March 2008

Sorry for the late notice, but I just got all the details worked out. We’re planning on meeting in Downtown Sacramento at R15 (the corner of R and 15th Streets) at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 28. If anyone out there is interested in talking about this month’s book, Water For Elephants by Sarah Gruen, feel free to stop by and have a drink with us.

If you don’t have time to make it on Friday (sorry again about the late notice), there will still be an online discussion/review on the last of the month.


I’m not a huge fan of Bret Easton Ellis, but I know plenty of people who are. I read my first Ellis book last year. It was also the first Ellis book ever written, which I found out in this article that he wrote when he was 21. Because of this discovery I feel I owe him another chance. I plan to pick up one of his other books sometime this year, although I’m fairly certain he’s just not my type of author. However, his life is really interesting and I suggest reading this great article about him in the Los Angeles Times.

Also, I just read about A Place to Belong, a memoir type book about a boy who grew up too quickly and began a life on the road at age 14. It seems as though this is author Paul Miller’s first book, but it has gotten great reviews. It sounds like an interesting book that I’ll definitely be picking up soon. If you’d like to read a review of it go here.

If humans were to go extinct in the next few years, it’s safe to say that mother nature will fully recover. There are some things she will likely not be able to fix, nuclear waste being top of the list, but evolution will help her to take care of a lot of the other problems humans have created, at least according to The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.

Luckily Weisman didn’t just focus on one city and tell us how it would be destroyed and returned to its natural state, which was what I feared when I began reading the book. The first chapter focuses on New York City, the penultimate city to most Americans, but he quickly moves on to other things. Weisman talks to bridge workers to find out how quickly bridges would corrode and crumble depending on climate. He also looks into how buildings deteriorate, how roads crack and give way to trees and plants, and how other species would be effected by the loss of humans.

The chapters about deterioration of man-made buildings were difficult for me to read as I don’t have a very scientific mind. I had to really focus on each paragraph to be sure I was really understanding, which made this a long book for me. I found the chapters about case studies (Chernobyl, the DMZ between the Koreas, etc.), and those about other species, to be the most fascinating. As a crazy environmentalist I find myself always thinking everything would be better off without humans, but this just isn’t the case. There are several species that would likely become extinct themselves as a result of human extinction, many of those being the animals we have painstakingly domesticated and bred for our own use.

Other chapters that took turns I didn’t expect were the chapter on war, in which Weisman argues that war is actually good for the environment despite horrible examples of it causing destruction, and the section about birds, in which we learn that birds are the least effected by humans because they don’t have to spend all their time on Earth with us but they are still killed in the hundreds each year because of human interaction.

Overall, I found this book to be really interesting and I appreciated the illustrations that helped to explain some of the more difficult issues and managed to break up the dense text for me. The book is well researched and well written, giving a very full picture of what would happen if humans disappeared without destroying the Earth in the process.

When I was at Sac State I always wanted to join the Women’s Rowing Team, but I never was able to because my school schedule always conflicted with practice times…and the years it didn’t conflict I just couldn’t convince myself to get up at 6 a.m. to go running.

Now that I’m headed back to Sac State I thought I could finally join crew and get my row on. But it doesn’t look like it will happen. I emailed the head coach today and found out that once you start college the NCAA only allows you to compete in sports for 4 years of a 5 year clock. If you take 6 years to finish college you aren’t allowed to join sports that last year, even if you’ve never competed in sports before. SO the only way to compete in sports as a grad student is if you finished undergrad in 4 years and are going directly into grad school. AND you can’t have already competed for 4 years.

I probably would have been way older than the rest of the girls on the team anyway so I guess I should be grateful I didn’t have to embarrass myself but I’m still super sad.

On the plus side, the Aquatic Center offers a summer rowing program, three days a week for only $50 a month. I have to take a beginner class beforehand, which is $95 for a four-day course, but if I can find the money I think I’ll do it. I really just want to row and paying to do it at least gives me the opportunity to quit if I hate it without letting down my whole team.

So, anyone interested in rowing with me this summer?

Can I just say how glad I am that my favorite local bar/restaurant has free internet access? When I come to Sacramento with Tony, which is most days, I come here early in the morning because the library doesn’t open until 10 a.m. Of course, I come here for more than just the free internet. I also love their breakfast. Their lunch food isn’t really my favorite and it’s a bit too pricey for a unemployed loser living with her boyfriend’s parents. I’m a little bit put off my breakfast right now though because of the urban hipster couple sitting near me. Urban hipsters. Heh.

So anyway, if you’re wondering why I come to Sacramento so often, it’s because I don’t want Tony’s parents to think that I’m a bum. I do have work to do. It’s just that as a freelancer I don’t LOOK like I’m working all the time. If I come to Sacramento to meet with editors and spend the day at the library working, it creates the effect that I have real work to do. I’m hoping this will offset the eventual parent feeling (because all parents do this, even if they’re as cool as Tony’s parents) of us taking advantage of them because Tony’s girlfriend is a bum and why doesn’t she just get a real job already? Right? Right.

Oh, and I have an interview for a real job next week. It’s only a summer job, but a job nonetheless. Having a more steady income will definitely be a good thing as Tony and I try to get enough money together for an apartment. Oh, a cell phone would be nice too. I’m working my way up, I swear.

OK then, hope you’re all having a happy Friday. I’m going to enjoy my breakfast now.

It is difficult to write a review about A Thousand Splendid Suns without wanting to make comparisons to Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner, even though the two books are mutually exclusive. One doesn’t have to have read The Kite Runner to understand A Thousand Splendid Suns, and in fact the two books are quite different.

The similarities lie in the way the story is told, in that Hosseini begins the story in an Afghanistan very unlike the one we read about in the newspapers today. A Thousand Splendid Suns begins in the 60’s with Mariam, a harami, the illegitimate child of a rich man. Her father is never able to fully claim her and when her mother dies she is forced into an arranged marriage that will move her far away from her father and enable him to forget the shame that lies in her very being. Mariam is moved to Kabul, where she is treated kindly at first by her new husband. However, he is very strict, expecting her to where Burqa long before the Taliban comes to power and makes it mandatory for all women.

In the book we see Afghanistan transformed from a very modern city, where women are treated as equals with (most) men. It then goes through the period where Afghanistan is at war with Russia, and the story changes from Mariam to Laila. Laila is only 14 when her friends have all moved from her childhood neighborhood to escape the war. Just as her family is preparing to leave themselves, their home is shelled and both of her parents are killed. She is rescued by Rasheed, Mariam’s husband, and forever after their lives are entwined.

Once the book reaches this point it takes on a much quicker pace, switching back and forth from Mariam to Laila, telling the story of their life together from each of their perspectives, which eventually becomes one and the same. Once the Taliban takes over we see a stark contrast between the Afghanistan of before and the Afghanistan of today.

“They want us to operate in burqa,” the doctor explained, motioning with her head to the nurse at the door. “She keeps watch. She sees them coming, I cover.”

She said this in a pragmatic, almost indifferent, tone, and Mariam understood that this was a woman far past outrage. Here was a woman, she thought, who had understood that she was lucky to even be working, that there was always something, something else, that they could take away.

Reading this book was difficult for me as it was told from the perspective of women. I could almost tangibly feel their anger mounting. They try everything humanly possible to get away from the horrible situation, but they are always betrayed.

Mariam thinks back to that long-ago morning when Mammy had said to her, “Like a compass needle pointing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that Mariam.”

For them, these experiences really put their lives into perspective. They realize they really don’t have any other option. And their husband helps them to see that, always pointing out that without him they’d be out on the street or dead because neither is able to work, nor are they able to be in public without a male companion without risking being severely beaten.

Mariam heard the answer in his laugh: that in the eyes of the Taliban, being a communist and the leader of the dreaded KHAD made Najibullah only slightly more contemptible than a woman.

If you are interested in Afghanistan, it’s culture and it’s people, both before and after the last 20 years of conflict, I highly recommend Hosseini’s books. He tells the stories of normal people, and he tells it with a balanced hand I don’t think would be possible by westerners who probably wouldn’t be able to write without showing their outrage by such treatment of women.

Other blog reviews of this book:
Maw’s Books

I have to admit that for a long time I secretly judged my boyfriend for using Head & Shoulders shampoo. I always associated it with old gray-haired men for some reason. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, just before I left France I was trying to use up all of our shampoos and body gels so I wouldn’t feel guilty throwing them away. I ended up using Tony’s Head & Shoulders one day after he left and it left my hair feeling AMAZING. This is one company who doesn’t lie when they say your hair will feel silky and smooth if you use it. So if any of you have the same weird “old guy” feeling about Head & Shoulders, I recommend getting a FREE sample. I totally went out and bought H&S for Tony and me when I got back here.

As I get older I feel like I sound more and more like the commercials I’m subjected to daily. I wonder why that is? I wonder if adults have always talked like that, or if we talk like that because we learn it from commercials. I think it’s some kind of viscious cycle. I think commercials were originally based off real people, but now we follow cues from commercials…etc.

Anyway, I read in this weekend’s San Francisco Chronicle that a Bay Area nanny is suing her employers for bad treatment and poor pay. She was only getting paid $1,300 a month for 14-hour days six days a week. That’s double what I was getting paid. I guess I could have sued after all. Oh, and this family she worked for, their house is worth $17 million. How do you not have enough money to pay a good salary to the woman taking care of you kid/s? I don’t understand people. If you want someone to be nice to your kids and take good care of them, how about you don’t treat them like dirt? That’d be what I’d do anyway. Here’s the article if you want to read it.

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