26 June 2007

Summer Reading

I think I like to reread books in the summer. I've bought a few of my favorite novels again (I think the last batch ended up with a young English-speaking mother in Kyrgyzstan who couldn't possibly afford English paperbacks on her husband's $40/month after-rent salary) and I'm just reading those. Persuasion and House of Mirth and Return of the Native and such. Harry Potter will probably be next. Have to be ready for the last book.

I am reading and loving Guests of the Sheik on annegb's recommendation. It brings back memories, some happy and some that I'd rather forget. There are a lot of forgettable experiences when you're overseas. But there are lots of memorable ones too.

22 June 2007

A Girl Named Zippy

The back cover of A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel says it "offers a rare and welcome treat: a memoir of a happy childhood." And it does. This is a happy and funny book. It was fun to read.

I like how Kimmel's chapters unfold. They seem to start as a little collection of unrelated stories, but by the end of the chapter, they are somehow related. I can't imagine her childhood was quite this organized, and you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that every single person in Mooreland was quite this eccentric, but Kimmel makes it work.

My favorite thing about A Girl Named Zippy is Kimmel's outlook and the family's love that makes this a memoir about a happy childhood. Because all the ingredients are there for a different sort of memoir about a child who overcame a drunken, lazy father, a seemingly indifferent mother, abusive neighbors and teachers, and plenty of poverty too. Kimmel's attitude is what makes this book rare. She doesn't blame her parents or her upbringing for anything. She doesn't wallow in self-pity or pride herself on overcoming anything. She simply tells her story from a child's point of view.

Recommended, but not overwhelmingly so. It's a pleasant book to read.

21 June 2007

Dolina Geyserov

Some of the Kamchatka geysers are coming back to life now that the lake formed after a mudslide dammed a river is draining. The World Wildlife Fund reports that several of the geysers are back in full form, although it appears that at least a few of the geysers are lost forever.

This is the best website (in English and Russian) describing with photos and maps what happened at Dolina Geyserov. And here are lots more photos.

It's funny to see article after article repeating that Kamchatka is one of only 5 places in the world where you can see geysers. They're certainly counting Yellowstone, Iceland, and New Zealand, and probably El Tatio in Chile. But these are certainly not the only places in the world where you can see geysers.

The Color of Water

I'm a good ten years behind on The Color of Water by James McBride, but I finally sat down and read it this week and rather enjoyed it. If you happen to have missed it also (seems like no one else has), it's the story of a black man raised mostly in New York by his white Jewish mother and black stepfather. The book alternates between the author's childhood and his mother's.

I didn't find it to be a terribly amazing or insightful book, but still quite good and worth reading. Recommended.

19 June 2007

Apparently it's becoming an annual trend to not blog much in the summer. I guess I don't like to hang around on the computer so much then. I still need to write about all the quilt books I've been reading, and there are several other good books I've read recently. And I've been doing lots of family history. We've visited lots of cemeteries in the last few weeks.

And I'm still trying to decide on a Latin program.

14 June 2007

Geyser Blogs

I've been waiting a long time for the right people to start some geyser blogs. And finally there are a few. The first is an Amazon blog by Janet Chapple, the author of Yellowstone Treasures. This is more of a general blog about Yellowstone with lots of geysers mixed in.

But the real geyser blog is now at Geyser Notes. It's written by a geyser veteran and is thoroughly enjoyable to read. Yesterday's post about cleaning vents isn't something you can read just anywhere. You can also find more geyser info on the main page at Geyser Information. Thanks Heinrich!

13 June 2007

The Professor and the Madman

So, I wasn't going to read any more Simon Winchester. But people kept recommending The Professor and the Madman about the OED and since it is shorter than a lot of his books, I read it. And surprisingly, I wasn't thoroughly disappointed. I even finished it, a first for a Simon Winchester.

I did skip some parts, but not too many. I was also generally impressed with the respectful tone of Winchester's writing. Too many authors use horrifying details like those briefly described in this book to shock and somehow use the victims of these horrors to sell their books. Winchester rarely does this even though he easily could have centered the book around it.

I might even recommend this one since the editors seem to have gotten to this book before it was released. Or maybe my expectations were so very low that anything better than Winchester's usual fare would seem brilliant.

07 June 2007

I Capture the Castle

People have been telling me to read this book for years and I finally did this week. It was a perfectly pleasant read, and I don't not recommend it, but I won't be pestering anyone to read it. I did very much like the first two-thirds of the book, but when Cassandra decides she loves Simon, well, it goes downhill pretty quickly. Too much agonizing. Again, I think I would have liked it better if I'd first read it as a teenager.

Watership Down

I recently read Watership Down too, on Tatiana's recommendation since I'd never actually read it before although I'm pretty sure I've seen at least part of the movie. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. I imagine I would have liked it better if I had first read it when I was younger.

06 June 2007

The Laughing Sutra

I think Tatiana recommended The Laughing Sutra by Mark Salzman a few weeks ago. I'm not really familiar with Salzman, only knowing him from Night Train to Turkistan where I wasn't impressed with him, but I did like The Laughing Sutra. I especially liked the basic plot of the book that was both ancient and modern and based on some excellent stories of traveling the Silk Road.

I did get bogged down a bit in the middle. I thought it probably could have been shorter. But overall it was a great book and recommended. Thanks, Tatiana.

04 June 2007

Dolina Geyzerov May Be Gone

The world's second largest geyser field (link in Russian), Dolina Geyzerov in Kamchatka, has apparently been deluged by a mudslide. The mudslide dammed a river and apparently flooded most of the existing geysers.

This geyser field was little known outside Russia till the early 90s, but as more scientific research has been done, this geyser field was proved to be one of the most significant in the world. This would be like the Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone being destroyed. I can't even imagine.

I guess Kamchatka isn't on my list of places to visit anymore. Unless, of course, something new comes up there. You never know with geysers.

03 June 2007

Reminder and Extension for Sending School Supplies to Baghdad

The deadline for sending school supplies to Baghdad has been extended to June 25th. You can see the original post here that has all the information you need to help.
Google Earth has good images of Bishkek now. When we were in Bishkek Google Earth didn't show much of anything in Bishkek, but now I can pick out our apartment building and the law academy and the baby house and lots of other things.

It's really a different view of Bishkek. There's so much you can't see from the streets.

01 June 2007

Sharifa Asma

The roses are blooming