The 2 prime movers in the Universe are Time and Luck. (H.P. p. 21)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The 2 prime movers in the Universe are Time and Luck. (H.P. p. 21)
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Yet I do not like to tempt fate. I really do knock on wood when I predict something good is going to happen (and I have a very brief flashback to my dancing days with Happy Cricket and our "Knock on Wood" dance). So join me in tapping on my oak door frames as I mention that this year finals week is going to go smoothly.
My first year teaching my grandfather died during finals week. Last year I had a miscarriage and surgery. Finals begin on Monday and this year I am going to grade exams, bake cookies, shop for Christmas presents and clean my house. That's all. Knock.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
As it is snowing giant flakes right now, I thought I should wear a pair of my warmer pants this morning. While I could zip them up, when I did ghastly mounds of flesh extruded from the waistband. It was not pretty. I weighed myself. Also not pretty.
In past years, my college has had a workplace fitness program to encourage employees not to gain weight over the holidays. Apparently it is not happening this year, but I clearly need some external motivation to do something about fitting into my pants. If I weigh less than I do now when I return for second semester, I will use the money I would have needed for new pants and treat myself to a pedicure and make a $50 donation to Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest) to help those who food issues are far different from mine. If I don't, I buy pants and still make the donation.
I'm asking help for two ways: 1) exercise with me and don't encourage me to overeat over the holidays and 2) encourage me by agreeing to help increase my donation to Feeding America if I succeed (something like $1 for every week I reach my goal of 70,000 steps or a $10 donation if I make my January goal). Feeding America is a great organization and I would love to think that I can somehow eat less so that others can eat more. Talk to me about the possibilities (even you lurkers).
The starting weight is 0.0 pounds.
*This is also not a call for you to tell me that I look fine. I know I look fine. I know that my blood pressure is good and that I exercise enough not to be terribly unfit. I know that my family will love me regardless of my size. I also know that this size is bigger than I have been in my life and I do not want to keep it.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
If I may venture one suggestion to the May-struck gardener it is this: do notand know that I was listening to a kindred gardening spirit* and read on. Mitchell reminds me, in many ways, of the Scottish gardeners I worked with at Threave. That is mostly, although not unequivocally, a good thing. The book is highly recommended for Molly and any lurkers who garden in the mid-Atlantic region.
allow the total space occupied by irises, peonies, roses, poppies,
forget-me-nots, violas, clematis and other glories of late May to occupy more
than 63 percent of the space. Unless, at an absolute maximum, they are allowed
to occupy 76 percent. It is unthinkable that they should in any case hog so much
as 94 percent of the arable area. Usually.
Monday, November 10, 2008
When a friend posted Lucky 13 about voting 13th at her precinct last week, I totally sympathized about clinging to anything that might assure us that the presidential election would go as we hoped (it did). Her comment, however, reminded me that I haven't addressed lucky numbers at all this year, (super-auspicious August 8 2008 passed without a peep on this blog), because, well, I don't have lucky numbers.
Which is odd, because I have lucky colors, a lucky hat, lucky pre-game and pre-test rituals, a lucky dress and lucky foods. I wrote about lucky coon dongs and certainly don't believe in them, and I can always pick more favored numbers. In much the same way that, while there is only one NFL team I care about, I can, after a quick perusal of the standings, always state which team I want to win any game, I can tell you that I like even numbers over odd (except for 7s in the units place); I'm fond of numbers in the forties; I dislike threes; and primes and squares are somehow dear to me, when I can remember them. If you asked "47 or 63?" I would answer, unequivocally, "47". But do I think that 47 is luckier? Hardly. It's just better.
I'm fond of geeky number coincidences. I turned 19 on the 19th in 1991. I thought it impressive when my group of friends in Scotland turned 23, 29 and 31 in the same year (how often do four people turn three different prime numbers?). I married the Mister on the 9th of July 2005 (9-7-05) which I thought was lucky because I figured he'd be more able to remember our anniversary with such a nice sequence, but he just pointed out that Americans put the month first.
So, I wouldn't apply the word "lucky" to the signing of the Armistice at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month 90 years ago*. But it is important. Thanks to all the veterans who may be reading this. Whatever day it is, I'm lucky to live in a country where there are men and women willing to serve.
*And after your two minutes of silence at 11:00 am on 11/11 may the Karneval celebrations begin at 11:11 on 11/11.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Meanwhile, the chem prof. did a demonstration in which 1 g of something led to 1 L of gas (or .1, I forget), a situation which only occurs under specific temperature and pressure, which he was not controlling. Also very very unlikely.
So maybe it's my day to buy a power ball ticket. Yet somehow, having done something statistically improbable with numbers doesn't make me feel particularly lucky at all. Lucky must be more than unlikely.
But is does make my grading one step easier.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
We had a good chestnut crop this year which the squirrels seem to have taken advantage of, as there are nothing but spiked shells left for the humans.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
I thought of this recently when a dear friend in the midst of a necessary but ugly break-up called from Borders needing book suggestions. I was momentarily stumped, so suggested Cloud Atlas as interesting and demanding full attention, but wasn't satisfied because it doesn't have all of the escapist qualities I think a book to be read during a "no-win in the short term" life situation demands. I later suggested Birth of Venus, East, Inkheart and The Blue Sword. I wanted to suggest Twentieth Wife, and Trickster's Choice but could not in any way remember the titles.
As a result of this discussion, I have started to make a list of books to recommend for various situations. I'd love to hear your suggestions. What do you read for different life troubles?
For ordinary work ills, colds, or days when things are not getting done as they should be, I'm all for trashy romance in the bathtub (alas, here I have neither bathtub nor source of trashy romance). The goofier the better: The Last Viking about mousy prof. falling for Viking who washed up next to her house is way better than attractive modern woman falling for attractive modern man stories.
For physical problems and general blues, I'm for the comfort of books I know well. I read The Blue Sword last week when I couldn't stand straight with back pain, and have read or skimmed Anne books, Charlotte's Web, Harry Potter, The Phantom Tollbooth, Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings at down times in the past year and pretty much every year.
In airports I prefer fast-paced novels of the places I'm visiting, but if I can't find that, then a far-fetched book like The Eight or The Time Traveller's Wife is my choice. Of course, an airport book must not be something I've read before, so neither or those will do again for me.
For real issues like a romantic break-up, the book cannot be too romantic, too short, too long, or something I've read before. I have no idea why I had it on hand unread at the time, but the first time I read The Blue Sword was when I was dumped long distance in 1994. Aside from being too short (I supplemented it with Maniac McGee), it was perfect for the situation. I note that I have no such books on hand now, so the Mister can't dump me anytime soon.
Let me know your choices.
*This use of Wuthering Heights fit perfectly with my freshman English teacher's warning that to find Wuthering Heights romantic, one must read it when one is a sixteen year old female. Having tried to read it at 10 and then at 23, I think I agree with him, and probably would have liked it at sixteen.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Visiting Prince Edward Island was my first real foray into literary tourism and I realized I didn't know how to go about doing it. I gushed at the red soils and birches and spruces and white sands because Anne's enthusiasm alerted me to look, but then what? Would I feel any closer to my favorite character if I went on "Lake of Shining Water Paddle Boats"? Did I really want a young woman dressed as Diana Barry to invite me for tea with red currant wine? Should I eat at the grand old Dalvay by the Sea hotel because Anne once elocuted there? Green Gables Golf?
In the end, I read the first three Anne of Green Gables novels right before we left (and had read most of the rest of the series in January), visited Green Gables, part of Prince Edward Island National Park (where we walked through Lover's Lane and the Haunted Wood, saw the house, watched a puppet show* and drank raspberry cordial), drove by Dalvay Hotel, and otherwise just thought about Anne. While at Green Gables, I was shocked by how well the place matched my vision of it. Parks Canada should be commended for this, but most of the credit is due to Lucy Maude Montgomery who described the world of Prince Edward Island with such accurate detail that it fits 100 years later and historians could easily replicate the scene. If planning a visit to Prince Edward Island, it is really worth reading the books
I've never read a book so exactly at the right moment as I did with No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLleod. I was on the ferry from Prince Edward Island to Pictou, Nova Scotia as I was reading about the landing of the the MacDonalds in Pictou in 1779. That evening, on the west coast of Cape Breton, after watching a "family ceilidh" run mostly by MacDonalds, I was sure the island lighthouse discussed in the book was the one right out my motel window. The fictional action had taken place 50 years prior to my being there, but I felt right in the middle of it. I think I would rank No Great Mischief as a great book even if I was not right there then, if I hadn't visited Toronto and Sudbury last summer, if I hadn't lived in Glen Coe and if I didn't have an inkling of Scottish history. However, I'm postmodern enough to believe that what I brought to the reading experience makes a difference. I brought a lot of scattered knowledge and left with far more. Highly recommended for anyone travelling to Cape Breton or Scotland, and overall recommended for anyone willing to see the history of a people through the saga of one family.
Fog Magic, a 1942 Newberry Honor Book by Julia L. Sauer, prepared me for the mists of the Nova Scotia coast. The Mister was surprised to find southern Nova Scotia enveloped in fog in the summer. Based on my reading of one short children's novel, I knew that it was more common in summer than winter on the Digby Neck. The book is sweet but refreshingly not simple. Issues are never resolved, the fishermen barely eek out a living, the threat of war hovers, and yet childhood is still full of wonder. A fine read.
What prompted the idea of literary tourism (apart from going to PEI, where it is hard to avoid Anne stuff), was a book given to me for my birthday, Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks form Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West by Schmid and Rendon. Unfortunately, the beautiful book is too fragmented to sit down and read and too dispersed over the world to be of much help in travel planning. Still, it is worth flipping through to see if a planned vacation takes you near a favorite author's summer residence or what about Prague has changed since Kafka's time.
*the Mister and I try to fit at least one puppet show into all of our travels. We managed two on this trip. The Green Gables puppet show was awful, but amusing, and the Fort Louisbourg show included a singing cod fish, which makes it hard to beat.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Hugs to all of the Mister's grandfather's family and friends.
*which still makes me sad because my maternal grandmother would have loved the Mister and joked with him in a way that my grandfather never could.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
And even if you carry a survival kit around with you at all times, it won't guarantee you'll survive. No kit in the world can protect you from all the possible bad things. (pg. 80)Even though the controversy surrounding Susan Patron's Newberry Award Winning The Higher Power of Lucky centers on the use of the word "scrotum"* what I found shocking was the raw honesty. Bad things happen and no kit can protect you.
I'm not sure how well this book will age, as part of its appeal is just how current it feels, but for now I highly recommend it for those who are ten and encountering the injustices of the world and those much older than ten who need a fun reminding that childhood can be simultaneously wonderous and terrifying and certainly unfair.
*It is weird how, despite knowning about the scrotum debate, it still startled me to run into it right there on page one.
Friday, July 18, 2008
and I happen to be entranced by it these days (as mentioned previously). The beetle is a milkweed beetle on our Asclepias incarnata, like Monarch Butterflies, they can handle the toxins in the milkweed and become poisonous themselves.
"She was very beautiful," he said as they lay looking at a Milky Way that was so
dense it covered them like a shawl. "Her face was small, like Jahan's, and she
was always popping up an laughing, like a marmot."
So Pakistani Balti man Twaha describes his first wife on page 120 of Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's extraordinary Three Cups of Tea. The book, describing how a failed attempt on K2 led to the Central Asia Institute and its attempts to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is not about marmots, or rodents of any kind. However, like Nick Hornsby's discussion of sugar mice in Fever Pitch, this line spoke to me. It takes a certain amount of experience with marmots to understand what a great compliment it is, but anyone reading can grasp its sweetness.
I've spent a fair amount of time in the last month trying to figure out what makes this book great. My father hurried and finished it while he was here in May so that he could leave the book with me (my mother had already read and recommended it). The Mister picked it up the day after I finished it and read the first half in one sitting. The Mister's father read it over two days while he was here. The Mister's father was particularly interested in the descriptions of Pakistan. He had been there in the 1980s and found the portrayal of the landscape and the people consistent with his experience. None of the rest of us have any experience in the area. None of us know enough about the climbing community to know anybody whose name was dropped* except Sir Edmund Hillary. The book is not a "feel good" book. The plot, as it were, involves lots of bureaucratic and logistic frustrations, which generally don't make for a page turner. Yet somehow it is a great book.
I credit author David Oliver Relin for the book's greatness. Greg Mortenson, the book's subject, has done fantastic stuff, but writing a biographical call-to-action that doesn't end up beatifying the subject, preaching, or just becoming boring, takes great literary talent. Relin works wonders with Mortenson's story without making a reader notice the writing at all. A great feat.
Plot wise, I would have liked this book far more if it didn't need to bring up 9/11, the Taliban and the invasion of Afghanistan. This speaks more to my desire to wish away the last eight years of US history than any legitimate criticism of the book. Of course, I also know a book about building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan would never have been written without the current terrorist angle. In any case, don't expect many marmots, but do read this book.
*I've come to realize that knowing names of food writers and a few gardeners can make you feel like an insider when reading Calvin Trillin or Ruth Reichl and like an outsider when trying to read about climbing or Arsenal football or discuss anything with anyone other than my mother.
**More money goes to Central Asia Institute if you buy Three Cups of Tea from the official website I've linked. I'll also happily pass around this well-read copy.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
What happened was, Chris Roberts bought a sugar mouse from Jack Reynolds ('The
Rock King'), bit its head off, dropped it in the Newmarket Road before he could
get started on the body, and it got run over by a car. And that afternoon
Cambridge United, who had hitherto been finding life difficult in the Second
Division (two wins all season, one home, one away), beat Orient 3-1, and a
ritual was born. Before each home game we all of us trooped into the sweet shop,
purchased our mice, walked outside, bit the head off as though we were removing
the pin from a grenade, and tossed the torsos under the wheels of oncoming cars;
Jack Reynolds would stand in the doorway watching us, shaking his head
sorrowfully. United, thus protected, remained unbeaten at the Abbey for months.
The opening of the best chapter I've read about luck all year, in a book I was not reading with thoughts to luck, and in it sweet rodents that are lucky. Reading this passage felt like a not-very subtle sign from God.
Alas, even the most obvious signs can have cryptic
meanings and I have yet to properly interpret God's lucky rodent message.