Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Year of Goodreads

         It was almost a year ago that I started using the website It's a site that keeps a database of books and lets members record things like marking books they would like to read, recording the date they finish books, rating books, and writing reviews. If your friends use it too, you can each see what others are reading and have discussions about books on the site. I started using it to keep a list of the books I was reading.
         Now, to record a book , to put it on your "selfves" in good read terms, you must assing it to one to three basic catigorys: to-read, currently reading, or read. There is no choice to put thing in a "Read have and then got distracted by another book and abandoned it." I found this bug/feature to be very motivating for me in terms of actually finishing books. (Though it also motivated me to abandod books I suspected I might not finish all the quicker.)
         Before I started using GoodReads I had estimated I finished around 100 books a year, guessing I averaged about 2 a week. This year I've made my goal of finishing 150 books. When my husband saw my goal he said that a goal should be a stretch, not what you were going to do anyway. And he's right that I waiting to see that I was on pace to make that goal before setting it. But I think that for someone with a full time job and something of a life 150 books something of an achiment.
        Finishing more books has changed the impact of my reading on me. It keeps books more distinct in my mind vs. having ideas from different books blend together quickly. I'm more deliberate and aware of what I read and end up gaining a fuller appreciation of what I'm reading about. I look forward to continuing to keep this kind of reading log in the future.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fifty shades of complementarianism?

When I read Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James I expected from the publicity that it would remind me of Joey Hill, but what really surprised me was how much it reminded me of Grace Livingston Hill. You wouldn't expect to find complementarianism* mixed in a book so full of explicit sex and without other moral concerns a concept so assisted with traditional morals. What was it doing in this secular bestseller? What was it doing taking over the plot?
My theory is that this started out as parody, of twilight and also of the romance in general. It was to be collage of all the silly tropes, mannerisms and cliches that are endemic in modern romance novels. One thing you often see is egalitarian and complementarian elements jumbled together in incongruous ways, or the contradictions between are used to create tension in the body of the book and then magically disappear in the resolution. I think James may have decided that what was causing the incongruities was the complementarian elements per se and strained them all out to put in her parody. Once freed of the egalitarian elements, the complementarian ones cohered and made a compelling story. When James went back to make it a straight romance rather than parody some egalitarian elements were laid back in on the surface but the heart of the story and the relationship portrayed remained complementarian.
I wasn’t going to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Not that I haven’t read and enjoyed erotica before but too much of it’s not be good for me and I’ve been trying to cut down. Then I read this review by Amanda Green indicated the sex wasn’t all that good and it didn’t have anything else going for it so I got to wondering how it had gotten so popular. This article from the Atlantic says the secret is that sex is more experimental varied. But while Fifty Shades of Gray tends toward the eroctica end of the romance spectrum it isn’t towards the extreme end. There are plenty of romances that have more sex, with more, detail, kinkiness. It doesn’t make sense that women who are interested havn’t run into sexer stories before.
I think both the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey and all the incongruous bits of complementarianism that commonly appear in other romance indicate that many women like reading about certain aspects of complementarianism. 

*(complementarianism is the idea that men and women are complementary rather than equivalent, they may be equally important but they cannot be interchanged without adjustment for the different gender. It’s associated with churches that don’t ordain women and the idea that the man should be the head of the household.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012


    Here is a picture of the trash I collected for easier disposal while I was making soup on Saturday. It struck me what a wonderful colorful world God has made. Still lifes of flowers or fruit are beautiful: colors that are distinct but related, the different interrelated shapes, the evocation of pleasing smells and tastes. Looking at my pile of discards I was fascinated to see the same kind of pleasure in it. You never know where delightful things will be just waiting for you to really look at them.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cost of communication

I was reading my sister’s post on language and it got me thinking about the effort we put into communicating. In contrast to sister’s skill, I always knew I was bad at language. English may be my mother tongue but I still remember problems with English pronunciation in first grade. Occasionally I still have problems though most peoples will hear what they expect to hear and not notice it. At most a few think I have an accent. Required foreign language course always seemed sadistic to me when they penalized beginners for spelling mistakes, as I was always severely behind in English spelling and to this day rely heavily on spell checkers. And as someone with Aspergers just mastering the mechanics of speech and writing didn’t lead to real communication. I was very lucky to be introduced to genre fiction where communication was stripped down to bare essentials, and it’s causes and effects all put down in black and white were I could study it and start to see patterns.
But for someone with Asperger’s syndrome I’ve been able to close a lot of the communication gap from my side, it could have been harder to deal with. Communication always has an internal cost that we pay to move our interior codes to symbols that are recognized by others. For people with a shared language there is not just the fact that they can communicate with each other but that they made an effort to arrive at a communication destination and that destination was the same. For our first language that effort was made mainly before we can remember and driven by instinct and necessity more than choice. But that effort was still there and consumed much mental power for several years of our life.
I would like to be able to speak a second language, and maybe someday I will manage to put in the time and effort to do that. But for now I'm just glad I can speak English, the language of my family, of the place where I was born. I'm glad that the people who move here from other places do generally make the effort to meet me and people like me at the communication destination we have already managed to achieve. Sometimes cherishing the amount of communication we do have allows us to really see things that never quite made it into and generally shared symbol system.
Rosettastone - Brtitish Museum
  Photographer: Nina Aldin Thune
To me there seems to be something elitist in an expectation that people should learn a second language just because. Aware as I am of those of us who cling precariously to the edge of a first language. If a second language is just a generic prerequisites of acceptable status, it's a drain of time and effort that falls most heavily on those that are already most marginal. I also think taking a language course in college just to satisfy the language requirement, surrounded by other people that were also just there to satisfy a language requirement yielded a very porridge return as far as comprehension gained for time and effort expended. The circumstances almost guaranteed that most of us would focus on short term memorization to get artificial test answers rather than working on true comprehension.
           Languages ought to be special valued skills that open up opportunities. And they are best taught in conjunction with the opportunity to explore those new opportunities. A specific language is a specific skill and should have specific goals it can achieve and specific values it brings. Studying a language without being able to envision a use to put it to makes acquiring a language much less motivating. It also makes it less valuable. We ought to value the specialness of knowing two languages rather than wanting make it less meaningful in normality.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Part of why I’ve been away from blogging for awhile is that I just started a Bible study at my church using Living beyond Yourself: Exploring the fruit of the Spirit by Beth Moore. There can be as much as 8 hours of homework a week. But, not only do I enjoy fellowshipping with the other women at my church doing this study, I am also being stretched and seeing some surprising insights. A couple weeks ago we were covering love and looked at ἔρως (eros, romantic love), φίλος (philos, love in friendship) and ἀγάπη (agape, divine love.)
    In eclectic readings that included lots of authors influenced by classical ideas I’d encountered these different greek concepts of love before. Φίλος has alway been especially compelling to me. I’d read descriptions shared interests that created bonds between people. Friends that kept in touch with each other over decades, always invested in each other's challenges and concerns. Freinds that naturally maintained contact through marriages, moves and career changes.
    And these descriptions were compelling because I didn’t have that. Oh there were girls and later women whom I liked and admired who seemed friendly and welcoming towards me. We would meet through mutual involvement in various activities. I could get to hang out with them and discuss the topic that we shared. As I grew more skilled with social interaction we could have wide ranging general interest conversations and exchanges of personal hurts and triumphs. We would do favors for each others and be ready to do more. But though I would have liked a long term bond I never knew quite how to secure it. As soon as the mutual activity would end I would feel the relationship slipping away without that structure to keep us in contact. I wanted to remain friends but had a terrible time with the logistics of staying in touch. I would make intellectual models based on the relationships around me. But they felt so artificial and unnatural to me that I would end up executing them clumsily if at all.
    This has been a hurt in my heart. I could see this wonderful human experience being offered to me but I could never reach out and grab it. Αγάπη I could have as a free gift that I didn’t have to work for, that God offers to all. But my own ineptitude kept at least the highest versions of φίλος beyond my reach and that made it very desirable to me.
    In addtion to covering positive examples of φίλος “Living Beyond Yourself” used Luke 23:12 as an example of φίλος. Pilate and Herod bond over their mutual frustration and disdain for the whole Jesus situation. This, and a couple of other examples give of how φίλος can be used in a negitive light, helped me to see that I had been exalting freindship in a way that overvalued it. That I’d been idealizing it in a way that made it a rival to divine love in my mind. This bible study has made me more content with being who I am and allowed me to focus more great gifts God has given me.