I've been sick for the past few days. Ugh, it's driving me crazy - I can't go back to sleep, either. *sigh* Anyway, yesterday I went over to Oakland with my sister to see our nieces and nephew and Kaitlin. They grow up too damn fast! The twins are as adorable as ever, and it's amazing to see how very opposites they are of me and my sisters when we were kids. The twins don't fight as much as they used to, and seemed to have finally learned the concept of "taking turns", if not "sharing", and the girl twin is the bossiest boss that has ever bossed. She's even bossier than her older sister, and that is saying something. The oldest continues to be good friends with Kaitlin, with a shared love of W.I.T.C.H. and other Cartoon Network shows. I won't see Kaitlin again for another month - she's going to China on Sunday for a month-long visit.
My sister, on the way to Oakland, related this incident to me: She and a co-worker took a "walking tour" in the middle of downtown San Francisco. It's one of many different walking tours that the public library provides. This particular one was supposed to show them various roof gardens in the city. When they came to the Crocker Galleria, the guide explained that Crocker was the one "who brought Chinese labor over". All fine and good, right? Then he goes on to say that the "Chinese did the work that the Irishmen couldn't do, and they wanted to work here" and on and on with the bullshit justifications. Did I mention this is the middle of friggin downtown San Francisco and my sister was the only non-white person on the tour? What the hell? To be fair to SF's walking tours - it might have just depended on the guide, but still.
I managed to finish a few books over the past few days - the first one is Julie/Julia, by Julie Powell
. She's the one who kept a blog about doing all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and got offered a book deal. Needless to say, I'm really really jealous. The book is really easy to read, it's pleasant and humorous, and I think I took two weeks to finish it, mostly because I was reading it in little snippets.
I read Madame Curie, a biography by her younger daughter Eve Curie
, who, according to Wikipedia is still alive at 101. I didn't think this book would be absorbing, but it sucked me right in - from the first moments of Marie Curie's life in Russian-occupied Poland, to her discovery of radium and polonium and her peculiar, obsessive and driven work habits and her love of her husband, Pierre Curie, who was her intellectual equal and just as absent-minded. Sometimes a sentence would jar me, mostly because it would be considered politically incorrect today - for instance, Eve writes of her mother's teenage years - "unfortunately, it must be admitted that she was quite chubby" (or something like that). Mostly, though, the writing was good, and I'm just amazed that I knew so little about such an extraordinary woman before - she was what we would now classify as a "serious nerd" - before she got married and had kids, she would work so much in the lab that she neglected to eat, and afterwards she maintained the same grueling work and teaching and taking care of her kids and husband (what, the husband cook and clean? preposterous!). But what I loved her most for was her decision not to patent her discoveries - because "it is against the scientific spirit". (Integrity? What's that?) Years later, when she had to rely on the Americans to fundraise for her in order to obtain the necessary materials for her lab, and she reflected on whether it would have been easier for her to patent so that she would have had the money, she said:Humanity needs practical men, who get the most out of their work, and, without forgetting the general good, safeguard their own interests. But humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.
I'd definitely recommend this book if you want to read about her - it's written in a very easy style, and my own obtuseness in science was not a hindrance to understanding the science explained in this book at all. Mark originally picked this book up, but gave it to me because "you'd probably finish this first anyway."
The last book I just finished was Boy, by Roald Dahl
. It's a cute look into his life from when he was a young boy to when he went to Africa. You can see the beginnings of where he got his ideas for his later books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There's a lot in there about getting beaten with the cane at boarding schools, which no doubt influenced his revenge books for kids like Matilda and James and the Giant Peach, and a healthy disrespect and distrust of authority.