Wednesday reading

Yesterday I realized I’m in the middle of six books, and listing them feels less daunting than talking about books I’ve finished– no pressure to pronounce judgment or present a finished analysis. Just a snapshot:

cover of Animorphs #20 The Discovery - Marco morphing a bird.

Animorphs #20, The Discovery, by Katherine Applegate (1998). I keep the Animorphs on my phone for comfort…? reading and reading-while-waiting. Apparently this one’s the start of a several-book arc about David, and sanguinity passed on a long tumblr post about this that’s waiting in my email. I’m loving how Animorphs discussion is still low-key humming along while I’m making my way slowly through the series.

worn cover of Elizabeth Enright's Borrowed Summer: butterfly and leaf motif

Borrowed Summer, by Elizabeth Enright (1946). Short stories with the same avid descriptions of nature and well-tuned dialogue as the Melendy novels and her other children’s books. I mostly got this one because I was trying out our public library’s interlibrary loan services (because someday I won’t have university library privileges!) and Enright was the first author who came to mind who I knew had hard-to-find stuff I’d want to read. Something about the scope and rhythm of the stories reminds me of reading fiction in my mom’s magazines when I was a kid– Ladies Home Journal and Redbook— but maybe with a few more odd corners and less romance.

cover of Les Miserables with Cosette and a mop and bucket

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated by Isabel Hapgood (1862/1887). Reading this via Les Mis Letters with one installment every day of 2023. I am loving this! The installments are usually long enough to get into something but not so long as to be burdensome. Sometimes I get one or two days behind. Victor Hugo is working his way into my heart.

cover of Victory, Stand! with Tommie Smith raising his fist on the Olympic podium

Victory. Stand! by Tommie SmithDawud Anyabwile,  and Derrick Barnes (2022). Graphic novel by one of the Black runners who protested on the Olympic podium in 1968 in Mexico City. For some reason I skipped ahead to read the Olympics part, then went back to the beginning. Unadorned prose and grayscale art, a fast and compelling read.

cover of The Summer Place, paper-collage-style illustration of a white woman in a big hat floating in an inflateable on water.

The Summer Place, by Jennifer Weiner, read by Sutton Foster (2022). My current audiobook, soapy and good for extended housework sessions. Tons of secrets all building to a climactic wedding day, so we’ll see how that goes.

cover of Seventeen Syllables, with a photo of two young Japanese-American women facing each other

Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories, by Hisaye Yamamoto (expanded edition, 2001). The stories are dated from 1948 to 1995. Most are about Nisei families in the U.S. My favorite so far is a short memoir called “Life Among the Oil Fields”– my dad might find it reminiscient of his childhood in a tenant-farming family, and it also calls out to the Valley of Ashes in Gatsby.

monday magpie, kidlit edition

The sunrise walks are off-and-on, but overall enhancing my life. Today’s was one of the first with a discernable ~Sunrise~, with lemony clouds and rays, instead of an overcast ~Lightening of the Gloom~. Sunrise is currently around 7:40 a.m.

Two kidlit links have been rattling around my head for a bit:

  1. The Politics of Louise Fitzhugh, Leslie Brody, 2020 in The Paris Review. Fitzhugh stopped the presses on Nobody’s Family Is Going To Change so that she could include the names of two Black boys, Clifford Glover and Claude Reese, who were killed by NYPD. I haven’t yet read Brody’s book about Fitzhugh, Sometimes You Have to Lie, but I know I will. But maybe first I’ll reread Nobody’s Family Is Going To Change. A white author’s novel about a Black family, and so very 1970s in its picture of sexism. But I think Emma and her anger will have grown on me.
  2. Let That Dream Die, by Veronica Roth (author of the Divergent series) on tennis, writing, and how to keep going after early success, when you’re back in the day-to-day muck. I’m always interested in alternatives to having goals. I have a hunch that goal-setting is not where it’s at for me, but other paths are harder to understand.

sunrise walk

a black plastic lid? on snow under a thin layer of ice forms a flower shape

I’m auditioning a new year’s resolution called “be outdoors at sunrise.” Today’s sunrise was 7:47 a.m. Cloudy, and overnight a thin layer of ice was added on top of the inch or two of sleet/snow already on the ground. This little plastic thing was on top of the snow but under the ice, making an intriguing flower shape.


Car windshield coated in pebbly ice, with wipers covered by snow. Beyond is a snowy street and a house behind bare trees.


Today’s travel plans are suspended due to sleet and forecasted freezing rain; not sure if they’ll resume this weekend or next. For now sanguinity and I are cozy at home, still with electricity (yay), and with a rare feeling of leisure. We started a jigsaw puzzle last night.

bike commute notes:

  • maple trees continue to be too good for this world. The red!
  • the bike counter on the Tilikum Bridge that’s been offline for months was back on! I was bike/scooter #257 westbound this morning.
  • a longtime camp I pass was bare, caution taped, and big scorch marks up the side of the nearby building (a storage facility). Yikes. I hope everybody’s okay.
  • had the lower-level parking garage all to myself for leisurely hair-combing in the bike cage.

Anyway, pretty view from my office today.

view of buildings, autumn trees, river from 9th floor


I came here to post and saw that my last post was complaining about smoke. Well. The smoke left, returned, and has lingered, eating up the last warm sunny days before chilly weather and rains set in, probably this weekend.

A couple of weeks of the best weather, stolen. I ride the bus instead of biking, curtail my walks, and feel like I’m waiting.

Favorite picture I took since last post: behold a mole of sugar versus a mole of salt! A friend took Sang and me to the science museum; it’s child-oriented so it was cool being there with the kids.

two labeled clear plastic bottles: one contains a mole of white sugar, the other contains a mole (much less volume) of table salt.

Still listening to Bjork’s albums and Sonic Symbolism podcast, and liked Biophilia a lot. The instrumentation, the concepts, the rhythms.

Sang and I had a little Gatsby festival last year when it went into public domain– we both reread the original and read Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful, and we watched the Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio movies. A few weeks ago I found what may be my favorite adaptation so far, Anna-Marie McLemore’s YA novel Self-Made Boys. The main characters are aged down, and Daisy and Tom are together but not yet engaged. Nicolás Caraveo is a young trans man newly arrived in West Egg; his cousin Daisy helped him get there, but it’s complicated because she’s passing for white. The plot is just different enough from Fitzgerald’s that I don’t know what will happen. The writing and characterizations are beautiful, fresh yet recognizable: Everyone is partial to their own reasons for despising other people, thinks Nicolás. I’m at about the 80% mark and hoping I love it this much when I’ve finished!

cover of Self-Made Boys: a young Latino man with hand on the chest of a young blond man in a suit. Wisteria and hydrangea blossoms frame the figures.


as the smoke clears

a small bowl of green, red, and dark purple grapes

Yesterday was weird, because of the smoke. The sky was yellow, the sun was orange, and outdoors didn’t smell good. Sanguinity and I set up the air purifier and stayed inside all day. Like a snow day, without the going out to play part. This new part of the summer weather patterns is a drag… and yet already it feels routine.

This morning the wind had died down, which made it easier on the eyes to get out and go to the farmers market. (I hope the vendors did okay, working nine to two.) Berry season is over, so we branched out to new tables, for very-ripe-eat-today plums and some miscellaneous tiny backyard-style grapes. And tamales, the real draw week after week.

Other things to make a post:

  • Japanese: In addition to Duolingo and WaniKani, I’m trying a 30-day free trial of Bunpro for grammar. I also started listening to a podcast called Slow Japanese. It lives up to its name and I’m quite excited that I can understand about half of it on the first pass! I had been trying small children’s media but a lot of it was higher-pitched than I wanted to listen to repeatedly.
  • Reading: a Little Free Library find, Vonda McIntyre’s Enterprise: The First Adventure. I took it on vacation with me and read only a few pages, which means I’m now feeling like I’ve been reading it forever. It’s a battered paperback and that’s its own pleasure. It’s episodic, mildly fun, not a lot of overall direction so far.
  • I also read a graphic novel I really liked, Little Monarchs by Jonathan Case. It’s post-apocalyptic but I did not find it depressing. It has a kid working on science! and kayaking. And bats and monarchs.
  • More podcasts: a Song Exploder episode about Björk’s “Stonemilker” led me to Björk’s own podcast, Sonic Symbolism. I think podcasts are better than other media at capturing conversations where the participants are truly listening to each other and thinking as they talk. I like podcasts that do that.

Happy birthday, pagefever (+1) and fourgates!   <3


Sunny meadow with gravel road, blue sky, clouds, hills in distance

Since Sang and I didn’t have to go to work today, our morning walk was a few miles at Powell Butte. The best things were

  • thimbleberries, a few of them ripe!
  • hearing a mourning dove. I grew up hearing mourning doves in Colorado and am intensely nostalgic about them. Now I hear the collared doves that came first to my Colorado hometown and eventually to Portland; it’s good to know the mourning doves are still around.

I’m in the early stages of two library books and I don’t know which one will take:

  • The Last Mapmaker, by Christina Soontornvat. I was loving the writing and the short chapters, but got interrupted reading it, and just picked it up again. I also really like the cover (illustration by Christina Chung):

cover of The Last Mapmaker: girl in a wave-tossed boat with the sun behind her like a halo

  • A Second Chance, by Linda Byler, who I understand is one of the only authors of Amish romances who is Amish herself? This one has renewed 49 times at the library and 50 renewals is the limit, so I need to get to it or give it up. So far it’s good and the main character is doing lots of housecleaning, which I love to read about.

I hope your summer lives are sweet.

[Not Endorsed by the Constitution of the United States of America]

It’s my body
It’s not Pepsi’s body
It’s not Nancy Reagan’s body
It’s not Congress’s body
It’s not the Supreme Court’s body
It’s not Cosmopolitan’s pink twat body
It’s not George Bush’s ugly-conscience,
never-be-responsible, let-the-world-rot body
It’s not Cardinal O’Connor’s Catholic Church-
homophobic-hate women-hate queers-
oppressive-DEVIL-SATAN-no children body

Karen Finley, “Aunt Mandy,” 1990 in Aperture [pdf, cw: death, medical trauma, misogyny, doom]

I ran across that poem while reshelving periodicals in college, and never forgot it. A woman’s life isn’t worth much often pops into my head as an explanation for this or that.

In “things I was thinking about before the giant news hairball,” I believe we are in a golden age of podcasts. My favorite this week was a Harriet the Spy episode on Not How I Remember It, a podcast whose tagline is “GenX moms revisiting the books of our childhood.” It’s two friends who reread a book that at least one of them remembers (The Pistachio Prescription was the episode that first caught my eye), and talk about it from scratch. From this episode:

  • “I feel like she wasn’t so much spying as judging.”
  • “All the pictures in my copy are a little terrifying.”

I love their east coast (I think) accents and how much fun they have and the way they don’t try to impress anyone or be experts.  And often the book they reread is not the book they remember! The most prominent memory of Harriet the Spy for one of them was the bits about reading under the covers with a flashlight.

I pulled some weeds in the garden and found these secret overachievers. About a year ago, I planted a few fava beans from the fridge that were past their prime. They grew and bloomed but then fell over and I forgot about them. This is about double the volume of beans planted, so I am well pleased.8 fava bean pods, some large, with US quarter for scale

Anxiety usually lies

Sang and I drove up to Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington this week to attend my uncle’s funeral. I poured a lot of emotion and anxiety into this ahead of time for various reasons large and small, nebulous and concrete– or maybe mostly because of my temperament. But it was good. I like my family. I wrote it all up for my immediate family who couldn’t be there. Here I’ll just say in case readers have a worried brain like mine:

When you attend a service at the national cemetery, you are not told a site number and then have to wander around the hopelessly large grounds and winding roads in your dress-up shoes until you find your people and are probably late!

(A parking lot is not involved. You check in just inside the cemetery entrance and line up with the other cars going to the same service you are. A few minutes after the scheduled time someone in a golf cart gets in front and leads you all to where the service will be, an outdoor shelter in our case. The staff there know how to set the tone and can pivot from directing parking, to joking gently with people to get them herded to the shelter and seated, to conducting a solemn service. So skilled.)