Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Whew!  What an end to the year... 400 books read, 91 in this quarter.  Reviews on the other blog. No other comments here: stay tuned for the year-end book posts!


Children's/Young Adult

Adult Fiction



  • That Mad Game
  • The Skull in the Rock, Marc Aronson
  • A Little History of Science, W. F. Bynum
  • The Pause Principle, Kevin Cashman
  • The Law of Superheroes; James Daily
  • Faces From the Past, James M. Deem
  • It's Raining Fish And Spiders, Bill Evans
  • The Split History of the Civil War, Stephanie Fitzgerald
  • The Wild Horse Scientists, Kay Frydenberg
  • Spirit Seeker, Gary Golio
  • This I Believe, John Gregory
  • The Warrior's Heart, Eric Greitens
  • Rescuing the Children, Deborah Hodge
  • Among the Islands, Tim Flannery
  • The Information Diet, Clay Johnson
  • Into a Paris Quartier, Diane Johnson
  • We Are Their Voice, Kathy Kacer
  • Dear Teen Me, Miranda Kenneally
  • Leonardo and the Last Supper, Ross King
  • So You Wanna Be a Superstar? Ted Michael
  • Young, Innocent and in Prison, Jeff Mitchell
  • When Organizing Isn't Enough, Julie Morgenstern
  • The Bronte Sisters, Catherine Reef
  • Inside Scientology, Janet Reitman
  • Growing Up Muslim, Ali-Karamali Sumbul
  • Fourteen And Sentenced To Death, Bill Swan
  • Effective Grading, Barbara Walvoord
  • Pier 21 and Children of the Titanic, Christine Welldon
  • Titanic, Philip Wilkinson

Speculative Fiction

A New Year's Meme

(inspired by Camillofan)

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I went to Dallas for a conference and enjoyed an Indonesian rice table (not in Dallas). Became an official Friend.  Other than that, same-old, same-old.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make resolutions, I had three guiding words. They'll guide me in 2013, because I haven't mastered them yet!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No. But Number Three niece is due to give birth in February.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes.  An uncle and a friend from high school.

5. What countries did you visit?
France and the Netherlands.  Not sure Belgium counts, but I did take the train through it twice!

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Steady paycheck and a job that is challenging and fun.

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
None, really.  The date Amawalk Meeting approved my membership is probably the only real date that counts. The Trip, but that's a series of dates.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Reading 400 books.  Staying sane.  Joining the Religious Society of Friends.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not losing as much as I'd like, either from the physical clutter or the psychic clutter.  And not really working on the consulting thing (I'm such a Lazygal!)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
For the first time in a long time, not really.  Sniffles don't really count, do they?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I didn't buy much this past year ($$ being tight).

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Let me get back to you on that...

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Just about everyone.  Romney v Obama, gun-control v NRA, fiscal cliff v working together.  It's just appalling how divided we are, how unwilling to actually work together as a society for everyone's good.  Neither side is completely right, both are somewhat wrong - it's time to get over the pettiness and spend time listening to the other side, accepting that.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Living day-to-day.  Oh, and my Big Boy's new-found chronic renal condition.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The Trip.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Sorry, none.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
  i. happier or sadder?
 somewhat happier
 ii. thinner or fatter? thinner... not as much as I'd like, but still, thinner!
iii. richer or poorer? so very much poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Working on my consulting practice.  Decluttering.  Spending time with friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Christmas Eve was spent at Meeting, with a short worship period and carol singing, then home for dinner and opening one present.  Christmas Day, Thing One and I had breakfast, more presents, and headed out for Chinese.  Couldn't find a good movie that would end in time for him to head home.

21. How will you bring in the New Year?
I'm guessing at Terminal 5, watching Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra play "Purple Rain".  If the show ends before midnight, then either asleep or on the subway to Brooklyn.  Then I'm having brunch with Aunt A.

22. With whom did you spend the most time on the phone in 2012?
Thing One.  We watch tv together (it's annoying when the shows aren't in sync).

23. Did you fall in love?
Um, yes, but not in 2012.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Why do we have to do one?  Different programs fit different needs: for information, Morning Joe; humor, Big Bang Theory; will watch reruns, Criminal Minds and Buffy. And then there's Dramaville on BBCA, which is hit or miss (love Whitechapel, The Hour and Luther, not happy about most of the rest)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Au contraire.  I've learned that someone I did hate has gotten their just desserts.  Good things gome to those who wait...

26. What was the best book you read?
These 31 books were the best of 2012 - I probably could narrow it down, but it'd be by genre and difficult.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't think I discovered anyone musically this year.

28. What did you want and get?
Time with friends.  Losing weight.  Losing clutter.

29. What did you want and not get?
A steady paycheck...

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I saw so few movies this year!  Liked A Late Quartet, but not at that price ($13!!)... Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Footnote, Hilary and Jackie and the various Discworld adaptations were great Netflix rentals.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Nothing, really.  Birthdays aren't that big a deal to me - celebrating getting older is ok, but it doesn't have to happen on The Day.  It was a Sunday, so Meeting... playing with The Boys... you know, normal stuff.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A steady paycheck.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
I undertook Project 333 and have pared my closet down to classics and really grubby lounge-around-the-house wear.

34. What kept you sane?
The Things helped... ditto The Herd.  Going to Meeting was also important to my sanity.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? 
There are some people I enjoy watching (Shemar Moore, for example), but fancy?  I'm not sure anyone fills that niche.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Dunno if this qualifies as an "issue" but I'm so angry at the state of politics in this country I'm almost incoherent.  I have friends on both sides of the major issues, knee-jerk liberal Democrats and near-birther Republicans and they all need to just SHUT UP and listen to each other.  We're doomed as a country if they can't.

37. Whom did you miss?
The Breakfast Club.  Mornings just aren't the same without them.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I didn't really meet anyone new this year... pathetic, really.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
I didn't learn it in 2012, but the deaths of my uncle and my friend reemphasized how important friends and family are, and how critical it is to spend your time with them rather than worrying about anything else.

40. A song lyric that sums up your year.
Really?  ONE song lyric?  I can think of snippets that have summed up moments, but nothing that sums up the entire year.

41. What was your favorite moment of the year?
This is a tie, of sorts.  The Trip, obviously, counts as a Favorite Moment.  I'd also say that being accepted as a member of the Religious Society of Friends was a definite high.

42. What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Can I pick a timeframe?  October/November, when a friend from high school and two uncles died.  One death left me pretty much unmoved, but the other two were deep losses in my life.

43. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2012 and change something, what would it be?
Rescheduling The Trip so I was there when my uncle died.  Beyond that, nothing much.

44. What are your plans for 2013?
Hoping to finish my decluttering project: less weight, less stuff, less emotional baggage.  Get a steady job (consulting's fun, but...).


Best Reads of 2012

Looking over my reading from last year, I'm a little surprised at how many 5-star books there were 31 of them.  And I thought I was getting more critical in my old age!

Here's how they break down:

Adult Fiction
Children's/Young Adult (all genres)
Speculative Fiction


A lucky Lazygal

Back in 1984, just after college, I had some "mad money" and bought a 13" black-and-white tv (the rest of the money went to taking Thing Three to see the RSC's productions of "Much Ado" and "Cyrano", starring Derek Jacobi and Sinead Cusak).  That was the last tv I bought.

No.  I don't still have it.

Yes.  I do have a tv.

As I said, I'm a lucky Lazygal.

In 1987, my parents were heading to Europe after a few months in South Carolina and they gave me the 13" color tv they'd bought there.

In 1989, as recompense for helping clean out my great-aunt's apartment, I took possession of her 19" color tv.

In 1998, my parents bought Thing One and me a 35" tv.

(I gave the two 13" tvs to my aunt and uncle when they moved to Brooklyn from Israel)
(Thing One kept the 35" when I left Brooklyn for The Cold Cottage From Hell)

In 2006, when the 19" gave out, Things One and Two bought me a 32" (which answers one of Aravis' questions about my life)...

And today my father asked if I'd like to take their 39" flat screen now that they were upgrading the one in the family room.  I may be Lazy, but I ain't stupid, so tomorrow I'm heading home to the Lazyhouse with a new (to me) tv - and I didn't pay for it!!  All I'll need to do is rearrange some furniture and somehow get it from the car to its final destination. 

Then it's back to being Lazy... with a new tv!!



At this time of year, those of us with mortgages may receive a refund check for our escrow accounts.  It's not really a refund, more like "we don't want the overage".  Anyway, in previous years my check has ranged from a couple of hundred to a little over a thousand.  This year?

Yes, a whopping $.07.  And how much did it cost to mail?

No wonder the banking system is in trouble...


Notable Quotes

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
How did I know that the shooter would be another isolated, middle-class white male who spent his days on his computer playing violent video games? how did I know that it was far more likely that he had a mental condition than a rational motive? and how did I know the end of this story before the real reporting even began? I knew the ending of this story because we've all seen it too often.... For the sake of my children and yours, I choose life and I choose change.
- Joe Scarborough, Morning Joe

(we can't let this happen again.  we simply can't.)



There's a group I belong to, the Plain Language Association, dedicated to promoting clear, plain language over jargon, not just in the legal field (where the movement began) but everywhere.

I hate jargon and when I edit people's work I tend to change things like "stakeholders" to "community" (unless, of course, they're talking about people building fences, tying up plants or hunting vampires, in which case "stakeholders" is absolutely the right word).  I change "impact" to "affect" or "effect", depending on which is correct.

If you were to watch tv with me, you might have to cover your ears when I yell at the announcer's sign-off (usually you hear "for Tom, Dick and Susan, I'm Larry", which implies that for everyone else, he's Dave or Joe; what he means to say is "on behalf of...").

So you can imagine how I responded to reading this in my e-mail this morning, part of a message enumerating upcoming changes to a social media site I use:

a simplified design, provides deeper insights, and surfaces new ways to connect and build relationships. 

I'm not even going to start....


I know I'm not a failure but...

We all have days, weeks, moments where we feel like a complete loser.  It may be when we lost a job, broke up with the love of our lives, failed the big test - one of those moments where we could have (should have) done better and just, well, failed to.  They're never easy and take time to recover from, with the pain and angst slowly receding as life moves on.

And then, suddenly, it's ok again. Until, of course, something or someone reminds you of that failure.  It can be running into a former colleague who asks what happened to you at work, or someone mentioning your former supposed soul mate.  Or it can be an anniversary.  

Today is one of those days for me.  Yes, it's Pearl Harbor Day.  And it's the anniversary of a Huge Personal Failure.  If the HPF had happened some other, random day, it might not feel quite so bad and I might be farther along the path to healing than I am.  It's been seven years, after all, and in most respects I'm in a good place in my life.  "Comfortable in my skin" as the French would say (well, ok, they'd say bien dans ma peau).  And there are other HPF's that have happened but those were on random days that don't have hoopla or ceremony attached.  

So today, while others are remembering the events of 71 years ago (and I have a friend who was there, in Hawaii, near the naval base, back then) I'm remembering my HPF and repeating "I'm not a failure... I'm not a failure... I'm not a failure".  And tomorrow, I'll be ok.


Giving to yourself

My friend Irene found this on Facebook and I just had to share:
This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. Then, on New Years Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year. 
What a wonderful gift to yourself or to do as a family! (and if you know someone who needs a little love, consider KindNotes - or make your own)