16 January 2008

What I read in 2007

Posted in books, reviews at 9:44 pm by Tricia

Inspired by Ruth sometime early in 2007, I started keeping track of the books I read. Sadly, I wasn’t able to keep up with her pace, but I still decided to share my list. I hope to read more this year! (I’m on #3 already :^)

Not counting assorted kid books, including multiple Junie B Jones (audio books while traveling, or read-alouds to Z and T) or Magic Tree House (ditto) or Tin-Tin or etc, here are the books I read/finished in 2007 – at least, the ones I remembered to write down! It does include 2 youth fiction books (4 if you include Harry Potter, which probably have more pages than all the ‘grown-up’ books I read!), because I read those to myself :^)

  1. Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan (started in 2006 at the urgent care office when I broke my shoulder; read in chunks because it kept getting recalled by the library; finished just after my final shoulder follow-up appointment with the ortho doc)
  2. Man Eating Bugs, by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio (started last year; finished mostly during the 15 minute sessions of “ice and stim” at biweekly physical therapy)
  3. Mountains beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder (the “community reads” book for my city in 2007, although I didn’t participate in any of the CR events)
  4. Troubling a Star, by Madeleine L’Engle (my all-time favorite author – so sad to read of her passing this fall, but she had a long and full life)
  5. Hans Brinker, by Mary Mapes Dodge (Even as an audio book, I almost gave up in the 2nd chapter, trudging through Dutch history or whatever it was!)
  6. Feeding a yen : savoring local specialities, from Kansas City to Cuzco, by Calvin Trillin (not as entertaining as I’d been led to believe it would be)
  7. The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers (odd and unsettling – sorry, Ruth!)
  8. The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones (very tantalizing descriptions of ‘real’ Chinese food; nice character development)
  9. major chunks of the very silly and bizarre Areas of my Expertise by John Hodgman
  10. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (made me cry!!) (still haven’t seen the movie, though)
  11. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling (re-read as preparation for…)
  12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling (loved it!)
  13. A Crossword to Die For, by Nero Blanc
  14. 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher, by Lee Wardlaw (funny and poignant)
  15. 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents, by Lee Wardlaw (ditto)
  16. Dark Tort, by Diane Mott Davidson (murder mystery series, the main character is a caterer so the books always include recipes)
  17. Sweet Revenge, by Diane Mott Davidson

That works out to just barely more than 1 per month. Slow! I might be missing a couple between 13 (late August) and 14 (November), but I was also fairly busy in the fall so maybe I didn’t read anything else. I didn’t listen to as many books on CD as in 2006, because I now have a lot of podcasts that I listen to during my ‘commute’ (walk or bus ride).

Two things drew me to Man Eating Bugs. A while back, I heard an interview on one of my food radio shows with Menzel and D’Aluisio, a husband-and-wife team, and thoroughly enjoyed their back-and-forth banter. Menzel is the photographer and enthusiastic bug eater, while D’Aluisio is the researcher and a reluctant bug eater. Faith D’Aluisio made the point that there are 2 kinds of insect-eating cultures: the ones who like crunchy stuff (e.g. grasshoppers, ants) and the ones who like ‘creamy’ stuff (witchety grubs, termites, etc). I had to find out more! Plus, I read their Hungry Planet in 2006 and it was fascinating. Here’s a quote from the book’s afterword:

Eating insects never got easy, but I learned that it is possible. And I now realize the experience changed my life. Dropping by the local supermarket is not the same for me anymore. Though I’ve always been stunned by the sheer amount and variety of food available in the United States, the shelves of the supermarket carry only a narrow slice of what the world has to offer, one dictated by the preferences of North Americans like me. Except the small percentage of insect parts inadvertently included in our foods (and allowed there by U. S. law), there are not insects — except, sometimes, lobsters, which are relatives of spiders. I don’t really want a plethora of insects to choose from in my supermarket. But now I know there could be.” —Faith D’Aluisio. [Man Eating Bugs, Afterword. p 187]

With Harry Potter 7, I had a very different approach from many of my friends. They started reading the book as soon as they got it, and hid away from the world to avoid hearing spoilers. Although I pre-ordered from Borders and took C & Z to the midnight release party, I put off reading the book because I didn’t want the story to end. And when I started reading (a month or more later, without encountering any spoilers!), I read it somewhat slowly, because I wanted to savor every moment! I’m not saying my approach is any better, it’s just interesting to me to see the differences.

Here’s to more books in 2008!


15 January 2008

2007 in review

Posted in reviews at 11:37 am by Tricia

Over at DebV’s blog, I learned that some bloggers are posting their first blog-words of each month from 2007. Here are mine (links go to the full entry, the first entry of the month):

I didn’t post at all in January 2007, but my last words of December 2006 were:
Our niephlings aren’t going to recognize our gifts next year!

Febuary 2007 [only post that month, and it was about a school project]:
Z-boy is in a 1/2 class with the same teacher that C-boy had.

March 2007
[again, only post that month]:
When responding to those password security questions, in particular, “what is the name of your pet?,” don’t use the name of a pet fish.

April 2007
Got this message in my inbox today:
[picture of subject line reading “fraudulent spam”]

May 2007:
March and April are hard months for those in northern climes who try to eat local and seasonal.

June 2007 [writing about fireflies]:
I grew up in New Mexico, in the desert on a high plateau in the southeastern corner.

July 2007:
We’re home from our trip to Costa Rica.

Aug 2007 [only 2 entries this month]:
Personally, I have difficulties with the whole “tasting” process, where connoisseurs identify notes and elements in a flavor, but even so, this comic made me laugh and go hmmmm…

Sept 2007:
Here’s a recent headline from BBC News site, with the startling summary that “the more hours you work, the less sleep you get.”

Oct 2007 [October is also the month I documented ladybug life cycle, including larvae color changes]:
Here’s what we had for dinner tonight, based on a recipe in 365 Great Soups & Stews.

Nov 2007:
I had no idea we were due to crash into an asteroid next week!

Dec 2007:
What do you think: is this a responsible use of chocolate, or irresponsible?

This exercise was probably supposed to provide an opportunity for reflection, and improve one’s writing or some such, so here are my thoughts upon reviewing my own blog:

  • My blogging rate has increased during the year (my first post in April is only the third post for the year).
  • I’m not impressed with my writing style based on first words – except maybe November. That one is kind of funny and grabs one’s attention. Maybe my New Year’s resolution should be: come up with better starting sentences!
  • September, November, and December all start with a snippet from BBC News web site (and August was a comic strip). Maybe I should change my blog to “silly thoughts upon reading BBC News”!

26 September 2007

I have a bowl of fruit…

Posted in reviews at 1:05 pm by Tricia

[this started as a test, primarily a test… if this were a real entry, you would know by the blaring klaxon siren and the presence of interesting content]

Are you familiar with Pandora? It’s an intriguing music service, where you can set up a custom radio station seeded with songs you like. They use some algorithm to find music you should like based on what you’ve rated. I’ve found some really interesting music I never would have known about otherwise this way. I’ve been especially taken by the lyrics to a song title “Lucky” by Halie Loren. So I’m testing out this scrolling lyrics widget from LyricsMode.com to see if it works…

Drat. It doesn’t seem to, and poking around in the wordpress FAQ I see they don’t allow flash widgets, so I guess i’ll just post the words. (Or follow the Lucky link here or above, so you can see what it would look like in a context that allowed flash widgets.)

Because after all, I’m lucky!

Halie Loren – Lucky

Written by Halie Loren
Jammin’ Salmon Music

I have a bowl of fruit
A sink that rarely leaks
When I breathe I fill my lungs with air that’s sweet
I have a soft bed
A closet full of clothes
When I step outside it’s on soil where grass can grow

And I have, I have, I have, I have…
And I need, I need, I need, I need…
Nothing else much, I’m

Lucky—this a lucky life
I see it more and more how
Lucky is a relative state of mind
And as long as I concede
That I’ve got all that I need
To be satisfied, I’ll feel lucky
All my life

I have a friend to call
A sister to worry about me
When I fall, I know someone will help me get back on my feet

And I have, I have, I have, I have, I have…
More than I know
And I need, I need, I need, I need, I need…
Nothing else to show I’m

Lucky—this is a lucky life
I see it more and more how
Lucky is a relative state of mind
And as long as I concede that I’ve got all that I need to be satisfied
I’ll feel lucky all my life.

Sometimes when times when get hard it’s hard to believe
Life’s not a dry well
But seeing what fades, what lasts, gives me reason to remind myself…
Lucky is a state of mind
My friend, I’m so

Lucky—this is a lucky life
I see it more and more how
Lucky is a relative state of mind
And as long as I concede
That I’ve got all that I need
To be satisfied, I’ll feel lucky
All my life.

I have a bowl of fruit…

Track and/or CD available at payplay.fm (below), CDBaby, and perhaps your favorite musical outlets.
Full Circle by Halie Loren

10 April 2007

How good is your search?

Posted in reviews at 9:26 pm by Tricia

We recently learned about Good Search. It’s a search engine that splits their advertising revenue with charities. You pick your favorite non-profit (US only, for the time being), and the group earns money with each search you do. You can search from their homepage, get a plug-in for your browser, or download a toolbar. You can change the designation as often as you like. It uses the Yahoo search engine, so searches are of the same caliber as Yahoo. Check it out!

25 July 2006

Hungry Planet

Posted in food, reviews at 10:57 am by Tricia

I’ve been reading Hungry Planet: What The World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. The book is a series of photographs and descriptions of families around the globe photographed with the food they eat in a week. (The NPR site has an interview along with some photos and other highlights.) Some random observations of mine…

It’s quite intriguing to see the variety of food eaten in different countries. I was surprised at how many different families have watermelon! I was surprised by the sugar consumption in Ecuador – 106 lbs per capita (5th behind the US (158 lbs), Cuba (!!) (137), Mexico (109), and Australia (106)). I suppose this was most surprising because they show it in the context of a poor rural family that primarily eats potatoes and such, but also consumes a 5 kilo cake of brown sugar each week. I was startled to see that 70% of Egyptian females and 64% of males are overweight. But then I looked at the chart in the back and noticed that more than half the countries have more than half the population overweight (the US, Australia, and Kuwait lead the pack – or perhaps ‘bring up the rear’ is a better perspective on it!).

Many observations are not too surprising – more developed countries have more packaged foods. For some countries they profile multiple families (Australia, China, Japan, US), and in those cases it was interesting to see the contrast in food.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the countries where extended family are more commonly in the pictures – and where the text mentions how common it is for friends and neighbors to just drop by and share meals. It could also just be a selection bias – the more socially outgoing people might have ended up being the ones discovered for the photo shoot. And of course it’s really hard to tell the overall direction of the culture from these photos and short vignettes, it’s just something that struck me as I read the book.

In the Japan chapter, everything is laid out very artistically – almost like the bento box lunch for the younger daughter as described in the text. I’m sure that was intentional. This is halfway through the book but it looks the most ‘foreign’ to me. I think it’s because in many other countries, there’s a lot of fresh food, or readily identified basic staples (potatoes, corn, etc). But in this photo, so much of the food is packaged, and the packaging has very little western writing or pictures. This family eats more than a dozen types of seafood in a week – amazing! And the condiments: I’ve heard jokes about people whose refrigerators are stuffed with various sauces (mostly Asian) that get used once or twice a year. This family has 25 or so items in the condiments category, and I bet quite a lot of it is used weekly.

I’ve been trying to think through what would appear in a photo of our family. It would definitely differ based on the season (true of most families). Because of our CSA membership, this time of year the table would be overflowing with seasonal produce. But it would also have quite a bit of packaged crackers and other snack foods. And what would it look like in February? I have a pantry with jars of various grains and dried beans, but when do I use most of them?

Finally, I take heart from this book to learn that picky young eaters are found in cultures around the globe :^)

The book was due yesterday and I can’t renew it – indicating someone else has a hold request – and I’m trying to figure out if I should continue paying 25 cents a day until I can finish it (I need probably 4 more days) or if I should just return it and put in a new hold request of my own. The library system owns 5 copies and 6 holds are ahead of me, so it would be probably at least another month before I got it back – I think I’ll invest in the fine…

(update: the university library has a copy, so I plan to check out that copy and return the other to the public library pool.)

30 June 2006

Responsible Chocolate

Posted in food, reviews at 11:32 pm by Tricia

A few months ago, I got some coupons for Endangered Species chocolate. Today I was at the local grocery store which carries the biggest variety of their bars, so I bought a couple (the eco-rounds, and the black rhino bar). Cybele is busy reviewing her haul from the All Candy Expo, so I decided to write up these myself. (Besides, I’m hoping it will help me remember which varieties I do and do not like! On the do not like side: their ‘black panther’ extreme dark (88%).)

First up is eco-rounds: “Caramelized cocoa nibs in exquisite chocolate”. I bought this because it was on sale, and because lately I’ve been intrigued with the whole cocoa nibs trend, but I’ve been unable to find the Endangered Species bat bar with cocoa nibs.
The package is not very appealing – I prefer the gorgeous animal artwork on the others. And the name is just goofy. What exactly is an “eco-round”? How does it convey “chocolate”?? Granted, the animal names for their other bars are rarely related to the candy contained within, but once you have a theme you should stick to it in my opinion!

eco-rounds chocolateThe pieces are pretty, though – slightly glossy and round, with lines radiating out from a center circle and a fluted edge. (Our camera is on the blink, so I’ve borrowed this image from their web site.) The package is just over 1 ounce and has three rounds.
The packaging doesn’t state the chocolate content, but the product web page reveals it to be 60%. Despite the claims on the package, I’m not sure I would call it exquisite chocolate, but it is very good – not too bitter or dry. The nibs are ground much more finely than the previous bar-with-nibs I’d eaten. They give it a gritty texture, but it’s gritty in a nice way, similar to toffee or nuts. I did end up with some nibs in my teeth – nib residue has a darkness to it, not the nuttiness it contributes to the bar. It wasn’t too bad, until I encountered one that felt more like a tough bit of pecan ‘divider’ (not the other shell, but the layer between pecan halves).

Endangered Species Chocolate is kind of pricey, but it’s ethically traded chocolate and generally quite delicious. From great responsibility comes great chocolate, and I like supporting that in a company!