Book Meme

I’ve been tagged by AcmeGirl for a book list meme. Fun!

So, I’m putting the one’s I’ve read in bold, the one’s I’ve read part of in italics, the ones I love in another color, and the rest are left alone.  My classical readings aren’t really that many – mostly just stuff I read in/for school.  As an engineering student, I didn’t read nearly as many classic works of fiction as many of my peers.  I did read a lot of philosophy and nonfiction though (and of course science and math textbooks…), and I’ve always loved memoirs.  None of those are on this list…

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
I love fantasy novels!
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible – I’ve read parts of it, as well as parts of the Koran. But I haven’t read the whole thing.
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman – quite enjoyed it
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – Although I’ve of course read many of his works.
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – even wrote about it in a college essay!
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden – loved the movie, should get to the book someday
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne – I’ve got two kids, what do you expect?
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – quite good!
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding I’ll always remember the class exercises we did and how I came to believe that some type of government is necessary, good, and inevitable.  I have a few libertarian friends and I sometimes wonder if they’ve ever read this book…
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert – the trilogy, baby!
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley I tend to have a really open mind, and it wasn’t obvious to me at first that this was a dystopia. I also read Island, which I liked even more than BNW.
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov – I actually cry at the end. Every. Time.
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold – but i did read her other book, Lucky, a memoir of her rape.
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac – have it, intend to read it, feel a special connection to Kerouac since tales say he spent much of his time at the beloved undergrad hangout of my alma mater.
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – I think I’ve read it…?
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce – I tried…
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath – hope to read this one some day!
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro – must get to this one
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – own it, love mysteries, but haven’t read it yet.
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Women leave work because of the economy just like men

Earlier this decade there were many news articles and attention given to moms “opting out,” and the suggestion was that there was a new movement for women to stay at home for purposes of raising children and running households. I, for one, totally respect a woman’s right to choose what type of career she wants, be it in a paying job or an unpaid job as household manager and parent, but I still was a bit dismayed by all of these reports. Well, new evidence suggests that it’s the economy, and not a cultural swing towards stay-at-home-motherhood, that has led to decreased numbers of women in the workforce.

An article in the NYTimes today, Poor Economy Slows Women in Workplace, cites a congressional study and some economists in saying that:

After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for awhile.

“When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which did the Congressional study, said in an interview. “We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we realized that it was.”

There’s also evidence that the downturn in the past few years has hit women harder:

Pay is no longer rising smartly for women in the key 25-to-54 age group. Just the opposite, the median pay — the point where half make more and half less — has fallen in recent years, to $14.84 an hour in 2007 from $15.04 in 2004, adjusted for inflation, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (The similar wage for men today is two dollars more.)

I can’t help but think of the phrase that was tried in a previous election year: It’s the economy, stupid.

My, how the time has passed

Just thought I’d post a little something to say “I’m still here!” …I’m working on a post about the recent John Tierney column in the NYTimes on women in science, and I hope to have it up soon. In the meantime, I wanted to comment on the New Yorker cover with Barack and Michelle Obama – it seems to have upset many people. I’m not really sure what everyone is so bothered about – I thought it was funny.

So…time’s been passing – and I’ve been working. Playing with liquid nitrogen, teaching 10th graders about chemistry (with squishy and mushy materials like silly putty and home-made viscoelastic slime and personal care products like shampoo, hair gel, and lotion), occasionally analyzing nuggets of data, reading about things going on in the comics industry (T! relates to it), and talking and learning about business. I’ve found all of this to be on the whole enjoyable work, and that makes me happy. 🙂

Meanwhile, it’s been unbelievably hot in NYC! So hot, in fact, that the living room is regularly 92 degrees after having left the AC off over night, and during the day while the AC is working at full capacity it maybe brings the room down to 85. Yummy. Sticky. Unfun.

But it’s not all work…on Friday night I had the extreme pleasure of watching one of my oldest and best friends play Musetta in the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music’s Summer Opera production of La Boheme. In the second act, the character Musetta gets to control the stage, and my did she! She was amazing, and I got chills. Especially notable since we were in an AC-free high school auditorium that must have been a sweltering 90 something degrees. We all felt for the characters in the winter scenes with coats, sweatshirts, and scarves on!

I’ve also been playing World of Warcraft with my husband. For hours. Giliane and Argore ready to bomb demons

Partially because it’s fun, and partially because it’s the only entertainment that fits in our budget right now (at the amount of hours we play, it’s less than $1/hour of entertainment). And taking walks with the hubby! To get outside! Where there’s air, and exercise to be had!

And finally, I’ve been thinking about babies. Cute, cuddly, babies. Can’t wait for the family I’ve been working for with the 4 month old to get back from Israel so I can go play with him again!

Fatigue and Sleepiness

Lately I’ve been really struggling with my sleep and awake schedule and with managing my health and exercise. A brief web search on sleep habits and cycles turned up a lot of hits about how to get more sleep, but what I’m struggling with is how to be more alert, awake, and energetic for a productive portion of the day. I feel sleepy, groggy, and tired a good portion of the time that I am awake. This isn’t really new – I’ve often struggled with fatigue – yawning repeatedly throughout the days even when I’m working or really paying attention to something.

I know some good tips that I can try to help feel more energetic and alert, but I am also struggling to make myself actually do these things. Lately, I would guess I’ve been sleeping about 8-10 hours a night. At least in the last week I’ve managed to keep myself from sleeping any stretches of over 10 hours. This is an above average amount of sleep to get, but it’s not clear whether it’s unhealthy. What I’m most concerned with is getting to a place where I have energy and feel alert during my awake time.

The national sleep foundation recommends waking at the same time each day, weekdays and weekends, to help establish your circadian rhythms. Additionally, they recommend regular exercise, and I have always found that to be helpful in being able to sleep when I want to. My current lifestyle could really use a lot more exercise, and so I’m slowly working on trying to get more of that. For now, I’m doing simple things like 10-30 minutes of yoga and walking around the neighborhood. It’s really hard, being able to do most of my work wherever and whenever I want, to work some routines into my day that allow me good opportunity for exercise.

I was able to find this information about sleeping too long on the national sleep foundation’s site:

On the other hand, some research has found that long sleep durations (nine hours or more) are also associated with increased morbidity (illness, accidents) and mortality (death). Researchers describe this relationship as a “U-shaped” curve where both sleeping too little and sleeping too much may put you at risk. This research found that variables such as low socioeconomic status and depression were significantly associated with long sleep. Some researchers argue that these other variables might be the cause of the longer sleep: the fact that individuals with low socioeconomic status are more likely to have undiagnosed illnesses because of poor medical care explains the relationship between low socioeconomic status, long sleep and morbidity/mortality. Researchers caution that there is not a definitive conclusion that getting more than nine hours of sleep per night is consistently linked with health problems and/or mortality in adults, while short sleep has been linked to both these consequences in numerous studies.

The link between sleeping a lot and depression is fairly clear, and I do tend to sleep more often and longer when I’m feeling depressed. But right now, I’m not sure if it’s depression related or just that I need to establish some new routines and patterns as my lifestyle and work have been changing. Mostly, I feel surprised by how challenging I am finding it to manage my own health and wellness.

More on shared parenting

I wrote this in response to a comment on a post I wrote a while ago about shared parenting, and then I saved it as a draft to come back and edit, and promptly forgot about it. Oops.

So the commenter wrote that he worked and his wife stayed home because it was what each did best:

Equal parenting is fine with us if we found ourselves one day to be equally matched. But I make 10 times as much as what my wife can do in her best year, and my wife has a much bigger gas tank for the energy in needing to handle children. We’ve tried to be equal, but have found its best to pull the most from our strengths and split up the rest.

I began writing a response but I decided I’d rather post about the rest of my thoughts on the article.

Even in sharing it all, Husband and I do the same thing…but we happen to be much more evenly matched. So the things we defer to each other on are smaller, more in the details – like the Vachons, I think. He takes the heavy laundry in the pushcart down the stairs and to the laundrymat and picks it up the next day, lugging it up the stairs. I happen to wash the dishes. There are definitely things that happen to fall along the “standard” lines, but we’ve talked about all of it and whether we want to do this or that and to what standards, and everything was a mutual decision. And I think that’s what makes our marriage so solid, even if the conversation can sometimes be a tad awkward (“It really made me feel bad when …”).

Regarding parenting, in my opinion “equally” shared parenting isn’t as much about the “equally” part as it is about the sharing – about both parents putting time into it and really being there for their kids. If you share it, then even if you work a full-time job and your spouse stays at home, you spend a significant amount of time with your kids while you are there, and you recognize that your spouse needs a break too. You do things your way when you’re with the kids, but you’re with them enough that you have a way down pat and you know what to expect. To me that’s the important part.

But I also think one of the points of the article might be that these people set different priorities. If you wanted to, you could both choose to live a little less luxuriously in terms of material wealth and comfort, take a pay cut, and have more time at home with your family. This could be working part-time or this could be a flexible or reduced hours schedule, or you might choose to stay home completely. But this is a choice that these people are making, to take less pay in order to both be fully there with their family and with their children. And it’s a choice that I’m passionate about, that I think needs to be available for parents of any gender if we are ever to truly move into a “post-feminist” era.

Birthing, American style

I recently watched The Business of Being Born, a documentary I got from Netflix. This was very interesting not just in an “I love anything related to babies” way but also in a feminist way. Despite my initial skepticism of the gravity of anything produced by Ricki Lake, I found the documentary worth watching. It contained some great information about birthing practices in the US.

One part that did strike a cord with me is that I have pretty much been afraid of giving birth, of being in labor, for my entire life, and apparently I’m not alone. I’m realizing this is largely because of the way that birth is portrayed in the movies and on tv. For me, I also never heard glowing birth stories from my mom – it sounded much more like an unfun experience that resulted in a very worthwhile outcome – a baby. My mother has two children (my older brother and me), and both were born via c-section. I might feel differently about it if the adult women around me had described births as “beautiful,” which is how the mom I now babysit for describes the home birth of her son earlier this year – and with feeling, like she really treasures the experience.

The film showed many powerful images of births in America both a century ago and now. On the one hand, the film showed modern women who gave birth at home, with the assistance of a midwife and their spouses and children, all of whom were close yet comfortable. On the other hand, the film showed doctors who appeared primarily concerned with getting the patients in and out of the hospital in a timely manner, and whose patients appeared, on-film, to be powerless to stop not just pain medications but also labor inducing medications, which have been shown to lead to a higher number of c-sections. At the home births, the moms looked like they were in lots of pain, but that they had support and the comfort of choosing what position to be in and possibly in a tub if they choose. At the hospital births, many of the moms looked both worn-out and uncomfortable, laying on their backs in a skimpy hospital gown. It certainly wasn’t hard to watch the mothers and know which situation seemed like a more comfortable, loving, bonding experience for the birth of a child, although I was left wondering more about birthing centers, which seem like they might be the best of both worlds.

The Huffington Post featured a recent article on the AMA’s response to the documentary:

Ladies, the physicians of America have issued their decree: they don’t want you having your babies at home with midwives.

We can’t imagine why not. Study upon study have shown that planning a home birth with a trained midwife is a great choice if you want to avoid unnecessary medical intervention. Midwives are experts in supporting the physiological birth process: monitoring you and your baby during labor, helping you into positions that help labor progress, protecting your pelvic parts from damage while you push, and “catching” the baby from the position that’s most effective and comfortable for you — hands and knees, squatting, even standing — not the position most comfortable for her.

When healthy women are supported this way, 95% give birth vaginally, with hardly any intervention.

And yet, the American Medical Association doesn’t see the point.

Although I can easily imagine wanting an epidural or some type of painkiller, I wouldn’t want an episiotomy, inducing drug like pitocin, or a c-section unless it was medically necessary. Unfortunately, even just taking an epidural can make you more likely to need any/all of those three. And the c-section and episiotomy both feature weeks to months of recovery which can inhibit your opportunities for baby bonding and for sexual relations with your husband. (Months of sex being painful while the episiotomy heals? No thanks!)

And the information suggests that for women with a low-risk pregnancy, they’ll have a lower incidence of these procedures being performed if they birth at home with a midwife. A study published in 2005 concludes:

Planned home birth for low risk women in North America using certified professional midwives was associated with lower rates of medical intervention but similar intrapartum and neonatal mortality to that of low risk hospital births in the United States.

And then there’s this part, from the blog by the author of the book Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care:

Pitocin, given to more than half of women during labor, is the synthetic preparation of the hormone oxytocin, the driving force of labor that causes the uterus to contract. You know the soft side of oxytocin already: it floods your body during orgasm, when you fall in love, when you get close to a friend, even when you sit down to a shared meal. It is the hormone of connection, closeness — love. And when women give birth, they get the biggest helping of oxytocin that humans ever experience. A “love high,” if you will.

Pitocin replicates oxytocin’s muscle, producing strong uterine contractions, but it does not pass to the brain. You don’t get the warm and fuzzies with the pharmaceutical version. Furthermore, it shuts down your body’s own oxytocin production. That means that when you get Pitocin in your IV — whether you’re being induced or just “augmented” — you’re missing out on the natural oxy-rush.

If any woman is going to go through labor, it certainly sounds like it’d be a lot more enjoyable of an experience with the natural oxytocin rushing through your body and priming you to bond with your baby. Seriously. The most oxytocin humans ever experience? Where do I sign up?!

So, for the moms among my readers – what kind of birth did you have, and how do you feel about the experience?

Wonder Woman on DVD

As part of my work with T!, I keep up to date on current happenings in the comics, manga, graphic novel, and related pop culture world. In particular, I enjoy reading Wonder Woman comics, and so I was pleased to read today that DC is creating a Wonder Woman movie. I am a bit disappointed that it’s direct to DVD, but it’s an animated movie and despite the fact that she’s one of their big 3 characters, maybe she doesn’t have enough of a following to merit a theater release? Anyhow, the movie will feature Keri Russell and Alfred Molina as voice actors, both people who’s work I respect. So I’m definitely looking forward to it. But I’ll have to wait until Spring 2009!