Sunday, December 23, 2007

Have you played FreeRice?

I was interested to hear about FreeRice on NPR (why on earth did I never listen to NPR before moving to Boston? Of course, I didn't own a car previously so listened to the radio much less often). For each word you guess right, they will donate 20 grains of rice through the UN to alleviate world hunger. Today I wasn't sure about "helicoid" but it sounded like helicopter, so I went with "spiral" and was equally dubious about "larboard" but it was "glacis" that broke my streak. . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Have you been wondering about Figgy Pudding?

My dear friend Marlene and her family invited me to accompany them to Boston's Christmas Revels on Sunday, which I enjoyed very much (as did the Boston Globe).

I noticed Marlene and I were both amused by the lyrics of We Wish You a Merry Christmas which went:

Now bring us some figgy pudding,
Now bring us some figgy pudding.
Now bring us some figgy pudding
And bring it right here!

We won't go until we get some,
We won't go until we get some,
We won't go until we get some,
So bring it right here!

Today, NPR officially answered all our questions by asking baking expert and cookbook author Dorie Greenspan and All Things Considered host Michele Norris to prepare figgy pudding, and this article even includes a recipe (it looks good and they swear it doesn't taste like fruitcake but maybe it is better to sing about than to eat).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Save Molly Pitcher!

There is a proposal to sell the naming rights to the rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike, although anyone who has ever traveled through the Garden State knows these rest areas are already named after New Jersey luminaries (this is not an oxymoron) like Vince Lombardi, Joyce Kilmer, Clara Barton, and Molly Pitcher. The last two, at least, were featured in the beloved series Childhoods of Famous Americans, which I eagerly ploughed through in my elementary school library. Author Megan Marshall recently told me her favorite, like mine, was the one on Amelia Earhart (it has been updated since our day). You can protest this shocking situation to NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak through his website.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hail to the real victors!

The buzz since Saturday has been all about Harvard's amazing victory over Big Ten opponent Michigan in basketball but the inimitable Paul McNeeley just sent an email with this amusing thought:

Why Harvard should get a shot at this year's college football national championship title . . .

Ohio State lost to Illinois
Who lost to Michigan
Who lost to Appalachian State
Who lost to Wofford
Who lost to Elon
Who lost to Furman
Who lost to Hofstra
Who lost to Northeastern
Who lost to URI
Who lost to Fordham
Who lost to Bucknell
Who lost to Cornell
Who Harvard beat handily 32-15

Simple transitive property!

(but shouldn't it be which instead of who?)

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Bill Clinton's new book is about giving and how individuals can change the world, and in that spirit Random House is sponsoring a sweepstakes for a book group to win 10 autographed copies of his new book:

Rules for Bill Clinton's Giving Sweepstakes
2. This sweepstakes runs from November 29, 2007 through February 1, 2008. To be eligible to win, you must provide your name, email address, complete mailing address and age in your email entry to Entries must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern Time on February 1, 2008. Limited to one entry per person per email account.
3. One (1) entrant chosen at random from all eligible entries will receive a prize consisting of 10 signed hardcover copies of Bill Clinton's Giving (approximate retail value: $249.50 US). Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.

Ugh, I was just reminded of the Giving Tree, a book I dislike. Perhaps that is why I never became a fan of Shel Silverstein's other books.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peppermint JoJos

Last December people were raving about a cookie from Trader Joe's nicknamed Candy Cane JoJos, which are like Oreos but with crunched up candy canes in the filling. I knew the minute I heard about them that I had to try some, so I hied me to the Trade Joe's in Newton, MA and they were sold out. I tried their Framingham location, and was told pityingly that I should have come closer to Thanksgiving. A kind acquaintance near Philadelphia sent me a box that somehow never reached me but went back to Philly (still packaged but in crumbs - which probably would have been very tasty with ice cream) (I complained to the post office but got no response to my letter, which is typical).

Last week I suddenly remembered I should be on the lookout for these cookies, so after the gym (haha but you know exercise makes one hungry!) I zipped over to Trader Joe's and prudently bought four boxes when I saw them in stock. I gave one box to my mother, hid two on a shelf that is hard to reach, and devoured one myself. They are every bit as delicious as promised!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Opera and Football

Last week it was fun to meet Harvard football player, Noah Van Niel, who attended my own high school, Newton North. Ever since John Powers' front page Boston Globe story about Noah's aspirations as an opera singer, he has garnered delighted publicity from writers tired of Ivy League prospects interested in nothing but completing passes and heading for investment banks. Of course, I am now curious to hear him sing, and his mother mentioned that Noah is singing in Cosi Fan Tutte in February and invited me to attend.

And by the way, we killed Yale . . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gun control

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the gun ban case from the District of Columbia, and Linda Greenhouse points out that this will make gun control a more important issue in the presidential election. I wonder if the politicians who will be most outspoken on this issue really want to be walking around the District if guns there become more prevalent?

And here is a lovely photo, courtesy of the Washington Post, of our fearless leader discussing Thanksgiving with a close friend...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sweet Caroline

Neil Diamond has revealed that Caroline Kennedy was the inspiration for this song. He recently performed it for her 50th birthday party. And he says the Red Sox are his favorite team . . .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Which Betsy-Tacy character are you?

Which Betsy-Tacy character are you?
Your Result: Betsy Ray
As a child, Betsy is lively and imaginative, a story-teller and a ring-leader. As she grows up, Betsy is popular with both boys and girls because of her fun spirit and love of a good time. She loves traditions, having fun, parties, and boys, but she sometimes undervalues herself and her talents. In the end she learns to love her true self and comes to realize and value her love of writing, and makes her dream a reality. Although she has had many beaus, she ends up with the one best suited to her (Joe Willard!), who understands her love of writing and encourages her to be her real self.
Carney Sibley
Tib Muller
Tacy Kelly
Winona Root
Emily Webster
Julia Ray
Irma Biscay
Which Betsy-Tacy character are you?
See All Our Quizzes

Here is the link again.

(I borrowed this from my friend Kate's site)

Monday, November 5, 2007

New niece!

Look at little Katherine with her already devoted auntie! Ah, at 60 hours old, all one needs is some swaddling and a hug or two... (the hugs were in no short supply, as she was greatly admired by everyone in sight, including her two older brothers).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Holiday Baking

I am not one of those people who starts decorating before Thanksgiving, and in fact, as some of you know, my mother always insisted that we wait until Christmas Eve to decorate the tree. But I just received something that put me in a very holiday frame of mind - my friends Valerie and Janice's book is out, Cookie Craft - doesn't it look lovely, not to mention appetizing?

Book Description
Amateur cookie crafters can achieve bakery-quality design and homemade fresh taste. Thanks to the clear instructions and practical methods, Cookie Craft gives readers access to the entire world of decorated cookies, beginning with an inspirational gallery of 150 colorful cookies guaranteed to start those creative juices flowing.

It will be on display at bookstores, including Borders and Barnes & Noble, and available at (my old account, I wonder how they are surving without me) and Amazon.

I could use some of those cookies now!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A rose by any other name

Someone at work called me Connie today. Several times. Which I hate. It was in an email so I couldn't correct him when it happened. And while it came from a pleasant individual and I know it was meant in a friendly way, I suspected that if I didn't say something, then all the people he had copied might start calling me Connie too! Next, it could be the whole organization. Then I might be stuck that way for the rest of my career... So I replied, saying yes, I would be happy to do whatever was needed, and signed my name (pointedly, I thought). However, the next email had another Connie in it! This time, when I signed my reply, I put Constance, not Connie. That got the message across satisfactorily, and I got two quick acknowledgements; I just hope it didn't make me seem like a prima donna...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

World Series

Are the Red Sox are baseball's loveable Goliath? This writers say, "When you’re a loveable loser and always the underdog, people cheer for you to finally taste victory. But when you win all the time — and spend a lot of money to do it — people start to get first bored and then resentful." This is certainly what happened with Duke: one day everyone felt bad for us losing to UNLV and then practically overnight people started rooting against us and throwing bottles at players' families! (Well, what do you expect from those Terps fans?!) Is it just a matter of time before the world turns on the Red Sox? We already hear that our (lack of) salary cap makes us just as bad as the Yankees, and the argument that we're good and they're evil simply doesn't sound convincing.

In this World Series, the Rockies are not only the underdogs, they are practically invisible as they stroll about town. But that doesn't mean they will be a pushover...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bob Ryan disses librarians!

The Boston Globe, October 18, 2007
IT ISN'T often that librarians make the pages of an opinion piece. When they do, it is usually because of standing up for patrons' rights or other fights for the freedom of information. This time, however, it came in the form of a negative stereotypical viewpoint of sports columnist Bob Ryan ("QB receives more support this season," Sports, Oct. 15). Ryan wrote, "And you can be sure [Tom] Brady will be seen in public with a homely librarian before he engages in any discussion about the difference between the receivers he was forced to work with last season and the ones he has now." Not only is that offensive, but it reinforces a stereotype that librarians fight against. It is outrageous how Ryan essentially equates librarians as lesser people to be associated with in comparison to, say, supermodels or actresses whom Brady may date more frequently.

It is time to stand up as a society and realize how important it is to break stereotypes and show respect to some of the most valuable community members we may be fortunate enough to "be seen with." As for Ryan, I would advise him to get to know his local librarians better.
The writer is a librarian at Norwell High School.

HOMELY LIBRARIANS unite - Boston Globe beautiful-person expert Bob Ryan doesn't think you are suitable for Tom Brady. Which is saying something, considering that Ryan looks like a cross between Bilbo Baggins, Tip O'Neill, and Elmer Fudd; comes from New Jersey; and makes his living watching other people play games.
On second thought, homely librarians - don't pay attention to what Ryan writes. It doesn't really matter.
JAY PARK, Easton, MA

I will say that Bob had an awesome piece today about sports fans which (partially) makes up for his insensitivity...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A proud day for Radcliffe and perhaps the world...

It is a happy day as former Prime Minister (and fellow Radcliffe alumna) Benazir "Pinky" Bhutto makes a triumphant return to Pakistan! While accusations of corruption brought down her government in 1996, she has always seemed sincere in her desire to bring democracy to her country (and some blamed the corruption on her husband, who I always suspected was part of a marriage of state, to disarm enemies who would not have taken her seriously if she were single). She has a very dangerous road ahead.

photo courtesty of Getty Images

Of course, tragedy struck, in the form of a suicide bomber, just hours after I wrote this, which must have been devastating for all involved but Bhutto sounds resolute.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

I am always lending books or donating my extras to the library, so when a friend in Houston recommended Bookmooch, which provides a way to swap unwanted books for ones one is seeking, I thought it was worth a try. For me, it has made the most sense when I could obtain a copy of a book from the UK not available here (and which might only cost a few pence in price but a lot in postage), although a) the most recent titles are often not listed yet, b) the used book/online market in the UK is very different from here so the inventory is limited, and c) one book took 3 months to appear! Sometimes it is a pain to make a special trip to the post office too, if one is doing the sending.

However, overall, the process is entertaining and Bookmooch seems to be adding 300 new members a day!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Land of Minnehaha

In Minnesota for work, I was able to rendezvous for dinner on Saturday night with several of the Twin City Betsy-Tacys, which was such a nice way to begin the week. Betsy Sundquist and her husband Kip picked me up at my hotel (Kip is a new acquisition since my last trip to Mankato, and had already shown himself to be a kindred spirit, not to mention a skillful city driver) and we drove to a place called Brits Pub not far away where Linda Gesling, Julie Chuba and Barbara Carter were waiting for us. I had not met Barb in person before but she was just as nice as in all our correspondence, and both Julie and Linda are old friends. As all Betsy-Tacy fans know, it is so easy to talk about every topic under the sun when we are together! Thus, it was also hard to tear ourselves away (and dinner was good too) but I still had several patents to read about so we left about 11 or so. Julie and I were amazed at the nightlife (and some of the outfits we saw) but the weather had been in the 80s so maybe it was a last hurrah before winter hits... It was a pity not to see the Target Center while I was there (oddly enough the Timberwolves were in London playing the Celtics!) but I was as charming as possible to all the local partners I met in the hope that they would ask me to come back to assist them with some important trial (however, don't hold your breath since a) there were plenty of very able new associates in that office too, and b) I may not know enough yet to be all that useful although I know a lot more than I did a week ago).

Left to right: Barbara Carter, Betsy Sundquist, CLM, Linda Gesling, Julie Chuba, Kip Sundquist. The ever thoughtful Betsy had also brought me a book to read, and the minute I saw the cover I remembered checking it out of the John Ward School library about 4th grade.

My work conference, which they called "boot camp" was both exhilarating and exhausting, with seminars and lots of practical application and role playing. I enjoyed getting to know the other new associates from different parts of the country but got very little sleep because we were working long hours (I have not mastered all the new technology yet and when I entered my hours for Tuesday, the computer argued with me, "You cannot work 26 hours in one day!" and I realized I had entered Tuesday and Wednesday in the same box. )

Here I am, hard at work, with two of my new colleagues, trying to fight off an (imaginary) infringing company:

I was amused to find the guy in the middle had been 19 years behind me in college! Needless to say, I did not share this with him. He was quite brilliant, and I have never seen anyone so adept with a computer who was not an IT professional. I wished he had been with me the first week of work when I was wrestling with PowerPoint! I have now signed up for a class since it is clearly going to be important to improve my computer skills.

I am always afraid in hotels that I am going to sleep through the alarm and miss my meetings, and Westin's Heavenly Bed threatened to smother me besides. I picked the nicest guy in my group (who unexpectedly confessed he watches Grey's Anatomy with his wife) and made him promise to call if I was missing at breakfast but luckily I made it down by 7:30 every morning.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Don't Gloat!

In New England, in Red Sox Nation, baseball continues amid joy and gloating.

However, gloating is never becoming and results in bad karma. And there is still a lot of baseball to play. I do think it is fortunate that my friend Dean was in Italy on vacation when the Yankees lost since he would not have taken it well.

photo courtesy of the Boston Globe

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Does this remind you of anything?

Chapter One

Tilly-Tod sounds like the name of just one little girl, but it was actually the name of two little girls who looked so much alike and were so much together that they were almost one, and so everyone called them Tilly-Tod, just like that, in one breath. There was no use in calling one all by herself, because the other one was sure to be close by her and to come running, too.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What was your favorite?

I was asked on Saturday to come up with a list of beloved children's books, now out of print, with possible commercial potential. I came up with:

The Thirteenth is Magic by Joan Howard (story of siblings who live in a New York City apartment building where - mysteriously - there is no 13th floor) (the fact that used copies are over $100 might indicate there is indeed demand!)

Emmy Keeps a Promise by Madye Lee Chastain (19th century story of sisters Emmy and Arabel who come to New York City to make their fortune - or, at least, Arabel comes to teach in a private school for young ladies and Emmy comes to keep an eye on Arabel)

The Lark in the Morn by Elfrida Vipont (first of two books about Kit Haverard, the "untalented" child of a musical Quaker family who finally discovers where she fits in)

I would have included the Mushroom Planet books except that the first one is still in print. My nephew liked the first one but it may be hard to get him all the sequels. I remember selling a tired ex-library copy on eBay a few years ago for $50.

If I could include adult books, I would start with Elswyth Thane's Williamsburg novels, of course. They desperately need to be introduced to a new generation. They might be my all time favorites (a strong statement, indeed!).

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The perfect job!

Forget law, I have found the job I was born for - Marketing Manager for M&Ms! Mars (the manufacturer) lists many job requirements, among them:

Consumer Insights (yes indeed, who better to be insightful about their chocolate needs)
Strategy Deployment (well, this seems reasonable for a marketing job but it is one of those trendy phrases that no one can actually define)
Communication - Message Development (this was something that came up frequently in my previous job: sales always thought we drove the message, and marketing always whined and argued that they were doing it. Luckily, the two groups were fairly fond of each other so we rarely came to blows)
Branding (that is something I am very experienced with although M&Ms hardly seems to need it, and those chattering/colorful candies you see in commercials are somewhat annoying)
Developing Strategies (why not?)
Trade & Channel Marketing (certainly the candy needs to be in all appropriate channels - no argument from me there)

but they do not list perhaps the most important qualification - pure love of M&Ms and willingness to eat them 24 hours a day. However, I must admit I am not willing to go live in Hackettstown, NJ just for this job. After all, if I wanted to be in NJ now, I would be at that nice lawfirm where the partners loved BeanyMalone and Georgette Heyer (admittedly, they were only two out of 50 or so).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sleepy at work?

My friend Karen used to take little cat naps at work, and although I think she had persuaded her secretary to prevent anyone bursting into her office unexpectedly, I was sure one day the phone would ring and she'd be calling to say she'd been busted! I was and am horrified at the idea of sleeping in public (or quasi public) but she was very calm about it also napped at the library when we were at Duke. She tells a funny story about a male stranger gently waking her up in Perkins - she thought he was being thoughtful and considerate - but it turned out he needed the reserve book she had fallen asleep upon and was trying to extract it without disturbing her. Waking up suddenly and trying to recover her dignity, she tried to present him with the book graciously, only to discover, quite mortified, that there was a small puddle of drool on the open page.

How do you like the sound of this product to facilitate napping at work? "I came up with the idea for my company while working at Deutsche Bank in New York — I saw colleagues falling asleep at their desks and even sneaking off to the bathroom to take naps," says a rested looking Arshad Chowdhury, founder of New York based MetroNaps, a company that aims to enhance workplace productivity through enabling employees to nap in a futuristic looking device called the Energy Pod.

Back in the day when I took clients to lunch a lot, I was surprised that those who had a glass or two of wine could stay so alert afterwards when we went back to their offices. Or maybe I overestimate my persuasive skills and they were just too tired to negotiate with me! Now, I am happy to say my new office just a few yards away from unlimited hot water and a Coke machine so I can rely on caffeine when needed. They offer what is known as a Flavia Drink Station and all the English Breakfast one can drink... I am curious whether the founder is a fan, like me, of The Prisoner of Zenda but it does not go into detail on the website.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Self Magazine on How to stop a headache before it starts provides 8 drug-free tips to avoid agony and painproof your day. It is no wonder I have such bad headaches since I fail these:

1. Do not press the snooze alarm because it disrupts your sleep/wake cycle (should I be blamed for something I do before I am even awake?)

3. Sit up straight or you will have muscle tension (I am not saying I *want* to slouch)

4. Drink water constantly during the day (lots of tea but I don't think that counts)

5. Avoid lunch of carbs (does it count if you have no time for lunch at all?)

6. Take a time out if you get stressed (but it's because you don't have time for a break that you are stressed)

8. Wind down slowly with calming activities (I can see this is a good idea but very difficult)

I do manage these two!

2. Maintain caffeine if you enjoy it

7. Exercise (although do not walk as much as when I lived in NYC)

Judge makes 'Green Eggs and Ham' ruling

I am certainly hopeful that my legal career will not be devoid of the literary influences that made publishing fun so I was interested to see that a judge had gone to Dr. Seuss for inspiration rather than some dry legal tome:

"I do not like eggs in the file," Judge Muirhead wrote. "I do not like them in any style. I will not take them fried or boiled. I will not take them poached or broiled. I will not take them soft or scrambled/Despite an argument well-rambled." He then ordered the egg destroyed: "No fan I am/Of the egg at hand. Destroy that egg! Today! Today! Today I say! Without delay!" (for more, click here)

In fact, an inmate who did not want to eat hard boiled eggs had sent one to the judge from his prison cell. The inmate (a convicted sex offender) says he cannot tolerate hard-boiled eggs and is suing the state Department of Corrections for $10 million. He does not appear to be getting a lot of sympathy but the judge sounds like a great guy.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Expensive Hobbies

Some people have accused me of collecting random items but at least I have never spent $1.13 million on a decoy duck! And the one pictured is nearly as costly!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Two unrelated thoughts

Here is the view from my new office (the brick building on the left is my old courthouse):

In a completely different vein, I was amused by a Boston Globe article this morning which begins, "Underneath the hoodie of Bill Belichick beats a human heart..." Well, who knew? And I am a little surprised that Tedy Bruschi (author of a great new book) , the soul of integrity and passion, supported his coach so wholeheartedly. One would have thought players like Bruschi and Vrabel would be so offended at any cloud overshadowing their play...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Pawnshops and moneylenders in fiction are delightfully seedy, and often provide a critical plot element (at least in the sorts of books I enjoy). Think of Beany Malone nervously pawning her engagement ring in Tarry Awhile (and Carlton gallantly retrieving it for her). Another favorite is Sophy Stanton-Lacy's decisive visit to the office of Mr. Goldhanger, the money lender in The Grand Sophy, when she retrieves her cousin's rash pledge. Sophy is the most outrageously assertive heroine of Heyer's and one of my favorites by far. Unlike Beany, she is a brilliant and creative problem solver. Beany is more like the rest of us - she always gets caught.

Edith Layton, an author I have enjoyed since my former boss Brian Heller first handed me one of her novels in 1990, has a short story, The Earl's Nightingale, in one of the Regency Christmas anthologies in which the heroine pawns a music box and it is sold before she can retrieve it (there is a happy ending involving a nobleman who joins with Eliza to recover her precious music box).

In real life, pawnshops are also the background for secrets and stressful situations, and surprisingly the pawnshop continues to be a neighborhood institution in certain areas and is thriving, with about 12,000 in the US currently and there are even tradeshows! As the New York Times states, the pawnshop is a place "[w]here people go to put their jewelry to work for them, sometimes pawning the same item over and over again." It sounded a lot more glamorous in Regency England, alas!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pasta Protest

Italians call for 1-day pasta strike! Don't laugh - while everyone in Boston is worried about Bill Belichick and Tapegate and punishment handed down by Roger Goodell, there is a serious wheat shortage which could send the price of pasta skyrocketing!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

A lot has been written about Madeleine L'Engle since her death last Thursday, some in appreciation of her children's books and some in appreciation of her more religious or adult work. I was privileged to meet her in 1990 at an autographing for The Glorious Impossible at the old Scribner's, then a Brentano's on Fifth Avenue. She signed the picture book but now I wish I had asked her to sign the beautiful Giotto inspired poster that went with the book, and which I later had framed. There were so many people in line (I remember the group behind me had driven all the way from KY) that we did not get more than a minute or two with the author but it was still very exciting to talk to her. She seemed interested to hear that my favorite book was And Both Were Young, which she said was an unusual choice and was partially based on her own boarding school experience.

A Washington Post writer in a nice tribute implies that we readers love Meg Murry because she is like us: awkward and gangly. That may be true but it ignores two important things - 1) all of L'Engle's heroines are slightly awkward - they are mostly late bloomers, quirky and intelligent, and 2) A Wrinkle in Time is about much more than Meg and her teenage angst. L'Engle wrote about Meg, not so her readers could identify with a heroine but because she saw herself in Meg and because there was a strength in Meg that transcends the science/magic in that novel. Meg's sister Suzy, much prettier and more easily brilliant, is never the heroine (although memorable in her own way; I did quote her feelings about eating pigs in an animal rights paper I wrote several years ago).

Similarly, Flip, in And Both Were Young, at first inarticulate and awkward, eventually blossoms in an alien environment once she gains confidence. Encouraged by a French boy she meets on the mountains and by an art teacher who recognizes her talent, she becomes the means through which all the other characters are fulfilled. She actually changes and matures more than Meg, although less dramatically. Although this book is part of the boarding school genre I love, it is by far one of the best, both in its realistic portrayal of the negative aspects of school life and its cast of diverse and multidimensional characters (including the actual presence of an attractive teenage boy).

One article, written by a family friend, quoted her as saying, "Did you ever realize that if you spell live backwards you come up with the word evil?" she once said with a devilish grin. "To live, you know, you have to be just a teeny bit evil and wicked."

That is my kind of author!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fall TV

This is a fun site discussing the new fall TV shows, with a link to the premiere dates. It also reveals there is going to be a remake of a movie I love, Adventures in Babysitting. There is also an interesting review of the third season DVD of Grey's Anatomy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Miss Manners

I am addicted to Miss Manners, and today she stuck up for English majors! Or at least told us how to turn the other cheek.

She also offers advice for dealing with friends and colleagues who can't put their Blackberries away (I read this with interest since I believe I will get one for my new job so will likely be an offender soon).

Like my mother, she abhors use of the phrase "you guys."

I like this one too:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a physics student and aspiring physicist, and when I answer people's questions about my career plans, I often find myself confronted with a conversation-stopping "You must be so smart!" Despite feeling a little marginalized by this common comment, I realize it is usually intended to be flattering. However, agreeing with this declaration makes me sound arrogant, and disagreeing seems unnecessarily self-effacing. Can you offer any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: "No, if I were really smart, I'd find a way to get on the football team."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Happy Birthday, Phyllis Whitney!

Author Phyllis Whitney turns 104 today, and her website is accepting birthday wishes which will be shared with her (some of these messages are fun to read). She wrote 76 books (some of which I began reading in elementary school), refusing to be limited to one genre or one country but let her love of travel and many interests inspire her to write children's mysteries, adult suspense, books on writing, and juvenile fiction. I remember the dust jackets of her books emphasized the fact that she had grown up overseas, primarily in Japan and China, and her settings ranged from Southern plantations, Norway, Catskill resorts, the Blue Ridge mountains, and more.

My two favorites were The Highest Dream, about a young woman who goes to work as a tour guide at the United Nations, and Mystery on the Isle of Skye, about orphan (of course!) Cathy's trip to meet her new family in Scotland (Whitney was herself of Scottish descent) and the mystery she finds there. I made sure to do the United Nations tour myself once, and thought about Phyllis as I did so.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Back to School with Bully

I had forgotten that my friend Bully shares my love of school stories and PG Wodehouse; he has been reviewing a Wodehouse a week since April without telling me. This week he is reading a book I barely knew existed, Tales of St Austin's, written (or at least published) by old Pelham in 1903. As you can tell from the photo, Bully is a well traveled plush, having been on the Tube as well as the NY subway and Boston MBTA (known to us locals as the T). He was gracious enough to pose with me about 18 months ago, between literary and other endeavors.

Bully describes the collection thusly: "There's twelve short stories here, plus four short essays on boarding school life, and they're all excellent examples of very early Wodehouse gung-ho adventure and good gentle humor. His romances are definitely in the future...there's no sign of a beating heart in these stories, unless it's out of nervousness over an upcoming exam...but there's an easily-recognizable frivolity of language and devil-may-care atmosphere, complete with a handful of genially mild twist endings that are nevertheless the prototypes for his later, more complicated works." I am excited about Bully's plans to share his impressions of every Wodehouse title since I have only read about a third of them (I hate to admit it but many of them have blurred in my mind).

Very foolishly, when I worked at Penguin, and could have got every (in print) Wodehouse for free, I was worried about the inadequate shelf space of my NYC apartment and refrained. Maybe I was also temporarily turned off by the fact that a Lady Constance is both a prominent and villainous character in what seems like many of the books! Now I regret it, and since he wrote 93 books it will take me much longer to collect them than it will take Bully to reread and review them.

Monday, September 3, 2007

So long, farewell!

Friday was the last day of my clerkship, and I was somewhat melancholy at the thought of leaving my judge who has been so much fun to work with over the last year. I was very busy finishing up projects and writing helpful memos to my successor (since he also went to Duke I thoughtfully left him the 07-08 basketball schedule and a picture of Christian Laetner, but he says he has no interest in sports - what a downer for the Judge, who enjoys them very much) but paused to take a few photos of our beautiful courthouse with my friend Felicia, who clerked down the hall.

My favorite security guard snapped our picture in front of the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote, "The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience." (1881)

Life in chambers is not entirely research: there is occasionally time for hoop!

Of course, I am not going far, merely a few blocks away...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Clueless in South Carolina

Did you hear about the South Carolina contestant for Miss Teen USA? She was asked why 1 in 5 Americans can't find the US on a map, and she replied:

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as in, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children."

I can't help with her incoherence but I do recommend she play the Place the State game! It is quite addictive. When I first read this story, I pitied Appalachian State, where she is about to enroll, for getting bad publicity. But then last night, they had a win for the ages against Michigan! Naturally, as a supporter of Division 1AA football, I rejoice with them but I was not the only one to connect the two events although ESPN's take was a little different from mine...

The co-author of Freakonomics, who attended the rural North Carolina college, had a great essay in the NYT on Monday on how the win was his happiest moment as an alumnus.

Red Sox coloring book

What a great concept, a Red Sox coloring book! It looks very cute, and I know a nephew or two who might enjoy it. I like the fact that this woman couldn't get her heart into sketching the Yankees, once she had been authorized to do one for each MLB team, so had to hire someone.

I had been wondering if children color as much as I did growing up, since I have noticed that Crayola has expanded its product offerings into other areas. However, the recent news that Toys 'r Us was recalling 27000 Chinese imported crayon sets containing lead paint makes it sound as if Crayola has been losing market share. Will Americans be willing to pay more for safer products made domestically? It seems clear they expect the manufacturers or distributors to absorb the expense of product safety inspections.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Spam vs. Bacon

I am very intrigued by a new term I heard about on NPR and want to alert my old friends in Cleveland, the editors of the definitive dictionary, Webster's New World (we will have to see if it catches on). We all get tons of email we don't want to read but it falls into different types of junk mail (just as my snail mail does). First there was spam. Now there is bacn (pronounced "bacon"), the latest buzzword to infiltrate the Internet.

Spam is junk email like those neverending messages about Viagra or from people in Africa seeking money but according to NPR, bacn is e-mail you want to read — just not now.

I used to think it was funny/annoying that whenever I asked B& to send a targeted email to their customers about a certain book, using buying history, they would argue that they didn't want to overload these people's email boxes. But they certainly don't hesitate to send me messages that rarely relate to my interests. What, I'm not special?

It may be holy but it's still a liquid!

I don't know whether to laugh or sympathize with the pilgrims who thought they could bring holy water onto the new Vatican airline! I can see that if you had stood in a long line at Lourdes waiting to fill up your bottle, you would be miffed at not being able to bring it home with you. But surely they could have packed it carefully in their checked luggage? Or are they proper old fashioned pilgrims, traveling light with split peas in their shoes as I first learned in the Wouldbegoods? I have not been to Lourdes but I bet there are local retailers selling special (empty) water bottles to the pilgrims (along with less innocuous souvenirs).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Queen of Mean

I see that Leona Helmsley, subject of one of the first Bantam books I ever worked on, The Queen of Mean, who died recently, left $12 million to her dog, but cut out two of her four grandchildren altogether (she says they know why). Maybe I shouldn't have been so hasty persuading my grandmother to adopt Olive the Cat back in May...

Here is poor Leona with her husband Harry in happier days.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick and hypocrisy

As my favorite professor Gary Francione wrote last week, "We're all Michael Vick," and he has a point. Despite three years under his tutelage, I have not become a vegetarian (I am selfish and like cheeseburgers too much) but I can't help agreeing with the substance of his argument which is that Americans are hypocritical about animals, artificially separating them into species which can be exploited and species which cannot. As he has reminded me, this results from the fact that dogs are cute and cows are not (admittedly, pit bulls are not cute but they are still dogs, hence the national outrage).

However, what really seemed ridiculous to me was that the Pittsburgh reporter who said that Michale Vick would have been "better off raping a woman" than being charged with dogfighting was forced to apologize and will no longer appear on the sports show where he made the remark. Surely no one can really believe the reporter was advocating rape. What Paul Zeise meant - and no one seems willing to admit it is true - is that celebrity athletes (and non-athletes) appear to be condemned less for violent crimes against humans than for violent crimes against dogs. Obviously both deserve our outrage and swift punishment. Zeise may well have been accurate when he said a rapist "might have been suspended for four games and he'd be back on the field" as opposed to Vick's being suspended from the NFL indefinitely.

While Zeise's comment was unfortunate and poorly phrased, he invoked (less articulately) the "moral schizophrenia" in our society Professor Francione laments. However, there is a silver lining - Vick said today that this situation has helped him find Jesus. I assume Jesus is running as fast as He can in the opposite direction...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Things that bothered me about the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy

I got a little behind but thanks to my DVR have finally watched the last two episodes of Grey's Anatomy and the Addison spin-off:
Why is Derek suddenly the good guy? Derek has been looking for an excuse to break up with Meredith ever since Richard said he wanted to protect Meredith’s relationship so wouldn’t support Derek’s candidacy for chief of surgery. Derek responded to that possible setback to his ambitions by distancing himself from Meredith, stopped staying over, etc. It was very noticeable and seemed obvious he didn’t want to be held back by her. So, while he may be hurt she didn’t tell him about the disastrous first intern exam (not that she told anyone at all but George realized because he observed her staring into space instead of scribbling; maybe he should have been worried for himself), for Derek to blame Meredith for relying on her friends rather than him is absurd. He seemed so insincere when he said she was the love of his life yet that was meant to be an emotional heart-jerking scene. Plus only someone really insensitive would pick practically the middle of a wedding to have a Relationship Talk with the maid of honor. Not to mention that she is still recovering from that dreadful scene where her father slapped her! But as a break up it was a little too abrupt. No one can break up that quickly after three seasons getting together. Meredith should have picked Finn. He wasn’t as needy as the rest of her friends and someone at Seattle Grace needs to date outside that hospital.

Addison is far too beautiful to be so self-pitying, and it is surprising that Callie doesn’t hate her (but they both need someone to confide in so had to maintain the relationship). I was waiting for the woman with the twins to give one to Joe the bartender and one to Richard and his wife! By the by, don't I recall that Joe was having severe financial difficulties with the bar? How can he afford to support twins?

Alex may have felt a sense of connection to Ava/Rebecca, but it seemed more as if he appreciated having someone who looked up to him than was actually in love. And why doesn’t anyone ever tell these interns not to get romantically involved with their patients? They should flunk their exams for that, rather than anything on the test!

It was brilliant of Callie to torment Izzie by saying she and George were working on having a baby. However, Izzie almost deserved it by first telling George she loved him as a friend (causing him to flunk his exams), then (after he gave up and decided to make the best of things with Callie, who is, after all, his wife) telling him that she really did love him and want to be with him. It was never really convincing that he married Callie anyway – there did not seem to be any chemistry between them, plus she is so much larger than he is. But now she is bound to be pregnant, making it harder (as we all know) for him to leave her. I wasn’t sure at first but now I think George and Izzie do belong together (anyone but that awful Seth Rogen!).

I can see why George failed the exam but the show needs George to survive. At first I thought that failing was to prevent him from going to the rival hospital, if he has to repeat his internship. But really having him more or less kicked out is too much like last season when Izzie was the one being potentially tossed. And if anyone deserved a promotion on this show it was Miranda! She is the only professional person in the hospital! To promote Callie, after she lived in the basement of the hospital, is ridiculous, and I don't think she ever displayed characteristics that made her seem like a leader. If anything, she never bonded with any of the interns (except George) and showed insecurity re their cliqueishness.

Derek was a creep to tell Meredith about the girl in the bar, whom I gather was also the new intern talking to George at the end. But how can she be Meredith’s half sister, Lexie? How could they be so close in age unless Thatcher walked out the day Meredith was born? Was he carrying on with Susan before he left Ellis? And why was Lexie in a bar instead of consoling her messed up father about her mother’s death? Would she really pick Meredith’s hospital to do her training, especially given that Thatcher believes the hospital is responsible for Susan’s death? How odd that Thatcher didn’t put his foot down about Lexie going to med school. This is far too clich├ęd a plot line.

The patient subplots are often very boring, and I especially lost interest in the axe victim.

I think Shonda made a mistake by allowing Meredith to become so whiney and damaged that viewers now seem to dislike her. You can’t treat your star character that way if you want your show to survive declining ratings. Cristina is far more interesting but not very likeable (and looked awful without eyebrows – that was too weird). Izzie needs to cut down on involvement with patients and sleeping with married men/coworkers. Aesthetically, it made sense to have all the characters become single again as a season finale, although it is hard on the viewers!

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Duke schedule is released!

Even I don't start worrying about basketball until the baseball season is over, but there is always a frisson of interest when Duke releases its schedule and I examine it carefully to figure out when I will be able to see my team play in person. Unfortunately, this year, the closest the team will get is New York (a neutral site game against Pitt on a weeknight) and at Temple (on another weeknight in January), and I will have less flexibility this year in terms of taking an afternoon off to get to my seat by tipoff. Admittedly, one often sees better on TV but of course it is not the same! However, until the new freshmen make their mark, there is no one incredibly exciting on this team (and hasn't been since JJ graduated), and while Gerald Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson show signs of brilliance they have not been able to sustain it for an entire game. I guess I will stick to the Red Sox for the time being although their August slump is worrying everyone in the Nation... although Red Sox fans on the road, seem to be having fun, so long as you don't ask Terry Francona!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Is Neil Diamond cool again?

Sweet Caroline is one of those songs everyone has known forever but when did it gain such a cult following at sporting events? Even NPR has investigated this phenomenon. The Red Sox play it in the middle of the 8th inning, with the fans loudly chiming in for the chorus with "so good, so good, so good." It is surprising that Neil himself hasn't been coaxed to Fenway to perform it live. Admittedly, I don't know if he was ever cool previously, although I know the song was a big hit in the late 60s.

My friend Scott's band Jobu often plays it as well. The Jobu groupies chime in with x-rated lyrics but at least they have stopped flashing the band and spectators. I called Scott from Fenway when I was there on Saturday while the crowd was singing and held up my cell phone so he could experience it. He came with me to a game at Fenway in 2002 (and protected me from angry Yankees fans while I was in law school, which was a full time job) but has stayed loyal to the Mets despite being exposed to the true faith...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We all scream...

Last summer when I was in Tuscany (she wrote oh-so-casually, trying to sound like a world traveler), my sister and I joked that we wanted all our days to be two gelato days. It would not have been hard because we found amazing gelaterias in every town we visited (and did sometimes indulge at noon and again before heading back to our villa). We liked the fact that the servers always urged us to try two flavors at once in our cones, which we tried to keep in the same family, such as raspberry and lemon or chocolate and cream, although others were more daring and went for random combinations. On a hot day, gelato is indescribably delicious. Europeans do seem to take their gelato seriously, and in Vienna there is even a special flavor for dogs.

However, I really think ice cream is better, and I rejoice in the abundance of ice cream available in Massachusetts, after so many years in NY where ice cream is an afterthought. NPR had a piece recently on the anniversary of the banana split, but in my opinion a plain cone (preferably two scoops!) is preferable to a fancy sundae. My favorite flavor is peppermint stick, and is available commercially from Brigham's, at least in Massachusetts. In my childhood, Brigham's operated many little restaurants, including one in Newton Centre, where we sometimes persuaded my father to buy us cones on the way home from church in the summer. My sister says they were only 20 cents! There are still a few locations but the one in downtown Boston closes at 5 pm (twice I got there just as they shut down, which was most annoying - also foolish - why not stay open until after rush hour?). Luckily, many grocery stores sell the ice cream. People love the locally themed flavors such as Big Dig (our dreadful tunnel construction), Dice-Kream (in honor of our new pitcher), and Fluffernutter (invented in Lynn, MA).

Last week, in Cape Cod, we visited Four Seas, which had been recommended to us by our friend Elayna, and it definitely lived up to expectations. Although my favorite part of our excursion was not even the ice cream but when my not quite 2 1/2 nephew said firmly (and repeatedly) to the server, "Chocolate in a cone, NOT A CUP!" As an adult, you forget what a rite of passage it is to be finally considered old enough to cope with a cone. My nephews are really not that skilled at licking. James proudly said he was biting his cone, but there was not much point in instructing otherwise! Coping with a cone is simply a skill one acquires with age. Several trips were made to Four Seas but we also liked a place in Osterville called Gone Chocolate, right on Main Street.

When my family lived in Brighton, there was an ice cream truck called Arthur's, that served our street. The ice cream novelties were nothing special (although seemed very desirable at the time!) but it was fun to watch the neighborhood kids running to coax their mothers into buying. Now Boston seems to have far too many angry citizens complaining about the tunes from the trucks - what a bunch of scrooges!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Janet Lambert for grownups!

Tonight I went to a booksigning at Barnes & Noble for a local author I really enjoy, Suzanne Brockmann, and it was a fun event. When I first started reading her books, she was making a move from Bantam's Loveswept line but is now a very successful NYT bestselling author for Ballantine. She writes romantic suspense about a group of Navy Seals (which even she acknowledges is an unusual concept) and in several was able to mix historical and contemporary events by very skillful use of flashbacks (I thought those were some of her best books). There were lots of questions from the audience. I commented that her most interesting and unusual character Gina had been introduced in a relatively early book yet readers had to wait a long time for her to get her own story in Breaking Point. Her answer, which I liked, was that because Gina had gone through such trauma initially that it would have been unrealistic and simplistic to give her a happy ending right away so she let time pass (with her characters, not just forcing her readers to wait). What I didn't tell Suzanne was that I still haven't read that one - I was almost afraid it wouldn't live up to expectations so was waiting for the right moment! However, when I heard tonight that Force of Nature was her 44th book I realized I am missing quite a few. Perhaps I need to go back to the beginning and read chronologically. It was a pity not to be accompanied by Julie Naughton, who is an even bigger fan than I am.

I had not previously been to this particular B&N although it is only about 35 minutes from my house. It may be the largest in the Boston area, spacious, attractive and relatively new. There was a good crowd in attendance, all very friendly and enthusiastic, taking their cue from Suzanne who is just as nice as my friend Gilly, who used to be her publicist at Random House (and doubtless deserves much credit for her sales), had said, and signed several of my hardcovers from home as well as the new book. It felt a bit odd being a spectator instead of "working" the event as I did for so many years. The B&N event manager was extremely competent and pleasant (we discussed Bridget Moynahan's mysterious due date, among other things) and told me she is expecting a huge crowd on 9/11 for Stephenie Meyer's new vampire book. I did enjoy the first one (Twilight, which I read on a plane to Rome) but felt the last 25% of the book was too rushed. I didn't feel any urgency about reading the second one and my sister said it wasn't as good, anyway. Maybe sometime!

Suzanne Brockmann and I (not sure why we are leaning forward!)

Monday, August 13, 2007

TV doctors playing with life and death

As a big fan of Grey's Anatomy (despite its flaws), I was interested to read today that such medical shows and their cavalier attitudes towards organ donations (this means you, Izzie!) scare off potential donors! This may or may not be accurate but if true would be distressing. However, it is not the first time I have been startled by superstitious attitudes about organ donation. My former boss Helmus once told a group of co-workers that he would never be an organ donor because he is convinced that if he were in an accident and an EMT saw the donor card, he would be harvested instead of saved. And he a doctor's son! Sitting around a restaurant in San Francisco, we looked at him dubiously but he was quite serious. Perhaps fortunately, his theory has not been put to the test. I myself am duly registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts via the Department of Motor Vehicles.

What would James Bond do?

Although not a martini fan myself, I share the curiosity of the individual who wrote to the Boston Globe, "I know James Bond has a preference, but is there a big difference between a shaken martini and a stirred one?" and I feel sure my friend Terry Kawaja would want to know also.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Are you cheating?

People often ask me (I love how I am the arbiter of taste, sort of like a modern day Sir Philip Sidney - my friend Katie used to pose questions beginning, "Do you think it's appropriate...?") whether it's cheating if you listen to the audio book instead of physically reading the book, and today the New York Times addressed the issue. Does this also depend on whether you are reading the book as an assignment or for your book group vs. for yourself? It seems to be the other members of the book groups who are resentful that they are "grinding away" while others are lightheartedly listening. Yet if the reading is a chore (for them or you), why do it at all? While surely it is the exposure to the author's language and story that is essential, not whether you read or listen to it, I do admit I have a faint feeling that listening to an audio version is the easy way out.

What do you think?

The new big three??

Suddenly people are buying Celtics tickets again! I was initially so glad to see Paul Pierce looking happy that it took a few minutes to a) recognize him and b) appreciate that Kevin Garnett has a lot of charisma and charm. The euphoria around town yesterday was contagious and fun but quite premature. And while I was sorry to see Al Jefferson go as he has lots of potential, I think this trade has saved Danny Ainge's credibility as a GM/president of the Celtics. Assuming there are enough players left to field a team!

It appears that none of my Minnesota friends was caught in the appalling bridge collapse yesterday but my sympathy is with all those who were there or were affected. Unfortunately, no one is going to feel comfortable driving on bridges for a while. Anywhere.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Who knew Meg Cabot reads Betsy-Tacy?

My friends at B& just sent me their weekly email about new releases, including a link from Meg Cabot, which says she is reading Maud Hart Lovelace (you have to scroll down)! I am not a fan of the Princess Diaries; that genre has been done better by Gwendoline Courtney in A Coronet for Cathie, A Royal Pain by Ellen Conford and others. However, I have enjoyed her 1-800 and Mediator series and other YA titles, as well as her adult novels. And clearly if she likes Betsy-Tacy, her heart is in the right place.

As you may know, the most famous Ruritanian story is The Prisoner of Zenda, in which dashing Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll, vacationing in an imaginary Balkan-like imaginary country, unexpectedly meets the local king, Rudolf the Fifth. They are similar enough to be twins (but they're cousins!), due to a long distant ancestor, but the Englishman is brave and honorable while the king is well intentioned but weak. When Rudolf learns that the king's life and throne are in danger, he has no choice but to impersonate him. Rudolf steps in gallantly to save his double's throne but does not bargain for falling in love with the king's betrothed, the beautiful Flavia. Ultimately, he must give her up - the honorable thing to do - and return to England with only his integrity for company, leaving the flawed Rudolf as king. This story has been filmed several times (and spoofed also; one of my favorites is a Get Smart episode called The King Lives).

Friday, July 27, 2007

More Grammar (or lack thereof in Junie B. Jones)

Count me in with those who feel that Junie B. Jones is Talking Trash when author Barbara Parks has her heroine (cheerfully) prattle ungrammatically. I understand that children do not speak in perfect English, and sometimes their errors are cute and amusing but frankly if such glitches are the fabric of your plot Parks has work to do as a writer. How will children ever learn the difference between good and bad grammar if they can't rely on books recommended by teachers and librarians? Not every parent can provide correction at home, and many children learn by reading as well as listening.

Normally I agree with the school of thought that feels any books beloved by children are worth supporting but I must make an exception here. While Ramona Quimby's malapropisms are charming: "Turn on the dawnzer's lee light," for example, this series leaves me cold! There are lots of other books with more likeable characters than the verging-on-obnoxious Junie, and I am sure booksellers (although perhaps not Random House, publisher of this series) and librarians can help these readers find something better!

Grammar Police

Someone is correcting the grammatical errors on signs in public places and no, I am not the culprit (although frequently tempted). I did used to cringe when I read the emails and other documents disseminated by my former boss but at least he would let me edit when it was something for a major presentation involving other people (I'd like to say this saved us both embarrassment but he never let anything bother him so I was effectively only protecting myself). He had a good heart and he meant well.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Run for president of Red Sox nation!

Have you ever dreamed of becoming president of the most enthusiastic, obsessive and loyal (yet at times the most unforgiving) fans in the world, those of Red Sox Nation? If for no other reason, the perks sound great:

• Four tickets to 10 games in 2008
• A ceremonial first pitch before a game in 2008
• A suite for one regular season game in 2008
• A trip to Spring Training with a guest
• Official business cards
• A credential to allow entry for all 2008 regular season games
• Periodic appearances on NESN/WRKO
• Periodic meetings with Red Sox senior executives
• Official spokesperson reacting to Red Sox news

And maybe I would get to meet my favorite players, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What was your favorite book as a child?

The New York Times asked today what was *your* favorite book when you were a child and it is interesting to see all the comments. Many mentioned favorites of mine such as The Phantom Tollbooth, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series, Narnia, The Lord of the Rings but I was also interested to see an early comment listed the Malory Towers and St. Clare's books of Enid Blyton, which very much influenced my early (and lasting) love of English school stories. Many of the books I loved as a child were books that were already published so I tried to remember books that my sister and I eagerly anticipated coming out in the same way we now await HP VII tomorrow night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Police Excuse Angry Computer User for Outburst

As the police observed, who *hasn't* wanted to toss her computer out the window in a fit of frustrated rage? I completely sympathize. In fact, in this day and age, it would almost be abnormal not to have become so enraged at least once...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Find Out Your Harry Potter Personality!

Distressing to find that my Harry Potter Personality reveals that I am the Weasley Twins! My law school friends thought I was much more like Hermione and I could hardly argue.

And here is a great article from the Washington Post on Pottermania. While I have been a fan since November 1999 when Joe Monti summoned me from the hallway outside his office and said he had a treat for me, then carefully handed me my own copy of Sorcerer's Stone, I know others came to the books later or through their children. Thank you, Joe!

Maida's Little Island

On Thursday, Carolynne Lathrop (visiting Betsy-Tacy listren from Iowa, who is also a Maida fan), my mother and I set out to visit Spectacle Island, one of the Boston Harbor Islands, the setting for Maida's Little Island (1939). The island has been expensively restored after 6 million tons of dirt and gravel from Boston's Big Dig were dumped on it, creating an 80 foot mound of trash. A friendly and helpful park ranger drove us to the island's north drumlin, the highest point in Boston's Harbor, where we were 157 feet above sea level (I had not worn appropriate shoes and was delighted to have scored us a ride in the airport-like people mover since the day was hot and the road to the top was long and dusty).
North Drumlin, Spectacle Island
This vista towered over neighboring islands and boasted a view spanning Boston's skyline and the 40 miles between Salem to the north and the Blue Hills Reservation to the south. The island itself was named by early colonists because of its resemblance to a pair of eyeglass spectacles shaped by two hills, with what is called a bridge in the middle. See map.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, Book 1

I began with Charlotte's Rose by A. E. Cannon, juvenile historical fiction which I had read a very positive review about years ago and noted for future reading, either for myself or my nieces. It is exactly the sort of book I read by the armful as a child. Charlotte and her father are Mormons who have left England in 1856 for the religious freedom and better economic opportunities of Utah. While Charlotte is the archetypal heroine in some ways - impulsive, quick tempered, imaginative, determined - however, she seems surprisingly young for her age given the era and the recent loss of her mother. For example, she does not seem to suspect that her animosity for family friend John, a boy her own age, is the precursor to adolescent romance (John seems more aware of it than she does).

As this group of Mormons travels towards Salt Lake City, a young woman dies in childbirth, and Charlotte surprises herself by offering to take care of the baby Rose while the grief-stricken husband Thomas Owen recovers. Cannon does well at describing the difficulties of carrying and tending to a baby as the group struggles along the trail. In particular, Charlotte, who still misses her mother and finds it hard to be taken seriously either by adults or peers (although she has a great relationship with her father), pours her emotions into baby Rose, and the pain of eventually returning Rose to Thomas was movingly depicted (in a different type of book, perhaps, Thomas would have proposed to Charlotte but this outcome was better). There is a strong sense of the difficulties and isolation of the long journey, as well as the physical obstacles encountered as members of this group push small carts containing all the personal belongings each was allowed to bring for the new life. It is made clear that this life in the New World does not offer an easy solution from the problems encountered in the Old World, and some are rightly apprehensive of what lies ahead. An interesting thread was Charlotte's longing to be able to read, contrasted also with her fear that she was losing her memories of her mother. Cannon delicately implies that reading and writing are the way to capture memories permanently (obviously, I agree), and a sorrowful young woman, part of the Mormon group, eventually promises to teach Charlotte how to read after they reach Salt Lake (if there were a sequel I predict this woman would eventually marry Charlotte's father).

I think my favorite frontier book continues to be On to Oregon by Honore Morrow, which was read to my fourth grade class by Miss Barnes many years ago, but this book gave a vivid picture of the exhausting struggle to Salt Lake and provided a sympathetic portrayal of Mormon settlers (not surprising, since the author is a descendant of Mormon pioneers herself), and I recommend it to an audience of 8 - 11.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

New Outfielder

Although Friday was the one weekend game the Red Sox did not manage to win (and it probably cost Josh Beckett the start at next week's All Star Game), it was fun to attend the game with the Duke Club of Boston and my fellow clerk/fellow alumna Felicia. It was also the debut of the much heralded Red Sox rookie, Jacoby Ellsbury. He reached base that night, and on Monday he managed to score from second on a wild pitch, to the joy of all spectators who have watched our lack of base running prowess/speed for years. So far he is displaying becoming modesty, which will further ingratiate him with the Nation...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Chocolate Reduces Blood Pressure

Why am I not asked to be a volunteer in such a study, I ask you! Volunteers for the study were asked to eat over 6 grams of dark chocolate daily for almost five months. Just so you know, I really prefer milk chocolate but I would have sacrificed myself for a good cause.

Please let me know if you hear that See's is asking for volunteers, although it is really just their Scotchmallows I adore.

A bygone era

The Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge

I saw this mentioned on Kate Sutherland's blog and it sounds fun. The challenge originates with Lesley of A Life in Books, and the rules require the participants to read six books that connect with the ‘armchair traveling’ theme between July 1st and December 31st. The books need not be limited to conventional travel writing. Fiction or non-fiction will fit the bill so long as the location is integral to the book. Participants are asked to post their list of six at the outset, although making substitutions along the way is cheerfully permitted.

I do not usually like travel memoirs but I think I can find some novels that fit the bill just from the armful I brought home from the library today or my TBR pile.

1. That Summer in Paris, Abha Dawesar (this might not have been my choice but my friend Mandy selected it for our next book group) (Paris)
2. Charlotte's Rose, A.E. Cannon (Mormon trail, Iowa City to Utah)
3. The Sparks Fly Upward, Diana Norman (Paris and, I think also, England)
4. Fever Hill, Michelle Paver (Jamaica)
5. Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky (France)
6. It's Perfectly Easy, Mary Scott (New Zealand)

Hmm, more France than I would have expected but perhaps I will add some variety later on.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Harvard Commencement

With my famous classmates, left to right, Sheryl WuDunn (brilliant wife of Nick), Nick Kristof (college classmate), Melinda French Gates (Duke classmate), and yours truly on Commencement Day, 2007