Friday, February 29, 2008

D is for...

Dready 001, originally uploaded by Soasa Designs.

Dreadlocks! I've been been nurturing these guys for about two and a half years, and we've been through a lot together! I've learned patience and dedication, I've learned to embrace the process, to allow things to develop as they will. I've learned to be more open with people, because I can't blend into the furniture anymore. I've learned that stereotypes are lame, that a lot of people are looking to buy pot, and that people are sometimes very stupid. (Do you wash your hair? How long does it take for you to make your hair like that every day? Yo, wanna smoke? So you like, hug trees and stuff? You're stealing black people's culture! You wish you were black! [I should note that it's only the white folks who say this to me]) I've also learned that people are often curious, they want to touch my hair, and they want to learn more.

As a point of reference, here is where my locks were at in February 2006:


I say, DAMN.

For the Flickr ABC-Along

#16 The House of the Scorpion

Book: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Pages: 380
Entertainment Rating: 5/5
Snooty Rating: 5/5
Total Rating: 10/10
Books Read Total: 16/50
Pages Read Total: 3188/15,000

"Fields of white opium poppies stretch away over the hills, and uniformed workers bend over the rows, harvesting the juice. This is the empire of Matteo Alacran, a feudal drug lord in the country of Opium, which lies between the United States and Aztlan, formerly Mexico. Field work, or any menial tasks, are done by "eejits," humans in whose brains computer chips have been installed to insure docility. Alacran, or El Patron, has lived 140 years with the help of transplants from a series of clones, a common practice among rich men in this world. The intelligence of clones is usually destroyed at birth, but Matt, the latest of Alacran's doubles, has been spared because he belongs to El Patron...[Spoilers]"

Goodness this woman is great! It's extremely rare that I keep reading books from the same author unless they're in a series. (Tom Robbins and John Steinbeck are exceptions) Nancy Farmer has my undivided attention! While her books are technically "Young Adult" I'm finding that I don't feel the least bit guilty reading them instead of the work required for my various GE courses. I took this book out of the library on Tuesday, and I finished it last night, despite attending all my classes and spending a great deal of time in the studio. I couldn't put it down! I carried it (hardcover) around in my bag all week, catching bits here and there when I had a free moment. The characters and the plot are captivating and exquisitely crafted, though the ending leaves room for another book. I just discovered that there's a sequel to Sea of Trolls called Land of the Silver Apples that must have just been released, so maybe that's where she's headed with this one!


Friday, February 22, 2008

#15 The Sea of Trolls

For the YA Challenge.

Book: The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
Pages: 455
Entertainment Rating: 5/5
Snooty Rating: 5/5
Total Rating: 10/10
Books Read Total: 15/50
Pages Read Total: 2808/15,000

"The Sea of Trolls is a historical fantasy novel set in a fictional version of 793 C.E. in Anglo-Saxon England, Scandinavia, and Jotunheim. It begins when Jack, a young Saxon boy and the protagonist, is accepted as the village bard's apprentice. Jack loves learning from the bard who teaches him to better see, hear, and sense the world around him. Jack is content until Northmen invade his village..." Wikiplot

I absolutely cannot say enough good things about this book! I read the first 100 pages or so last night and the rest of it today. All 350 pages or so. I had to make myself put it down when my body demanded that I eat something (that may also be because I can't taste anything so I don't want to eat). This book was just so...tight. Well constructed. Engaging. I'm amazed I hadn't heard of it before, because it could kick Harry Potter's ass. Rich in mythology and magic, the author does a beautiful job of addressing all the many beliefs existing at the time and it seems to me she remains unbiased about them all (though I think we all know Norse gods were a lot more fun). I was impressed by the appendix in the back, as I hadn't realized just how much research went into this book. In retrospect it makes perfect sense.


#14 The King of Ireland's Son

What I do when the flu's got me? I read, and read, and knit, and watch movies, and read. And drink more tea than I thought humanly possible. I should also mention that the flu is a great diet plan, I can't taste, so I don't eat!

For the YA Challenge.

Book: The King of Ireland's Son by Padriac Colum
Pages: 275
Entertainment Rating: 5/5
Snooty Rating: 4/5
Total Rating: 9/10
Books Read Total: 14/50
Pages Read Total: 2353/15,000

I remember being completely obsessed with this book when I was very young. My babysitter would read it to me and to her youngest children on rainy days. This book wasn't exactly as I remembered it, for some reason I've jumbled it in my head with another book that has Baba Yaga in it. (In retrospect that's silly of me because Baba Yaga is Russian and this is a book of tales from Ireland) Never the less it's a great book of classic folktales from Ireland constructed in a creative manner, a story of a story within a story, rather than just listed one after the other. Really a great book, I recommend it to anyone with children, looking to entertain children, or who simply enjoys children's books!

I'm currently reading Nancy Farmer's The Sea of Trolls and I love it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


And I mean that in the sore throat, no breathing, pounding headache sort of way, not as a synonym for "awesome".

Monday, February 18, 2008

I wonder...

I think I'm missing something in these audiobooks. I don't know if it's just that my interaction with books in print is so much more intimate, turning each page, reading each word and smelling the musty smell of paper and ink and libraries. I come away from these audiobooks feeling like I do after I watch a movie. I've been entertained but I'm not sure how much of it I've really retained. Perhaps it's these short books that are making me feel that way. I literally listened to Of Mice and Men and Fahrenheit 451 straight through without stopping. Maybe I need time to stop and absorbs going on at points that are particularly challenging, or maybe I'm more distracted than I think when I'm working on other projects. I'm not sure what's up but I think I'm going to stick to more light "reading" for in the studio and save the heavier stuff for the gym and the car and knitting.

#13 Fahrenheit 451

Book: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Pages: Audiobook
Entertainment Rating: 4.5/5
Snooty Rating: 4/5
Total Rating: 8.5/10
Books Read Total: 13/50
Pages Read Total: 2410/15,000

I listened to this book in the studio yesterday and I have to comment on the way that the book I'm listening to effects my work. Saturday was bleak. Of Mice and Men had this feeling of doom that never lifted. At times there was a feeling of hope, but it was always overshadowed with fear.

Actually, even as I wrote the above my opinion changed. Both books are really very similar! Each is about a man (or two or three) realizing that they're trapped in a cycle they aren't happy in. Each is striving to find a way out, George and Lennie with their farm, Guy Montag with his interactions with Clarisse. The emotional rollar coaster pretty much follows the same track. What changed the way I was feeling was the endings. I'm not going to say what happens, but Steinbeck definitely left me feeling deflated, while Bradbury gave me some hope.

All that said, this was a very interesting book. I think it's a great example of a heavily constructed story that actually works. Everything about it seems very intentional, and in my eyes at least it all holds up.

Given the fact that I'm supposed to be writing an essay today I would hope I could find better words with which to express myself, but I'm feeling sick and my brain is mush. Damn it. In short, I quite enjoyed this book!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

#12 Of Mice and Men

Book: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Pages: Audiobook
Entertainment Rating: 4.5/5
Snooty Rating: 3.5/5
Total Rating: 8/10
Books Read Total: 12/50
Pages Read Total: 2410/15,000

The wikiplot: Two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression – George Milton: small in stature, intelligent, and cynical, but caring; and Lennie Small: physically strong, but a mentally limited man – come to a ranch in Soledad, California to "work up a stake". They hope one day to fulfill their shared dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream, which he never tires of hearing George describe, is merely to have soft rabbits on the farm, which he can pet.

I have not decided how I feel about this book except that I love Steinbeck and his ability to create such emotions in his readers! My copy was recorded by Mark Hammer, and he did an incredible job! I listened to this entire book while in the studio today and there were many moments where I had to stop what I was doing because I was too emotional to focus. The relationships between the men of the farm are so painstakingly and precariously built as they begin to realize the companionship they've been missing. Hopes soar and plans are made, but the entire thing is overcast by a feeling of impending doom. A complicated roller coaster of emotions! It was an intense 4 hours!

#11 Girl with a Pearl Earring

Book: Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Pages: Audiobook
Entertainment Rating: 4.5/5
Snooty Rating: 3.5/5
Total Rating: 8/10
Books Read Total: 11/50
Pages Read Total: 2410/15,000

I quite enjoyed this book! I finished it last Friday, but haven't had the time to sit down and write about it until now.

From the website: Girl With a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter's attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings - the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings.

I wouldn't say that this book is particularly mind boggling, but it's a truly entertaining story! I love the author's imaginings of the weird quirks of Vermeer and the lovely images of his studio, and the descriptions throughout the book were what really held my attention. It's a fluffy story with enough substance to hold some merit. I'm excited to see the movie!

Woohoo!!! 101!

This is my 101st post in this blog. Yay me!

I thought the image was fitting, since I'm a farmer's daughter, and I found it here.

As it happens I did a lot today! I woke up at the unreasonable (for a Saturday) hour of 6:30 to ride into Newburgh with my dearest Habitat crew for a freezing cold morning of demolition and organizing. I've never been to a build in Newburgh because I'm usually working, but I had a great time! The volunteers are clearly a tight group, and there are certainly a lot of characters! I spent the better part of the morning sorting through a warehouse full of old and new donated building supplies and taking inventory. My toes were good and frozen by the end of it all, but we got a lot done.

From Newburgh I went straight to the studio and it's from there I just returned. I cleaned the hell out of my space, and I'm wishing that I had the energy to do the same to my apartment, but I'm pooped!

Another bit of very important news is that I've just finished the last bite of the best chocolate I've ever eaten. Messico, by Maglio of Italy is the BEST. It also retails at $10 a bar. That's $10 more than I have available to spend on chocolate, so if anyone is wondering what to get me for my birthday, now you know!! I'm also not opposed to trying their dark chocolate varieties. Hint, hint.

In other, other news I just had some of Progresso's Hearty Black Bean soup for dinner, and I think it's a new favorite! Especially with grilled cheese...yum!

I've finished two books in the past week, and I'll post about them separately, and then I'm off to knit!

Friday, February 15, 2008


Cosmos - OOAK, originally uploaded by Soasa Designs.

In two weeks I'll be 20 which is a lame age because you get the responsibility of not being a teen anymore, but no new privileges. I've decided that this isn't fair, and if I can't be rewarded for my age, at least someone should be!

So! Since I owe it to all my customers that I'm able to buy groceries, and thus live to be 20, you are the ones who will be rewarded! For every $20* you spend between now and March 4th I'll give you 20% off! Now, if you were on my mailing list I would also be telling you the secret code for free shipping. E-mail me at RobinMarie at SoasaDesigns dot com if you'd like to be added!

Valentine's Day is passed, but Mother's Day is coming, though really, do you need an excuse to buy jewelry?

* This offer does not apply to Team NOLA purchases, of which 50% are donated to Habitat for Humanity SUNY New Paltz.

Bah Humbug?

I was all set to write up a report on where I've been (sleeping on a couch for the last two nights), the book I've finished (Girl with a Pearl Earring), the projects I've NOT finished (Enameling, Forming and Ceramics), the book I'm reading (The King of Ireland's Son), the projects I'm knitting (Fetching for Amanda's aunt, Forecast for me), my trip to my professor's studio (She has a pool. In her studio.), and the ridicules weather (Snow, Ice, Rain, Lots of Ice, The reason I've been sleeping on a couch for two nights), but for some reason this "holiday" is getting to me more than I expected. I got out of class at 9:20pm per usual and was really, really upset to be going home to my apartment all alone. I missed a call from Mom, the one person I truly wanted to talk to, and it was too late to call her. I guess even though He and I never got to be together for Valentine's Day, it helped knowing that He was out there thinking of me. Right now I'm feeling pretty isolated.

What am I going to do about it? I'm going to cry a little, knit a little and go to bed.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Morning Verse

(Photo found here.)

Every morning my classmates and I recited this verse, all through middle school. Every once in a while it comes up, and each time I come across it I am struck by the sense of purpose and connectedness I feel. A childhood friend of mine just recently returned from Cambodia and he wrote a piece for my school's newsletter about finally feeling the full purpose of these words. Thus they come into my life again and I am filled with a lightness and bubbling excitement that comes from feeling that all things are possible.

I look into the world
In which the sun is shining,
In which the stars are sparkling,
In which the stones repose.
Where living plants are growing,
Where sentient beasts are living,
Where man, soul gifted,
Gives the spirit a dwelling place .

I look into my soul
That lives within my being.
The world creator moves,
In sunlight and in soul light,
In wide world space without,
In soul depths here within.
To thee, creator spirit
I will now turn my heart,
To ask that strength and blessing,
To learn and work may grow,
Within my inmost being.

-Rudolf Steiner

Thursday, February 7, 2008

#10 The Kalahari Typing School for Men

Book: The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
Pages: Audiobook
Entertainment Rating: 5/5
Snooty Rating: 3.5/5
Total Rating: 8.5/10
Books Read Total: 10/50
Pages Read Total: 2410/15,000

This is (I believe) the 4th book the in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which means I missed the third one. It doesn't particularly matter though, as all the books are entertaining and don't rely entirely on one another. In this book the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (the detective agency of a woman in Botswana named Mma Ramotswe) faces some competition, religion, typing men, cheating men, charming men, and forever strong women. I loved listening to the audio because I could hear the pronunciation of all the names and places! It was perfect for the gym and the studio. I think I went through this book in about three days. Highly recommended for during those activities when you may be distracted occasionally, but want to be entertained.

I've only just discovered the amazing(ly free) wealth of audiobooks available at my library, and I went back last night to get a new one and ended up coming home with 4, having cut back from 8. Last night I picked up The Girl With the Pearl Earring, Fahrenheit 451, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Bless Me, Ultima. First up is The Girl With the Pearl Earring. I'm also reading (for the YA Challenge) an old childhood favorite called The King of Ireland's Son.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

True love has found me

I'm thoroughly infatuated with my Sociological and Philosophical Foundations of Education class (even if it is a mouthful). My professor is an exceptional guide, but I think also that as a whole my class is great! Our discussions are inquisitive, thoughtful and intense, and my professor is great about fielding our hard-to-answer questions, making clear distinctions between the times when what she says is fact, and when she's simply participating in the sharing of opinions. At this point in the semester we're exploring the struggle of racism and segregation in education. I absolutely LOVE that there is no right answer. I find myself mulling over possibilities, realities, actions and repercussions even outside of class, as I'm falling asleep or eating lunch. I love having the ground yanked out from under me in this way, forcing me to abandon opinions because there's simply no way to pin one down!

This is why I went to college.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

#9: Shame of the Nation

Book: Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol
Pages: 332
Entertainment Rating: 1/5
Snooty Rating: 3.5/5
Total Rating: 4.5/10
Books Read Total: 9/50
Pages Read Total: 2410/15,000

From Publishers Weekly:
"Public school resegregation is a "national horror hidden in plain view," writes former educator turned public education activist Kozol (Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace). Kozol visited 60 schools in 11 states over a five-year period and finds, despite the promise of Brown v. Board of Education, many schools serving black and Hispanic children are spiraling backward to the pre-Brown era. These schools lack the basics: clean classrooms, hallways and restrooms; up-to-date books in good condition; and appropriate laboratory supplies. Teachers and administrators eschew creative coursework for rote learning to meet testing and accountability mandates, thereby "embracing a pedagogy of direct command and absolute control" usually found in "penal institutions and drug rehabilitation programs." As always, Kozol presents sharp and poignant portraits of the indignities vulnerable individuals endure. "You have all the things and we do not have all the things," one eight-year-old Bronx boy wrote the author. In another revealing exchange, a cynical high school student tells his classmate, a young woman with college ambitions who was forced into hair braiding and sewing classes, "You're ghetto-so you sew." Kozol discovers widespread acceptance for the notion that "schools in ghettoized communities must settle for a different set of academic and career goals" than schools serving middle-and upper-class children. Kozol tempers this gloom with hopeful interactions between energetic teachers and receptive children in schools where all is not lost. But these "treasured places" don't hide the fact, Kozol argues, that school segregation is still the rule for poor minorities, or that Kozol, and the like-minded politicians, educators and advocates he seeks out, believe a new civil rights movement will be necessary to eradicate it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. "

This is a complicated book. I've been struggling over the past few days to decide what I will write about it (both here and in the paper I'll have to write for class) and I still haven't decided. There is no denying that Kozol has devoted his adult life to fighting for the rights of inner city citizens, however I can't help but feel that his attitude towards the people he is writing about is condescending at best. His writing is completely inaccessible to anyone without some form of higher education, and even then it takes hours to wade through, by which time much of the inspiration and rage has dissipated to frustration. I don't see how this book will do much to help when his final call to action is to the teachers in these schools. They don't have time to read his book, as he's already proven page after page throughout this book. As a reader I was frustrated by the intensity of his use of statistics. There were some wonderful (and heart wrenching) chapters in this book about the schools, the teachers and the students, and those were the most effective chapters. Then there were pages and pages of straight up statistics, during which I had to fight to keep my focus because numbers are really just numbers. They lose their meaning quickly.

The content itself is something I've encountered before, and it never fails to break my heart. With each year that we fail to resolve this issue the problems deepen and become less reversible. There were definitely parts of this book that made me want to drop everything and devote my life to the children in these schools, while other parts brought the realization that Teach for America (a program I've wanted to participate in) may not be all the peace and love it seems to be. So long as we make these schools settle for uncertified youth as teachers we deny them the resources they need in the form of strong, seasoned educators. In the end I'm torn. Can I, from my position, help this cause? How can we activate the teachers? How can we educate the parents on how to demand what is best for their children? How can we show these students that they can have better, of they're willing to fight for it?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Richard Wilbur

So Yarn Harlot posted a beautiful poem today as a part of the BRigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading. I didn't know there was such a thing, but I am all for sharing my favorite poem with you all!

The Writer by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

Friday, February 1, 2008

#8 Take a Thief

For the YA Challenge.

Book: Take a Thief by Mercedes Lackey
Pages: 448
Entertainment Rating: 5/5
Snooty Rating: 2/5
Total Rating: 7/10
Books Read Total: 8/50
Pages Read Total: 2078/15,000

I wasn't at all surprised to find this book enjoyable as there are very few of Lackey's Valdemar novels that I haven't enjoyed. I'm a sucker for fantasy. She's easy to read, entertaining, and her characters are always strong and witty. Skif, a young thief, is no exception. Orphaned by his mother's death he is under the thumb of his skimping uncle and working in his inn in the slums under the watch of an abusive and slow-witted cousin. His only escape is in the mandatory lessons taught by the temple and the chance to keep out of the way. This story details the path he takes to a new life, the people he meets, the skills he earns, and the adventures that find him. The "street" speak was a bit hard to follow at times, but eventually I got used to it. Fun book!

I've got about 30 pages left in Jonathan Kozol's book Shame of the Nation. I'm not sure what I'm going to read next, though I'm sure my classes will control my decision.


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