Thursday, June 18, 2009

15 books in 15 minutes

Everyone's doing it...

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I think this may be one of the most important books ever written. It's beautiful.

2) The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Had a huge impact on me when I was young. Helped me explore concepts about heroism, ends justifying the means, honesty... Just a great story, too.

3) The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook by Gary Gygax. My first real roleplaying book it opened up my creativity in a way that has profoundly affected every part of my life since.

4) The Day of Dissonance by Alan Dean Foster. It's the first "Spellsinger" book I ever read - a gift from my sister. It was set in a world with talking animals, but they were not all cutesy - no no. The hero has to drag his otter friend out of a whorehouse in chapter 2. The book was an eyeopener for my 11 year old self. Thanks, Jane!

5) A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. Those of you who have roleplayed with me know I'm drawn to the tragic hero. This was my first taste of tragic heroism - Sydney Carton. What a great story and a great ending with two of the best lines ever written in the English language.

6) Watership Down by Richard Adams. A book about rabbits. But not really.

7) A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. This one was great, but the series is starting to wilt a little bit so I worry it won't end as well as it began.

8) Ulysses by James Joyce. Yes, I have actually read the entire thing. This is probably one of the best books ever written. It basically says hey, you can do whatever you want in a book. Just try it dammit. The stream of consciousness internal monologue chapter is one of my favorite moments in all of literature.

9) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I chose this one from the Narnia books because it is my favorite and because I like the redemptive nature of the story. Plus, the idea of sailing on a ship to the end of the world is just a great concept.

10) Mythology by Edith Hamilton. It was assigned in school and was my first real in depth experience with the Greek myths, which have a huge impact on all of us.

11) The Hero with a Thousand Faces By Joseph Campbell. If you know about Campbell, you know how important his work is to understanding humanity. Read it, if you haven't.

12) Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls? Read this is 5th grade and it had a profound impact on me. I re-read it every couple of years.

13) The King with Six Friends by Jay Williams. This is a children's book that taught me how to be a leader and the importance of having a leader. Still one of my favorites.

14) Here Be Dragons by Sharon K Penman. Introduced me to historical fiction. Great series of books.

15) The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Great novel and incredible writing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My daughter, the songwriter

First it was plays. Now she's moved on to songs. Rachel, who is eight, has decided to write a song. The topic of her song. Love. Peace. And little sisters.

A Song about Love and Peace

(peace signs and hearts adorn the paper)

Sometimes I remember
When we were kids
You want to always fight

I just wish we loved each other
And we had peace
I wish you weren't mean
That made my days worse
Stop fighting me, sister

I thought we were gonna have
Love and peace the rest of our life
Well, you thinked wrong!
Fine, be your mean self
I'll get you back
I promise.

Of course you're not hearing it the way she sings it - with passion and regret and a little bit of revenge at the end.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A conversation with Rachel

"Dad, I wish God never invented owies."

"Then you wouldn't appreciate feeling good. Without knowing what being hurt feels like you can't appreciate feeling okay."


"Someday you'll understand, Rachel."

"But not today!"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sammi and Reading

Sammi is determined to learn how to read. And she's actually getting pretty good at it. We have this set of books that my mom gave us when Rachel was learning to read. You work through each one and when they can read it perfectly, they get to put a sticker in the book wherever they choose. A sticker is a huge motivator for a five-year-old. Sammi always checks out which sticker she gets when she finishes a particular book. I am fairly certain Rachel and I did not get through the full set of books. Eventually, we'll get to a book that doesn't have a Rachel sticker in it somewhere, but so far (book nine) we still see Rachel stickers.

Sammi is very good at sounding out words. She knows all of the single letter sounds and some of the blends (sh is her favorite because she can put her finger to her lips and say "Shhhhhhhhhhh." She can also apply that knowledge to sounds at the end of words. She is really coming along. We started just the other day with sight word flashcards. Once we build up her vocabulary with a lot of the basic words, I think the lightbulb will turn on and she'll be reading.

There have been moments of difficulty though. One night when she was struggling, I suggested we stop for the night. She started to cry. When I asked her what was wrong, she brayed, "I have to learn to read before kindergarten!" I explained to her that kids don't have to know how to read to go to kindergarten. In fact, I said, most kids don't learn to read until the middle of first grade. She asked me when I learned to read and I told her first grade and I pointed out Rachel learned to read in first grade too. So I think she felt better about it.

But she is still determined to learn as soon as possible. Every night, she wants to read another book.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


My sister-in-law, Peggie, who's really more sister than sister-in-law, is very ill. She's in the hospital with an infection in her heart and has to have open heart surgery. She's had some kidney and lung failure. Things don't look good.

Peggie and John started dating in high school. I was around 10. It was true love from the start... for them, I mean. She was very easy to love though. Peggie was a wonderful surrogate big sister back then since my real one was out of the house. She would bring me the latest cool candy she had found. Or Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies. She always had a smile and a contagious enthusiasm.

Please pray for her if you do that. Or send good thoughts her way if you can. Thank you.

UPDATE: Peggie is doing much better. At this point, she does not have to have open heart surgery. We are hoping she'll be able to recover without those sort of drastic measures.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

This is a good plan

Let's try this out.

Basically it's lowering home interest rates to 4% so people can refinance their mortgages. Getting a 4% rate would immediately help the many, many people out there who are making payments on their mortgages and didn't buy more house than they could afford. We'd have more money every month which could lead to more spending which could help the economy. In times of economic trouble, let's not just help those who are totally screwed, but also those who are teetering on the edge.

Write to your congressman - insist they support this plan!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow day

Last night and in the early morning hours more snow blanketed my town. As usual, Kirkwood was closed and so was Rachel's school. So I'm home with the girls plus three. Two older girls from down the street showed up at 10 and shortly thereafter, the six year old from across the street ventured through the snowdrifts. So far, they've played pirates (Sammi's idea), house, and danced to wedding reception favorites such as the Macarena and YMCA. So far no blowups or tears which is good. I'm sending them all home for lunch and then they can reconvene after that.

While I like having a day at home, it's actually sometimes more stressful than going to work. At least at work I don't have to deal with girls in tears... well scratch that. I actually had two crying students yesterday. One refused my kleenex.

Sammi turned 5 today. I can't believe she's five already. Time is flying, flying, flying. I am very happy that she loves dragons.

In other news, TV is starting to get better again - 24 premiered after a two year hiatus because of the writer's strike. And it's just as good as, if not better than before. I am looking forward to the premiere of Lost. American Idol won't really get good until we get to at least Hollywood, although I admit I did watch most of the premiere last night. No one really stood out. I have nine episodes of Fringe on my DVR... should I bother? Is it any good? I watched the first 2 or 3 episodes and thought it had potential, but it kept getting shoved down my list of shows to watch and now I'm really far behind. The newest Survivor cast only has 18 castaways. I wonder if that means we might finally do what I've been wanting them to do for a long time - a season without twists - just straight up Survivor old school like the first two seasons.

I have been accepted to graduate school. My first class starts at the end of this month. It's about curriculum development in colleges.

What else...

Well, I didn't do my big 2008 wrap up, 2009 preview post like I have done in other years. I will just sum up:

2008 - sucked
2009 - going to be a lot better

Thursday, January 8, 2009

So yeah, stop arguing about it

For anyone who wants to argue that George Bush's tenure in the White House has been good for America, I give you this link.

The last statistic is the one that I think is most telling.

Then: +236.2 billion (2000, Congressional Budget Office)
Now: -$1.2 trillion (projected figure for 2009, Congressional Budget Office)

Fiscal conservative? Yeah, right.