Thursday, August 27, 2009

Recent and Upcoming Books Read

A Passage to India (Penguin Classics) A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

I'm reading this for the Read the Classics discussion group at the library.

I welcome people joining me in a slow read, from August 31 to October 3, at a rate of 7-8 chapters each week.

Interpreter of Maladies Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

reading for the MCL Hollywood library book group on September 15...

I got this one in the book group vote because when I shared how much I loved the movie "Namesake," several people from my alumni email list said I should read this.

The Complete Maus The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this for my book group, and it was a great book with many threads for conversation. We don't usually read graphic novels, so several began it with a bias against graphic novels, and found themselves won over.

In some cases the holocaust scenes depicted would be so horrific, it was a little easier to confront with the people depicted as various animals, Jewish people being mice, Germans cats, Americans dogs, etc.

Some sources for book group questions:
Here's some great questions, and an interview with the author.

Here's a local article for a book group that happened here in Portland. Included is a video of Marjani Satrapi (Persepolis) who talks about how Maus inspired her.

And some more questions, some of which I found were useful for getting more out of what the pictures are doing.

Doomsday Book Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
At first I thought this book was a little too hard science fiction with the overuse of numbers and jargon. Too much time on establishing medical parameters, etc. It was distracting from the story, and not completely necessary to establish a foundation.

That soon receded though, and then I was hooked, wondering if this young history scholar would be stuck back in medieval times while people in her time were dropping from a deadly flu.

One thing that dated the book was the reliance for plot on not being able to get a telephone line in a crisis. Cell phones already existed at the time of the book's publishing, though I could understand not imagining how ubiquitous they would become so soon.

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I chose to read this book because someone asked people's opinion on an email list. I couldn't buy into it enough to finish it.

First, we are asked to accept geopolitical analysis, then we are asked to accept that George Friedman's analysis using geopolitics is accurate, and that his angle is the only one that counts.

Well I don't buy it. Most of the time he picks and chooses what specific world events to highlight to 'prove' his geopolitical forecast. I kept thinking of other events he ignored. I also kept thinking of a vastly different interpretation of those events. What it comes down to is, it's all his opinion, and since he picks and chooses what history we should look at to prove his points, his forecasts are built on sticks and cards.

Especially dubious are the premises that countries will act in their best, what, Machiavellian? interests, even when one person is essentially making those decisions. So George Bush Jr. acted the way he did because it was the next step for our country to take. Right.

You have to buy Reaganomics, you have to buy that this crash of 2008 was just a blip, and we still have prosperity for a real crash 20 some years from now, and nowhere does he take into account peak oil having anything to do with future economic least as far as I got.

An example. He says, "...these alliances and maneuvers are not difficult to predict. As I have said, they follow well-established patterns that have been ingrained in history for many centuries. What I am doing is seeing how traditional patterns play themselves out in the context of the twenty-first century." ...this after countless arguments that could conclude just the opposite of what he posited as givens.

He actually thinks Japan will rise again as a military power. Right. This would completely ignore the anti-war effect that the carpet-bombings of Tokyo and the atom bombs had on the country. I think the country has discovered what prosperity can be had by choosing not to have to build a military-industrial complex. The people there don't want to go back to the militaristic arrogance they had in WWII, at least that I have witnessed.

I take more of a Zinnian view that depending on what prism through which you look at history, you will find vastly different accounts. It is my instinctive response that if you ignore these different views, your predictive ability will be woefully myopic, as evidenced by Friedman's view of this recent economic crash.

Stoneheart (Stoneheart Trilogy, #1) Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the first audio book I chose due to the reader, rather than the author or title. I think Jim Dale could make any book sound good, though it took a little while for me to forget this voice was Harry Potter, and that voice was Dumbledore.I'm not sure, but I think I would have liked it less if I had read rather than listened to it. It is an interesting premise for a world...that architectural sculptures have lives and wars and intrigues with the rest of us being none the wiser. Edie the glint reminded me a bit of Lyra from the Pullman Dark Materials books.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some Facebook Review

I solicited name suggestions for the kitties, and had some good suggestions.

Such as: Holly and Molly? Jilly and Milly? Fafhrd and Mouser? Mina or Minnie or Maisie...

That was when I believed those who told me so that they were girls. By the time I discovered they are actually boys, I had decided on Sandy and Zigzag...after the rivers on Mt. Hood. I figured if I found out they were boys...and subconsciously I guess I knew because I kept wanting to say 'he' instead of 'she'...these would still work. And they do. And they are Sandy on the left, and Zigzag on the right:

via Choten, Shintai, and others: The last statement of Nyogen Senzaki. We Dharma Rainers like this one especially because he's an honorary founder of our temple. My teacher has called him the patron saint of Dharma orphans. Nyogen Senzaki was sent to America and left to his own devices. My teachers were also orphaned, but not before they received Dharma Transmission.

Black Eyed Peas: Where is the Love?

The San Francisco Zen Center is now publishing a blog of Shunryu Suzuki's Dharma Talks from the time he came to America. I became a fan, of course. You can do that on Facebook.

"We are descended from neutrinos." Boris Kayser, Fermilab (Nova, "The Ghost Particle" 2006)
...I transcribed as I watched it on July 7.

I said:
I'm adjusting to life with kittens. Leg attacks from front...blanket covers legs. This leads to leg attacks from beneath. I may need thigh-high boots.
and Judy responded: Trim claws.
Say "ouch" in high kitten-voice when they do it (as kittens teach each other what is too much) and move them away.
Repeat.... Read More
What they really want is your attention. Eventually, they get that you won't play with them if they hurt you.
It worked.

I was way too busy to see Star Trek in the Park...pretty much all my Sundays were booked, as of course were my Saturdays. I wanted to go though.

Salads, from NYT.

Something like the day after he shared this, or around that time, Choten went and had tea with Eric and Eugene, a couple who've been together longer than I've been alive. The last article I did for the NW Dharma News was on a panel which included Eric: Buddhist, Theist, and Non-Believer. I stopped writing for them because I was taking on too much. That was around the time I joined Dharma Rain's Dharma Council and I started writing a column for Dharma Rain's newsletter on Dharma School.

New apps for the phones from Trimet! I've started using dadnab. Find yourself out and about, not sure which bus you should take, or even where the closest one is? Now you can send a text message, and get your trip sent back to you via text. And hey...this isn't just for Portland...they've got cities from the West Coast to the East Coast.

I really should do this. I'm not sayin' what I do wrong. I'm just sayin'...and you should too.

This is a nice concise article on Portland's water supply. In addition, a link to a small piece of my past: Joe Miller. I stayed at his house once with other Friends and attendees of the Meeting of Friends. We took samples of a stream as part of the eff...ort to prove Logging Is Bad. Joe made sourdough buttermilk pancakes for us in the morning.

I've been working on my first student Dharma Talk...which I'm giving this Sunday, by the way. Here's a hint on the subject:

Your result for The Buddhist Personality Type Test...


You scored 24 % greed, 13 % anger, 26 % fear, and 41 % confusion!

You are the Confused type! Everyone likes Confused types because they're so mellow, but this mellowness isn't the same as true equanimity, since you usually don't actually know what's going on. The meditation practice that is recommended for your type is Noting, to help you directly connect with the experience of the moment, rather than spacing out and going into daydreams or stories about what you think is happening.

As with all the personality types, remember that there's nothing here to take personally. Tendencies to Greed, Aversion, and Delusion are just that: tendencies. They're learned responses that can (with wisdom and persistence) be unlearned.

Take The Buddhist Personality Type Test at HelloQuizzy

Eileen lamented the lack of a map of free fruit for harvesting in the city. I was pretty sure there was some kind of shared fruit harvest thing in Portland. So I noodled around and found this neat article by Jim Hightower, and I found the Portland Fruit Tree Project. Nifty. But this is how Facebook sucks up the time.