Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another Dozen

The three colleges I am affiliated with started this week so in at least one way summer is over, but the summer reading list continues on. I'm so so close! So here we go:

Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols
Troubling a Star was written from L'Engle's real life trip to Antarctica. This book was inspired by her meditations on that voyage. From the life and theology lessons she learned from the penguins she looked at other images, things, oddities that she has encountered in life that teach her a deeper truth. In this way, she more deeply delves into this idea of story as the primary vehicle for truth. Good read, but again some questionable theology.

From here on in the L'Engle oeuvre, we get a lot of compilations and collaborative projects. It's understandable, the woman is 78. But it's also repetitious. L'Engle often meditates on Christmas time so this work complies some of those excerpts, some new stuff, and the same sort of writing from her friend and editor, Luci Shaw. It was very well done and of her Christmas works, this is that one I want.

Bright Evening Star
Probably the best I can say for this book is that I am obviously suffering from L'Engle memoir burnout. It was okay, but not her best collection of non-fiction prose. And since it dealt so much with the incarnation, I'd read a lot of it in Wintersong.

Friends for the Journey
Another collaborative project with Luci Shaw. I think she's another author I need to check out. They transcribe some of their discussions on friendship, share stories and poems and recipes. It's all very sweet. It's the retirement I want to have.

Mothers and Daughters
A collaborative project with her daughter Maria Rooney. This is her second project with Maria. In Anytime Prayers, L'Engle supplied the text and Maria found the pictures so in this project they reversed. Madeleine wrote text for pictures Maria provided. Very sweet.

Miracle on 10th Street
Another Christmas compilation. This time it was all L'Engle. And it was fine. It had some new work, but I preferred Wintersong.

A Full House
A children's Christmas story (or maybe better a family read-aloud-story) which was featured in Wintersong and Miracle on 10th Street. I read it quickly, but I liked it. It's an Austin chronicle and their family is awfully amazing. Madeleine often says she's Vicky out of the Austins, but I think particularly in this story she is Mrs. Austin. Mrs. Austin is the narrator and reacts to the challenges of a busy chaotic Christmas evening much in the same way L'Engle would. Not to disagree with an author; she was speaking to a situation that was not this one.

Mothers and Sons

See Mothers and Daughters.

A Prayerbook for Spiritual Friends
A collaboration with Luci Shaw. Again very well put together. I'm not sure their original intent--that friends use this book to prayer together--really works. They are obviously Luci and Madeleine and have a different dynamic than I have with my friends. But it is a shining example of the love and support friends can give each other each in friendships that have Christ running through them.

Bed of Roses
A Nora Roberts novel snuck in. I can't help it. I love the Bride Quartet. They describe weddings and it's lovely. I picked up the audiobook for the first installment on a day of driving, but it was abridged (and took out things about all the weddings!!!) so I didn't count it. :-) Also first book I read on my nook! It was lovely. Big fan. I need all my books on my nook.

The Other Dog
A L'Engle children's book. Actually my favorite L'Engle children's book. It's about her dog Touche when she brought baby Jo home from the hospital. It's endearing and funny and totally in L'Engle's voice. Also, another first, I checked this book out, sat down, read it in the library, and returned it. Quickest turn around ever!

Madeleine L'Engle Herself
A compilation of her thoughts on writing gathered from her books and her lectures at Wheaton. Since I had read all her books, I read the parts that were from the lectures. (There was a handy index!) It was really good. Once I get some more distance from her writing, I'll probably go back and soak in it more.

And here we are all caught up. Two L'Engle books left. Still five liminality books to go. But goodness, I stalled out hard on the liminality books. I actually put down a book in the middle of the chapter. Ouch! I love the topic; my brain just isn't used to the academic work out. Still I'll go back. It's just going to be a Fall project. Still--94 out of the 99 books I wanted to read this summer is not bad.

My total so far for books read this year: 151!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I'm getting close to the end! Only 13 more L'Engle books and 5 more books on liminality. I think because several of the L'Engle books are short I could finish by Sept. 1 (on the assumption some of the L'Engle books get here--they're in the mail). That's well ahead of my labor day goal.

The Rock That Is Higher
This is another one of L'Engle's religious-type books. While her Genesis triology was not my favorite, this one was okay. Maybe Madeleine and I have made peace with our differing concepts of religion. This book focuses on how story can been a more effective means for conveying truth than facts. I happen to agree with that premise so it's easier to like. :-)

Anytime Prayers
Another little prayer book written by L'Engle for children. This one featured the photography of her adopted daughter Marie. I like that her prayer books use mostly familiar language, but she's not afraid to bust out a big word if she thinks it is necessary. I like the quintessential 70s artwork of her other prayer books, but this one was fun to see real kids being kids.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I borrowed this book from a friend and immediately lent it to another friend when I was finished. It hit the "obscure book request" sphere several months ago (that book about pot pies and gurneys), but I hadn't read it (okay listened to it) until now. It was really endearing. It's a book of letters between an author in Post-WWII England and her publisher, friends, and a series of people from the Channel island of Guernsey. She comes to love these people through their letters and stories. And by golly I love them too. Bonus factor of the audiobook: everything I read while listening to the cds, I heard in a British accent. Swoon!

Troubling a Star
Madeleine L'Engle's last YA fiction book. :-( This is when it hit home, folks. I'm getting to the end of L'Engle's oeuvre. I actually remember when this book came out (8th grade year). I was so excited to read more about Vicky and Adam! And so mad when he started signing his letters "all my best". Antarctica is beautiful, and I also want to watch Scamper the Penguin (though that's about the Arctic Circle).

I read Camilla Dickinson long ago in May (70! books ago), not knowing that L'Engle reprinted the book under the name Camilla (a book I actually owned) so when I came to the reprint, I started to read it, but it was too soon. The blurb on the back describes it as Catcher in the Rye with a strong, emotionally healthy main character, and that totally works, but I didn't like Catcher so I'm not a huge fan of the book. However, the next book features Camilla as a near-retirement professor so I wanted to remember her teenage story before I went on AND it helped me finish the list as I set out to read it. Anyway, it's definitely a coming-of-age story where Camilla has to cope with several hard facts of life--among other things her mother attempts suicide. Camilla also experiences first love which is ultimately squashed when both she and Frank move out of New York City.

A Live Coal in the Sea
Camilla, the naive girl in love with the stars, is now a respected astronomer who has lived a life full of love and hardship. When her granddaughter Raffi asks Camilla whether she is really her grandmother, Camilla must relive some of the best and worst moments of her life to answer Raffi's question. But even Camilla doesn't know the whole story. While I find L'Engle's fiction for adults rough to read (and this was no exception), I found the ending a bit more satisfying in its conclusion. It is truly a life-affirming story that shows its never too late for second chances.

Octopussy and The Living Daylights
The last two short stories about Bond written by Ian Fleming. Unfortunately they aren't really a whole lot to write home about. More character studies investigating the criminal mind. The Man with the Golden Gun is really the last Bond book. However, I discovered that there are more so I may return to Bond later.

Also on the list is Glimpses of Grace which is a daily excerpt from L'Engle's work for meditation. Since I've read everything L'Engle has published up until this book's publication, I've essentially read the book. There were a couple of articles which I found and read their excerpts, but otherwise I'm using it as a daily meditative reading until it needs to go back to the library.

So that's 48 L'Engle books. I've requested all the rest of the L'Engle books I need to finish up. (What will the library do without me?) I've planned in time for my books on liminality. And yes, summer is nearly over--classes start next week. It's been fun, but a little obsessive.

Monday, August 15, 2011

In the Beginning

During my one semester of Speech and Debate, I put together a piece for a Christian invitational tournament using the English and Hebrew of Genesis 1:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

‏בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

Bereshith bara elohim et hashamiam v'et ha'aretz.

I never read my evaluations so I don't know how other people felt about the piece, but I don't think it was one of my successful endeavors. However, it's now the Hebrew I spout off when people, on finding out that I studied Hebrew, invariably asked me to say something.

This summer we've been reading through Genesis 1 in church, and my mind is pulled back to that piece--what I thought when splicing the Hebrew and English together, where the poetry of Genesis 1 really comes out, (how often we miss that poetry when the reading is split over 7 weeks), and how everything was "tov, tov meod."

As I'm reading through Madeleine L'Engle, she spends a lot of time in Genesis, at the beginning of the world, retelling the stories that are oh-so-familiar in new and unfamiliar ways. In Many Waters, Sandy and Dennys find themselves in Noah's story, not sure how it will all play out, how they fit into the pattern. In And it was Good, L'Engle tells the story of the first birth. Pregnancy is weird now; how much more foreign it must have been for Eve and Adam who had nothing to inform their experience.

Genesis is THE beginning, but it was a beginning experienced by humans just like me. Unsure of the future, unable to avoid the pitfalls and consequences of a fallen world, stumbling, getting dirty, complaining, worrying...

Eden holds an allure of perfection and unity that I'll never experience here on earth. But every day I make a new beginning. Every term I can make a new beginning with my classes increasing degree by degree to become a better instructor, a better student. Every work week, I make a new beginning to spend more time accomplishing my tasks and less time on pinterest. Every post, I make a new beginning to be faithful in my blog updating (there is much grace and forgiveness needed for that). Every day, I make a new beginning to live in the grace given to me through my baptism. Because of the salvation I have in Christ, I know God looks over all my "new beginnings"--even the failed ones--and sees that it is very good.

Crossposted at Via Scribendi.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In which I quickly update you on books I've read... again

July was a busy month. Housesitting, dogsitting, classes, assignments, work, summer reading program. Mostly it was pure joy. We've loved our adorable dogs and the meow-y cat isn't too bad either. And I've enjoyed every minute of my summer reading--so much so that I haven't post and am now a good 25 books behind. It's really too much for even short summaries so instead I'll just tell you where I'm at and provide a list.

Of my four categories of summer reading, I have finished the Harry Potter list. Of course, that was necessary before we saw the movie the morning it came out. (Not midnight, I'm not a night owl.) However, we last parted I only had one book left so whoop-die-do you say.

Well how about this. Since my last update, I have gotten within a book of finishing the James Bond series. Ian Fleming does some funny self-referential things in books like The Spy Who Loved Me and You Only Live Twice, but there is true and utter heartbreak in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Oh just crushing, and contrasted with Bond's devil-may-care, jaunty attitude, it's just crazy. I'm a little worried to watch the movies whenever I do, because I'm coming to love these stories so much, the movie Bond might be too superficial. (As evidenced by The World is Not Enough which is "loosely" "based" on On Her Majesty's Secret Service--the overlaps contain one hot girl racing Bond in the beginning and the phrase "The World is Not Enough".) Enough on movie adaptations, they really just shouldn't be compared. But the books are great. Read them and ignore all the sexism and racism--it was before the Civil Rights Movement. (The Amazon covers however--skeezy. In this case, library binding is much preferable.)

Also of great success is my L'Engle list. I'm almost 3/4 through the list (43 out of 61). We've now entered the 90s publishing era. It's really been a treat to watch her writing change and grow, to see her little pattern of children's book, adult book, non-fiction work spiral on. Her memoirs are fantastic insights into her life. I especially love Two-Part Invention where she recounts her courtship and nearly 40 years of marriage to Hugh Franklin. Their relationship was not conventional with all the travel for his acting and her speaking, but it was true and beautiful. I have almost finished all her Young Adult books--only Troubling a Star is left and it's one of my favorites--intrigued combined with young love. My only dull spot in the L'Engle ouvre is her religious meditations. I love her dearly and admire how she continues to wrestle with the tough questions on faith, but Madeleine and I come from very different theological positions. In books that are so conversational, I want to respond aloud and see if we can reach any point of agreement.

Finally, a couple non-reading lists books snuck in. Janet Evanovich continues to entertain. I almost took the "I heart Ranger" sticker from the back of my library book, but I refrained. John Adams was our "car book" for our trips that started in June and I finished it driving back and forth to work. I'm full of Adams trivia now and utterly sympathetic to the cries for an Adams memorial on the Mall in D.C. And Divergent was AMAZING!!!! Best dystopian fantasy I've read in a really long time (i.e. in 3 months). Tris is amazing and while I saw a lot of the plot twists coming, the ultimate reveal was still crazy. Definitely looking for the next in the series.

So that's that y'all. The full list (in reverse chronology as I've read them--recent books first) is below:

The Man with the Golden Gun by Iam Fleming;
Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle;
The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L'Engle;
Sold into Egypt by Madeleine L'Engle;
You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming;
Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle;
Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich;
House like a Lotus by Madeleine L'Engle;
The Spy who Loved Me by Ian Fleming;
Journey with Jonah by Madeleine L'Engle;
Trailing Clouds of Glory by Madeleine L'Engle;
Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle;
Everyday Prayers by Madeleine L'Engle;
Prayers for Sunday by Madeleine L'Engle;
The Risk of Birth (anthology);
On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming;
A Stone for a Pillow by Madeleine L'Engle;
A Cry like a Bell by Madeleine L'Engle;
Divergent by Veronica Roth;
And It Was Good by Madeleine L’Engle;
The Sphinx at Dawn by Madeleine L’Engle;
A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L’Engle;
The Anti-Muffins by Madeleine L’Engle
Walking on Water: Reflections on Art by Madeleine L’Engle;
Eat this Book by Eugene Peterson;
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle;
Thunderball by Ian Fleming;
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller;
For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming;
John Adams by David McCullough;
Ladder of Angels by Madeleine L’Engle;
Weather of the Heart by Madeleine L’Engle;
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling;
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle;
The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle;

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

LIS 636 Reflection Paper

I was just going to send my Foundations of Information Technology professor the following essay in the form of a document, but taking the encouragement to stretch a little bit and knowing how unfaithful a blogger I've been, I respectfully submit the following:
Photo credit: dbking

At the end of each term of my online course work (this makes five times), I feel incredible technological burnout. The demands of being “tied to” technology—checking email (cue rant about Microsoft Outlook Exchange), making sure assignments are submitted correctly and on time, the constant obsession of following the discussion boards—weigh heavy. I can’t wait to get a break—to read my favorite blogs, catch up with shows on Hulu, and troll Facebook for the latest goings-on with my friends. The internet, my primary interaction with technology, is just as much a medium for relaxation or hard work as going to physical places.

In this class, I found my understanding of technology reaffirmed and nuanced. The group collaborative project was full of the same group dynamics and pitfalls that an “in-class” group project might entail. People work at different speeds and with different priorities. Leaders emerge; others fade away. The difference is that there are very rarely any meetings which create artificial deadlines before the assignment is submitted. Accountability is established in that you can check the revision history to see who has been working on the document and who has not. There’s no final receiving of the grade or presentation that gives an opportunity to say “Good job team! It was a pleasure working with you.” One must go out of the way to show appreciation.

While much of the content was familiar (I’m pretty sure it’s a SLIS requirement to talk about ARPANET at least once in every class), there were bits and pieces (bits and bytes?) that filled out my knowledge. I have known that I should know how to code a website, but until this class made me put one together I stuck to using the templates Blogger or Google Sites provided. I have been using Google docs for 5 years, but I’ve never embedded my document into a website for display or used it to make a finished document. I have known the basics of shopping for a computer, but mostly relied on a tech-savvy husband who will make sure I don’t sacrifice processing speed for hard drive space. However, most importantly I have learned that while you can basically get around the technology world with a working knowledge, it does not take much more effort to learn those underpinnings that will benefit your understanding.

All the components of the class reinforced my comfort with technology. In college, I was a very timid technology user. I did not want to inadvertently kill my computer because I did not know what I was doing. Since then I’ve discovered the wealth of information available to those who google their technology problems—mostly because I was tired of my husband being the know-it-all because he googled the question faster than I did. Through looking for answers and finding a couple of technology blogs that break down tech-speak into English, I’ve really gained a lot of confidence in exploring my computer and periphery. As I worked through the class, I saw things I had a basic working knowledge of explained in proper terms. While at times, this seemed repetitive and boring, resisting the urge to skim showed me the parts I really did know and filled in the gaps of things most blatantly did not know.

Since my experiences in this class have worked so well with what I already know, I feel more confident to explore new technology. I have not delved into Skype and other video communication much. I have a webcam built into my computer, but I don’t use it. However, my experience with building a website from scratch suggests that if I do a little bit of research and play around with this new (and completely different) technology, it should be easily mastered.

In the same way, there is great value in reexamining technology I already use. The in-depth look at Google Docs really showed me how much I underestimated the program. What other technology do I use every day without mining its potential? I have a blog that I randomly post to, but I do not use its features to the fullest. I could expend a little bit more effort to publish more polished posts. It seems like depending on how to allocate your resources, a little bit of effort can yield some very high-level results. (Now, in other cases, this might not happen; hand-coding my own webpage, while helpful in theory, will not be a good use of my time give the variety of blogging systems out there.)

I feel comfortable with the role technology plays in my life. I am mostly agreeable to the increasing role it may play in the future. However, as I spend so much time with these online classes, I am learning more and more how to control my exposure to technology so that I control it and not the other way around. When I’m 70, I want to be someone who embraces the newest technology instead of yearning for the good old days (unlike Grampa Kitteh). The more I understand technology and its role in my life, the more I believe I can achieve that goal.

Photo credit: zebedee.zebedee