Thursday, September 2, 2021

August Favorites: Heartstoppers, Fencing, and Lots of Death

I sent this pic to Syd from the beach to show her that I was reading her book recommendations on vacation!

Sooo... August was kind of weird. It began with the best day of my life, immediately followed by my second real vacation since COVID, immediately followed by transferring Syd out of public school and back into homeschooling. 

Since then, the kids and I have been getting used to being a homeschool team again, rearranging our daily and weekly schedules, figuring out a course of studies for Syd's high school years, finding resources to support the most visual learner who ever learned visually, and remembering (and hopefully reminding one exceedingly burned-out teenager, in particular) how pleasant it is to study what you like, the way that you like, productively and efficiently. 

In between all that, and the Girl Scout meeting planning, freelance writing, college and scholarship research, and fulfilling Pumpkin+Bear orders that fills my days, I got a lot of good reading done!

This book was a holdover from Will's AP Human Geography study--we didn't get a chance to read and discuss it before her exam, but I was still curious about it, so I kept it on our to-read list.

And it has been transformative! First, I started telling everyone that we're all made of mostly corn, and looking at the ingredients for every food we own and naming everything that's actually corn. Then, every time we drove anywhere I began pointing out the fields of No. 2 Field Corn and announcing that it's basically not even food. That would inevitably lead into an explanation of how it's what cows are fed for most of their lives these days, but their stomachs aren't designed for it and so it hurts them, and that's one of the reasons why they also get so many antibiotics.

It's transformed what I eat on a Me-level, if not quite a Family-level yet--transforming what we eat on a family level requires not just an impassioned discussion with Matt of animal welfare and our tattered environment but also The Family Budget, alas, so that's still a work in progress. 

This book wasn't exactly transformative, since I already have strong feelings about captive cetaceans--

--but it did change my mind about that story I followed so avidly when I was younger, the disastrous and failed attempt to reintroduce Keiko to the wild. I had remembered this story mostly as a rehabilitation attempt that didn't work, and the kind of thing that perhaps couldn't work. In Death at SeaWorld, however, the author alleges that some of Keiko's training team was associated with SeaWorld, and that they sabotaged his training goals, keeping him more dependent on humans and hindering his progress such that when he did finally head off on his own, he didn't have all the skills he could have. 

What, then, could a training team with a united goal and no interference accomplish? Perhaps orcas can successfully be reintegrated into the wild? 

The sections of the book that discuss the behind-the-scenes realities at these entertainment parks are just as disturbing as you'd imagine, but more so as they're placed in conversation with whole chapters devoted to what orcas are like in the wild. Orcas are sophisticated and intelligent, with intricate familial ties and brains that are very aware. They spend their entire lives in an extended family group. Sons never leave their mothers, and daughters eventually become the heads of their own matrilinear family groups. And here these parks come and tear infants away from their pods, either isolating them in bare concrete tanks or placing them with two or three total strangers. Mothers who manage to give birth in captivity also lose their babies after just a couple of years, and those babies are, as well, shipped across the world to different tanks to be contained in isolation or with strangers. 

On a more positive note, here are the graphic novels that Syd recommended to me for beach reading!

Apparently, Heartstopper is a webcomic that Syd has already been reading for ages, and now that I've read these three, I'm catching up on all the comics that have come after this last volume. 

I've also told the children that they must inform me right now of every single good webcomic that they've been keeping from me, because Will had read the entire run of Check, Please! before I'd discovered the graphic novels, too!

And that's how I'm currently reading Widdershins.

Here's a graphic novels series that I found on my own!

Let me just manifest this real quick: I need there to be more hockey and fencing books for girls, please!

Here's a book about another one of my obessions:

It's not the most well-written non-fiction book that I've ever read, but I love how deeply it delves into the backstory of this hiker who went missing along the Appalachian Trail and whose body was found years later. She only did a couple of things wrong, but compounded it with doing the right things in the wrong order. She apparently got disoriented after leaving the trail to use the bathroom (Dauphinee makes the very interesting point that in many deeply wooded parts of the Appalachian Trail, this one included, walking away from the trail for the required distance to do your toileting is in practice very dangerous), and instead of staying put at once she wandered for over a day first, then stayed put in an overgrown area with poor visibility to searchers. She also went up to the top of a ridge to set up her camp, apparently hoping to get cell service but in practicality making her even more difficult to see or access. 

Whenever I tell my Girl Scouts these types of stories (and I tell them a lot!), I also tell them that the best way to honor the memories of these lost hikers is to use their stories to keep ourselves safe. We honor Gerry's memory by remembering that if we need to leave sight of the trail, we do whatever we need to do to not lose track of it. If we do become disoriented, we stop moving. If we're not found in three days, we walk to water and follow it downstream. 

And one day, we hike the Appalachian Trail!

Here's the fiction that I read in August:

Nothing super wowed me--in fact, when I saw Two Old Men and a Baby written in my reading log I was irritated at myself for recording a book I hadn't even read! I knew we hadn't returned it to the library, though--because, of course, I hadn't read it yet!--so I went to get it to figure out why I'd already written down. I started flipping through it, and then was all, "Oh, right! I DID read this!" And then the entire plot (such as it was) came back to me.

Let's hope that September offers peaceful homeschooling, plenty of Pumpkin+Bear orders, Crafting a Green World tutorials that practically write themselves, and a bounty of wonderful fiction that practically falls into my lap!

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