Saturday, May 24, 2014

Blowing off the dust

It has been quite some time since I posted here and I think it's time to blow off the dust and take a look around.  When I first started this blog back in 2005 I was hitting the road to clear my head, give away books and meet old friends.  At the time I was in another of those transition stages in my life. I had closed my bookstore and taken refuge in a life of delivering pizzas and newspapers, driving a taxi, emptying a nest, returning to my library roots and wondering just where my life would go.

That trip is still fresh in my mind from the long drive out to Springfield, Oregon and finally meeting one of my dearest online book selling friends, Dennis.  We had some great adventures which included meeting the Pirate Guys and freeing books into the ocean. In case you are wondering, if you wrap them correctly they will float away and be found by a new reader somewhere else. My long drive home through Idaho,  Montana and Wyoming was accompanied by Ivan Doug's This House of Sky on tape which had me in tears by the end. I arrived home determined to do something different with my life.

Little did I know how long it would take and how far I would travel. I quickly moved on to a temporary job grading standardized tests (pretty demoralizing) which lead to full time  work as a theological librarian. With a downturn in the economy and a desire to travel more, I realized after three years that it was time to move on. I must have had a premonition about how dire things were as my position was eliminated and my boss was soon dismissed as well.  I saved all my money and sold almost everything that I owned and qualified as an English teacher. I jumped ship for Asia July 3rd 2009 with a brief stop for a summer in the UK, land of my birth.  Two years in South Korea followed by a short stint in China left me enriched in many ways.

My next plan was to head to Kazakhstan for a library job  but the deal soured while I was in England waiting for a visa. Always one to bounce back, I visited with an employment agent who specialized in library and knowledge workers. Within two weeks they had me in a temporary job at a further education college. That lasted a year and again I had a foreshadowing of dire events. I found a more permanent position in a private historic library in the nick of time as the week after I left the college, all library management staff positions were eliminated. The staff were then forced  to either compete for three new positions or take a buyout offer. Had I stayed I would have been out of luck as I was still agency staff. That institution is now faced with a major impending strike and no libraries. Instead students have self directed learning centres (whatever they are) and no professional staff to guide them.

So here I am over a year later wondering what's next. I plan on using this blog to hone my reflective practice skills as I deal with another set of professional challenges.  Stay tuned....

Sunday, April 29, 2012

You must read this....

Sometimes I am hopelessly behind the times in my reading and travelling for the last three years has limited my ability to amass a great stack of unread books.  A couple of weeks ago I was in a hostel just chatting with fellow travelers and telling my tales of China when someone asked if I had read "Wild Swans". While it sounded vaguely familiar, I had to confess that I hadn't and she told me it was a must-read for gaining insight into modern-day China. As we talked I whipped out my Nook (my Christmas present to myself) quietly downloaded it and began reading as soon as I got back to my room.

Now this is quite a lengthy tome (591 pages) but had I enough free continuous time I think I could have spent a weekend reading it.  Instead I have had to read it piecemeal as I traveled but finally I am down to the last hundred pages and if I didn't have to spend the day trying to find somewhere to live so I can settle into my new job on Monday, I would finish it today. Imagine my surprise when I found that the stage version just opened in London at the Young Vic.

Basically this is the tale of 20th century China told through the lives of three generations of women. You are vividly taken from an era of bound feet and concubines through the Communist era and devastation wrought by the Cultural Revolution. It is gripping, written in a flowing style and, most importantly, true. No wonder it has sold more than 10 million copies  and the BBC Wold Service has include it in their book club.  Check your local library or download now. If you lived through the times or have a curiosity about China, you must read this!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

It's Read-A-Thon Time

I guess it is time to blow the dust of that stack of unread books and get ready for the Next Dewey's Read-a-thon on April 9th.  As a seasoned veteran I know I will have to stockpile junk food, chocolate and plenty of tea to make it through the night.  I got lucky spot number 99 (I was really trying for 100 but didn't want to wait around)

So what is most likely to be on the pile?  My friend Robert loaned me a copy of
Ted Plafker's "Doing Business in China" and I always like to include some non-fiction.  I still have "Inkheart" to read and Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next: First Among Sequels" (as usual a little late to the game with these two).  I really need to add something from the classics. Any suggestions?  

As usual, look for tweets and blog posts

Monday, January 17, 2011

Old Friends

One of the nicest surprises about social networking is finding long lost friends who meant a lot to me at one time.  Many years ago I stumbled into a chat room in Yahoo called Books and Literature and started what would turn out to be a long (nearly 15 years now) run with some folks who really like books and reading although we actually spend little time talking about either.  Along the way we had romances, marriages, children born, divorces and even some deaths.  I have cried and laughed with these people so many times that it broke my heart when Yahoo kept changing its setup which caused many of us to leave. 

One year I went on a road trip to meet some of them face-to-face (considered dangerous back then) and was delighted to see how their real-life personas were so much like their online presence. Some of us set up web pages back when it was a little tricky to do that and tried to keep up our friendships. We struggled for several years with an e-mail list but it never really had the same feel of the old days of chat.  Now thanks to Facebook (did I actually write that?) one of the hearty members has created a private group (similar to the old private rooms on Yahoo) and we have all been busily scouring our  address books for lost members.  We like to sit on the clueless/confused couch and gaze at our enormous book collection while waiting for someone to do something silly or fix something to eat or drink. 

Facebook has a chat function that allows us to gather once again and talk in real time and I am so pleased to see these friendly faces once again.  It's like we never parted....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

interesting stuff.....

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
- Walter Cronkite

I get behind in my podcasts and forget to stream from my NPR affiliate all the time so I missed Bob Edwards multi-part piece on libraries.  The first week, Bob took on the issues of  change in libraries and the history of libraries.  Next Bob looked at  prison libraries and then tackled alternative sentencing involving libraries. Week three Bob talked to Colorado's own Keith Curry Lance  about school libraries and took a look at  Murray Hill Middle School library. The final episode deals with outsourcing libraries and then censorship in libraries . Bob finished the series by talking with Stephen Chbosky about the censorship of his book  "The perks of being a wallflower". I personally think that one of the greatest things about the good ole USA is free PUBLIC libraries

Sunday, October 10, 2010

End of 24 hour

Final Tally

Completed Reading 4 books with a total of 626 pages :^(  short of my goal of 1,000 pages but then I did take a two hour nap

Ate:  6 bonbons; 1 bag of potato snacks; 1 cheeseburger ; 3 snack cakes ' cinnamon oatmeal with craisins ; 1 hershey's kiss ; 2 grapes ; 3 strips of bacon ; 2 scrambled eggs; fried potatoes with onions

Drank 3 cups of coffee ; 6 cups of Lipton tea ; 2 cups of Tazo Passion tea ; 1 large glass of raspberry iced tea

time for magnetic poetry

End of Hour 23

sooo..... I finished the Pirate book and it was quite can read more about the author and his other pirate books here

So there is a mini-challenge that requires taking the letters in at least half the title of a book that I read, rearrange them into a new word and write a definition for it

So I will use "The pirates in an adventure with Ahab"
let me see... I think my new word will be whavenstraperated which means the complete and utter exhaustion one feels after reading for 24 hours

Hourly tally

Pages read: 30
Ate: cheeseburger ... mmmm.......

End of Hour 22

I got wrapped up in the mini-challenge and prepping for my class so I didn't read as much as I had hoped to from the book.  On the Other hand I did read 15 pages for my class

Hourly Tally
Pages read: 25
Ate: Two grapes and 1 snack cake
Drank: 1 cup of tea


So the mini-challenge this hour was to take a photo of something in your house that represents what you are reading.  I'm reading "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab" by Gideon Defoe right now.

Sooooooo..... here is Pirate Nancy Pearl doing battle with the great white whale Moby Dick

End of Hour 21

So the silly pirates bombed in Vegas due to the treachery of Black Bellamy and his competing pirate show.  The Captain meets his old friend Captain Ahab while trying to raise money by boarding the Pequod in search of treasure.  Ahab posts a bounty on the whale and our intrepid band of pirates goes in search of Moby Dick...dressed as krill.....

Pages read: 30
Drank: 2 cups of tea

End of Hour 20

Well the Pirate Captain has been forced into purchasing a new ship and obviously overextends himself so as not to appear weak to both Cutlass Liz, pirate boat dealer, and his dreaded nemesis Black Bellamy.  After coming up short in the buried treasure hunt, the crew sets sail for Las Vegas where they hope to make enough money to pay off their debt to Cutlas Lizz by telling pirate tales and perhaps gambling just a little.  Lighthearted enough for this late into the readathon

Pages read: 41
Ate: 1 snack cake
Drank: 1 cup of tea


End of Hour 19

Finished the first Pirate book and took a quick trip to the store to get more provisions.  Now I have to turn the book over and read about their set of adventures - this time with the mysterious Captain Ahab who is in search of a certain whale.

Pages read: 20

End of Hour 18

still reading about pirates - think a bit more Monty Python than Pirates of the Caribbean and you will get the drift - lots of clever dialogue and puns not to mention Darwin with a totally wrong theory and a Bishop who is somewhat nefarious!

Pages read: 40

End of Hour 17

finished with the first 6chapters of the Pirate book.  It is somewhat clever and they have already encountered Darwin.  Defoe has obviously done some research about the minutiae of daily seafaring life and it moves pretty quickly but I'm not in love with it yet.

Hourly tally:
Pages read: 40

Poetry mini-challenge

Five stories up
Two books down
dragonflies attack the balcony

Pages read
Treats consumed
statistics don't tell the whole story

Sunny day
Gentle breeze
Ready for tales of pirate glory

End of Hour 16

FINISHED Troost! What fun...I won't tell you how it ends but obviously he survives to write the book!

I managed to complete the hourly challenge and create a wordle based on my blog. I also managed to have my customary artery clogging Sunday brunch. Time for my next book "The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists" by Gideon Defoe


Pages Read: 40
Ate: 3 strips of bacon, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs
Drank: Tazo Passion Tea - 2 cups


Ok - here is my wordle for the challenge

End of Hour 15

well I had intended to finish the Troost this past hour but he kept describing food and I suddenly realized that the meager bowl of oatmeal that I had consumed a couple of hours ago would not suffice.  So I cooked up my Sunday morning artery clogging special - bacon, fried potatoes and onions with scrambled eggs.  I made a small pot of Tazo Passion tea and I'm ready to eat and finish this book.

Hourly tally:  Pages read: 23 (aarrgghh....)
CONSUMED: nothing (ok . I cheated and half a slice of bacon)

End of Hour 14

So Troost has made it through Lhasa and much of Tibet and makes it sound so much more appealing than the rest of China. He manages to catch a train, read some Dan Brown, and end up in the most polluted city in the world, Lanzhou.  He journey is dwindling down but he still thinks he would like to raise his children in China, if only for a while.

This hour's mini-challenege has to do with books not living up to their blurbs or covers and since I rely more on book reviews than covers to sell me a book, I can't think of one (yet) that has disappointed me in this way.  Besides, I would rather finish reading Troost's adventures in China

Pages read: 46
Ate: 1 Hershey's kiss

End of Hour 13

So Troost has decided to take his friend to the outer  reaches of China - away from the polluted cities, towards the Himalayas.  They stop in Dali where they notice an unusually large number of hippie Westerners and learn about reefer madness in China thanks to a Lonely Planet mention. After declining to partake, Troost observes "One thing I will not do is smoke weed in a country with mobile execution trucks".   And this is why I love his writing, just the hint of humor encased in a dark truth as he goes on to explain the efficiency with which capital punishment is now administered in China.

I'm passing on the hour's mini-challenge because I had never heard of any of the books whose titles I bothered to unscramble

Hourly tally:
Pages read: 46
Ate: Cinnamon oatmeal with a handful of craisins

End of Hour 12 (for me)

Halfway through the readathon and I'm enjoying myself. Troost has managed to make the eating of live squid seem possible and delicious (note to self: do not eat the live squid in Yeongdeok)  He has now joined up with a longtime friend and is getting an economics lesson in Guangzhou.  This trip was made in 2007 when China was recovering from the SARS scare and apparently he and his friend visited the ground zero of SARS, a market in Guangzhou.  If anyone can make a trip to SARS Ground Zero be both funny and interesting, Troost can.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?  Lost on Planet China
2. How many books have you read so far? Finished 1, halfway through 2
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? The Pirates!
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? No - just need to remember to prepare for my class
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Err.. other than that two hour nap?
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?  Just how tired I was at the beginning - note to self: take a nap before the next one
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope - this is always a great activity
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Get my sleep in advance and not have a class scheduled at the end
9. Are you getting tired yet? Yeah, but my nap took care of that
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?  I just went up on the roof of my building for an early morning stretch - getting in a little exercise is always good


Pages read: 57
Ate: 2 more bon bons (time for breakfast)
Drank: 1 cup of coffee

End of Hour 11

well I slept - I can't help it since the readathon starts so late for me

Here is my total tally at the end of hour 11


PAGES READ: 259 (UH OH better get reading)

ATE:  6 bon bons, 1 bag potato snacks , 1 snack cake

DRANK: 2 cups coffee, 2 cups tea, 1 glass of raspberry iced tea


End of Hour 8

I managed a few pages and then felt the pull of sleep

Read 25 pages

End of hour 7

Definitely bleary-eyed and I may need an intense nap (it's 3am here) I have managed to only read 36 pages in the last hour.  I'm loving the Troost book but also thinking mightily that a nice snooze would be in order.

I'm too tired to try the book puzzle challenge although it combines some of my favorite things together

Pages read 36
Ate: 1 snack cake (chocolate of course!)
Drank: another cup of instant coffee (I'm out of milk so tea is out until I can get to the store)

End of hour 6 (I think)

so my nap was spread across hours 5 and 6 but I am somewhat refreshed.  I've made it through the first 7 chapters of "Lost on Planet China" and every time I think Troost should come to South Korea, he describes something in China which could have been written while visiting my charming little town.

This hours challenge is to create a puzzle based on a book title but honestly, it's now 2am here and I don't think I have the brain power


Pages read: 28
Drank: 1 cup of Lipton Yellow Label tea

Napping time: ?????????

End of hour 5

time for a short nap and a stretch ...

the challenge for this hour is show our books

32 pages read

I should add that I have at one time had as many as 50,000 books in storage...

End of Hour 4

I am the slowest reader in the universe but I did manage to read 36 more pages in "Lost on Planet China" - I just love it although it doesn't have as much of zaniness that I found in Troost's earlier works.

The mini-challenge for this hour is to post a pic of a book that was published by an independent publisher.  Next in my pile is Rick Steve's "Travel as a Political Act" and since it was published by Nation Books, it counts. 


Pages read: 36
Ate: 3 more bonbons
Drank: 1 cup of lovely Lipton Yellow Label tea

Saturday, October 09, 2010

End of Hour 3

So I finished up "Cheap" and I have to say it opened my eyes.  I can't say that I will ever look at Ikea in the same light.  I also gained some new insight into what is going on in China.  This is the perfect lead-in to Book number 2, J. Maarten Troost's "Lost on Planet China".  Troost is a most delightful writer and I have already devoured the first chapter.  I highly recommend all of his books and hope that this one is as entertaining and informative as "Sex Lives of Cannibals" and "Getting Stoned with Savages"

The Third hour mini-challenge is a six word celebration of Dewey's Readathon so here goes:  fulfilling Dewey's book-elicious legacy of reading!  (sorry, I made up a word)

TALLY for the last hour
Pages read: 67
Consumed: last of the E-mart Potato Snacks (really quite disgusting but addictive)

End of Hour 2

so I got distracted by the good news from Chile and the fascinating stuff going on for Oct 10 and only read 10 pages - still working on "Cheap" and reading about the fabulous work going on at Wegmans grocery stores.

This hours mini-challenge was to take a stroll down childhood reading memory lane.  My favorites were "Wind in the Willows" and "Alice in Wonderland".  How about you?

Pages read this hour : 10
Ate: nothing
Drank: Lipton Raspberry Iced Tea

End of Hour 1

Now down to the business of first hour traditions:

I am reading from the comfort of my lovely apartment overlooking the rice paddies and pepper plants of lovely Yeongyang, South Korea.  If it warms up later in the morning I will either got up to the roof or sit out on my little balcony and watch the sun come up.

Three facts about me:
1) Prior to re-inventing myself as an English teacher in South Korea a little over a year ago, I was primarily a librarian or used book dealer in the US.  Along the way I've also worked as a college instructor, pizza delivery expert, actor, management consultant, organic lawn care provider, professional test grader and probably a lot of other things that I have forgotten.

2)While I thoroughly enjoy many types of music and completely non-musical and considered truly tone-deaf

3)I make the best damn cheesecake in the world

I have a great many books available to me to read over the next 24 hours but I plan on finishing "Cheap"  and then I have two travel books to read - J. Maarten Troost's "Lost on Planet China" (should be good after reading Cheap) and Rick Steves' "Travel as a Political Act".  For fiction I have 3 novels to choose from: Michael Chabon's "Gentlemen of the Road", Paul Auster's "Timbuktu" and Gideon Defoe's "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab/In an Adventure with Scientists"  which I picked up last weekend on my visit to Daegu and Buy the Book

My only goal is to complete the readathon - .I am shooting for 1000 pages but who knows - it depends on whether or not I can actually stay awake (it's 9:20pm right now)

My advice for newbies - keep it light and varied - drink lots of water or tea and make sure you have fun - this is about the joy of reading!


Read: 25 pages (late start into the hour)
Ate: 3 Garoto Many bonbons (gotta eat bonbons and they are the closest thing to Reese's Peanut Butter cups that I could find)
Drank: 1 cup of lovely Korean instant coffee mocha

Readathon - early start

Well my plans to go to Ulsan fell through for oh so many reasons and after a brief nap I am ready to start the readathon. This is my third readathon and I am ready with copious amounts of junk food supplemented with some more nutritious intake and complimented with a lots of tea, coffee and juice. I am starting an hour earlier because the last hour of the readathon conflicts with an English class that I host in my apartment.  I know, I know, I must be crazy for committing to reading for 24 hours and then teach a class at the end of it but it should be ok and I can always sign off early and take another nap.  Anyway to kick things off I am finishing up Ellen Ruppel Shell's "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture"  which my friend Robert graciously loaned to me a couple of weeks ago.  Let the reading begin!


It's time for the semi-annual Dewey's Read-a-thon and I am on the horns of a dilemma.  Friends want to go to Ulsan for the World Music Festival although that is uncertain as of this writing.  I've been meaning to get over there ever since I got to Korea and at the last minute (welcome to Korea) our regularly schedules Saturday classes have been canceled. 

Unfortunately Alycia (group organizer par excellance) found out at the last minute (once again, welcome to Korea) that she has to work on Saturday at her school for one hour.  Since getting anywhere from here is a major expedition and the weather for today indicates probable rain, I'm debating whether to trek on my own or stay home and read for 24 hours.  Decisions, decisions.....