Monday, May 26, 2008

Tamora pierce

Someone gave me a list of authors and books I might like. The first name on the list was Tamora Pierce. Since, then I've been reading Tamora Pierce books. That was two years ago. Maybe someday I'll get on to the second name on the list. It's good that I've gotten years of entertainment out of this list.

Here's a list of books by Tamora Pierce that I've read so far:

    Song of the Lioness
      Alanna: The First Adventure
      In the Hand of the Goddess
      The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
      Lionness Rampant
    The Immortals
      Wild Magic
      The Emperor Mage
      The Realms of the Gods
    Protector of the Small
      First Test
      Lady Knight
      Trickster's Choice
      Trickster's Queen
    Circle of Magic
      Sandry's Book
      Tris's Book
      Daja's Book
      Briar's Book
    The Circle Opens
      Magic Steps
      Street Magic
      Cold Fire
    The Will of the Empress

Tamora Pierce books that I have not yet read (not all have been published yet):

    The Provost's Dog
    Melting Stones
    White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion TPB (co-authored with Timothy Liebe )
    "Plain Magic" in Flights of Fantasy
    "Testing" in Lost and Found
    "Elder Brother" in Half Human
    Young Warriors: Stories of Strength

Dumb things that people always say

A former vegan went to dinner with a group of people and witnessed a non-vegetarian asking a vegetarian questions about her reasons for being a vegetarian. Later he commented to me, "That's one of the things I don't miss about being a vegetarian -- the interrogation."

That got us talking about the other things people always say that we wouldn't miss.

People who know of my chronic fatigue say things along the lines of "If you lived the lifestyle I live, you would be as healthy as me." They don't say lifestyle. They each have a specific thing, like if you ate more of a particular type of food or did more of a certain activity. There are a lot of people who live less healthy lifestyles than I who are living just fine, so they don't get picked on, but because my health is lacking, everyone is out to correct my lifestyle.

Another thing that people always say is that complete strangers come up to me and ask me whether or not my hair is my natural color. I can't really fathom why people think it's appropriate to go up to a complete stranger and say that.

Similarly, it's normally considered inappropriate to go up to a complete stranger and touch them, so why do people go up to pregnant women and touch their bellies?

Another response that I get to my hair color is people telling my things like, "My uncle used to have red hair, but it's white now." Why would I care whether complete strangers have red hair in their family tree?

Similarly, when people learn that what my brother does for a living is play piano and organ, they say things to him like, "My nephew used to play cello."

If you live in California, and you tell people that you are from Connecticut, they might say, "I know someone in New Jersey."

I think if you are in the U.S. and you tell people you are from Brazil, you probably get responses like, "My daughter visited Nicaragua once."

I understand that people are just trying to make a connection. It's good of them to take the risk to reach out for a connection, even though they are on shaky ground. I don't really mind if people tell me about the hair color of their relatives, or even if they ask me if I dye my hair (as long as the answer is no), but I don't really like the way some people give advice. I don't necessarily mind if people who hear my problems engage with me as a partner in brainstorming, but I don't like the attitude, "Your problem would be solved if only you did what I do."

Clinton vs. Obama

I have favored Senator Clinton over Senator Obama. It's not because I'm an expert on policy and think that her policies are better. It is more instinctive. Perhaps it is just that it is easier for me to trust her because she matches me on gender and race. Perhaps I'm just as dumb as the people who don't like Senator Obama because they think he's secretly a Muslim, or the people who just hate Senator Clinton without being able to say why. I think that Obama is more liberal than Clinton, and I'm liberal, so one would think that I would like Obama better. However, I think I would make a terrible president. I think both of them have the right kind of ideals. However, I am more confident of Clinton's ability to do what it takes to get things done. We need a president who can make deals with people whose values are very different from mine, and that's why I favor Clinton. Obama seems to have good ideals, but I don't know if he can be an effective president.

I think that it's good for Clinton to stay in the race long enough for everyone to get a chance to vote. I don't think it's fair that people who live in states with later primaries don't get as many choices. I think everyone should have the opportunity to vote for the candidate that they prefer.

However, once that's done, I think that she should respect the will of the people, rather than trying to win through super-delegates and by counting Florida and Michigan. I think in general that everyone's vote should count, including Florida and Michigan, but it was already decided that Florida and Michigan wouldn't count, and if that's the rule that's already decided, one shouldn't tamper with it just for the sake of getting more votes on your side.

I supported Clinton, but Obama won the votes, so it's time to get behind Obama.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A mineshaft and CFS

I heard a skit on Prairie Home Companion which involved a man who had fallen down a mineshaft and a woman up above from whom he was requesting help. It went something like this:

Man: I've fallen down a mineshaft and I'm pinned under a log. Can you help me?

Woman: You fell down the mineshaft? But there's a sign right there saying, "Caution: Mineshaft."

Man: Well I'm down here. Can you help me?

Woman: Your voice sounds pretty close. Maybe you could just climb up.

Man: I'm pinned under a big log. There's a phone up there, can you call and get someone to help me.

Woman: You want me to call and say there's a man who fell down a mineshaft even though there's a sign right here that says stay away from the mineshaft? They'll laugh at me.

She calls, and she and the dispatcher agree that it is not really serious but the dispatcher agrees to send someone to help. It's like he doesn't really see the need, but it's his job so he will send someone.

That's exactly what it's like to have chronic fatigue syndrome. Everyone thinks it should be easy to crawl out on your own. They say you just need to do X and then you'll be fine. X may be go out more, eat a different diet, quit complaining, have a better attitude, or get religion. Your doctor knows she's supposed to go through the motions of helping, but she doesn't really see that there's a problem worthy of her attention.

I know it's far too much to expect people to say "I'm sorry you are sick. What can I do to be supportive?" but couldn't they at least keep their mouths shut long enough for me to be able to imagine that they are listening and understanding, instead of blabbering on about what I ought to be doing?

Two different movies: A Lot Like Love and The Visitor

I saw two movies this weekend: A Lot Like Love and The Visitor. Neither was terrible and neither was wonderful, but it was interesting to note the contrasts between them.

A Lot Like Love was the same as a thousand other movies. The characters were young, good-looking, confident, and articulate. Sure they didn't have their lives all together and had their awkward moments, but they acted like people in movies act, not like regular people. The awkward moments were not truly awkward but were perfectly performed comedic acting. The plot was exactly the same as any other romantic comedy: man and women meet, have some ups and downs, and the movie ends when they finally decide to be together. Such movies leave me feeling bad about myself for not having that instant chemistry with the guys I meet, and for not having any guys chasing me at all.

As formulaic as romantic comedies are, there are some that I've enjoyed to a certain extent. This one was nothing special for the most part, but there was one scene that resonated with me. The guy and girl were each feeling the pain of rejection from other relationships, and to escape it, they just got in a car and drove. At one point, they sang along to a song on the radio. It brought back to me the times I've been in that carefree mode, driving around with someone just for the sake of adventure and singing along to the radio. It brought me the joy of that experience mixed with the sadness that my life is not like that any more. The song they were singing along with was a song of heartbreak which I listened to a lot when I was younger. Again, that brought me a mix of the joy of hearing the song mixed with the sadness of the emotion conveyed in the song.

The Visitor was refreshingly not exactly like a thousand other movies. I was especially impressed with Danai Jekesai Gurira, who played Zaineb. Zaineb came across as a genuine person rather than as a movie star. The characters in The Visitor were not all young and good-looking. The main character was over 60. When people found themselves in an encounter with a stranger, they were awkward and had little to say. A wife's irritation with her husband wasn't a part of the big ups and downs you see in a typical romantic comedy, it was part of a stable relationship. A man and a woman met for the first time came in time to share some affection, but it wasn't instant chemistry leading to sex, and then the promise of happily ever after at the movie's conclusion. So many movies are about finding true love in a way that's about finding something to make you happy. This one was about coming to care about something larger than yourself. In particular, about the plight of illegal immigrants in the U.S. I liked the way they showed images such as the flag and the Statue of Liberty to make the contrast between the ideals we claim to embrace and the way people are actually treated. I liked it because they just let you see the contrast, they didn't spell everything out for you the way mainstream movies tend to.

Restaurant review: Oliver's Naturals

I prefer independently owned restaurants over chains to the extent that I don't even go to chain restaurants. As much as independently owned restaurants are a notch above chains, Oliver's Naturals is a notch above other independently owned restaurants. Of course the food is good, and on their one-page menu, I can find over a dozen appealing options, while at other restaurants with six-page menus, I may find only two edible items and no appealing items. That's because I'm a vegetarian, and non-vegetarian restaurants can't seem to think of much to serve vegetarians other than pasta and salad.

But what I like most about Oliver's is not the food but the atmosphere. Adam is the waiter, cashier, chef, and owner. He's helped out by his mom, Diana. When you enter, they greet you warmly. The cooking area is right there, behind the counter, so as they cook, they may ask you questions about how you want your food. The seating area is small, and a busy time seems to be any time there are more than about 4 customers in the restaurant at a time. The other day when I was there, there was a party of 8, and Adam told me, "I've never had so many people in one party before." The smallness means the customers can all talk to each other, as well as to Diana and Adam. One day, a customer was on the cell phone talking to a friend, saying something along the lines of, "I'm at Oliver's Naturals. You should come join us." She said to Adam, "Want to talk to her?" and passed him the phone. At most restaurants, it is not typical for the owner to get on a customer's cell phone to talk with a customer's friend. This was a first-time customer, but she had already caught the atmosphere of the place enough that if felt natural to her to offer Adam the phone.

Too many restaurants have gone out of business, so I hope that Oliver's gets plenty of customers so they can stay open for a long time to come. On the other hand, the smallness is what makes it such a great restaurant, so I want it to stay small.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Primary election system

They were saying on the news that this is the first time in about 50 years that the Presidential primary mattered in West Virginia. This does not seem very fair to West Virginia. Even for me, I feel it's useless to pay attention to all the early candidates, because half of them will be gone by the time the election gets to me. But at least some are left when the election gets to me.

I think it's good to have different primaries at different times so that candidates can visit different locations campaigning. But I would suggest that they divide the country into six or eight regions, and have a primary in a different region each week. Also, the order of the regions could rotate from election to election.

Quiet way

One of my gifts is the ability to match, to find for people just the information, opportunity, or person that fulfills their need. I do this for people all the time. I do it for my job and in my free time. Recently I was feeling bad because someone was showing gratitude for the destination to which I matched them, but seemed to have no thought to the fact that I was the one who got them there. That's why it resonated with me when I was reminded of something that my grandmother wrote in in 1939: "Annice Carter will keep everyone happy in such a quiet way that no one will know who is doing it." My grandmother could see Annice's gift. My grandmother also saw it when a relative was having a problem. She shared a few carefully chosen words with the right person in order to get the problem attended to. She is not the one attending to the problem, but she is the one who set things in motion. My grandmother's gift is to see, to connect, to facilitate, to appreciate. That's my gift to0. It's a gift that doesn't get as much recognition as some others, such as adventurousness, risk-taking, and charisma, but it's a gift that contributes something to the world.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Good listeners

I think a lot of the things that irk me boil down to people not being good listeners. It's not just about being quiet long enough to let me talk. It's about whether people can bend their minds enough to see people for themselves, or whether they just see their own pre-conceptions when they look at other people. Sometimes people are too eager to put everything into pre-determined categories rather than letting them bloom as they are. Sometimes people have certain ideas of what people are like and what people should do, and they don't seem to grasp that those ideas don't apply to everyone. They give me advice, as if the reason I do things the way I'm doing them is because I'm ignorant rather than because I choose to.

My parents and most of my relatives convey that people should be who they are, should follow their own paths. It's not that they like everything everyone does, but that when others are different, they accept that they diverge from them rather than trying to define or change them. I value people who have that sort of outlook, and remain aloof from those who do not.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hillary Clinton on rich people

When Bill O'Reilly asked Hillary Clinton about raising taxes on the rich, she said, "And you know what, rich people -- God bless us -- we deserve all the opportunities to make sure our country and our blessings continue for the next generation." I thought that was nice. It was a clever way to put a positive spin on it, and it challenged the rich people's view of "We deserve to be rich, we deserve to keep our money, don't tax us." Too often people who have a lot of money seem to think the reason they have it is because they deserve it, because they are smarter or work harder than other people. While it may be true that they worked hard for their money, there are other people who work just as hard but end up not having much money. I don't really think that people like Donald Trump and Paris Hilton deserve to have more money than people who work long hours as janitors or waitresses. Senator Clinton's comment contains the expectation that rich people want to go beyond selfishness and make the world better, and in stating that expectation, she challenges people to live up to it.