Friday, February 25, 2011

Narcissistic Reading Reflections of 2010

Before I abandoned my blog like a red-headed stepchild, I used to keep record of the books I read. Well, lest you think I stopped reading as of July 2010, I in all gravitas must inform you - I just stopped recording them. Already I regret this decision, because as I reviewed the list of books I kept from 2009, I found it interesting. For one thing, I was surprised at some of the titles I had zero memory of reading. Were they good books? Bad ones? No, probably just boring ones - but not too boring, just meh. So I'm glad I kept a list, so I can go and boggle at my own reading history. I also enjoyed seeing some actual classics and "good" books - I think when I know I'm writing what I read down, I make better reading decisions. Yes, I'm like Narcissus, fascinated with observing my own reflection - but instead of my physical reflection, it's my literary one. For someone so Narcissistic, I really ought to work on some more literary output to stare at - the old blog posts are getting, so to speak, old.

Without further ado, here is my tragically shortened 2010 list, so I can clear away the old cobwebs, and begin anew to record the life changing, momentous, and definitely more intellectual and thought-provoking books that I'm reading, and you are not. Books like young adult fantasy's Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero. (Which, if you must know, I thoroughly enjoyed.)

  • The Five Love Languages, Gary D. Chapman
  • JULY
  • The National Geographic Field Guide to Photography, Peter K. Burian, Robert Caputo
  • The Zone System of Photography
  • Fire Study, Maria Snyder
  • Magic Study, Maria Snyder
  • Poison Study, Maria Snyder
  • The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After, Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
  • The Grand Tour, Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
  • The Arabian Nights, translated by Sir Richard Burton
  • Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
  • Handle With Care, Jody Picoult
  • Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech
  • September, Rosamunde Pilcher
  • Space Cadet, Robert Heinlein
  • The Door into Summer, Robert Heinlein
  • The Positronic Man, Isaac Asimov and Peter Silverberg
  • JUNE
  • The Ordinary Princess, M.M. Kaye
  • Howard's End, E. M. Forster
  • The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
  • The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan
  • MAY
  • Lord Valentine's Castle, Robert Silverberg
  • The Host, Stephenie Meyer
  • The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry
  • Princess Academy, Shannon Hale
  • Potter Barn: Home
  • Essays, Francis Bacon
  • The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  • The Great Trek, Deseret Book
  • Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand
  • Cake Wrecks, Jen Yates
  • That's What She Said, edited by Rayna Green
  • The Last Olympian, Rick Riordan
  • The Battle of the Labrynth, Rick Riordan
  • The Titan's Curse, Rick Riordan
  • The Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan
  • The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
  • The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
I don't remember most of what I read for the rest of the year, but I'll throw out some titles I do remember.

The Wheel of Time, volumes 1-4, by Robert Jordan; The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising
Towers of Midnight, The Wheel of Time, volume 13, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

New Spring, Robert Jordan
Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
Magic Street, Orson Scott Card

With Lydia in the evenings (starting in the fall):
The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, February 18, 2011


Lydia on the first day of preschool - which is where she learned about the existence of Knick-knock jokes.

Lydia has become obsessed with developing humor, and what constitutes a joke, especially knock-knock jokes (which she calls knick-knock jokes). I really enjoy her journey in attempting to understand humor - especially since humor is such a subjective, cultural aspect of life. I like watching her come to understand what we as Americans, as Westerners find funny.

This journey has on our part mostly been us enduring a long string of:

Lydia: Knick-Knock

Thora: Who's there?

Lydia: Peach banana-head - and then she breaks out into peals of laughter, never even reaching the end of the usual knock-knock joke structure.

Today Lydia worked her knick-knock jokes with me, and actually completed one, that I, at least, after countless of these bon mots found hilarious.

Lydia: Knick-Knock

Thora: Who's there?

Lydia: No one

Thora: No one who?

Lydia: No one funny.

I do not think Lydia understood why true laughter bubbled up out of me after this, instead of the fake polite ha-has we've previously been delivering.

In honor of Lydia, I then spent the rest of the car ride we were at that point partaking of inventing new Knock-knock jokes.

Thora: Knock Knock

You: Who's there?

Thora: Your

You: Your Who?

Thora: You're reading my blog, and you don't know me? (Substitute with, I'm your wife, sister, mother, etc, and you don't know me?)


Thora: Knock Knock

You: Who's there?

Thora: You

You: you who?

Thora: I'm right here - you don't have to shout at me.


Thora: Knock-knock

You: who's there?

Thora: Ya

You: Ya who?

Thora: No thanks, I prefer Google.

Yes, I have now revisited the humor model we grow out of before there are two digits to our ages. But Lydia appreciated all my jokes, and laughed at them as well - sometimes even the laughter waited until the delivery of the punch line, as apposed to when I started the joke.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nothing Revives a Dead Blog Like a Little Righteous Anger

Today on the local NPR station, I was listening to Dr. Gordan Gee, the president of The Ohio State University discuss whatever topics people called in about. As I first heard him, I thought to myself, "Gee, I have some things I'd like to bring to your attention, but too bad I'm wimpy, and would never call in." Plus I was driving back from exercising with Aleatha by walking, which was wonderful to get out of the house, and also to go outside and walk in a metro park.

Anyway, but as I drove home, closer to my home phone, the more determined I became, and after pulling in the driveway, actually went inside and retrieved my phone, dialed the number....and ended up in the inbox of some lady from the financial aid office. I went outside, listened again for the number, it looked right, dialed it - and hit the Financial aid office again.

So I had to sit and listen, and not let my voice be heard, since they never repeated the number for the rest of the show. You have to understand, I do not like calling people, and in fact this could be one of my defining characteristics - doing acrobatics to avoid phone calls (yes, even in this last week, I have asked Avram, "What do I have to do to get you to make this phone call (to our landlords, to report frozen pipes), I will do anything.") And yet I voluntarily called, and they had the gall to somehow make me call the wrong place! Well, for the sake of full disclosure, I could have heard the number wrong.

In search of a balm on my troubled soul, I had to come to what soapbox I have, however dusty and neglected (not for lack of love, mind you, more like the lack of free and open time without children climbing me, and mental peace and calmness of mind and space wherewith to write in).

Let's pretend this is the phone call, "Hi, I'm Thora, and my husband is a Ph.d. student at OSU, in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. He came here to a brand new Ph.d. program, and we have nothing but positive things to say of the quality of teaching, and the individual attention and care given by not only his adviser, but all the professors in his field. However, since coming here, the financial aspect has not been as rosy. His department has struggled to find money to support this new program, and although the professors and faculty have done their utmost to stretch the little funding there is to cover all the students, there has not really been enough, particularly when you take into account that a new program continues to grow year by year.

My husband has not just depended on school funding, although he received a school fellowship, which contains in the fellowship instructions to the department to give the student full funding for five years (which he has not received) - he currently holds a fellowship from the affiliated Melton Center for Jewish studies, which we are grateful for. But as he approaches working on his prelims, and then dissertating, there is no money, no classes to teach, no fellowships. I know that his department was hit hard by the recession, but I feel that the university did not fully do the foundational work of preparing a new Ph.d. program, which needs to include financial preparation. There is no financial aid for any of his cohort past their coursework, and even during their years of coursework there have been more than one financial blip for all his cohort.

This is both a comment, but also a question - what can and will the University do to repair this lack of attention to a new program, that sometimes feels as if it's floundering as much as growing? Why did you make a new Ph.d. without adequate preparation before hand?

(The next part would not have been in my NPR commentary, but since I'm here in an expanded format, I cannot resist more loquacity) In a lesser amount, the Ph.d.'s academic direction was not always laid out beforehand either - there are different ideas and expectations for what the completed coursework should entail, and what subject matters should be covered by the Preliminary Examinations. As well, in a larger department, the new professors highered have not reflected the interests of the new Ph.d. formed, meaning the program is not being supported academically in the direction that the department is heading, either.

And, finally, there are certain requirements for highering in my husband's field, and one of the basic ones for NELC, is usually having had experience teaching Biblical Hebrew. My husband has taught a class in another subject, but there are no undergraduate classes in biblical Hebrew, and therefore no graduate students to teach them. And yet this is a basic requirement for getting a job - how is my husband supposed to get a job, when he can't teach Hebrew - when there is no option for it? (This is also extra I would not have mentioned, but since we're on a rant here...).

And then Dr. Gee would have said something along the lines of, "A lot of work goes into the preparations of new programs, and it is not the university's sole responsibility to provide funding [except he received a scholarship where it WAS the University's job, but whatever] blah blah blah."

But since this is my blog, this is his response, "I've never given a two second thought to your husband's Ph.d. field or program, and really, I know less than you do about it. And we were hit hard by the recession, and although the University has just been given 100 million [what part of the NPR show was discussing with him], not a single penny will go to your husband or to his Ph.d. program, which seemed to have been created by a random passing thought, and been given all the love and attention of a baby jelly fish in the grand sea of academia as far as funding goes. But I'm glad you like the professors and advisers, because they really are great."

But at least Dr. Gee would have, for a moment, been aware of the plight of the NELC graduate student, and maybe, just maybe this would have been a small pebble that starts the avalanche of change. As it is, it only started an avalanche of digital words, and perhaps if I want to be really extreme, I can link to it on facebook, and start a digital movement with no form or substance. I just want some funding options - not even secured funding, but even just something to apply for! Is this too much to ask?