Monday, October 29, 2007

Our Battle

Bill's former boss will die in the next few hours/days. She's battled a really deadly form of cancer for one year and four months. This lady is a proud woman who gave-up the whole idea of a family years ago. She didn't think there was a path for husband, children, and expert engineer.

The priest came a week ago Friday. According to her own DNR she is not receiving nutrition or hydration while in a semi-coma. This nightmare isn't new to us. We've lost a mother, a neice, a grandfather, two uncles and many cousins to cancer. What can we say now? F--k cancer. I hate it. I hate everything having to do with cancer. I think every man, woman and child in the world should be pissed off every time a human person dies from this sh*t.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Booking Through Thursdays -- The Rejections

It's Thursday and here's our question:

I would enjoy reading a meme about people’s abandoned books. The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?

I routinely stop reading books that I don't enjoy. There are too many good ones to waste my time. But this question reminded me of a few notable rejections. Was there a pattern or consistent rationale? One trend is definitely my dislike of certain writing styles. I am annoyed by paragraph long sentences, lengthy descriptive passages which fail to move the narrative forward, and those books in which everyone is completely, hopelessly miserable throughout the entire work. Here are a few examples.

Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities
Faulkner: As I Lay Dying
James: The Golden Bowl
Larsen: The Devil in the White City
Joyce: Ulysses (This particular book was completely unintelligible for me.)

In an entirely different category are those few works that offend me in some way. I've had a few that surpassed my gross-out level, some that I've found morally or spiritually offensive, and a few more that were rejected for ethical reasons. I particularly hate being lied to and find myself easily irked by materials of a political nature or ill disguised propaganda tarted up to look like history, science, biography, etc. I read few autobiographical works by polititions. Books written by members of the press are often rejected as well. We've lived with our work prominently in the news long enough to know that much of what is reported is simply untrue.

On the basis of moral and/or spiritual rejections I can think of only one book, Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil. I'm a huge fan of the Vampire Chronicles and have read all the other novels to the end. I'm not afraid of printed words and have a very open mind in terms of subject content for both fiction and non-fiction. For some reason this book just seemed wrong for me, and I decided to stop reading it about a third of the way through. I did cheat though and skipped to the end making sure Lestat survived. While my religious sensibilities were a bit shaken by the novel, my loyalty to the evil undead of Rice's universe remains. (I wasn't the only one to dislike the book and it is commonly called Memnoch the Doorstop among her fans.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Temperature Drop Today Bring Winter to Houston

The above is today's headline in the local paper. The report goes on to say:

A cold front began sweeping into northern Harris County this morning and thunderstorms began popping up as cold air headed for Houston. The front is expected to pass over Houston's Bush airport after 9 a.m. and drop temperatures in the area into the 60s by the lunch hour. Overnight lows into the lower 50s could persist through most of the week. The front brings not only thunderstorms but gusty northwest winds that could make the chill seem even worse . "The front will produce what would pass as a winter day in Houston," said Wong, a Bayou City native. Clouds that come in with the front are expected to persist into Tuesday and the high temperature tomorrow should remain in the 60s. Overnight low temperatures are pegged in the low 50s tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday night, according to the official National Weather Service forecast.

Yes, we are preparing for winter right now at my house. So far we have:

  • Turned off the air conditioner and ceiling fans
  • Put on pants instead of shorts
  • Put on socks
  • Turned on every light in the house because we're afraid of it being dark outside during the hours the sun should be shinning. I have a special light that will supply the needed components of natural sunlight and it's up and running.
  • Tried to find a sweater in case we have to go outside.... So far, we've only been able to find one ....

We'll be keeping our eye on the weather reports for the rest of the day just in case more drastic measures, such as putting on long sleeve shirts, are required. Otherwise, we're just trying to stay calm while facing the possibility of being slightly cold.

It is good to be home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Live and In Person

This week's Booking Through Thursday is:
  • Have you ever met one of your favorite authors? Gotten their autograph?
  • How about an author you felt only so-so about, but got their autograph anyway? Like, say, at a book-signing a friend dragged you to?
  • How about stumbling across a book signing or reading and being so captivated, you bought the book?

I've been really lucky in meeting some wonderful authors. Library conferences are great because we always have guest authors. Arnold Lobel once spoke at a children's lit. round table. He had recently written his book of fables and spoke at length about the origins of fables, folktales, and nursery rhymes. He was kind enough to sign my copy of Frog and Toad Are Friends and included a lovely little frog illustration. On another occasion I was fortunate enough to meet Tomie dePaola. He as hilarious. He signed my copy of The Legend of the Bluebonnet. And on the Texas theme, I once attended a seminar with Robert Caro, the preeminent biographer of Lyndon Johnson. He spent more than ten years researching the first book, The Path to Power. We had the opportunity to discuss the rural electrification program Johnson put in place which began a boom in agriculture for impoverished west Texas.

A number of the good folks from JSC have written books. Michael Collins, Gene Kranz, and others. There are always heavily attended book sighnings for these things, and we try to make as many as we can. A few years ago Neil Armstrong was at JSC for some celebration. I wasn't invited, but a good friend was. When she met the great man himself, she was so overwhelmed that all she managed to say was, "Oh, my God, you're Neil Armstrong!"

Thanks for another great question!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fan Girls Again

I'm blaming a two e-friends for my ridiculous and besotted plan. They posted a few weeks ago that they were going to a Philli concert in the fall. I like these girls and am happy for them. OTOH I also had the dreaded SSE ... Serious Sting Envy... Then, Morgan tells me a San Antonio performance is on the tour now Crap, crap, crap. I wanted to go so bad. Morgan tempted me at every turn. Texas was the last performance on the North American tour. I went a whole month without buying the tickets.
Morgan gave me the two Fiction Plane albums, Everything Will Never Be OK and Two Sisters. We liked them both and were pleased to see the band's rapid progress. I found their blog to a link for a complete headline concert, here. I sent the link and Morgan replied with the Ticket Master link showing tickets were available. (VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Fiction Plane and its lead singer have a potty mouth. Don't watch the video if that sort of thing is hard on you.)

Bill and the boy declined to come with us to San Antonio. I could hardly blame them. I called my BFF to find out useful San Antonio info. She always knows this stuff. --------------------------------------------------------------

BFF: Yes, there are couple of great new places on the River Walk. When are you going?
Me: Two days before Thanksgiving.....
BFF: Without Bill and Billy?
Me: Uhhhhh, yes....
BFF: And why the hell are you doing this?
Me: Morgan and I are attending a concert. Bill and Billy aren't interested.
BFF: And you're telling me that the two of them don't even want to take a drive over there with you???????
(Note: She knows me too well. She knows I can't drive in the dark. She knows I don't like to drive on the freeway.)

Me: Bill's kind of fed-up with me right now and doesn't appreciate my,uh.. musical interests very much.
BFF: My God you're going to see Sting AGAIN aren't you. I thought that man went home.
Me: Yes, he went home, but he's coming back.
(Note: At this point my BFF starts to laugh so hard that she has to get a drink of water to keep from choking.)

BFF: Bill's jealous. You do know there was this whole thing about Sting in a whorehouse?
Me: Yes, Bill made sure I heard about it.
BFF: Because he knows you so want Sting, and you always have even though you try to act all intellectual and musician-like about it. You've taught Morgan to be just like you....(more laughing...)
Me: Hey, Morgan doesn't want Sting. He's way too old. I think she might like Joe a bit though. OTOH, she was way more interested in a couple of the librarians sitting behind us at the Dallas concert than any of the hot and/or old guys on stage.
BFF: Well, Morgan is unique and I would expect her to go her own way. I know you do too. Now, who's Joe, not one of the other two old guys? ick.
Me: No, he's the lead singer for Fiction Plane.
BFF: I don't know what your talking about, Donna. What's this got to do with your Sting crush?
Me: Joe's in the opening band for the concert.
BFF: You don't have a crush on him too, do you?
(Note: My daughter is watching me squirm. She's figured out what Suzanne is asking.)

Morgan: ...Shouting from across the room.... He's Sting's son, Suzanne!
BFF: Laughing, laughing, still laughing, even more laughing.
Me: OK, yes now we like Sting's son too. The band is really quite good ....
BFF: Stop, stop. I know why you're going. You don't have to tell me anymore. It's very good of you to take an interest in the man's children. Do you keep up with all of them, or only the singing ones? Just like the Von Trapp's.....
(Note: My BFF is sometimes a smart ass. She's the only person in the world who talks to me like that. It's part of her charm, most of the time....)

Me: Ha, ha. But, Bill's not happy with me.
BFF: Well he's wrong. I just read something about this in a magazine. We can all have one freebie.
Me: What, huh?
BFF: OK, you have a long standing Sting crush. Only it's never going anywhere. I love you sweetie, but we both know Sting's not going after you anytime soon. Also your love/lust/whatever isn't usually quite this much of a nuisance. I read in a magazine at my hair place that we should all be allowed a freebie. So there. You can be in love with Sting. He's your freebie.
Me: See, this is why I love you so much BFF.
BFF: We're soul mates Donna, you know
Me: Yes, yes we are and you are so perfect for me in every way. Now, I do have one question for you.
BFF: Johnny Depp and young Sean Connery. Good grief Donna, I can't believe you had to ask!
(Note: She's been a Johnny Depp girl since 21 Jump Street. The Connery thing is hard to argue with too.)

Me: No, Miss Smartypants that is not my question. What I want to know is exactly who's Henri's freebie??????????
BFF: Oh, no! No way! That is so not going to happen! He better not! You know good and well I meant it was a girl thing......
(Note: Henri is Suzanne's husband , and I laughed so hard I have to go get a drink of water too.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Booking Through Thursday -- Decorum

Here's our weekly question from BTT: Do you have “issues” with too much profanity or overly explicit (ahem) “romantic” scenes in books? Or do you take them in stride? Have issues like these ever caused you to close a book? Or do you go looking for more exactly like them? (grin)

Oh, I can't help but smile as I write. What a fun question and so perfect for Banned Book Week. I absolutely read all kinds of literature including some very naughty things. The discussion reminded me of the chief librarian at the local public library of my girlhood. She rescued me from all the "nice" books for good little girls. You know the ones
.... Black Beauty, Little Women, The Wizard of Oz, Nancy Drew. I did enjoy most of these works, but either ran out of things to read or outgrew them. Most of the older members of my family read two things on a regular basis, the Bible and the Dallas Morning News. Of course novel reading had always been held in suspicion by my good puritan ancestors.

The movie, Love Story, was tremendously popular sometime in my teen years. (I know yuck, but the overblown angst was powerful stuff back then.) I bought the Erich Segal
novel upon which the movie was based, only to have my mother immediately confiscate it. She thought there might be sexual content. The incident was huge with anger and frustration in my head. This was a devaluation of my own choices for my own thoughts and mind. I was then and remain certain that no other person should ever control my reading.

At the first opportunity, I went to the public library and read the damn book. This particular library has a few secluded window seats in quite places. My favorite was at the far end of a long row of stacks in non-fiction. Sandy, my librarian friend, stopped by to say hello that day, and I poured out all the frustration, determination, and furry. I told someone what I knew it meant to be me. My good librarian was calm and reassuring. After all, wasn't I making my own choice now? Wasn't this the very reason for having libraries and librarians? She assured me that my thoughts were mine and mine alone. The noble and honorable institutions which kept and organized our thoughts and ideas and the professionals who stood guard were there for me now and always. I could aspire someday, if I wished, to join Sandy and others in protecting these important rights myself.

Sandy casually mentioned having some other, rather fine literary works that might interest me. Specifically, Mr. Lawrence had written a novel which was both a great work of literature and thoroughly scandalous. The earlier, rebellious and angry me still wasted an hour or two on the unimpressive "love means never having to say you're sorry" drivel. Then, thanks to Sandy, I took home the lovely Lady Chatterley. My mother had no questions about books from the library, and I was free to openly read a book famous for its most definite sexual content.

Even without the naughty bits, this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of book for me. I began to understand something about the real misery of the class system in England. I suppose we have families in the U.S. with pretensions to some form of pseudo-aristocracy. But, not much of that was around in Fort Worth. Also, I began to realize the enormous tragedy that was the "Great War." My brief education on the subject had been something like:

... Once upon a time a duke from a country I never heard of was shot. The Europeans all went crazy. Then American army in funny helmets came and fixed every thing. They were called Dough Boys and I don't know why. The End....

Why hadn't I known about all this pain and suffering? Why didn't I know of the millions of dead young men? Slowly I began to grasp something of the world the British had lost because of that war. Lawrence supplied an eloquent voice for this loss and brought me some understanding of their forever altered world. While the theme was new to me at the time, I would soon come to recognize it in dozens of other works in British literature. An entire culture died and passed through a point of no return. Decades later they still grieved its loss somewhere. While my mother worried about sullying my virginal thoughts, a world disappeared without my knowledge.

I've read all kinds of shocking and scandalous things over the years. Librarians aren't generally afraid of the printed word. But, I would have to say that very few novels have ever delighted, surprised, or enlightened me quite as much as Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Challenge Results and Roman Roots

The 25 comment challenge was a great experience. There are so many interesting people sharing all kinds of talents. It was made even clearer how smart these folks are when I made the commitment to leaving a comment. If you missed the fun yesterday, why not take the challenge now?

On the language front, we've started a new curriculum. English from the Roots Up presents the Latin and Greek origins of English words. I started exploring this idea for elementary and middle school instruction several years ago. Librarians have to decode specialized terms in science, technology, and even the social sciences quickly. S/he can't know everything, but must be able to find it. That means we learn loads of short-cuts.

When I started teaching elementary school I realized my students could use the same strategies to expand their small vocabularies. It was so much fun to hear a little third grader matter-of-factly point out a word's derivation from Greek/Latin. The adults in their lives didn't really know as much as they did, and it delighted them.

Later I began tutoring students in preparation for the SAT. These were usually kids who had performed poorly on the PSAT and were in need of remedial instruction. The commercial materials and systems out there are not very effective in teaching vocabulary. So, I went shopping for a way to teach what I'd learned through library work. The Lundquist work is about the best thing I've found. It's meant for use from elementary through SAT prep. The lessons can be made very simple, or extended to the point of building a basic Latin/Greek vocabulary. My kids love this stuff, and it's fun for me too.

Todays Word: feles -- Latin derivation of Feline....