Friday Fill-ins 02-27-09

Janet is our tireless host for this weekly event.

My responses are in italics.

1. I'm good enough , I'm smart enough and I know, doggonit, people like me!

2. Why do I have arms and not wings?

3. How does this aging thing work, anyway?

4. Every morning, I put socks on my feet.

5. I consider myself lucky because I’m still here! I’m a cancer survivor.

6. One day we’ll see peace on earth.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a quiet evening with Laurie, tomorrow my plans include singing with the choir (my first gig with them!) and Sunday, I want to relax and finish The Book Thief!
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The temporary solution... my laptop screen dilemma: the work order is filled out, but since I can use an external monitor instead of the laptop monitor, I brought Sputnik home until the repair peeps are ready to put her on the bench. And so she doesn't have to sit there for a week all lonely and intimidated by newer, faster machines.

You can't get rid of me that easily. Read More!

The Dreaded Computer Pox

My laptop screen is high on psychedelics. It's displaying some very unique color combinations and adding red dots to everything. So, off to the computer doctor today. Which means I may not be posting for awhile unless I hijack my partner's computer.

In the infamous words of, um, some general: I shall return.

Say a little good karma blessing for Ms. Sputnik, that it's fixable and won't break my bank.

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Wordless Wednesday - 02-25-09: Spiderman

Click photo for the full Spidey effect.

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Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You? 02-24-09: The Book Thief

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

Today's selection comes from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, page 25. Finally, I'm reading this book!

When the train pulled into the Bahnhof in Munich, the passengers slid out as if from a torn package. There were people of every stature, but among them, the poor were the most easily recognized. The impoverished always try to keep moving, as if relocating might help. They ignore the reality that a new version of the same old problem will be waiting at the end of the trip--the relative you cringe to kiss.

It's Tuesday, Where Are You? is hosted by an adventure in reading.

I'm in Germany in 1939, a town called Molching near Munich on a street called Himmel (Heaven). I'm with my new foster family. My brother has died and my mother couldn't care for me.

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Friday Fill-ins 02-20-09

Janet is our excellent host for this weekly event.

My responses are in italics.

1. Give me a melody and I'll sing you a harmony.

2. Whenever ---whatever.

3. I wish we were all working more toward healing the Earth.

4. Ben and Jerry’s Pistachio Pistachio ice cream was the last thing I ate that was utterly delicious.

5. To live in this world is preferable to the alternative.

6. Other than this one, Jack at slightly off center is the last blog I commented on.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to hanging out with Laurie and reading, tomorrow my plans include schmoozing with some choir pals, reading, blogging and Sunday, I want to play with my gal pal G, take some photos, practice with my alto section!

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Booking Through Thursday - Order from Chaos

Deb at Booking Through Thursday asks:

“How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?”
I am a Virgo. But I must have been off reading a book when the Virgo traits were handed out, because when it comes to arranging my bookshelves? Unique is a word I would use. Chaos is a word my partner would use.

In my Terri Branch Library (which I don't have to arrange with partner in mind) right now I have it organized thusly (and the term "organized" is used very loosely):
  • Far left few shelves: nonfiction, anthologies, a few miscellaneous novels I probably won't get to for awhile.
  • Middle left: all fiction. One shelf is devoted to Booker award books; one shelf is mostly Orange award books (lined up for my reading challenges - there is a reason!), one shelf for books I've checked out from the library or borrowed from friends (it's good to keep them all in one place so I don't have to hunt for overdue books). A couple more miscellaneous fiction shelves; books are not in any particular order, not alphabetized or ordered by genre or color (the red shelf was just for a photo op).

  • Middle right: all fiction. One shelf is all classics; one shelf has several trilogies all in one spot; one shelf has short story collections among other novels.
  • Far right: mostly fiction. No particular order. One shelf has my pitiful little Virago collection; one shelf has books I've read and intend to keep. One shelf has cookbooks mixed with ARCs I need to read for the Pub challenge. The rest? Hey, I know where to find them!
Some librarian I'd make. At least I've improved from this (my solution to being enticed by titles when I had required reading to do):

And the bookshelves in the rest of the house? Not nearly so "interesting!"
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Wordless Wednesday - 02-18-09: Forcing Forsythia

Which do you prefer? (Click to enlarge.)


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Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You? 02-17-09: The Heretic's Daughter

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

Today's selection comes from The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent, page 13. I've been looking forward to reading this book for months.

She spun the wool through knotted fingers glistening with sheep's oil and wrapped the threads neatly around the bobbin. Gently probing, she teased out the story of our days in Billerica just as she teased out the fine line of thread from the mix and jumble of the coarse wool in her hands.

It's Tuesday, Where Are You? is hosted by an adventure in reading.

I'm in Andover, Massachusetts in 1690. It's winter and bitter cold. Our family made a hasty exit from Billerica for fear of being blamed for a smallpox outbreak. We are going to live with my grandmother in Andover.

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Friday Fill-ins 02-13-09

Janet is our fearless host for this weekly event.

My responses are in italics.

1. It seems like a dark cloud has lifted since Bush left the White House.

2. Would you recycle it when you're done, please?

3. If I thought you could keep a secret I'd tell you a juicy one!

4.”I must have been Gandhi or Buddha”* is what I think of most when I think of you (you know who you are!).

5. To me, Valentines' Day means another Hallmark holiday. I’d rather choose my own days and ways to express love.

6. Singing gives me strength.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to reading, tomorrow my plans include reading and blogging, then a Kirtan concert in the evening and Sunday, I want to practice choir music and read!

*Lyrics from a Cheryl Wheeler song

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The Vigorous Mind - Book Review and Book Tour

A number of years ago I made a list of 20 things I wanted to manifest in my life. Only one or two of them were material things; the rest involved learning a new skill or increasing my knowledge of a subject or expanding on a skill I was already using. I won't list all of them here, but it included drama classes, writing and joining a choir.

I still have this list and have checked off about half of the items. They are what Ingrid E. Cummings would call "cross training" my brain. And after reading her book, The Vigorous Mind: Cross Train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional and Professional Boundaries, I realize that my list could use some updating.

Lisa from TLC Book Tours asked me if I'd be interested in hosting a stop on the Vigorous Mind tour. She knew I'd recently retired and thought some of the information in the book might resonate.

I started this book with, I will admit, a bit of an attitude. I was determined not to like it. Another program for self improvement? Puh-leeeeze. And though there are some things in the book I passed over, there really is a lot of good information here. And it's very well written and accessible.

The basic premise of the book is threefold:
  • that most of us could benefit emotionally, physically and mentally from learning skills that seem contrary to our vocation or avocation
  • that learning new skills can be done in very small steps - 20 minutes a day, several days a week
  • that the world can benefit from having more of us become Renaissance people - or generalists rather than specialists.
The one-step-at-a-time idea certainly isn't new. Cummings refers to an ancient Japanese philosophy known as kaizen that "advocates taking small steps to accomplish large goals." This isn't new in Western thought either - for example, it is the foundation of 12 step programs of recovery.

Cummings lists seven imperatives that Renaissance persons make a point of cultivating. Each of these imperatives gets a chapter. They are:
  • curiosity
  • individuality
  • selectivity
  • empathy
  • stretch or risk
  • spirituality
  • courage
Cummings wins me over when she takes issue with The Secret - the cultural phenomenon that asserts that we can get whatever we desire just by thinking good thoughts. Says Cummings:
No one can just sit around on the back porch thinking a whole slew of happy thoughts and then expect the universe to open its purse strings and let fly with the good stuff. That's called wishful thinking. It's a fine thing to do; in fact, thinking that you want a new car or a new job or a new boyfriend or a new outlook is the necessary first step, as we've seen in kaizen. But you can't stop with that first baby step, as we've also seen in kaizen. You've got to go forth and make it happen. It's like they say: Pray hard to catch the bus--then run like hell. (page 70)

I am so on board with her! That whole Secret thing really bugs me. And it's way too material oriented for my tastes.

One thing I take issue with in The Vigorous Mind: there is a glaring lack of women role models. They're not totally absent - she talks about Condoleeza Rice, for example, being a Renaissance woman as a concert pianist in addition to her government roles. But a quick look through the index shows a big gap between women and men listed. Very few, if any, of the historical figures she cited were women. I always notice these things.

Cummings includes some great resources, most of which are online - blogs, podcasts, feeds - and she even gives hints of how to make the internet work for you rather than going off on endless loops and links. One resource that made me chuckle: When looking for topics to select for cross training your brain, she suggests the Boy Scout handbook "where ideas for more than 100 merit badges are listed - everything from atomic energy to bugling to insect study to cinematography to Indian lore to crime prevention to salesmanship to plumbing."

The Vigorous Mind is sprinkled with useful and inspiring quotes from Einstein, Helen Keller, Thoreau, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and many more. There are exercises and suggestions at the end of each chapter, and throughout the book are "Neuro Nuggets" - sidebars with brain and neuro research information.

I wanted a bibliography or suggested further reading at the back of the book, but neither were there. Oh and one more thing: I hope they give this book a more enticing cover in the next edition.

Cummings quotes Parker Palmer in what I think summarizes the need for this sort of program or thought process:
We arrive in this world with birthright gifts - then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. ...if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss we spend the second half [of our lives] trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed. (page 116)
The Vigorous Mind is a good guide for anyone who wants to expand their skills and knowledge and who may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of learning a new language or to play an instrument or about astronomy or chemistry. It's also validation for those of us who feel concerns about being spread out too thin with our interests or who feel the need to multi-task or worry about having ADD.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to practice my choir music for 20 minutes and then read up on night photography.

Do you have questions for the author? Leave them in the comments below and I'll make sure she gets them.

Ingrid E. Cummings' website

I think this is the last stop on this tour, but here's the schedule; you can check out what others had to say about The Vigorous Mind. The tour schedule

Contact TLC Book Tours

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Wordless Wednesday: 2nd Hand Store or Tripping Down Memory Lane

Click on photo to enlarge.

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Weekly Geeks 2009-05: Judging Books by Covers

I had every intention of doing WG last week which was all about our passions other than books and blogging. You know what they say about intentions. Anyway, I think I got those mostly covered in other posts this week, between the interview and the letter E.

This week Becky asked us to "Pick a book--any book, really--and search out multiple book cover images for that book. They could span a decade or two (or more)...Or they could span several countries. Which cover is your favorite? Which one is your least favorite? Which one best 'captures' what the book is about?"

I picked The Secret Life of Bees. I was amazed at how many different covers were published for a book that's less than ten years old. Of course, many of them are in different languages, but somehow I don't expect there to be such a variety. Here's a sample:

**I have no idea why the table starts way down the page. Think of it as anticipation. Wait for it....



I'd have to go with #3, because that's the one I read and I'm most familiar with. And there's a simplicity to it that I love. Cover #12 is cute, but it seems like they're trying to tell the story on the cover with pictures, and it's a bit too much. I'm not particularly fond of book covers that try to render a picture of the characters; I find I like to imagine them myself.

And I'm really not fond of book covers with movie tie-ins. Though I've heard good things about this movie, it's not the same as the book EVER. I feel like I'm buying an advertisement for the movie whenever I acquire one of those and I resent that. If given a choice, I always pick the one that is NOT the movie stars on the cover.

See what other Weekly Geeks came up with. Thanks Becky for a fun Geek assignment!
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Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You? Cold Comfort Farm

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

Today's selection comes from Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Page 65.

The cries from the little hut had stopped. An exhausted silence, brimmed with the enervating weakness which follows a stupendous effort, mounted from the stagnant air in the yard, like a miasma. All the surrounding surface of the countryside - the huddled Downs lost in rain, the wet fields fanged abruptly with flints, the leafless thorns thrust sideways by the eternal pawing of the wind, the lush breeding miles of meadow through which the lifeless river wandered - seemed to be folding inwards upon themselves. Their dumbness said: 'Give up.'

Some of my blogging buddies are combining Teaser Tuesday with It's Tuesday, Where Are You? hosted by an adventure in reading. I thought I'd join the fun. I've been meaning to do this for a few weeks but kept forgetting!

As you can tell from the above snippet, I'm in a very bleak place known as Cold Comfort Farm, in Sussex, England near the village of Howling. Never have I read bleakness described as well as in this book. It's really a hoot!
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A Major Award!

I'm making progress!

Now on to the Major Award. It could be a bowling alley! Would you look at that? Would you look at THAT?! *

My friend Caspette from The Narrative Causality blessed me with this award. Here's the catch: I have to name five things I'm addicted to. Only five???

1. Coffee. Strong, freshly ground dark oily beans (organic, fair trade, shade grown) with half & half. Or a good hot latte.
2. Blogging. Duh.
3. Books books books.
4. Taking photos.
5. Cheese. I love me some cheese. Extra sharp cheddar, sheep milk feta, Gorgonzola, Jarlsberg Swiss, muenster, Gouda, every so often some brie. I know, I know, between #1 and #5 you can hear my cholesterol rising.

Now I'm supposed to do some bestowing. I'll get back to this later. I just want to covet my award for awhile. We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precioussss. Thank you Caspette! who is quite new to blogging, so go give her a nice welcome!

*This will make no sense to you if you haven't seen "The Christmas Story" movie. Read More!

Five Questions Meme

The lovely Claire of kiss a cloud sent me five interview questions. This is a meme that's been traveling around the book blogs for a little while. If you'd like to be interviewed, leave me a comment and your email address and I'll come up with five for you.

I'll just jump right in.

1. If you were to choose any fictitious world in any piece of literature, which place or book would you live in and why?

This is more difficult than I imagined. I considered some of the time periods that fascinate me, such as Europe during the Renaissance or the turn of the 20th century in America. But life was so difficult, especially for women, back in those times. Plus, not very clean! So I think I'd have to pick something in the future. I don't read much futuristic lit; but I can see me in Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing or Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. Both of these books involve some dystopia in alternate worlds, but in the primary stories, women are respected, strong and equal to men in decision making. People have achieved sane and sustainable ways of using resources, and they respect the Earth and Her other inhabitants. Mostly, it's how I'd like our planet to be in 100 years. Really, it's how I'd like it to be today, but I'm trying to be realistic.

2. What was your favourite 2008 moment?

Well, it's between the election of President Barack Obama and my retirement, both of which happened in the same week. (What a week!!!) In the larger picture, I would have to give that one to Obama! It will be one of the most unforgettable and exciting moments of my life.

3. If you were fluent in any other language, what would it be and why?

Spanish. I love the sound of the language, and it makes sense! No unnecessary vowels or consonants thrown in. The vowels always have the same pronunciation in every word. Plus, I'd be able to communicate with so many more people. The male/female nouns are a bit weird though.

4. In a fantasy world, what would your library be like?

I actually think I have my fantasy library! I have a wall of books in my cottage/studio - mostly books I haven't read yet. Rather than feeling stressed about a big TBR stack, I feel so fortunate to have 200+ books at my fingertips at any given moment. I'm not big into first editions or even hard copies (I find trade paperbacks so much easier to manage!) - nothing showy. I'm all about the contents.

This is the main branch Terri Library. We have many areas in our home where we have books.

5. Name five things that make your world go round.

  • My wonderful partner Laurie. That's us in the photo, getting committed.
  • My family and friends (friends count as chosen family)
  • Photography - my newest passion
  • Music. I've met such wonderful people through music. My buddy Gwenlyn and I have been singing together for 14 years and it's just the best! I've very recently joined Aurora Chorus, an amazing choir of women, so I get to sing a lot now.
  • Books. Reading them, talking about them, blogging about them, acquiring them.

So now you know much more about me! Leave a comment and your email addy if you'd like five interview questions. I'll grill ya.

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A Few of My Favorite E Things

I have some catching up to do on some memes, an interview and an award or two. I’ve been so obsessive passionate about taking photos and posting to my photo blog lately that I’ve neglected this blog, which is still so important to me – it’s like the older sibling who doesn’t require quite as much attention as the new baby. The older sibling will turn one next month though, which is cause for celebrating and bringing her up to date. I will likely acknowledge the blogaversary with a book giveaway, so check back often!

First off, a meme: Lisa tagged me (ok, I asked for it) with the letter E – and I am supposed to name ten things I love that begin with E. My sarcasm caught up with me when I told her I wanted to buy a vowel. So, I’m stuck with E. Here are a few of my favorite E things, in no particular order.

  • Earth. What an amazing place this is. Just look around. Wow. I wish we were taking better care of Her.
  • Evergreens. I live in a region that is green year-round. We have lots of fir trees, cedars, pines and evergreen shrubs. I couldn't live in an area that wasn't green.
  • Ellipses … which I find very useful in writing. I have lots of trailing thoughts. And hope my readers will fill in what suits them. Maybe....
  • Ears. The better to hear Mozart and choirs and guitars, babies giggling, sweet nothings, friends laughing, ocean waves, the wind through the cedars.
  • Ex-president W. Extra Emphasis on EX. I’m lovin’ the EX.
  • Essays. I do love a well written essay. See above, Ex Libris.
  • Echinacea aka cone flowers, in all seasons. (Enlarge photo by clicking on it.)

Honorable mention goes to: E-mail, ESP, eggnog, extraterrestrials, echoes, eclipses, estuaries, eggs Benedict, and Edward Scissorhands.

Now, here's the deal. If you want to play this meme, leave me a comment requesting a letter. I will assign you a letter, then you blog about it and on and on ad infinitum. See! It's EEEEEasy!

I will catch up with the interview and award bestowing in the next couple of days. And now, I will Exit.

Photos: elephants and Earth from Google Images; goofy laughing pals and echinacea collage by me.

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The Sunday Salon - Catch-up Round-up Wrap-up

The Sunday
Hello Saloners and other visitors! Since I missed last week, I'm doing my January wrap-up this week and just a little check-in on my challenges.

January reads: (Orange indicates books read for Orange (Prize) January):

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
The Road Home by Rose Tremain**
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart by Maria A Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
Open House by Elizabeth Berg
Tree Crazy by Tracy Gallup
Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor
The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn
  • Loved the most: The Night Watch and The Road Home
  • Biggest surprise: The Flying Troutmans (if you loved Little Miss Sunshine, read this book!)
  • Biggest disappointment: Amy and Isabelle - after loving Strout's Olive Kitteridge last year, I had high expectations.
The Bonesetter's Daughter was a re-read and for my book group. I loved the middle - the meat - of this book, the historical fiction, but the contemporary story that sandwiched it didn't do much for me.

My challenges: Including a couple of books I've read so far in February, I'm doing well.

What's in a Name: completed 4/6
Decades Challenge: completed 2/10, reading the third now.
The Orange Prize and Booker Prize challenges are perpetual, but I've set a personal goal to read 12 of each this year (some are crossovers). Orange Prize: 5/12; Booker Prize: 2/12.
Dewey's Books: 0/5
Pub Challenge: 0/9
Short Stories: 9/25
Essays: 0/20
Jane Austen: 0/1
Classics (other than Austen): 0/4
These last two are personal challenges. By my definition, Classic is any book older than me that has a high level of notoriety. There are a few exceptions (e.g. To Kill A Mockingbird)

This week I'm reading Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. What a hoot! She's a master at describing the bleakness of the Sussex farm. Made me want to go shower! Books I'm looking forward to this month: The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which I've heard nothing but raves about.

And join me here on Thursday, February 12th for a TLC book tour with Ingrid Cummings, author of The Vigorous Mind: Cross-Train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional and Professional Boundaries.

Hope you're having a great weekend. And prayers and good wishes to our friends in Australia who are experiencing such unprecedented heat and horrific fires. Be safe.

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