turtle’s face is hardly ever visible, and never in full. Shadow Hero is Yang’s origin story for Green Turtle, set in a California Chinatown in the 1930s. Hank’s mother hilariously pushes him into pursuing a career as a superhero, but the society he’s in is corrupt and dangerous, with the tongs influencing city politics. Wonderful, can’t believe I waited so long to read it.
Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed, by Virginia Hamilton. Children’s, 1983. Takes place over two days on a black family’s farm in Ohio, when Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio play broadcast. I marveled at how much of the book followed ordinary events in the children’s lives, without an apparent plot thrust. I can see why I didn’t read more of her books as a child, but now I am eager to. The description of being a kid walking a beam and knowing you won’t fall is perfect.
Alone in Antarctica, by Felicity Aston. Memoir, 2014. Aston’s account of her trip as the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica, coast to coast. Adept at describing the mental and emotional challenges without melodrama, alternating with the landscape. I appreciated that it didn’t fill in with a lot of back-story from her life. I felt for her in many of the episodes she described because I had experienced a milder version while hiking and camping– the “almost there syndrome,” the uncertainty about routes, the repeated struggle to get out there and get going each day despite discomfort. Similar to Helen Thayer’s adventure reports, which I also love.
It’s cold and windy here this week, so I’m reading Debbie Clarke Moderow’s Fast Into the Night, an Iditarod memoir that I hope will make Portland’s winter feel balmy by comparison.
After work on Monday I walked the last three miles home, from about six to seven o’clock. At first the only trick-or-treaters I saw were babes in arms or in strollers. They gradually got older as I got closer to my house and it got darker; by the time I hit my street there were middle-schoolers.
The first time I passed a jack-o-lantern lit with a candle, I had an immediate and immersive memory of that smell, the mix of warmed and scorched pumpkin flesh plus candle-wax. I considered walking up to a jack-o-lantern to smell it, but they were all close to front doors and it was hard to tell what was candle and what was LED. There was no wind.
The Pixy Stix I bought at the dollar store were mad popular in our trick-or-treat bowl! Kids instinctively grabbed them, but didn’t know what they were. I’m proud to have shown the wonder of pixy stix to a new generation.