Monday, June 30, 2008
I just finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. When I was 15 I read Tess of the d'Urbervilles which I just thought was spectacular (I actually remember telling Camille's mom all about this book). I mean, Tess is wronged, sexually, by a noble and it costs her her reputation and later, her husband. In the end of the book, she stabs the guy to death. STABS HIM TO DEATH!!!! Then she flees to Stonehenge, where she dies. How is that not a great book for a 15 year old girl? After reading that, I bought every Hardy book I came across. However, I never read any of them. Yes, a little strange, but then I went to college for 12 years (and three degrees).
Anyway, back to The Mayor. Other than the older English and the English dialogue, this is another great book. Michael Henchard gets drunk one night and sells his wife and young daughter. Fast forward 19 years, when his wife, after realizing the sale wasn't legally binding (and finding out that her "new" husband has died) returns to find Michael. Michael, disgusted with himself for what he had done, swore off alcohol, and turned his life around. His wife finds him to be one of the richest men in town and he has become mayor. Yet, alas, this is but the beginning of the story.
Although Michael has sworn off drinking, his personality and temper have not changed, and the rest of the book tells of his downfall due to both. This downfall involves a Scotsman, who he convinces to stay in town and work with him, an old lover, and his daughter, who turns out not to be his, but husband number 2's. Every action of Michael's becomes painful, as the reader realizes the dire consequences for his behavior. Like a horror film when you wonder, Why are you going into that room! In the end, he is able to do what is right, but it takes every last bit of energy and life he has.
The Mayor doesn't have the feminist appeal of Tess but Hardy's understanding of human character is amazing. He is a great writer and his characters are consistent. While I'm going to read a book by someone else now, I will return to the stack of Hardy books that I own.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
IQ became pregnant because she couldn't remember to take her pills and the shot hurt too much. She claims her husband knew she wasn't on birth control, but I have to wonder. Anyway, she has decided to go with an IUD. I personally think this is an excellent choice. Right now, they're just waiting for the ok to put the thing in (I'll spare the details). IQ had a doctor's appointment and I guess she had one last question for the doctor.
IQ to the doctor: Is it ok for me to have sex with the IUD in?
I'm hoping they accidentally tie her tubes while they're putting the IUD in. However, my mom did point out that at least this gives the doctor a heads up as to her mental ability and then there's one more person on the look-out to make sure she doesn't forgot about her baby and accidentally kill him.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Since I'm half way there, I thought I should probably go register. I went to target and had a lot of fun. We're going with frogs. Lots and lots of cute frogs. My neighbor told me she has a crib, pack n' play and various other items she will give me. I love her! My parents are going to buy me that superwhamedime (as my husband would say) travel system. Then I went and looked at the baby's future room and my head exploded (it's been doing that a lot lately).
My garage is much more organized now, but it still has a ton of stuff in it. I'm going to have another garage sale, probably in Sep. So for now, I'm just packing up the future baby's room. And then I realized I have a ton of books in there I've never read, and my head exploded again. Now, I'm going to spend as much time as possible reading as many books as possible before the baby's born, because I hate packing away books I haven't read. At least there's plenty of my husband's junk in there too. He has waaaaaay more crap in that room than I do. I'll just pack up all his stuff, while I'm reading and leave my stuff for the last possible moment. Since he doesn't get back until Oct. anyway, I should be able to get through quite a few books. Especially if I always having someone keeping me awake at night!
Monday, June 23, 2008
Due to the totalitarianism of the Party of the Soviet Union (most people didn't realize that the Party ran everything, the government just fulfilled the Party's wishes), most people assumed that the State was the most important entity in the Soviet Union. However, this is totally against Party ideology. Society, the collective, the group, was the most important and it was the job if the Party to protect society, the collective, the group from bad stuff, most notably, the individualistic desires of the capitalistic bourgeoisie. Unfortunately, this "job" became institutionalized and bureaucratized to the point of detriment. This is the topic of Not by Bread Alone.
The main character, Lopatkin, starts as a school teacher, but he soon realizes that the local pipe factory is using a wasteful method of casting pipes. Yet, it is this same method that all pipe casting machines are using throughout the USSR. He quickly comes up with a better method, however, the local factory cannot attempt it without the approval of the Moscow Ministry of whoever casts pipes. However, this ministry is dominated by an older inventor, who is also looking for a better way, and thus, Lopatkin is silenced. He refuses to give up though, and over the next 8 years he continues improving his machine and continues writing letters and meets people and moves to Moscow. He also "steals" the wife of his chief bureaucrat who is holding him up, because this person too is working with a group making pipes from a similar design as Lopatkin. Actually, they stole it from him.
Why don't they want Lopatkin's pipe casting machine if it will save time and money? Quite simply, he is an individual who worked on his machine with maybe one or two people, while they are an organization, who had tens, if not hundreds, of people working on their machine (which still failed). In the end, Lopatkin succeeds and everyone else fails. Why? Because Lopatkin, although an individual, is working for the greater good of society, while all the bureaucrats are only working for the greater good of themselves and their retirement checks. So although he is not a collective, because he is the only one truly working for the collective, he wins.
I understand why this would have rocked the USSR. Here is a writer pointing out how the ideology had been turned on its head, how the Party had become the individual and how a non-party individual had wanted something for the collective. However, a wonderfully written novel for all times, it is not. It's too technical. Pages and pages of notes about pipe casting and iron quality and where to put valves and equations. Pages and pages of letter writing and complaining and inventing. And the Soviet Union has collapsed now. Why? Because we know that the Party did win, not the individual, and finally society realized the Party didn't have their best interest in mind, and got rid of it. Do I think this book should be disposed of as well? HELL NO!!!!
This book would make a great read in a graduate level course, perhaps as a companion piece to The Ghost of the Executed Engineer by Loren R. Graham. Graham's work is very short and a pretty easy read. The book discusses the fate of technology in the Soviet Union, starting with the Bolshevik Revolution and the difficulty of creating a new, industrially advanced society using engineers trained in a capitalistic society. Graham shows how the decisions of the first decade really affected the technology of the entire Soviet Union. I think these two books would work really well together and together give students a feel for the state of technology in the Soviet Union.
While I don't think Not by Bread Alone is a spectacular novel, written for any audience, I do think it is an amazing book. I applaud Vladimir Dudintsev's courage for writing such a book (it would have been published during the thaw, but even in the USSR, these things were short and one never knew when the current would turn). The book helped me more fully understand the process of bureaucratization in the Soviet Union and the struggles of those individuals who wanted what was best for society.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Then we got on to the good stuff. He is very excited about having a little girl. And he wasn't that surprised. He said that he's been working around nukes so much, he doesn't know if he has any little guy swimmers left (for those of you who don't know, most of the navy is powered by nukes). But now we have to figure out a name. Unfortunately, my husband has dated a lot of women. So I tried going a more international route, which also backfired. My husband was stationed in Italy and Spain and has spent time in Germany so, there again, the good names are all gone. But I love Russia! Apparently, all Russian girl names are associated with whores (thanks James Bond!). But there are a few names we agree on, so I'll just keep working on him until he gets back, and if all else fails, I'll just fill out the birth certificate when he's not in the room.
Well, I'm off to the navy's budgeting for baby class. I can't wait to find out how much this is going to cost us (not the class, that's free, the baby). Good thing everyone I know plans on buying cute little girl clothes, otherwise this child might just go naked!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This past week, two things happened that have really made me think about being a parent. One, I found myself standing in a completely empty room, three days in a row, with my hand over my heart, pledging allegiance to the American flag, outloud. This had always bothered me, the what to do when it's time for the pledge, but you're completely alone. I feel silly doing it, but I feel bad not doing it. But I realized that soon, I will not be alone and someone else will be watching my every action. I would rather feel silly, but display integrity, than brush it off and teach my kid disrespect.
Two, I had a friend stay with me a couple of days who has two kids of her own. Her kids are not bad, but the oldest is 3 1/2 years old, and my friend sees no point in disciplining her because she's just 3 1/2 years old. Um, because soon she's going to be 4 and then 5 and someday 10, 11 then the teenage years. She will tell her daughter to do/not do something, but not back it up. By doing that, she's teaching her daughter that she doesn't have to obey her. Which got me thinking about discipline. At one point, I even told my friend that I would have given her daughter a little (not painful, just shocking) smack on the leg. She then turned to her daughter and said, "See, you're lucky I'm your mommy because Stacia is mean." Ok then. Maybe I just want children that obey. And maybe I want to have friends who invite me to their houses because they know my children are well behaved and won't leave a disaster zone behind them (they won't). Maybe I just want children who respect me, others and themselves. Maybe I just want good kids.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Let's talk about IQ! I saw her this week. I took her to church with me on Sunday. Now, IQ grew up Jewish but her husband is Christian, so she converted. I don't think it matters one way or another, as this story will demonstrate. Awhile back, I was talking to some other friends (not at church) who are Jewish and we were talking about Passover. I asked which type of synagogue they went to (reform, conservative, orthodox) and IQ chimed in that she was Jewish but had converted so now she was a reform Jew! Anyway, IQ likes our church, which is fine, but she's only been a few times and she wanted to become a member without her husband ever having visited. Um, that's really a family decision. Anyway, after church we went out to lunch and I found out some things, things that continue to disturb me. First, she's been drinking wine and then feeding the baby, and by feeding the baby, I mean breastfeeding. She didn't know that the alcohol could get into her milk. So I told her she could drink, but she needed to pump afterwards and then throw away the milk. Second, she dropped the baby, which actually, doesn't upset me. I mean, what new mother hasn't dropped the baby, bonked its head while putting it in the car, let it accidentally roll off the couch (I mean, one of these things, not all of them). Anyway, what disturbed me was the fact that she thought the baby had been hurt because she discovered this "soft spot" on the top of its head after she had dropped him. You mean, THE soft spot. How does someone not know about the soft spot? That's almost worst than the circumcision thing. Almost. But her husband gets back this week, so yay!!!
Now, I'm just cleaning, cleaning and sleeping. I found that if I get up, eat and then go back to bed for and hour or so, and don't take an afternoon nap, I sleep much better at night. But I am ready for school to be out (which is weird, because it's not like I work that much) so I can get into a routine. I like routine. I should enjoy one now, while I can!