Countdown to retirement: 31 days

Messier 31 (M31, NGC 224) is the famous Andromeda galaxy, our nearest large neighbor galaxy, forming the Local Group of galaxies together with its companions (including M32 and M110, two bright dwarf elliptical galaxies), our Milky Way and its companions, M33, and others.

Visible to the naked eye even under moderate conditions, this object was known as the "little cloud" to the Persian astronomer Abd-al-Rahman Al-Sufi, who described and depicted it in 964 AD in his Book of Fixed Stars: It must have been observed by and commonly known to Persian astronomers at Isfahan as early as 905 AD, or earlier. R.H. Allen (1899/1963) reports that it was also appeared on a Dutch starmap of 1500. Charles Messier, who cataloged it on August 3, 1764, was obviously unaware of this early reports, and ascribed its discovery to Simon Marius, who was the first to give a telescopic description in 1612, but (according to R.H. Allen) didn't claim its discovery. Unaware of both Al Sufi's and Marius' discovery, Giovanni Batista Hodierna independently rediscovered this object before 1654. Edmond Halley, however, in his 1716 treat of "Nebulae", accounts the discovery of this "nebula" to the French astronomer Bullialdus (Ismail Bouillaud), who observed it in 1661; but Bullialdus mentions that it had been seen 150 years earlier (in the early 1500s) by some anonymous astronomer (R.H. Allen, 1899/1963).

From Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) website

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Teaser Tuesday: 09-30-08 : Theft

I Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read to entice you to read the book!

From Theft by Peter Carey:

I don't know if my story is grand enough to be a tragedy, although a lot of shitty stuff did happen. It is certainly a love story but that did not begin until midway through the shitty stuff, by which time I had not only lost my eight-year-old son, but also my house and studio in Sydney where I had once been about as famous as a painter could expect in his own backyard. -- Page 3.
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Countdown to retirement: 32 days

Dirty Secret Of The Bailout: 32 Words That None Dare Utter:

A critical - and radical - component of the bailout package proposed by the Bush administration has thus far failed to garner the serious attention of anyone in the press. Section 8 (which ironically reminds one of the popular name of the portion of the 1937 Housing Act that paved the way for subsidized affordable housing ) of this legislation is just a single sentence of thirty-two words, but it represents a significant consolidation of power and an abdication of oversight authority that's so flat-out astounding that it ought to set one's hair on fire. It reads, in its entirety:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
~From the website, linked above.

Sure. Blank check. No oversight. Hmmm, sounds typical of Bushco tactics. Oh, and we have to do this RIGHT NOW! We have no time to stop and think and look at the history and other potential solutions. We don't want the smoking gun on Wall Street to be a mushroom cloud! Sound familiar?

I know next to nothing about economics - my partner will attest to the fact that when anyone starts talking money market and Roth IRAs my eyes glaze over like a Stepford wife. But I know another Bush disaster when I see it.

Is this the October surprise? Or is this an economic 9/11 that is designed to keep us so off balance and scared that we're willing to give total control to this disastrous administration? (See Naomi Klein's website re: The Shock Doctrine.) Is this Bush's last hurrah, his little parting gift as he leaves Washington in disgrace as the country's Worst pResident EVER?

Sound like conspiracy theory? Go back and read the 32 words above. That's how the bailout was originally written; that's the language that - thank God - some Congresspeople actually read this time (because the document was only 3 pages long) and objected to - unlike the Patriot Act, which was too long and complicated for them to read and to realize what rights of ours they were signing away.

Here's another take on the necessity (or not) of the bailout.


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Countdown to retirement: 33 days

Well I did the little vinyl memory lane trip for the 45 days post, so must follow up with 33s (no, I won't post about 8-track tapes for the 8 day countdown!). This, boys and girls, is what we used to call albums, or LPs (long playing) or, simply, records. They have a 12 inch radius, they break fairly easily, storage is a problem and the scratches make funny popping noises when you play them. CDs and mp3s have a much cleaner sound - which, imo, is not always a good thing. I got used to those scratches! And analog recordings sound so much warmer than digital. I remember being so excited to have Abbey Road on CD, but when I listened to it, it sounded too clean, it was missing some grit and substance.

The other cool thing about LPs: album covers! You just cannot get this kind of art on a CD insert. They're big, and the lyric sheets (sometimes inside the album cover on a separate sheet) are in
a font size you can actually READ!

Some of my alltime favorite album covers:

Did you know that Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon synchs up with The Wizard of Oz at various points? Meaning, you put the album on, turn the movie on without sound and the Dark Side music sort of goes with the movie. (I remember parties where things like that were discovered....) I learned this from my therapist.

Can you believe the things you're learning here??? Truly. Read More!

Weekly Geeks #19 AND The Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon.comOur weekly geek task this week: Dewey is asking us to list our favorite books that were published in 2008 (you, dear readers, will have a chance to participate in some future post). By the end of the year the results will be compiled; Dewey thinks "it’ll be interesting ... to see a list of what book bloggers choose as their favorite books rather than what a newspaper decides or what the top sellers were." Great idea!

So here's my list to date (this may change by the end of the year since I have several new books yet to read). This is pretty much in order of my preferences.

  • The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Sorry by Gail Jones
  • Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
  • Gardens of Water by Alan Drew
  • Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo
  • Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
  • Life Class by Pat Barker
  • The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
  • The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
  • Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
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Countdown to retirement: 34 days

The “34 Million Friends” campaign is a grass-roots movement that was independently initiated in July 2002 by two American women, Lois Abraham of New Mexico and Jane Roberts of California. Although they had never met, Lois and Jane were both outraged by the United States [Bush administration] withdrawal of $34 million approved for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and they decided to take action. Each woman started her own email campaign, urging men and women across the United States to donate $1 or more to help bridge the funding gap. Their goal is to find 34 million friends to help UNFPA continue its invaluable work as the largest multilateral provider of family planning and maternal health care. So far, over 100,000 individuals and donors have contributed nearly $3 million. Jane and Lois continue to maintain an active schedule of speaking engagements and other activities to rally support for UNFPA's work and continue the momentum of 34 Million Friends. (~From their website)

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Weekly Geeks #18 - Catchup Wrapup

Last Saturday's Weekly Geek intentions for catching up on a few of my reading and blogging duties were good ones. And you know what they say about good intentions.

Actually, I did do two out of three - I cleaned up my Photobucket mess as well as I could. I wanted to move things into folders but it would have broken many many links from old blog and message board posts (and frankly, probably no one would notice!) so I'll wait a few more months to do that. Perhaps a New Years intention. I did manage to delete a few pages worth of images that were probably not linked to anything.

After reading Wendy's post this evening about her amazing progress (I swear the woman has a TEAM of bloggers and readers), I tucked my tail between my legs and dashed off a couple of posts to the Orange Prize and Booker Prize blog sites. I won't even link to them because there's nothing of substance there, just a list of the prize winning books I read since June.

Alas, I did not read one of my Early Review books. I am unworthy.
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Countdown to retirement: 35 days

35 Beautiful Examples Of Rain Photography

I love rain. I love good photography. I've been cruising around the web for inspiration for good photos. Here's one of my favorites from the above website:

One of the things I'll be doing more of in 35 days: taking photos. I've started putting some of my best (imho) on a photo blog- I can only upload one a day, so I have to be choosy. There are also lots of other inspiring photos on the photoblog (click on Community at the top of the blog page).

Here's another apropos art site: 35 Greatest Works of Reverse Graffiti - an art form that removes dust or dirt rather than adding paint. Pretty awesome. I'd love it if someone did that on my embarrassingly dirty car! Here's an example:

I probably won't be doing this in 35 days, but I might get my car washed more often!
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Countdown to retirement: 36 days

36 reasons Wikipedia is the greatest invention in human history (The opinions expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the editor.)

Some fun lists at the above website. Again, I have to wonder where people find the time to compile these -- someone has ranked US movies by the number of times "fuck" is uttered; there's a list of sexually active popes; a list of premature obituaries and one of recurring characters on The Simpsons. There's even a list of people who have died onstage. You're curious, now, aren't you?

Maybe after I retire I'll have time to make lists of things no one gives a hoot about.
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Wordless Wednesday 09-24-08

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Countdown to retirement: 37 days

37th and Hawthorne, Southeast Portland:
our neighborhood

The Bagdad Theater -- old time theater/pub owned by the McMenamins,
who work magic with old buildings in the region.
Movies, author appearances, cheap dates!

Bread and Ink Cafe - yummy food!

One of the lesser Powell's Bookstores - still a formidable shop!
That's my pal, Paola, visiting from New York.
(My pal Paola at Powell's - say that 3 times fast! )

Hawthorne Street Cafe

The Red Light- eclectic clothing store.

Global Exchange storefront

Hawthorne Boulevard was named after Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, co-founder of Oregon’s first mental hospital. It was originally called Asylum Avenue. The Hawthorne District is an old funky - now somewhat upscale - neighborhood. Good restaurants, fun shops, Powell's Books. It's like a street fair every day in the summer. You never know what you'll see here. 37th Avenue is the heart of the neighborhood.


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Teaser Tuesday: 09-23-08 Music and Silence

I Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event.

From Music and Silence by Rose Tremain:

Some nights later my father came to my room after Johnnie had gone to bed and told me that he now at last understood how my husband might be rescued from the entrapment in which he found himself. With his simple logic, Francesco said to me that he believed the reason Johnnie O'Fingal had been unable to rediscover the music he had heard was that he lacked the professional skill to find it.
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Countdown to retirement: 38 days

38 Million View Obama’s Speech; Highest-Rated Convention In History

I've mostly kept politics off this blog (except a sidebar button or rant here and there). But I have to say it. This country is in big trouble and has been going in the wrong direction for 8 years. The Bush administration has done so much damage to our rights and our responsibilities as global citizens, not to mention the environment and the economy. And McPain is not the kind of "change" we need (read: NO change).

I'm not fond of the U.S. electoral system; I think it's badly broken and needs a complete overhaul. But it's what we have to work with right now, and our best hope is to get Obama - Biden elected, to get someone with vision and intelligence in the White House, someone who will listen and negotiate. We do not need more of the same war mongering (remember McCain joking about "Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran?"), denial about environmental and energy crises; we don't need another insane resident in the White House! And McCain's running mate is so grossly unqualified to be in a position of such power, I can't even grasp the concept.

One of my favorite quotes this last year during the initial campaign was from a Larry King interview with Jon Stewart:
Larry King: Are Americans ready for a woman or a black president?
Jon Stewart: This is such a non-question. Did anyone ask us in 2000 if Americans were ready for a moron?
I do think Bush is incompetent which makes him dangerous; I also think many members of his administration have had some truly evil intentions and they were able to get away with so much because of Bush's incompetence. The debacle of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in US history; torture (yes we DO torture and IT MUST STOP); illegal rendition, illegal wiretapping, Katrina, near economic collapse -- need I continue? What is most stunning to me is how they have managed to get away with all of this with so little outcry. A compliant media is partially responsible, but so are all of us.

I thought the 2004 election was the most pivotal in our history, and as devastating as that outcome has been to this country (and the rest of the world), this one has the potential, with another Bush-type administration, to do irreparable damage. I do not think Obama has all the solutions. I do think he brings a new story and some hope to the country, which we desperately need.

Now, since this is in part a book blog, here's a great way to buy books and support Obama!
Books 4 Barack.

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Countdown to retirement: 39 days

October 31st arrives, one step at a time.

Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it. ~Alfred Hitchcock

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The Sunday Salon: Should Reads, Have to Reads, Wanna Reads

The Sunday I'm having such a hard time with my TBR piles.

I have that Guilt Stack calling out to me, haunting me, the books I should read and review for Early Reviewer and publisher programs. My rebellious streak kicks in, even though I know at least one of them is a really good book. I've had a couple of false starts on one, but then something more interesting draws me away. I've stopped requesting Early Review books for now. I can't take the guilt.

And there are a few I have to read in the next month - for book group and for the author blog tour. Up for these are Three Cups of Tea and The 19th Wife. I'm looking forward to both of these, but am trying to time it so I'll allow plenty of time to read them and they'll be fresh in my sieve of a mind when the events come around. Scheduled reading is not my cup of tea.

And then there are those that just beg for my attention because they're really what I want to be reading - right now it's Rose Tremain's Music and Silence which, in spite of the noisy Guilt Stack, I will be hunkering down with today. Last week it was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (wonderful Southern US lit that seemed like a cross between To Kill a Mockingbird and Grapes of Wrath) and a couple of weeks ago, Tipping the Velvet grabbed me and wouldn't let go (oooo la la!).

How do you decide what to read next? Are you driven by guilt or desire?

Enjoy your Sunday and the rest of your week. And don't think about the collapse of the global economy; read a good book.
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Countdown to retirement: 40 days

I was going to do a 40 days and 40 nights theme for this one, but that seemed too obvious. Instead I bring you:

In terms of its variety of uses, apparently WD-40 is the new duct tape:
  • Removes tar from feet
  • Protects arrowheads from corrosion
  • Removes duct tape (well, there ya go, it's all part of the plan)
  • Unsticks stuck boat horn
  • Protects vintage steam equipment on paddlewheel steam boats
  • Lubricates hinges on skunk racing box (is the skunk racing, or the box??)
  • Cleans peanut butter from shoestrings
  • Shines seashells (oh, the clams will be so happy!)
  • Lubricates power injecting device strung from the ceiling in Cardiac Catheterization Lab
  • Spray on balcony to keep pigeons away
  • Cleans remote controls
  • Frees stuck Lego blocks
  • Lubricates robot joints
  • Cleans gum from chicken feathers
  • Keeps missile silo doors swinging freely
  • Cleans and protects handcuffs
  • Lubricates fingers stuck in hole (hopefully not in the missile silo door)
  • Removes gum from flagpoles
  • Removes melted plastic from toaster oven
  • Removes squeak from dental chairs (the better to hear the drill, my dear)
Ok, one really has to wonder who's been sticking gum on flagpoles. Or chickens. I get the plastic in the toaster oven, especially if one has children. (I once baked a plastic spider right into a waffle.)

If you're really gung-ho about WD-40, you can join the fan club! (As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up.) I wonder what the cheer would be...

Give me a W!
Give me a D!
Give me a 40!

Hmmm, loses something in the translation.

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Weekly Geeks #18 - Catchup

For this week's geekishness, Dewey suggests we get caught up on something - book reviews, TBR pile (yeah, right)...anything. Well, I'm working on getting caught up on the laundry, and the gardening task list is humongous, my bank statement needs to be balanced. But I suppose she means something book related. So, my intentions for this week are to:

  • Catch up on my Orange Prize and Booker Prize challenges - I've read a lot of books for these since I last posted to them.
  • Read at least one ARC that I'm supposed to have read and reviewed. A long time ago.
  • Clean up and organize my Photobucket site. Jeez, what a conglomeration of crap.
So check back the end of the week to see how I fared.
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Countdown to retirement: 41 days

#41 - The Dave Matthews Band

The song is a direct reply to the lawsuits brought by former Dave mentor Ross Hoffman. (I don't know anything about the Dave Matthews Band, I'm just trying to look cool.)


Come and see
I swear by now I'm playing time
I against my troubles
I'm coming slow but speeding
Do you wish a dance and while I'm
In the front
The play on time is won
But the difficulty is coming here

I will go in this way
And find my own way out
I wont tell you to stay
But I'm coming to much more
All at once the ghosts come back
Reeling in you now
What if they came down crushing
Remember when I used to play for
All of the loneliness that nobody
Notice now
I'm begging slow I'm coming here
Only waiting I wanted to stay
I wanted to play
I wanted to love you

I'm only this far
And only tomorrow leads my way

I'm coming waltzing back and moving into your head
Please, I wouldn't pass this by
I would take any more than
What sort of man goes by
I will bring water
Why wont you ever be glad
It melts into wonder
I came in praying for you
Why wont you run
In the rain and play
Let the tears splash all over you

And I really don't get these lyrics.

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Nature Quote of the Day - Saturday

A wee child toddling in a wonder world.... I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan. ~Zitkala-Sa
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Countdown to retirement: 42 days

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is numeric in Douglas Adams' series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, a "simple answer" to The Ultimate Question is requested from the computer Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. Unfortunately, The Ultimate Question itself is unknown, suggesting on a metaphoric level that it is more important to ask the right questions than to seek definite answers.

From Wikipedia. Read More!

Nature Quote of the Day - Friday

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. ~William Shakespeare
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Nature Quote of the Day - Thursday

We have a beautiful mother
Her hills are buffaloes
Her buffaloes hills.

We have a beautiful mother
Her oceans are wombs
Her wombs oceans.

We have a beautiful mother
Her teeth the white stones
at the edge of the water
the summer grasses
her plentiful hair.

We have a beautiful mother
Her green lap immense
Her brown embrace eternal
Her blue body everything we know.

--Alice Walker Read More!

Countdown to retirement: 43 days

Website communities of people, places and things.

43 people: a bit of a hookup site
43 places: vicarious traveling (visit Forks, Washington or Timbuktu)
43 things: goal setting in a virtual community (how to: dye your hair blue, be a vampire slayer, make more friends)

Yup. Something for everyone. Read More!

Wordless Wednesday 09-17-08

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Nature Quote of the Day - Wednesday

A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. ~Michael Pollan, Second Nature, 1991

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Countdown to retirement: 44 days

Recently long listed for the Booker Prize. Didn't make the shortlist cut. This isn't my cup of tea, but if you're interested, here's an Amazon review:

If all that Tom Rob Smith had done was to re-create Stalinist Russia, with all its double-speak hypocrisy, he would have written a worthwhile novel. He did so much more than that in Child 44, a frightening, chilling, almost unbelievable horror story about the very worst that Stalin's henchmen could manage. In this worker's paradise, superior in every way to the decadent West, the citizen's needs are met: health care, food, shelter, security. All one must offer in exchange are work and loyalty to the State. Leo Demidov is a believer, a former war hero who loves his country and wants only to serve it well. He puts contradictions out of his mind and carries on. Until something happens that he cannot ignore. A serial killer of children is on the loose, and the State cannot admit it.

Or there's this 44..

...which I listened to on audio last year and didn't like much at all.

And this little known Mark Twain novel (his last) that I recall not liking much.

I guess 44 isn't my number.

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Tuesday Teaser - Freedom?

I Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event.

  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! And: NO SPOILERS!
I'm cheating a little with this one - it's more than 2 sentences and it's farther down the page than lines 7-12, and I hand picked it. But when I read this last night, I thought -- how appropriate! And it was written almost 70 years ago.

From The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers:
And look what has happened to our freedom. The men who fought the American Revolution...fought so that this could be a country where every man would be free and equal. Huh! And that meant every man was equal in the sight of Nature - with an equal chance. This didn't mean that twenty per cent of the people were free to rob the other eighty per cent of the means to live. This didn't mean for one rich man to sweat the piss out of ten thousand poor men so that he can get richer. This didn't mean the tyrants were free to get this country in such a fix that millions of people are ready to do anything - cheat, lie, or whack off their right arm - just to work for three squares and a flop. They have made the word freedom a blasphemy. You hear me? They have made the word freedom stink like a skunk to all who know. (p.158)

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