Thursday, September 29, 2005

Banned Books

Got this from frogblog. A list of the top 100 most banned/challenged books. The idea is to highlight the ones you've read.

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Giver by Lois Lowry
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Sex by Madonna
Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel [only the first three]
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What? by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Good News in Michigan

This has no impact on my life, seeing as I have no plans to live in Michigan, but it still made me happy to hear:
A judge in Michigan ruled on Tuesday that the state ban on same-sex marriage does not infringe on domestic partner rights.
If you're not familiar with what happened in Michigan, here's a quick recap. Last November, Michigan passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The specific text of the amendment was this:
To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as marriage or similar union for any purpose.
During the campaign for this amendment, the people proposing it insisted that they had no intention of taking away anyone's benefits. They were proved to be liars less than a month after the election when a state representative began pushing a resolution to block domestic partner benefits for state and city employees. I blogged about my outrage here.

At any rate, the good news is that the issue ended up in front of a judge, who ruled that the vague wording of the amendment did not bar domestic partnership benefits at all. From this article:
In the opinion, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk makes it clear that the constitutional amendment does not impact domestic partner benefits.

“Health care benefits are not among the statutory rights or benefits of marriage. An individual does not receive health care benefits for his or her spouse as a matter of legal right upon getting married,” wrote Judge Draganchuk. “Health care benefits for a spouse are benefits of employment, not benefits of marriage.”
Well, duh. Employers offer all sorts of benefits to their employees for all sorts of reasons. Some companies might offer DP benefits out of a sense of fairness, recognizing that gay employees also have families that matter to them, but that doesn't change the fact that the benefits are really just compensation, just like salary and any number of other "fringe" benefits. I recently learned that my employer will provide "pet insurance" next year. Does this mean they have somehow "elevated" my pets to the same level as children or spouses?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Laura has been complaining that I haven't posted much lately. So, here is a post.

We are waiting to find out if our buyer's financing is approved. This should happen by this Friday and all the parties involved (real estate agent, lawyer, etc.) tell me there is nothing to worry about. So naturally I am worried. I'll be glad when this is finalized.

Assuming all goes well, we will be heading to Montana at the end of October.

When we started planning this whole adventure, I had hoped to move during the summer so that I could enjoy nice weather before my first Montana winter. Alas, no such luck. Talk of snow in September? I have much to get used to.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

House Notes (Both Old and New)

Things are moving along on the house selling front. We're ticking off the various contingencies on our buyers' contract and counting down to our October close date. Everything is going well so far. The inspection only turned up a few minor issues that we need to fix. The appraisal has been done. I think the buyers are fairly close to having their financing officially approved.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will all work out and we'll be hitting the road to Montana by the end of October.

We have tentatively lined up a place to live until our new townhouse is completed, which should be in December or possibly early January if anything slips. This is still a little shaky, as it is actually a small house (one bedroom!) owned by our Montana realtor. The house is currently on the market and could sell between now and when we sign our lease. It will be interesting being renters again -- even for a short time -- and living in such a small home! Our new house will seem huge in comparison!

Speaking of the new house, it is progressing nicely. Laura flew out to Missoula yesterday to pick out all of our custom stuff -- paint colors, flooring, light fixtures, etc. Today she called me repeatedly with various questions and updates. She also took lots of pictures of the progress...apparently the house is fully framed and roofed already!

We decided on red for the siding and a light beige color for the trim. The paint they use is Sherwin-Williams, so I pulled up their nifty
"color visualizer" to see how the colors will look on an arts and crafts style home. If you're curious, the red is "fireweed" and the trim will be "antique white." Our house will also have a third accent color, which will be "camelback."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Flowering Herbs

My basil and mint plants have both sprouted flowers. I'm hoping that pruning them back will help make them useful for a little while longer -- my mom has actually volunteered to take them in when we move (my parents have a nice sunroom which is great for wintering plants).

Anyway, the basil flowers are a pretty shade of purple:

Basil - Now Flowering

Basil Flowers

The mint, on the other hand, is not particularly attractive:
Mint plant - now flowering

For reference, some much earlier photos of the plants are here

Recommended Reading

Watermark has been posting some narratives from a person volunteering at an evacuee center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Very detailed accounts that give me a great deal of hope:

Friday, September 09, 2005

Great Big Bugs

A couple evenings ago, I leashed up the dogs for their evening walk. I stepped out on the porch, looked up, and saw this:

Praying mantis hanging out on the porch ceiling

Cool! Well, I thought it was cool, but Laura doesn't like insects much, and she REALLY doesn't like huge insects like this. I just left it alone, since praying mantises eat other insects and pests (although according to this, "larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds and even rodents.")

The next morning, the praying mantis was gone and there were very few insects hanging around my porch. The next evening I checked again, and sure enough, the insect was back, this time creeping up the side of the porch:

Praying Mantis on Shutter

I haven't seen it again this evening, so maybe it has decided to lurk around someone else's house. Laura finds it disturbing, but I think it is kinda cool!

Minor update - there are a bunch of cool praying mantis photos on flickr here:

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Scooped Again!

Once again, I have been scooped by Laura. In the event that you don't visit her blog (she gets more traffic than me, so chances are you do visit her blog!), here's the deal:

We sold our house.

That is, we got an offer, which we accepted. Obviously it isn't over till we close, but still, this is working out far better than I expected. We actually got TWO offers on the same day (yesterday). Since it was a dual-offer situation, both buyers offered more than the asking price. We are actually getting pretty much what I had hoped to get way back at the end of April when we first put the house on the market.

So apparently all my anxiety about owning two houses will go to waste. What a relief! Instead of owning two houses, we will be temporarily homeless!

The buyers we accepted said they would prefer an October close date, but were flexible and didn't want that to be a sticking point. As it happens, October works out fine for us -- more time to finish packing, and less time in temporary housing while we wait for the new house to be finished. Our Missoula real estate has a small house she will rent to us for the two months until the house is done in December.

At the moment, I still have trouble believing this has really happened. Months of showings with little interest, and then two on the same day! I will never understand the real estate business!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Back from Montana (a Little Late)

One of the problems with living in a two-blogger-household is that it is very easy to just never get around to posting about certain topics. Sometimes I may start sketching out a post in my head, but long before I can get to it, Laura has already discussed it. A natural tendency towards laziness rears up, and the post I had been composing wanders off and ends up in that stack of "meant to do this" in some back corner of my brain. This happens quite a bit, especially since Laura currently has much more time on her hands for blogging than I do.

So I realized this morning that, other than my post yesterday about Katrina, the last time I posted was from a hotel room in Missoula, Montana! I've been back from that way-too-short trip now for a week and a half and I never posted about how it ended up, or all of our pictures!

If you do read Laura's blog, you probably already know most of this. We decided to go ahead and buy a townhome in a new neighborhood called Hellgate Meadows. The foundation for our lot already exists:

New House Foundation

The house should be ready sometime in December, which means we really must sell our current house soon. We did get some good news last weekend -- we had two showings the same day, and one of the groups had our house on their "short list" of three. I am still holding out some hope that they will buy it. In the meantime, we're probably going to drop our price a bit more so that we can stay competitive with all the other houses in the neighborhood. Supposedly the real estate market tends to pick up after Labor day, so I have high hopes.

Back to the Montana trip. I was there just a few days -- arriving very late Saturday night (Aug. 20) and leaving in the afternoon on the following Tuesday (Aug. 23). In that time Laura showed me around several of the neighborhoods and houses she had rejected. We also visited the Hellgate Meadows place several times. I "tested" how it would be to walk over to the Barnes & Noble -- as noted here, walkability is an important consideration for me. I still mourn the loss of mature trees, but in my long list of "wants" and "needs" for the new house, the Hellgate Meadows townhome met more of them than most of the other places. So, we took a deep breath, went back to the real estate agent's office, and wrote up the offer.

A few pictures from the trip. Some of these were previously posted on Laura's blog:

This is an existing house similar to ours, although ours will be a different color (we haven't chosen the color yet):
Townhouse in Hellgate Meadows

These two pictures are from the alley behind the above house, showing what lies to the immediate south of our new neighborhood:
Horses near Hellgate Meadows

Horses near Hellgate Meadows II

I hope the people who own that land hang on to it and resist the temptation to sell. I love the idea of all that open space so nearby! And no, the smell of the horses does not worry me in the least. It isn't as though there is a huge herd of cattle living there.

This one was taken from where the front porch of our new house will be:
View from the new house
There are some lots immediately across the street that will have houses, so this view won't stay quite like this. Hopefully it should still be pretty good from the second floor room looking in this direction. I plan to use that room as my home office.

I admit I am nervous about this. I would have felt better selling our house first, before committing to buying a new house, but it just wasn't practical. There aren't many lots left in this particular neighborhood, and apparently they are very popular. The green house shown above was built in 2003. The owners put it on the market and it sold in less than a week!

At any rate, we did try to just do a few vacation-like things during the way-too-short trip. We went for a short walk in Greenough Park where I took this shot:
Greenough Park

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Parkside, which is right next to Bess Reed park and has great views of Mount Sentinel:
Fog over Mt. Sentinel

Finally, I made Laura pull into a parking lot so that I could get a shot of this -- apparently, despite the name, this is NOT a gay bar:

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Reality Check

"Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.

"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said.
CNN Article
I am getting really tired of the constant refrain of "why didn't they leave" in reference to the victims of Katerina. John Scalzi has a couple great posts addressing this.

I don't have the personal experience to completely relate to the "Being Poor" post, although I suspect that Laura does. But still, I thought maybe I could play a little reality check game here...bear with me.

Back in late 1993/early 1994, I was a new college grad with a "professional" job with a now-defunct accounting firm in downtown Chicago. I had a somewhat overpriced studio apartment in a fairly posh neighborhood (Lincoln Park). My salary was not phenomenal, but it was enough to pay the bills and rent. I suspect my means were typical for people my age, in their early twenties, getting started at their first "real" jobs after years of school and summer work. I came from a comfortable, middle-class background.

I did not own a car. At the time, this seemed like a wonderful benefit of living and working downtown -- no car payments, no insurance payments, no need to even notice gas prices. I took the bus or the "L" to work. I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, poor.

I want to emphasize that I was exceedingly "responsible." I did not live off the government or my parents. I took care of myself.

Now, lets pretend that one day it was discovered that a great calamity was about to hit Chicago, and everyone started evacuating. What would I, a college-educated, middle-class, and far from poor single woman do?

I had no car, so driving away was not an option. I had just moved to the city so I didn't have any city friends to catch a ride with. My co-workers mostly lived in the suburbs and commuted to work via train, so they weren't available either.

Aha! Trains! I could take a train out of the city! Except, lets say that the Metra stations shut down due to the impending calamity, much as the Greyhound stations, trains, and airlines in New Orleans:
"Delta Air Lines' decision to end its regular passenger air service out of New Orleans just after midnight Saturday was based on assessing the safety of its planes, employees and passengers, the accessibility of the airport and the projected course of the weather....

...Other airlines considered the conditions operable longer. American flew its last plane out at 1 p.m. Sunday. And US Airways flew two-thirds of its schedule Sunday, with its last plane departing at 1:30 p.m...

...Other transportation modes also cleared out of New Orleans at least 24 hours before the hurricane hit...

...Amtrak had no choice; its tracks run through the city's levees. Once officials in Louisiana put the floodgates in place across the levees, said spokesman Marc Magliari, "we had no usable route in and out of the city."...

...And Greyhound, which ended service in New Orleans late Saturday, said safety was its priority. "We operate as long as it's safe," said spokesperson Anna Folmnsbee."
OK, now I'm here stranded in my fancy studio apartment, with no car or train transportation out of the city. City buses and Greyhound follow the same model as Metra and shut down. Now what do I do? Walk? I suppose I could call my parents, who live about an hour away in a suburb, but what are the odds of them being able to drive in here, pick me up, and drive back out in all the evacuation traffic on time? We could all end up stuck out on the road together when the calamity hits!

Not knowing exactly how bad the impending calamity might be -- after all, in this scenario Chicago has faced this sort of thing before and survived OK -- wouldn't it be somewhat reasonable to just hunker down and hope for the best, rather than endangering even more people in a last-ditch attempt to flee? And heck, maybe this calamity is coming when my parents are off in Wisconsin on vacation or something. Now what? Should I just start walking out of the city? And be caught by the calamity out in the open, unprotected?

Remember, in my little scenario, I already have more options and resources available than most of those folks trapped down in New Orleans. I have a little money in the bank, assuming I can get to an ATM of course. I am not quite living paycheck to paycheck, although it is close. I have family nearby that could, possibly, manage to help. I don't need to take care of any young children. I'm not elderly and frail. I'm in good health.

Even with all those advantages I would have had difficulty getting away in time.

Maybe all the judgmental morons criticizing the citizens of New Orleans should shut up for a bit and reflect on the blessings in their own lives.