Book Reviews: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Around the World for a Good Book selection for: Chile

Author: Isabel Allende
Title: The House of the Spirits
Publication Info: Bantam (1986)
ISBN: 0553273914


This is an epic tale following several generations of one dysfunctional family: the wealthy Trueba family of Chile.  There story is set against the trials and tribulations of 20th-century Chile leading up to the Pinochet dictatorship (although Pinochet and other real-life characters are never mentioned by name) creating a historical novel with a touch of magical realism.  Esteban Trueba is the patriarch of the family, a hot-headed character who rapes and abuses the tenants of his estate and when he’s unable to control his family, channels his angry energy into right-wing politics.  His wife Clara is a clairvoyant and more-focused on spiritualism and the afterlife than the world around her, yet holds her family together all the same.  Their daughter Blanca causes scandal by her affair with the son of her father’s foreman Pedro Tercero García.  Their daughter is Alba who will go on to get involved with the socialist revolutionaries.

The book’s strength is its characters and Allende manages to make each of them sympathetic, even the loathsome Esteban Trueba.  It’s also subtle in how it builds up to the revolutions of the 1970s.  For much of the book, the characters seem aloof from the political nature of Chile so it’s quite shocking how they are thrust into major roles in the later chapters.

This is an excellent book, a deserved classic, and definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

Author: James Fenimore Cooper
Title: The Deerslayer
Publication Info: [Ashland] : Blackstone Audiobooks, [2004]
ISBN: 0786132353


This is the first chronological story of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales although the last of the five books published by Cooper.  I’ve long intended to read this book and I was somewhat disappointed.  It was hard to get past the racism, sexism, and ableism (the inordinate references to Hetty as “feeble-minded”)  even while making allowances for these attitudes being accepted at the time the story is set as well as when Cooper was writing.  The excessive piety and preachiness of Deerslayer and Hetty get obnoxious as well.

That being said, I did enjoy the setting of the book in a New York when it was still a wilderness with warring parties of English & French, Huron, Iroquois & Delaware fighting for its control.   And for all the stereotypes, Cooper wryly shows how the native Indians and the simple woodsman Deerslayer can be more civilized than Europeans like Floating Tom and Hurry Harry.

Despite my disappointment, I would still like to give the next book (chronologically) in the series a chance — The Last of the Mohicans — as it has a good reputation.

Rating: **

Soccer Update

I’ve been too busy to watch much soccer lately with Halloween & my son’s birthday one weekend and an out-of-state conference the next.  I’m not complaining.  There are  more important things in life than spectator sports.  With that being said I’m going to use this post to catch up on the teams and competitions I purportedly am following with scores on the matches played since I last wrote as well as their current place in the standings.  The games I actually watched are bolded with links to the match report.

In related news I will be participating in the 30 Day Football Challenge on my Tumblog.

English Premier League (after 11 matches)

Everton (Position-11, Points – 14)

  • 30 Oct: Everton 1 – 0 Stoke City
  • 6 Nov: Blackpool 2 – 2 Everton

Everton continue to hang in there in the EPL with a 6 game undefeated streak.  They do need to get more wins than draws though as they always seem within striking distance of making an impressive move up the EPL table but never get there.  Even Liverpool is ahead of them now.

Fulham (Position-13, Points – 13)

  • 30 Oct: Fulham 2 – 0 Wigan Athletic
  • 6 Nov: Fulham 1 – 1 Aston Villa

Fulham is also hanging in there with USMNT star Clint Dempsey providing both goals versus Wigan, and a last-minute goal by Brede Hangeland to earn a draw versus Villa.  A friend on Facebook told me that the goal was totally undeserved but he’s a Villa supporter.  Next up, Fulham faces Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (yikes!).

Eredivisie (after 13 matches)

AFC Ajax (Position – 3, Points – 27)

Ajax did not look at all in top form in their loss to ADO for their second loss on the season in the Eredivisie.  I missed a much better win a week earlier, but apparently their mid-week Champions League match threw the club into a funk.

La Liga (after 10 matches)

FC Barcelona (Position – 2, Points – 25)

The one team I follow that I don’t really have to worry about is Barça who cruised to four straight victories in the Spanish Primera División.  I watched the match on Sunday and while the hot pink uniforms were ugly the play was beautiful.  My son enjoyed saying “Goaaaaaaaalllll!!!” along with the announcer.

UEFA Champions League (after 4 matches)

FC Barcelona (Group D, Position – 1, Points – 8)

Barcelona did face a challenge in their rematch at Copenhagen with each side scoring their goal within a minute of the other in the first half, and that score held.  Barça had lots of chances that bounced off the crossbar.  Needless to say, Copenhagen are the biggest challengers in this group and Barça should inevitably advance to the next round.

AFC Ajax (Group G, Position – 3, Points – 4)

A very unfortunate loss for Ajax to the French club who up to this point had no points in the Champions League.  Now Ajax has to hope to get some points from much tougher opponents in Milan and Madrid.  This game was weird to listen to as the Auxerre supporters had a constant, creepy chant that was so loud it sounded like they were using bullhorns.

CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying

US Women’s National Team

Had I written last week I would have commented on how easy everything is for the United States and that there’s just not very much competition in women’s football, especially in CONCACAF.  This was especially true in the 9-0 drubbing of Guatemala in group play that I watched (the US outscoring opponents 18-0 in three group matches).

Then came Mexico’s defeat of the US in the semifinals in the greatest upset in team history.  I’m not surprised that the US won the third club match tonight and expect they’ll win the two-leg playoff against Italy to gain entrance into the 2011 Women’s World Cup.  In a way this is a good thing.  The US gets a wake-up call that will help them hone their competitive edge.  The women’s soccer world gets to see Mexico and Canada participate in a growing world competition.

Other teams I am theoretically following and supporting:

  • Kaiserlautern – 11 games, 12 points, 15th place
  • Kyoto Sanga F.C. – 29 games, 16 points, 17th place (out of 18) and in the relegation zone.
  • Melbourne Heart – 13 matches, 17 points, 6th place.
  • Maccabi Haifa F.C. –  8 matches, 18 points, 3rd place.

Related posts:

Getafe 1 – 3 Barcelona

New England Archivists Fall 2010 Meeting

Yesterday, I attended the New England Archivists (NEA) Fall 2010 Meeting at Keene State College in Keene, NH.  This was the second meeting I attended having previously attended the Spring 2010 Meeting at U-Mass Amherst.

Some general notes to begin with:

  • I enjoyed driving through rural parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire I’ve never seen as well as the charming town of Keene and the Keene State College.  On a crisp autumn day it felt nice to be surrounded by mountains and colorful foliage.
  • On the down side, I wasn’t feeling my best – tired, a bit feverish and a rattling cough in my chest.  Instead of networking I kept a respectful distance from my fellow conferees.
  • For the first time I tried live-tweeting at a conference.  I found it difficult to pay attention to the presenters, balance my laptop & compose an intelligent tweet at the same time so I didn’t contribute much.  On the plus side, there are many tweets from others that highlighted the very things I found important at the meeting.  You the hash tag for the meeting was #NEAFall2010 and I have a saved search that you may or may not be able to read.  I’m drawing heavily on other people’s’ tweets for my notes below for which I am greatly appreciative..

Keynote Address:

Richard Sweeney, University Librarian, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ

Sweeney spoke about “Digital Natives in the Archives” on how archives can engage the Millennial Generation. He started by discussing the Long Now Foundation and the 10,000-year library and how each generation will need to take part in preserving the past for future research.  Much of the address was true and false questions about demographics regarding the Millennials.  While interesting I always find such generalizations to be more settling then useful (after all my generation is nothing but mistrustful, ironically detached slackers). I actually found much of the descriptions of Millennials to be true about myself at least until he got to mobile devices and text messaging (maybe I’m a premillennial?).  For a conclusion, Sweeney showed one possible way to engage Millennials in the archives by making photos, yearbooks, etc available on the web for tagging and for additional contributions and information to be added.  It was especially interesting when a Microsoft Surface was involved although that is something I expect that most archives will not have in the budget for some time.  Sweeney’s slide show is available on his website

Morning Concurrent Session – Email Archiving:

  • William Dow, CRM, Deputy City Clerk of Keene, Keene, NH
  • Virginia Hunt, Associate University Archivist for Collection Development, Harvard University Archives
  • Wendy Marcus Gogel, Manager of Digital Content and Projects in the Harvard University Library Office for Information Systems
  • Tamar Granovsky, Head Archivist, Lincoln Laboratory, M.I.T., Lexington, MA

Every archivist knows that preserving email records is important, but a clear method of doing so has yet to be determined.  Three methods serving the interests of the institutions represented were presented here.  Bill Dow talked about how our host city of Keene archives email in the cloud using Google Postini.  Tamar Granovksy and M.I.T. are exploring using Symantec Enterprise Vault.  Ginny Hunt & Wendy Gogel spoke about the Electronic Archiving Service pilot program now underway at Harvard.  A good point was made about how digital media has existed side-by-side with print since 1957 and it isn’t a choice of preserving digital or print, it’s a hybrid world.  There was also a good question about original order in e-mail with file paths being the possible solution.

Afternoon Concurrent Session I – Collections & Managements Systems:

  • Kat Stefko, Director of Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, Lewiston, ME
  • Kate Bowers, Collection Services Archivist, Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, MA
  • Marge Smith, Executive Director, Kent Historical Society, Kent, CT
  • Linda Hocking, Curator of Library and Archives, Litchfield Historical Society, Litchfield, CT

Three collection management systems were discussed all of which have benefits to institutions of different sizes and purposes: Archivists’ Toolkit, Past Perfect, and Archon.  Kate Bowers spoke eloquently on how AT is used at Harvard and even included some statistics of how it’s been used at Harvard Business School.  It felt nice to have my work in AT represented before the meeting however so anonymously.   Bowers mentioned a CLIR Report on Archival Management Software as a resource.  It was interesting to hear Marge Smith’s experience with Past Perfect and see it demonstrated although it appears to more of a curatorial tool for museums and historical societies rather than for purely archival material.  Finally, Linda Hocking spoke about her experience with Archon. Here’s a good example of the public interface for Archon, something that AT lacks (although the Rockefeller Archive Center is developing a reference module add-0n) .  It’s interesting to note that the pros and cons of AT and Archon appear to dovetail and that the impending merger of the two products as ArchiveSpace may be mutually beneficial to all users.  Something to look forward to!

Afternoon Concurrent Session II – Born Digital:

  • Ed Desrochers, Interim Academy Librarian and Academy Archivist at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
  • Veronica Martzahl, Records Archivist in the Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University, Medford, MA
  • Jennifer Phillips, Digital Collections Archivist in the Digital Collections and Archives at Tufts University, Medford, MA

The final session was a team presentation by two members of the Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives.  As always the Tufts DCA appear to be light years ahead in archives & records management in the digital age so it is appropriate that they spoke of born digital records.  It was a nice reminder to be told that as archivists/records managers “you already know a lot” about what should be done with records so we should not be intimidated by the digital format.  Other advice included:

  • a four-step program: survey your holdings, document & store, metadata, & workflows.
  • referring to the Library of Congress reference for digital formats website at
  • just because they are digital does not mean that item-level description is necessary
  • there is nothing to be gained from converting PDF to PDF-A so don’t waste your time (Veronica Martzahl was emphatic about the unnecessary nature of this step as what’s lost is lost)
  • don’t go to the effort of conserving a floppy disk if you have already copied and preserved the files, just toss it like an old folder.

Overall it was a good day.  I felt that it was not as well-attended as the spring meeting nor did I feel like I had any real “wow moments” where I heard something I’d never heard before or presented in a new way.  Still, it was all good, thoughtful information that should help inform my work in the near future.  It was great to be there and interact both virtually and physically with the other conferees.

Beer Review: Brooklyn Oktoberfest

Beer: Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery
12 oz. bottle
***(7.9 of 10)

Comments: Another beer for the season, this is Brooklyn’s take on the traditional German Märzen style of beer.  It’s a deep amber beer with a nice sweet toasty aroma.  The taste is a pleasant malty caramel with a bitter finish.  A nice beer for an autumn night.

Related  beers: