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Jul. 16th, 2017


And so it begins...

Start the new position with the company tomorrow. We'll see how things go.

Made a good dent in cleaning this weekend, the best progress in a few weeks.

Weather continues to be fairly mild. Got a lot of rain last week but not in the enormous amounts predicted at times (I think one day we were projected to get a possible 3-5 inches; I'm not sure we even got one :P). A couple high-80 degree days in the forecast- not unusual for this time of year - then low 80s and even 70s. I'll take it!

Also, finished another book- shock shock! I'm happy, though, because this one meets the book challenge for Book Riot. Also, I picked up several more books at the library. I have one library book that will meet the poetry requirement, plus a book I got through work that I'm pretty sure meets the micropress requirement. Then I will be DONE with this year's Book Riot Challenge. Woohoo!

So, without further ado, the Book Mouse's Book Report

34. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez. This fulfills the challenge requirement for reading a book whose points of view are all from people of color. This story is told through several points of view, although the primary focus is on Alma Rivera, mother of Maribel, and Mayor, the younger son of the Toro family. The other points of view come mostly from the neighbors. The Rivera family have left their families and lives behind in Mexico to move to Delaware so Maribel can attend a special-needs school. Maribel sustained a catastrophic head injury due to an accident, and while both her parents yearn for their home town, they feel the opportunities in the United States can better help their daughter. Mayor, whose family has lived in Delaware for some time, falls for Maribel, and he comes to see himself as her protector after she is accosted by the local bully. They grow close, and Maribel starts regaining her memories and ability to do everyday tasks. Then tragedy hits. I am not a fan of spoilers, so I'll leave it at that. The stories all mesh well. The people here are all so real- they have their faults, their dreams, their biases. One smaller, but no less poignant tragedy, is to read a story from a neighbor whom the others have rudely gossiped about or have dismissed. We are all guilty of that, but it makes it no less sad. This should be required reading in the high schools. It shows so well the value of empathy without beating the reader of the head with it. There is some mild language and innuendo (two of the focal points are teens.)

Currently reading: On A Burning Deck, by Tom Jones, and The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova (Vol. 1), with Judith Hemschemeyer (Translator) and Roberta Reeder (Editor).

Jul. 9th, 2017


One more week....

Before things get completely upended. Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Not much to report this time, other than the above. Just kind of frustrated with life right now. Weather has been decent; it's low 80s today and sunny. Supposed to rain a lot in the next week, with temps in the mid-80s. So, warm and steamy. For this time of year, I really can't complain about that.

The Book Mouse's Book Report:

32. Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism, by John Norris. An enjoyable read about a pioneer in the news business. When Mary McGrory, a Boston Irish Catholic, started covering politics (after many years of trying to crack into that beat), she frequently was the only reporter who was a woman. Her sex, however, was not the only thing that made her stand out. Her writing style captured the moment and the people involved, and her observations were unflinching. I think one of the more amusing thoughts shared about her was how she was a nice person until she got behind a typewriter. But you have to give the late Ms. McGrory credit: she was almost never wrong in her assessment of someone (she only truly regretted one column/advocation in her entire career. That's pretty darn good for a career that spanned more than 40 years. Also, on the topic in question, she was not the only person who got suckered. She often surmised a politician's true character before the rest of the world did. Her career is not the only focus in the author's book. You get a feel for the decades of news she covers. Also, McGrory was passionate about charitable causes, helping out regularly with a local orphanage. The book includes many quotes and anecdotes from McGrory, her colleagues and those she wrote about. It's a balanced book; Ms. McGrory had her human foibles, like any of us. All in all, this is an excellent read, and an informative one. It never gets dry- the pages and chapters zipped past.

33. The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry. This was an amazing, artfully woven story. Berry mixes in a bit of history with her cast of memorable characters (the author's notes were fascinating and worth checking out). The beginning starts off a little slow, but after the first couple chapters the story picks up speed and the next thing I knew I was sucked in. Besides the research that went into the realistic setting, I also was impressed with the various twists and turns in the plot. Just when I thought I knew where things were going, surprise! One of the biggest surprises, towards the end, actually made me gasp out loud. The story itself centers around Botille and her two sisters, three young women whom, after a life of begging and petty crime, have managed to carve themselves a fairly respectable living in a provincial seaside town. One day, Botille is asked by the wealthy matron of the town to go find the matron's two nephews, whom she wants to inherit her estates since she has no surviving children. On the way back, Botille finds a starving maiden lying unconcsious off the road. She spirits the young woman, Dolssa, home to live with her sisters. Dolssa, she quickly finds out, is wanted by the church for heresy. Representatives from the church, led by a young, ambitious monk, are not soon far behind. But the town is thrown into a quandry when the sweet Dolssa turns out to have divine gifts for healing. The ending is heartbreaking and should serve as a powerful lesson about following leaders blindly. An added note- another feature I liked about the story is Dolssa herself. Unlike most saintly figures in stories, she is a good person, but she does have her shortcomings (mostly as a result of her sheltered upbringing and her noble background). She, too, learns and grows as a character. This was refreshing.

Currently reading: On the Burning Deck, by Tom Jones. Also have several books waiting for me at the library.

Jul. 2nd, 2017


The good and the bad

Well, this was one hell of a week.

First, I guess, the bad. I was expecting something major to be announced at work before the end of last month, and I was right. It wasn't entirely what I was anticipating and it actually wasn't as bad as I feared (in some ways)... but it was bad enough. That's all I will say for now.

On a brighter note, had fun with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Went to a wine and canvas event, then went to a restaurant I'd been wanting to try for a while now. I can see why people rave about the place, the food is delish! I also tried rum for the first time. Oh. Yum. I can see why Jack Sparrow despairs when all the rum is gone ha ha! Then earlier in the week, went to an outdoor concert at another favorite spot. It was fun, despite Mother Nature throwing a wet blanket over everything. Yeah, it rained, and then we were treated to a light show. Which was lovely, just wish it weren't so close ;) My lil sis joined me, but we left early. She was getting cold and I like to be in the relative safety of the great indoors for Mama Nature's "light shows."

Weather has continued to be mild, the rains Thursday and flash flood alerts Friday notwithstanding. Low 80s, lots of sun.

Oh, and a happy cariversary to my Corolla, which I took the lease out for two years ago yesterday. Trinity passed the 13,000 mark on Friday afternoon.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

31. The Revenge of Analog, by David Sax. A lot of food for thought is packed into these pages. I wasn't sure what to make of the book at first, especially with the first chapters dealing with the reemergence of vinyl records and hardcopy books. I knew there was a niche market for vinyl that has emerged in recent years, although I didn't know the market was as large as it was. Many points about the benefits of analog, or really about balancing the real world with the digital world, I've read before, although Sax's points about why it's so easy to gain a monopoly in the technological realm and why it is hard to truly break into the field, and the shortcomings of digital (the shallow, non-immersive aspects) were things I never considered, particularly the former. In short, I have to agree with most of the author's points, and indeed have heard many of them voiced elsewhere. However, I am not sure I see a world where the interest and market for items such as vinyl records, physical books and film for movies and photography will be more than a passing phase. True, I myself prefer holding an actual book, and I have read a couple of books on my tablet. It's a long-entrenched habit. But I never quite understood the fascination with vinyl outside of nostalgia, and film versus digital images? Let's see- film uses toxic chemicals, needs a ton of space to process and if you screw up, it's tough to fix. Also, the shots you can get are extremely finite. I know the author brings up a point that finite choices are actually better, I can only agree with that to a certain degree. Digital, on the other hand, is easier to edit, you can check your shots right then and there, you can take hundreds, even thousands of pictures and the space required is your camera and your computer. And no toxic, smelly chemicals. I cannot ever imagine going back to costly, limiting film. Also, I've never heard of Moleskine so sorry, it's not that ubiquitous, and I just cannot fathom spending that much on a flippin' pad of paper. Yikes!

The takeaway I got though is that digital has a place, but the real world and physical also will always have a place. I agree with this, to a large degree (the vinyl and film issues notwithstanding). But another takeaway is that, reading between the lines I fear that analog copies are going to become the realm of the silver spoon set - those with the bankroll and space to keep those hardcovers, vinyl records and more. The serfs and peons will have to be content with a largely digital life due to technology's portability and cheapness. As wages continue to stagnate and jobs disappear in the post jobs economy, I think this next decade will be the last one where home ownership with a single family will be seen as the norm; you already see a trend with the 30-somethings eschewing homes for apartments and rentals. Micro-homes, apartments and self-driving RVs will become the abodes of choice as people are forced to move frequently for a paycheck and career opportunities. People forced to move frequently are not going to want to schlep around a lot of stuff. You already see this with Millenials deep-sixing Great-Aunt Edna's china cabinet and refusing to take grandma's antique silver table set. The younger generations are turning away from physical stuff that eats up precious room. Space will be a crucial commodity, carefully rationed and considered. So, again, I don't necessarily disagree with the author's points, and he has numbers and figures to back up this recent analog revolution. And, again, I've seen many of his points about digital versus analog, particularly in education and in Silicon Valley, elsewhere. I just believe that this revolution of tangible versus tech will be short-lived, one final hurrah before digital takes over. Sensible will outweigh sensibility for all but the got-bucks crowd, as it pretty much always has.

Currently reading: Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism, by John Norris (almost done, I expect I'll be finished by the end of this coming week), and The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry (about a third of the way through).

Jun. 24th, 2017


Not much to report

Other than my typical book review, I don't have much.

Temperatures have been really mild. Love it. Supposed to stay fairly decent even well into July.

Went to a time capsule opening. Not sure I've ever actually seen one before. I don't recall seeing one, at any rate. It was a sizable container, too. But it also illustrated the need for water-tight container. The capsule was filled with water, almost to the top :( Holes had to be drilled into the sides to drain it off. Even with the plastic bags, it was apparent a lot of stuff has been lost. Still, some rather neat things survived the burial.

Plan to do a plant type event, where you plant a fairy garden in a terrarium with succulents. I've always wanted to do something like this, so I'm looking forward to it.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

30. Scythe, by Neal Shusterman. Wow. Just finished this one this evening. Where do I even begin? Ok, I start with this: Shusterman's novel is amazing. I admit I was a little skeptical of the premise at first, but my reservations were quickly addressed. The premise seems simple on the surface. Humanity has conquered death. There's no more disease. No more pain. Nanotech has taken care of all that ugliness and mess. Still, there's one little problem: population control. To keep humans from overwhelming the planet's resources, select individuals called Scythes, are trained and tasked with randomly keeping the population in check. Scythes are seen almost as gods, with their ability to not just take life, but to grant temporary immunity from being gleaned. It looks good on the surface, at least at first. However, as two apprentice Scythes find out, immortality and the high ideals set by the first Scythes have not eliminated petty politics and power grabs in the current day. Much of the story concentrates on the teen apprentices, Citra and Rowan, who were chosen by a senior Scythe as potential candidates. Neither teen wants to be a Scythe but find themselves drawn into this strange, elite society. There are a lot of twists and turns; just when I think I know where the story is going, I'm surprised. I'd save this for high school and older because the story's premise is rather disturbing, and there's a segment towards the end that is just blood-curdling. But Shusterman has created an intriguing world with fantastic characters. I'm glad this is going to be a series and can hardly wait for the next book. Also, kudos for the cover design. The simple colors and the optical illusion is just perfect for this story.

Currently reading: Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism, by John Norris, and The Revenge of Analog, by David Sax.

Jun. 19th, 2017


Approaching the summer solstice

Went to a good friend's wedding Saturday. Well, actually I got to the reception part- me and my penchant for getting lost. Oy. I think it was the hottest day of the year so far, but the area was well shaded, and there was a large tent, plus lots of cold bottled water, so it was all good. The bride looked lovely, and I...feel old ha ha!

Thankfully the mini heat wave is over. Much cooler today. Felt so much better!

Spent the afternoon and evening with my parents yesterday for Father's Day. We chatted, had pizza for dinner and watched two movies. The second movie was a rewatch for me- Fantastic Beasts. Loved it the second time around and wow did I pick up some things I missed the first time! Lots of little details that if you blink, you miss them.

The first movie was Sing. Now, I recall seeing the trailers and being underwhelmed, but then I kept hearing how wonderful this movie was. So, when dad said they had checked it out and hadn't seen it yet, I was anticipating a fun movie. Yeah. Wow. I really cannot figure out why so many people raved over this. The kindest thing I can say is it's a cheap knockoff of Zootopia with a bunch of mostly-pop numbers thrown it. There were a few elements I liked- I liked Rosita (although I also felt sorry for her; she makes this contraption to take care of her duties, and no one notices her absence until it breaks down. Wow. That's ...kinda sad). I liked Mike; the actor (Seth McFarlane) who voiced him does a commendable Frank Sinatra-style crooning. I did find it ironic that John C. Reilly, who has one of the best voices in Hollywood, was cast in a non-singing role. I liked the Sinatra numbers, and I did like the Gloria Swanson-esque Nana and her rendition of The Beatles' Once There Was a Way (the first time, at least. After that it was just weird). I did like the concept of the light-up squid. But this turkey of a movie was stuffed with too many so-so songs and way too many predictable moments. Really boring. And I don't know why Gunter has been promoted so much, I found him obnoxious. Dad and I agreed that we probably should have just continued to watch Die Another Day, which just started on tv when we plugged in Sing. If I had been watching this by myself, I probably wouldn't have finished it.

The Book Mouse's Book Report
27. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. What a treat of a novel! I finished it in about a week, drinking in the story as greedily as the young protagonist drank in the moon as a baby. I knew I'd enjoy it when I recalled that Barnhill had also written The Witch's Boy, which I also liked. This novel is even better. The world created in this novel is so well fleshed-out and so magical, and the characters are wonderfully done. Even the two villains have their sympathetic moments (and considering the horrendous actions that the two villains are culpable of, that's quite a feat). In the story, Xan, an elderly witch, has taken to rescuing babies abandoned near a village where she lives. One year, however, she accidentally feeds one child moonlight, which enmagicks the infant girl. Xan decides to raise the young child herself, with the help of an ancient swamp monster and a tiny dragon. The girl's powers become enormous, and, in an effort to protect the little girl, Luna, the witch casts a spell- which winds up having unintended consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from that village starts questioning the policy of sacrificing an infant to the witch in the wood, and eventually declares that he will kill the witch. The converging paths lead to a multitude of discoveries for many characters. I loved the character of Xan, especially. She's powerful but has her own weaknesses- but those weaknesses stem from her love of her friends and especially for Luna, and from her good, kind heart. It's hard to miss the lesson about blindly following orders and the consequences of not questioning - and reaching out. However, the reader isn't beat over the head with this. All in all, a great read for preteens and up.

28. Inch By Inch, the Garden Song, by David Mallett, pictures by Ora Eitan. My mom found this book for me. I have always been fond of this song since I learned it in grade school, and this picture book, with it's simple and colorful illustrations, is quite charming. The illustrations fit in with the lyrics of this song, popularized by John Denver. The illustrations feel lighthearted and whimsical, almost abstract in their simplicity. For those who do not know this song, the music score is included in the back page. I can see a parent singing this song as he or she turned the pages.

29. Freedom Over Me, by Ashley Bryan. Wow, what a powerful book. The author used old sales records and plantation documents to create this story. One in particular, from an estate sale in 1828, serves as the backbone of this story- actually, a series of connected stories. From a few words, Bryan creates a picture of what these long-ago slaves might have thought, dreamed of and hoped for. Each person gets two pages- the first, which outlines the facts about their lives, includes a simple portrait placed over clippings of news articles, slave sales and other cold, unfeeling print. The next page, which goes over the person's dreams and aspirations, jump with color and texture. This picture book is beautifully done; I think a younger child can appreciate the stories, and an older child the sadness. Yes, the book made me feel rather sad. What Bryan offers about these 11 people who worked as slaves is mostly conjecture. All we really know are their names, ages and how much they were deemed to be worth by an appraiser. They were listed in the same columns as the cattle, the horse and other property. We will never truly know who these people really are, because back then they were regarded as property. Still, Bryan's work is a nice, touching tribute, giving humanity to those who had no voice in their futures.

Currently reading: Mary McGrory, the First Queen of Journalism, by John Norris, and Scythe, by Neal Shusterman.

Jun. 11th, 2017


Light at the end of the allergy tunnel

Yes! Finally, Thursday this past week, my allergies started to wind down. Still have an occasional cough but the difference is night and day. First weekend in a while where I didn't feel like just sleeping (last weekend was especially bad), and got a few things done. Not as much as I perhaps should have, but baby steps. This year was just a killer, allergy-wise.

Went to another paint event; this time we had fun with a black canvas. I've been watching Bob Ross videos a. for pointers, and b. to help my brain unwind at night, and I know the late master painter was a fan of them. They are really cool- the colors just pop! Very happy with my result today. Going to another one tomorrow. Yes, I'm addicted, ha ha! This one, however, ties in really nicely to one I did a... was it a week ago? Two weeks ago? I've lost track. It's a Grecian-style sea scene. So with those two paintings, plus a third I plan to tweak to make it look more Grecian, I'll have a nice three-piece themed set for over my mantle. Score!

Typical Ohio weather- earlier last week, it was mid-60s. Today and the next several days will see high 80s/low 90s. Then by the end of the month we get another break from the heat when temps go back in the low 70s.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

25. Some Assembly Required, by Arin Andrews. This fulfills the challenge for reading a YA or middle grade book by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. This is a moving autobiography by a young man who describes growing up feeling alienated by his own body, even from an early age, and his journey into transitioning from female to male. I would recommend this for high school age, either for those who may be experiencing the same conflicts, or those whose friends or family is transgender. I know it answered many of my questions; I only know a handful of people who are transgender (at least that I know of), and only two of them tolerably well. This is not something I, as someone who is comfortable being female, can relate to, but I'm glad I picked up this book because I think I can understand my friends' struggles at least a little better. There's laughter, there's sadness, there's many coming-of-age situations that anyone - transgender or cisgender (until this book I had no idea what that meant) - can relate to. I'm sure this is a book that will be challenged a good deal in libraries, particularly school libraries, for the main topic and for the frank talk about the surgeries and other sex-related issues. This is an important book, however, so I hope the challenges are met with a firm resistance.

26. Infamous Scribblers, by Eric Burns. I've long held that with the Internet giving everyone the equivalent of a cheap printing press, we have not seen a decay in news coverage and journalism. Rather, the internet hit the reset button, and everything old is new again. This book solidifies this view. Despair of the talking heads, pundits, half-truths and outright likes now? We have nothing on our Founding Fathers. Not saying we don't need to improve but the amount of vitriol that blazed from the first Colonial-era newspapers made my jaw drop at times. There was no such thing as fair, balanced reporting- indeed, the first newspaper editors wore their opinions and leanings like a badge of honor. Several, including Samuel Adams and James Callender, were not above making up their own truths for what they saw as the greater good. After the Revolutionary War, most (if not all) papers were either firm Federalist supporters or staunch Republican. This is a longer book but the pages flew by. It is both educational and entertaining. You will never see the Founding Fathers the same way. Burns portrays them here, their many warts and all. History buffs should definitely find a copy.

Currently reading: Still slowly working my way through The Hamilton Papers. Also have several books waiting for me at the library.

May. 29th, 2017


Slowly recovering

Thank heavens for three-day weekends- especially when I can take an additional day off to give myself some time to really recharge.

Still plagued by allergies but not nearly as badly. Did a lot of napping this weekend, and that seemed to help considerably. Which makes me wonder if it was all allergies. Still kind of drained. But I got some things done, finished one box for my aunt, hope to finish another, a half-started one, tonight.

My Vietnamese brother came over and put in a new faucet for my kitchen sink- how sweet! No more fighting to get it to shut off, no more leaks there. He had a time of it, there was considerable rust. But everything works out well now. Now... for the bathroom. I ordered a new faucet for there as well. I don't use it that much but if I can stop the constant drip it would probably save me money.

Some more good news- one more payment- this coming month- and I am DONE with my student loan!! Yaaaaaay!!!

Weather has been unusually cool. This past week was mostly 60s. This weekend warmed up a bit, still pleasant over all. Some scattered storms but not nearly as bad as predicted.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

22. Boxers, by Gene Luen Yang. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge for a book about a person of color who goes on a spiritual journey. This graphic novel relates the Boxer Rebellion as a legend, told through the eyes of Little Bao, the youngest brother who winds up leading a rebellion against the foreign invaders who seek to carve up and colonize China. He and his soldiers channel the legendary gods and figures in their culture as they fight. The art is beautifully drawn, and the story nicely developed. Little Bao especially is well done; he grows through the story, and makes his share of mistakes. I admit I don't know a lot about the Boxer Rebellion so I was rather startled by the ending. I did a bit of follow-up reading on this rebellion, but it was interesting getting a Chinese take on the event.

23. Ms. Marvel, by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge category for reading a superhero comic with a female lead. I really liked this one! Kamala Khan is the daughter of parents who immigrated from Pakistan. Their household is a conservative, traditional one, but Kamala, a teenager, is questioning her future. She loves the adventures she sees in comics but is shocked one evening to find herself turn into a superhero. Kamala finds it tough to adjust to her new powers and reality, and struggles to weigh her parents wishes and concerns for her with her wishing to go out and help people and, ultimately, find her own identity. This is Marvel's first Muslim superhero, and the religion and culture make up an important part of Kamala. Still, her struggles at growing up, of wanting to know how she fits in, is something every preteen and teen will relate to. What I like is that her parents are real people. Her mother is overprotective but she's not a caricature. She has good reason. And I just love the father, who often has to play peacemaker between the rebellious Kamala and her traditional mother. The illustrations are beautifully done, rich and vivid.

24. Changing Planes, by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by Eric Beddows. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge category for reading a collection of short stories by a female author. This...was strange. I'm still on the fence as to whether I liked this collection or not. The idea certainly is an interesting one- Le Guin writes a series of related short stories about various other worlds, or planes, which can only be accessed through a certain level of stress and aggravation, most notably the type one experiences at an airport. The first chapter covers how this was discovered, and the following chapters go into the various worlds. The stories read more like allegories- you have a world where people are constantly fighting, you have a world where the rich are the spectators and the commoners are more like celebrities. You have another world where growing wings is a curse. The best stories are the ones where the author (much of this is written in the first person) is interviewing one of the residents on any one of the worlds. There are some stories which merely relate the history and describe the inhabitants, which, if nothing else, are descriptive and imaginative, but also made me think "OK, this is interesting...I guess... but why should I care??" I admit skimming some chapters towards the end because my interest really started to lag. Le Guin especially seems to be fond of birdlike people- there are at least three stories/worlds where people have avian attributes. The illustrations are interesting, not sure they add much, except parents who might be checking out the book may want to be aware that some images are not exactly suitable for younger children.

Currently reading: Infamous Scribblers, by Eric Burns.

May. 21st, 2017


Allergy season has arrived

Whee. Was so hoping to get through an uneventful spring. But Thursday and Friday, my allergies attacked with a vengeance. Today was a bit better, thanks to an allergy pill. Still, really beginning to dread spring. Was in such a fog Friday, and today I just napped all day.
Edit on Sunday: Now I'm beginning to wonder if this is not allergies but the beginnings of a cold >.<. Joy. Right before the holiday weekend, when I actually had some fun things planned.

On a lighter note, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy on Tuesday with my li'l sis. Wow, that was a fun movie! Kudos to the cast and crew. I mean, how can you go from absurdly and side-splitting comical one moment, then bring on the tears the next- and it all flows together?? The second movie was even better than the first- although now I want to watch the first for the hints about the second, especially with Quill and his father. And Baby Groot *melts* Only thing cuter on screen is Baby Moana. Only complaint is now we've probably got at least a year's wait for the third installment. Boo!

The Book Mouse's Book Report

20. The Death and Life of American Journalism, by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols. This is a must-read for journalists and anyone wanting to save the field and restore it to its Fourth Estate watchdog status. The authors take a thorough look as to what is wrong with newspapers (really, all for-profit generalized mass media but the focus is on the newspaper), where things went wrong and, most importantly, how to bring them back. As to what is wrong, several of the problems McChesney and Nichols point to are issues I've brought up for years. A big problem is that the for-profit, commercial model is falling apart and cannot (and should not) be resurrected. The authors have a greater body of history and research than I do, and show that this model, started about 150 years ago, has been problematic from the start, although only now are the wheels starting to come off. McChesney and Nichols lay out why commercially-run media was a problematic situation, and why technology will not salvage it. But the sections I liked best were the solutions. This is the first book I've read on the subject that actually presents real-world and workable solutions, as opposed to pipe dreams. Essentially the solution is to go back to what our Founders had wanted and spoke for (the authors cite many examples): a heavily subsidized news media. The concept of the L3C corporate status- a fairly new status right now only recognized in a few states- seems especially tailor-made for media. It would allow media to remain for-profit under stringent guidelines. The L3C is for a low-profit entity with a social benefit. The company could could qualify for subsidies and could even apply for grants while still making a profit, as long as its social message is clear. I hope this avenue is explored and takes root. The consequences of remaining at the status quo would be dire, as the authors also illustrate. There are many citations, graphs and charts to back up what the authors say. Now, the big issue of course is will anyone listen. The cynic in me is doubtful. I hope I am proven wrong. McChesney and Nichols provide the tools and ideas- now they just have to be acted upon.

21. A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. This one fills the Book Riot challenge for reading a classic by a person of color. This one almost felt like a cheat; I've seen this twice, plus I've also not only seen Clybourne Park, a 2010 spinoff of Raisin, I was in charge of props for a second, local production. Still, there's always value in reading a script for a show you've seen, and the forward was worth the read in and of itself. I came to appreciate the humanity of the piece, which stands the test of time because it is such a human story. The play focuses on the Younger family: three generations living in a run-down apartment in Chicago. Their lives change when the matriarch receives a $10,000 check, which brings out the best and worst in all of them. The audience learns of their dreams, hopes and fears, set in a backdrop of discrimination, which shows when Lena decides to take some of the money to purchase a home in a white neighborhood. All in all, it's a great play that deserves the classic title. A pity Hansberry died so young. She was quite prolific in her 34 years; I can't help wonder how much more she could have done if she had longer. Still, grateful to what she was able to do. A Raisin in the Sun is a gem.

May. 11th, 2017


Prom season and graduations...

... are already upon us. Wow. The years, they are flying.

After a warm-up, things got rather cool again for May; it's been mostly 60s, even high 50s, and rain. Tons and tons of rain. There were days I wish I had one of those Aquacars :P Still looks like we will be on a temperature roller coaster. Tomorrow's forecast calls for 59, then 88 for Wednesday, then a slow descent back into the low 70s for the end of the month. One possible nice thing though, and I've probably said this before- May tends to be a good indicator for the tone (and temperatures) of summer. So our cool, wet May means we won't be broiling alive in July and August, if history holds true. Still, it probably means that winter will return to all its normal, icy, snowy "glory." Blech.

Slowly but surely getting through the house cleaning. Yuck. Hate cleaning, and hate even more what will probably have to happen next. Sigh.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

19. Journalism Next, by Mark Briggs. Overall I was impressed with this book, although in all honesty any journalist who isn't doing (or at least tried) two-thirds of these things is way behind the curve. There are a lot of good, sound suggestions for journalists for incorporating the various aspects of online applications such as video, podcast, blogging and social media. There's a lot packed in 300-some pages, but it is well-organized and never feels overwhelming. There are many websites, programs and apps Briggs recommends, ranging from free to more expensive but top-drawer. What impressed me is that while the book was published five years ago, the content still feels fresh and relevant. There were a couple times where I was thinking "eh, that doesn't apply now," but only a couple, and they were minor points. That's impressive for a book on technology, especially in a field that seems to change every month (some would say every week, and I won't argue against that).
Only two complaints. The first is fairly minor- Briggs recommends that before doing a podcast or video, the journalist should warm his or her voice up, which YES, is wonderful advice. But then he goes on to say that the should warm up with a familiar song, such as the Star Spangled Banner. I cringed at this. No, don't use The Star Spangled Banner to warm up- you will hurt yourself. Take it from someone who has eight-plus years of classical vocal training. It's best to either sing on vowel sounds or, better yet, buzz up and down a few sets of scales that are easily in your vocal range.
The bigger issue is the overall tone that following these suggestions will help save the journalism industry. No, no they will not. This book is an excellent guide for journalists wishing to make the most of the online resources out there, yes. And don't get me wrong- shrinking newsholes, covering "fluff" for hitcounts, reporting mistakes and credibility issues are a big problem. But anyone who looks to this guide as a means of salvaging the industry will be disappointed. The biggest problem with the industry has little to do with the editors and reporters covering the news. It's that the profit model is deteriorating. Indeed, it is this implosion that is at least partially responsible for the troubles with news coverage.
This very issue is covered in the book I am reading now. No, didn't plan it that way, just serendipitous timing.

Currently reading: The Death and Life of American Journalism, by Robert W. McChesney

Apr. 29th, 2017


Almost May already (???)

I say this every year, but wow is time flying by.

The weather continues to be decent. It's cooler and overcast today but tomorrow might see temps in the low to mid 80s. Wow!

Put in a sizable dent in cleaning over my extended four-day weekend (took a couple vacation days.) Was a bit of a bum this morning and afternoon but then again it was a busy week. Really needed some time to unwind. Not bad- just busy. Plan to continue the momentum after I finish this. Also need to get started on some various painting projects. Will probably do those tomorrow; if it gets as warm as some weather stations predict, it's going to be hot and humid- a good day to chill with a paintbrush, my canvases and my boxes, in other words.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

17. Glow Kids, by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras. I finished this one for the book on technology category for the Read Harder challenge. This one has actually been on my want-to-read list for a while. I've seen it referenced a couple times in articles concerning education and problematic technology use for children. So I knew what type of message I would be reading. Also, I've seen with my own eyes the effect of people, especially younger people, being glued to their screens. I myself have tried to cut back at least one weekends. It's tough- guess where I am now, ha ha! Still, I was unprepared for the scope and depth of the issues presented here. Now, Kardaras makes clear from the start he is NOT anti-technology, and even indicates where it can be useful. What this book champions against is too much tech and the wrong tech too soon. And his own anecdotes on what he has seen in children and young adults (he's an addiction counselor) who struggle with gaming and technology addictions are unnerving. He not only cites his own observations, but quotes from numerous studies that outline the dangers of too much technology use. Kardaras goes into the history of "glowing screens" starting with television, the Etan Patz kidnapping and how that (plus other societal views) changed how children were brought up, how and why children get addicted and, perhaps best yet, solutions to the situation. There's a lot of ground covered in less than 300 pages. The writing style and organization make it easy to read and understand. Once in a while I wondered if the sarcasm and condemnation came off a bit harshly. For example, he criticized parents who carried their children's backpacks. OK, my thought was how old were the kids and how heavy were those backpacks. Every year before the start of school there are articles from orthopedic surgeons who caution against young children carrying too heavy a bag because it can cause back and neck problems. I once weighed my high school bag once after walking home from school, in ninth grade. It had all my books in it, and it weighed 25 pounds. That was without the folders and binders, which would have added another couple pounds. That was really heavier than I should have been carrying around school, much less carting over two miles from school to home (mind you, I also had back surgery two years before, plus other mild to moderate orthopedic issues.) I can easily imagine a pint-sized gradeschooler's bag weighing 15-20 pounds-far above what they should be carrying. But that's another topic for another day, and I'm really beginning to digress here. This is a small point in an otherwise well-written and researched book. I do hope parents and educators read it and take the messages to heart. There are reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics have set guidelines for technology use for children and teens (http://www.educationviews.org/danger-children-handheld-devices/).

18. Fishing Tips and Takes, by C. William King. I read this for work; I'm not using for the book challenge but those in my neck of the woods who need a book for the book set 100 miles from your location could consider this one, especially if they are into fishing, fly fishing and local lore. King's book was fun to read; he relates his various fishing adventures in someone fictitious fashion, and his stories are amusing. I laughed out loud at his story regarding one of his trips when he saw a colony of bats. I liked it, too, because it brought back memories of me fishing with my dad when I was younger. Never went fly fishing. Admittedly, if you don't like the great outdoors and can't stand fishing, you might not enjoy this book. As well as his personal anecdotes, King sprinkles his short stories with many fishing tips and fly fishing pointers. But for those who do, this is a quick and fun read. King has a warm, personable tone to his writing. It put me in mind of listening to stories on a sprawling back porch on a summer evening.

Currently reading: Journalism Next, by Mark Briggs.

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