Friday, May 27, 2005

Books are like wood but with more words 

I've found a new hobby - using books in woodworking crafts.

It felt disrespectful at first. But I realized that the important par of books is the words and the content, not the cardboard (or bookboard, as the case may be) and paper.

My most recent project was a plant stand.

I found a hardcover copy of Douglas Coupland's "All Families are Psychotic" for sale. I bought it, and some bamboo. I spent some time in my dad's workshop with power tools and hot glue. The Coupland book is the base, made solid with screws through the cover in both directions. I carved into the cover to make a place for the inch-thick bamboo pole. I cut the pole to about 5 inches tall, and I took a 4 inch square of pine for the top, and glued it all together. It looks like a capital I with a base wider than the top platform. I'm proud of myself.

I planted some baby's breath in a 30 blank CD case. I wrapped the top piece of pine in aluminum foil, and I use a cookie-tin lid as a "coaster" for the cd case (I cut holes in the bottom so woter coulddrain), and the flowers overflowing and blossoming, and it looks really cool.

I like looking over from my computer to see the chaotic flowers and the words "All Families are Psychotic" - :)

I need to be satisfied with little projects like this and scrapbooking until I get my own house, and my own power tools; then I can really build stuff.

In memoriam 

Read this in honor of Memorial Day.

I sent this to the writer, Ralph Kinney Bennett:

Mr. Bennett,

Thank you so much for your essay. It brought tears to my eyes.

"The crowd was so small last year."

I'll be visiting my grandfather this Monday, in a cemetary in Alexandria, VA. He died when I was only a year old. He served in WWII in the Merchant Marines, in both theaters. I'll be doubling the number of packages of books I send to current servicemembers, men and women I don't know. But I know how much I enjoy care packages; I can only imagine that being far from home mail is that much more magical.

I wish I could do more that visit graves, thank my uncles for serving, and send packages to strangers.

I can't do more. Time and money always get in the way. But I will try to do what I do more deliberately. And I will remember what the rough men and women have done so that I can sleep safe in my bed, not knowing the full extent of their experiences. I can offer my tears, my words of thanks, and care packages of reading material and the occasional email conversation.

Thank you. Your essay really touched me.

Monday, May 23, 2005

New book review 

New book review: The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg. On CurledUp.com.

And Story Cloths of Bali by Joseph Fischer. On AltarMagazine.com.

5 Books I'm Embarrassed to say I've Never Read all the way through 

From Liberteaser via Tyler Cowen

Moby Dick - This book made me fall in love with Melville. I've read a couple of his other books, some of his short stories (even though I hate short stories), and many of his poems. I loved this book as I read it, but I stopped half-way through. School got in the way, if I remember correctly. And then so much time had passed that I didn't know if I'd remember the characters. And then I felt so guilty seeing it on my bookself, half-finished, that I turned the spine to the wall and made myself forget about it. I turned to White-Jacket instead. But this is the book that gets talked about. And I talk like I finished it. I ought to do so for real.

The Bible - Like I said, I hate short stories, and as a book, the Bible feels like a collection of short stories (or essays or long poems or legends or unrelated histories). I've read parts of it. I was raised Catholic, and I know the overarching themes and characters, or at least an interpretation of them. But every time I try to read some on my own, I reach the end of a book and stop. I put it down and don't come back.

Bowling Alone - The foundation of so much of American sociology and pop sociology, I own a copy of this book and am afraid it won't be as ground-breaking as people say. Or that the world has changed and this book is no longer relevent. I should at least start it.

Wealth of Nations - I minored in economics, and every so often I think about getting a Master's degree in the same. I'm a confessed capitalist and libertarian. But I haven't read any Adam Smith. For shame.

The Ugly American - I've heard that it doesn't mean what most people think it means. I've heard that the literary ugly American is a good, kind-hearted person who does a lot of good as is recognized as such by the people he helps but doesn't look good for European cameras. This is very different from the modern use of the phrase, which I take to mean the American who blunders into situations without understanding and does more harm than good, who visits countries without knowing or caring about the country's history or culture. I don't know if it's true. But I've said as much, and it seems I should know for sure before opening my mouth.

Monday, May 09, 2005


I'm reading Soloing: Realizing Your Life's Ambition by Harriet Rubin. The books is ostensibly about giving up the boring 9-5 grind for a life of soloing (not freelancing) that would be more satisfying. Soloists take on projects that yes, get them money from clients, but also help them to grow as people. Soloists push themselves. They rely only on themselves. There is no organization to credit or blame.

And I don't want to leave my job. I love my job. I love what I see as my future career path. I want a PhD. I want to run psychological studies with a focus on adolescents and drug use and so forth. I think that's what the high-ups want from me. But until I get a PhD, I'm a gopher.

This is a great book for people who want to leave corporate America and people who don't but want to know that they've chosen their job. I choose my job. I freelance on the side - I'm a writer. I go to school on the side - I'm a student. But I choose to work where I work, knowing what else is out there because I find it satisfying and I find my career trajectory satisfactory.

In other news...I went to the Dominican Republic with Healing the Children to pick up 35 kids and bring them to the US for medical care. It was exhausting. There were 3 unaccompanied kids under the age of four, one of whom had plastic wrist braces that he used to hit me with. That was fine. I'm used to pain, and if he was hitting me then he wasn't running away from me or causing a scene in Immigration.

But there was a girl named Marileidy. She cried when we took her from her mother. Then she went catatonic on the plane, and finally fell asleep. Her head kept hitting the raised arm wrest, so I rearranged her little body so her head rested on my thigh. She was quiet the whole ride to the church where she'd meet her host family. She didn't make eye contact and held tight to her backpack. I carried her off the bus, and she tolerated it.

But when I found her host family and set the child on the host mother's knee, she started screaming crying again, reaching and pulling at me and not wanting to let me go. I tried to explain that this family would take care of her, that this family would look after her and love her, and I couldn't, but she only spoke Spanish and wouldn't understand anyway. Somehow we had bonded during that walk off the bus. Somehow we needed to unbond.

It was hard. It was really hard. But I walked away from this child that was sobbing for me to stay. I lost myself in the crowd so she couldn't see me. And I started to cry.

My brother was there. He's tall, and he was wearing a sweatshirt. I hugged him, like hugging a wall that absorbed tears. "Aw, did you let yourself get attached?"

It's been days. Marileidy's probably forgotten me. But I'll never forget her or the look in her eyes as I left her with strangers, good strangers, or how I suddenly felt a sliver of the pain her mother must have felt, walking away from this crying child.

I'll never forget.

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