Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and have a great Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, too.
It's been a busy holiday season, and I've been meaning to write about it all along the way. Instead, I have to settle for this wrapup.
Of course, there were the typical activities of shopping and gift wrapping, decorating and putting up the Christmas tree, all very time-consuming in and of themselves, and oh-so-rewarding as we admired our Christmas finery.
But then there were the other projects.
And then we had our family tradition on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) of going out to breakfast followed by some sale shopping at the Hallmark store.
And just when we thought it was winding down, there's the New Year. There are the friends and family coming over to our house this Eve, and the open house at my sister's New Year's Day. The cooking, the cleaning, the preparations. And the cleaning afterward.
And then, when it all winds down, there's the un-decorating. Boxing things up for next year. Heaving a sigh of relief that the Christmas clutter is all gone.
But that's next weekend. Next year.
For now, I'll be happy to finish this wrapup and end this with a simple message: Have a Happy 2007.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and have a great Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, too.
When I worked at the newspaper, every year at this time we'd be putting together year-in-review articles. The challenge was to be concise and not boring, and not to present the year as one long timeline.
When I've written holiday newsletters to send out with Christmas cards, I've used this same approach, and it's worked well for me, although I can't promise that I was either concise or entertaining.
Usually I would break my letter into categories: travels, home improvements, work, and for the past few years, dogs. But this year, we didn't really travel much (just three short weekend getaways that I can think of), we didn't do much around the house (does cleaning the garage count?), neither of our jobs have changed (and it's boring to say "same-old, same-old"), and the dogs are settling into happy middle-age and aren't up to much mischief (OK, so Thor shredded a stuffed toy last night, but that's hardly unique for a dog). What could I write about?
What *did* we do in 2006?
Well, first off, there's live entertainment. We saw productions of Wicked and Spamalot downtown. We went to several concerts, including Tom Jones and Cheap Trick at Ravinia, Queensryche at House of Blues and Roger Waters in Tinley Park. And then there's always our explorations with karaoke. Not so awful, really.
Then there's personal enrichment. I took several classes this year, such as one on making presentations, another on acting for non-actors, and Dave and I took beginning painting together. We also took a mini-lesson in glass blowing. I guess hours logged at the gym could also qualify as personal enrichment.
There are the hours spent with friends and family. The getaway with my family to Lake Geneva in March, the trip to New York to visit Lesley and see Marc, the weekend with Dave's Dad in Florida. The various parties, barbecues, bowling and roller skating excursions, birthdays, anniversaries, girls outings, you name it.
All told, it's been a good year, without any big headlines. That's good, especially after 2005. And in case you're wondering, I didn't send out a year-in-review holiday letter in 2005, either (I didn't want to write a letter that focused on my Dad dying and me catching a virus that laid me up for a month).
So, if you're usually on the Christmas card list, don't be surprised that you didn't get a letter this year. Nobody did. But you have the advantage -- you read everything here.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
A friend, Don M.F.H., is exploring self-publishing for his book as a means to potentially getting a traditional publisher down the road. He wrote about his ideas on his website, asking me for input.
Truthfully, I have limited direct knowledge, just what I've picked up by osmosis and over the Internet. But I did some poking around for him, and wrote a reply that was probably way too long. (I think my response was longer than his original post.) If you're curious, check out So I had this idea ... on his blog Driving to Oahu.
Friday, December 29, 2006
I was reading an article, What’s Wrong With Cinderella?, about one mother's frustration with all things Princess. I found this statement too funny, and so true in my experience with dolls and princess fantasies.
One of the most popular games young girls play is “bride,” but Disney found that a groom or prince is incidental to that fantasy, a regrettable necessity at best. Although they keep him around for the climactic kiss, he is otherwise relegated to the bottom of the toy box, which is why you don’t see him prominently displayed in stores.Hilarious. Although, I'm not sure what that means for a romance author. ;)
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Rowling returns to cafe writing
Harry Potter author JK Rowling has revealed she is finishing writing the final book on the boy wizard as she began the very first tale - in cafes.
Rowling releases name of final Potter book
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is the title of author J.K. Rowling's seventh and final book in the wildly popular Harry Potter series. Rowling handed fans a special Christmas present this morning by unwrapping the eagerly awaited title on her Web site, jkrowling.com, launching feverish speculation about the meaning of each word and clues for the outcome of the series.
It is possible to respect the believers but not the belief
We don't have to abandon our own principles to celebrate competing faiths in this multicultural midwinter.
Scientists link weight to gut bacteria
Associated Press via Yahoo!
Researchers found a strong connection between obesity and the levels of certain types of bacteria in the gut. That could mean that someday there will be novel new ways of treating obesity that go beyond the standard advice of diet and exercise.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
His was a short life. Only six months. But it was a life filled with adventure.
He entered our lives one day in June, at a skills game at the carnival. He sat through a concert with us, then tagged along on the bus on the way home. Here, he met Thor. It was love at first sight.
They wrestled together, shook and danced. Thor assisted him up and down the stairs. Slept with him, left him out in the rain.
He survived multiple encounters with Washing Machine. Until a seam began to fray. Then another. Stuffing started to pop out. Thor would pick at him, but he loved Mousie. Always carrying him by the neck.
Then, yesterday, more stuffing started to sprout, and Thor's animal instincts took over. There was stuffing in the family room, stuffing in the entry way, stuffing in the kitchen. Thor ripped the neck open wide, until Mousie was beyond saving.
It was a gruesome sight, indeed.
Now Mousie is off to stuffie heaven, when perhaps he'll meet up with Brown Bear. Thor left Brown Bear under a pile of leaves in the backyard, abandoning him to the whims of Lawn Mower. That, folks, was an even more tragic ending.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Loki and Thor have really been spreading the good cheer among less fortunate dogs and cats this Christmas.
Monday night, we took them downtown to the Santa PAWS Howl-iday Party for the Chicago-based animal rescue group known as PAWS. The party was an hors d'oeuvres and cocktail event at the Hotel Monaco.
Marriott alerted us to the event a few weeks ago, and we thought it would be fun. So we got the dogs groomed, dressed ourselves up, and met Marriott at the hotel that night.
Loki and Thor were really popular, and many photos of them were taken. One company was filming 30-second segments of the dogs to maybe appear in a DVD release for dogs next year, a magazine snapped a shot of Dave and Thor, and a PAWs representative took a photo of the four of us together. (Who knows if anything will ever happen with any of those.) We even loaned Loki out for a photo with Santa to a group of women who didn't bring a dog of their own. (The photo at right was taken with their camera phone.)
We, of course, had to sign up to get our photos taken with Santa. Thor wasn't too keen on getting too close to the guy, but cooperated. Did they come prepared with Christmas lists for Santa? You'll have to ask them. (Good luck.)
This wasn't Loki and Thor's first visit with Santa this year. A few weeks ago, we ran into Santa at Petsmart. (Proceeds for the photos going to dog/cat charities.) We had trouble getting a good photo, so here are all three poses. I think they work well as a series.
Literary agent Kristin Nelson in her blog Pub Rants listed statistics for her agency in 2006 in a post titled A Year in Statistics. Check it out.
As one commenter calculated: "The odds of going from a query letter to being a new client at your agency, 1 in 2600."
However, another commenter countered that the majority of queries received by agents seems to miss the basic concepts of format (such as grammar and proofreading), story concept (such as plotting issues), and understanding of industry standards (such as staying within word-count recommendations). "Those are within anyone's reach. All they take is a professional attitude and a little effort. Get them right, and your odds improve by at least a factor of 10."
Even at 1 in 260, that's not all that encouraging.
I guess this just illustrates how competitive the industry is and that no author should take rejection personally.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
So is this my problem? I'm too happy? I don't have enough fear in my life?
Check out this Chicago Tribune story: Happy is helpful, but fear fosters focus.
A bubbly mood may enhance creativity, but feeling happy can actually hinder the ability to focus on a task, according to a new study.Obviously, this rings true to me. Maybe it also explains why so many creative people are procrastinators who can't focus until they're on deadline.
Researchers found that happy subjects did well when asked to be innovative but that they struggled when they had to concentrate on a simple activity and ignore distractions.
Bring on the heavy metal, I've got to darken my mood.
I just joined the writing community at EditRed. I'm not sure what I'll post over there. I haven't written poetry since high school, I've never mastered the short story format, and I need to further research copyright issues before posting any book excerpts. I'll figure it out eventually. In the mean time, should be fun to poke around.
Anyone have any experience with EditRed?
A friend at work sent this to me as an email, and I thought it would be fun to post here. If anyone wants to answer this survey themselves, please send me a copy (or post it in a comment). I'd be curious to read your answers.
Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy (not forward) this entire email and paste into a new e-mail that you can send. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, *INCLUDING* the person that sent it to you. C'mom....have some fun!!!
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both. Depends on the gift and how much time I have.
2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial, pre-lit.
3. When do you put up the tree? 1-3 weeks before Christmas, depending on how lazy we are. This year, we were really lazy.
4. When do you take the tree down? After New Year's Day, before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
5. Do you like eggnog? No.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Holly Hobby doll and Bionic Woman action figure (and yet, I wasn't a doll kid). Oh, and the ping-pong table and dart board were really cool also.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? In a box somewhere. It's never gone up.
8. Hardest person to buy for? Husband (that's you, Dave)
9. Easiest person to buy for? Loki and Thor
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, when I get around to it.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Razors and deodorant in my stocking. What was Santa trying to tell me?
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? November
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Pumpkin pie
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Multi-colored
17. Favorite Christmas song? Carol of the Bells
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Can you call it traveling if it's only 10 minutes away?
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Yes -- Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen, and of course, the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph (I hope I got them all right -- there was no Googling involved)
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel, but shopping for something else
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? One on Christmas Eve, most on Christmas Day
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? So much I want to do, but so little time.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Not into themes. Mine is a memory tree.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Not important to me. If forced to choose, a nice, juicy steak.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Christmas arrived early -- a new cell phone with a 2-megapixel camera. I've joined the 21st century (my previous phone having been bought in [gasp] 1999). So, I hope to be posting more photos from the camera once I figure out this "new-fangled" technology. Thank you, husband Dave, for this gift. :)
Sunday, December 17, 2006
My brother the Unabomber
Ten years ago, the Unabomber was arrested by the FBI after a tip-off from his brother David. His family still write to him regularly in prison but have no idea if he reads their letters. His brother's story has inspired David Kaczynski to become a leading campaigner against the death penalty.
Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolution
New York Times
A surprisingly recent instance of human evolution has been detected among the peoples of East Africa. It is the ability to digest milk in adulthood, conferred by genetic changes that occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago, a team of geneticists has found.
Talking the Yanks Under the Table
New York Times
NO sooner had her words been reported in the British newspapers than she frantically took them back, saying that she had been misunderstood and misquoted. But the question remains: was Gwyneth Paltrow on to something when she noted (or didn’t) that “the British are much more intelligent and civilized than the Americans,” and that “people here don’t talk about work and money; they talk about interesting things at dinner”?
Ambassadors to honor female WWII spy
In 1942, the Gestapo circulated posters offering a reward for the capture of "the woman with a limp. She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies and we must find and destroy her." The dangerous woman was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore native working in France for British intelligence, and the limp was the result of an artificial leg.
A happy ending for Afghanistan's gold
The mystery baffled archaeologists for more than two decades. What happened to 22,000 pieces of gold — jewel-encrusted crowns, daggers and baubles from an ancient burial mound — that had apparently vanished from Afghanistan in the 1980s?
What would it be like to live to 175?
A tortoise reputedly collected from the Galapagos islands by Charles Darwin has turned 175. What if humans lived that long?
A political battle of the sexes
Women should play a greater role in politics but often face violence and intimidation, according to a Unicef report.
Is Obama the Great Blue Hope?
The Demopolis Times
Obama being tagged as inexperienced in political affairs is premature. His tenure in the legislature and to date as a U.S. senator displays his ability and intelligence when it comes to crafting law and being a political leader.
US state board to discuss Harry Potter appeal in public
International Herald Tribune
ATLANTA: The state Board of Education will decide Wednesday whether to keep Harry Potter books on library shelves in one suburban Atlanta school district... Parent Laura Mallory is upset that the Gwinnett County school board voted to keep the best-selling books in its schools, despite her claims that the books indoctrinate children in pagan religion.
`Non-notable' the kiss of death on Wikipedia
Casual readers might assume that Wikipedia's goal is a complete account of all earthly knowledge, but the site maintains a rather elaborate set of criteria for admission. The several thousand unpaid volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia spend a lot of energy ensuring that people, bands, companies and everything else meet what it calls "notability guidelines." Let's sum it up this way: Not everyone is Wiki-worthy.
A fetching finish for a 2-year mystery: Dog lost in Florida turns up in Illinois
Two years after a hurricane blew down a back-yard fence in Florida and set free a golden retriever named Sam-I-Am, the wayward pooch was found in McHenry County.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Path to adulthood in the divided world
In the first of a series about young people around the world as part of the BBC's Generation Next season, the BBC's Robin Lustig asks what does it really mean to be an adult?
Audio slideshow: Santa training school
When budding Santas want to learn the tricks of the trade, where do they go? Santas - who insist they are standing in for the real thing - practise ho ho hos and learn about costume at a one-day school.
Winter storm strikes central US
Driving snow and high winds left half a million people without power and brought traffic to a halt as a winter storm hit the central United States.
Snail mail is still king of greetings
Senders and receivers alike enjoy handwritten notes for the `keepsake phenomenon' and the `mantel test,' leading consumers to send only 1 e-card for every 20 traditional greeting cards.
Will Smith gets serious
If you're keeping score, he's at peace with roles as superstar actor, husband and father.
A Walk Across Afghanistan
New York Times
Rory Stewart's first book, "The Places in Between," recounts his journey across Afghanistan in January 2002. Even in mild weather in an Abrams tank, such a trip would be mane-whitening. But Stewart goes in the middle of winter, crossing through some territory still shakily held by the Taliban — and entirely on foot.
How Queen's English has grown more like ours
A scientific study of Christmas broadcasts to the Commonwealth since 1952 suggests the royal vowel sounds have undergone a subtle evolution since the days when coal was routinely delivered to Buckingham Palace in sex.
All the Signs of Pregnancy Except One: A Baby
New York Times
Pseudocyesis, or false pregnancy, is rare, occurring at a rate of 1 to 6 for every 22,000 births. Though scientists are still largely baffled about what causes it in humans, recent case studies and studies of similar conditions in animals are beginning to provide insight, exploring the role of hormones and psychology.
From Ruins of Afghan Buddhas, a History Grows
New York Times
The empty niches that once held Bamiyan’s colossal Buddhas now gape in the rock face — a silent cry at the terrible destruction wrought on this fabled valley and its 1,500-year-old treasures, once the largest standing Buddha statues in the world.
Serious use for Silly String
In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons systems, sometimes it's the simplest ideas that can save lives. Which is why a New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.
Plastics 'poisoning world's seas'
Microscopic particles of plastic could be poisoning the oceans, according to a British team of researchers. They report that small plastic pellets called "mermaids' tears", which are the result of industry and domestic waste, have spread across the world's seas.
Virginia police sign out on code words
Since they were first introduced in the 1930s, abbreviations such as 10-4 and 10-20 have been the natural language of the American cop; part of police folklore. ... The codes were originally introduced in order to keep conversations brief on a single police radio channel - and have gone on to have a long and distinguished career.
Six hurt as tornado hits London
Six people were injured and up to 150 houses were damaged when a tornado swept through several London streets leaving a trail of destruction.
See also: Science and Nature: Tornadoes in the UK
Teen rebellion - a Western export?
In the second of a series about young people around the world as part of the BBC's Generation Next season, the BBC's Robin Lustig asks if teenage rebellion is a natural phenomenon or nurtured by Western pop culture.
Major redesign is latest twist in plan for spire
The proposed "drill bit" skyscraper has lost its point but gained some heft. The developer of the twisting spire, which would be the nation's tallest building, has overseen a top-to-bottom redesign that seeks to make the much-ballyhooed project financially feasible, and he will submit his revised plans to the city Friday, people close to the project told the Tribune.
Pearl Harbor survivors gather for `final reunion'
In the decades since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, countless survivors have made the long journey back to Hawaii every five years to remember comrades who were lost and to catch up with those who lived but later went their separate ways. ... But this year's reunion holds an urgency that hasn't been part of gatherings past: Most Pearl Harbor survivors, nearing their 90s or even older, say it will be their final trip back to this place that changed the course of their lives and their nation forever.
Sitcom’s Precarious Premise: Being Muslim Over Here
New York Times
“Little Mosque on the Prairie” ventures into new and perhaps treacherous terrain: trying to explore the funny side of being a Muslim and adapting to life in post 9/11 North America. Its creators admit to uneasiness as to whether Canadians and Americans can laugh about the daily travails of those who many consider a looming menace.
Online R.S.V.P.’s: A Simple No Just Won’t Do
New York Times
In the centuries before party invitations were pinged across cyberspace, invitees did not feel compelled to explain in depth how a soiree conflicted with their Lamaze class, spa weekend or Ironman competition. Regrets were nonspecific platitudes. And the only people who heard them were the hosts. No more.
On the Seine, Houseboat Dwelling
New York Times
They bought a century-old converted barge and set out to cover some of the thousands of kilometers of canals and rivers around France. ... The Gieskes bought the boat for about 200,000 euros, or $263,000, from a retired Dutch operator... The barge, called Joli Coeur, or Pretty Heart, is moored for the winter in ... the heart of Burgundy.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
I was sitting at lunch today when I gradually became aware of the restaurant music playing. I usually tune out Christmas music, but the Carol of the Bells always seems to grab me. It's just such a pretty melody, and usually instrumental.
I think the Carol of the Bells is my favorite Christmas song, and has been since grade school. The first time I remember it being performed was at a choral concert my sister was performing in. They had a bell choir, and the music struck me as being so incredibly pretty. I know at some point in choir, I sang the song myself, and some of the lyrics have always stuck with me. I especially remember singing it a cappella and in the round.
Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away. Christmas is here, bringing good cheer, to young and old, meek and the bold. ...As I was sitting at lunch, I then started thinking about what Christmas songs do have particular meaning for me, or evoke a particular memory, and my mind immediately jumped to first grade. In my elementary school, across the hall, there was a dedicated class for deaf students from throughout the district. Every once in a while, one of the students or teachers would come into our class and teach us some sign language. At Christmas time, they taught us how to sign Silent Night. And while learning the signs, we really had to pay attention to what the song was saying. Unfortunately, I've long since forgotten the signs, but I certainly have never forgotten the lyrics to the first verse.
Gaily they ring, while people sing, songs of good cheer, Christmas is here. Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas. Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas.
Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.For some reason, even though I was in a youth church choir for many years, I don't have any specific memories about singing Christmas carols with that choir. Although, there was the Easter that we recorded a performance at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village to be piped throughout the hospital. Interesting, how no specific songs stick in my mind from those years.
But in fourth or fifth grade, I remember a Christmas performance where I had the special duty of having to decorate a Christmas tree with another student during one particular song. Perhaps that was O Tannenbaum. Not sure. I just remember that we had to practice several times to get the coordination and speed down to get the garland on quickly enough. That was also about the time that schools became very aware of students who didn't celebrate Christmas, so a few Hanukkah songs were thrown in. I still remember:
Hanukkah, Hanukkah, festival of lights. Candles glow, in a row, seven days eight nights. Hanukkah, Hanukkah, make your dreidel spin. 'Round and 'round, 'round and 'round, everyone join in.In Girl Scouts, I know we went caroling several times. I think we even might have gone door-to-door once or twice. I know we visited some of the area nursing and retirement homes, but I can't remember if that was through Scouting or the youth choir or the middle school swing choir -- perhaps all of them at one time or another.
My most vivid memory of middle school swing choir is the year we performed on television. We were on the local kids show "Kidding Around," and got to take a bus into the city to record at NBC studios. We sang "Rock and Roll Christmas", and had a choreographed routine using milk crates. I can't seem to find any mention of this song using Google, and my memory of the lyrics is kind of spotty, but here's a sample:
I heard that rock and roll finally reached the North Pole, and Santa got hooked on the sound. When he heard the beat, he just jumped to his feet, no you couldn't keep old Santa down. ...When we performed this song, I had a special role to play. When the following lyric came up, I (being the tallest) had to pretend to be a teacher who was holding the kids back, and they eventually broke past my arms:
And on Christmas Eve, would you believe, when I peeked out to see, there were Santa and his reindeer rockin 'round the Christmas tree. It was a rock'n'roll Christmas. The world was filled with sweet harmony. And everybody was dancin', and rockin' round the Christmas tree.
The teachers at our school broke every rule when they held a Christmas dance in the gym. We got there you see, we were mad as could be, cause they wouldn't let the students in. ...I can't remember the rest, but we have the performance on videotape. It was the early '80s and few people had VCRs yet, but we borrowed one from a neighbor and taped the show. I haven't played it in years. I hope the tape still works.
Whenever I hear Handel's Messiah, I always think of my sister and going to her high school choral performances. It was a tradition for the choir to sing the Messiah, and choral alumni were invited to come up and participate during the Hallelujah chorus. Her choir actually recorded an album one year, going to a church to perform. I know someone in the family still has a pressing of it. Would be interesting to hear that again.
I'd long given up choir by the time I reached high school, instead concentrating on my violin and orchestra. Nothing Christmasy pops to mind in those memories, except for perhaps playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. But truthfully, that's as much a wedding song to me as it is a Christmas song. (In fact, I think I had my wedding attendants enter to this song.)
Finally, back to carols, I'll never be able to hear Angles We Have Heard on High without smiling. Shortly after Dave and I married, we went to a Christmas Eve service with his Mom and brother. The congregation always sings Christmas carols, with the lyrics printed in the program. Well, that year there was a typo. I pointed it out to Dave's brother, and somehow, unspoken, we both decided to sing the typo. "Angels we have heard on hig, sweetly singing o'er the plains." At that point, we both broke down into the worst case of the church giggles and had to excuse ourselves. Now Dave always gives his brother credit for this story -- all I can think is that Steve must have sung the typo louder.
I didn't realize until I sat down to write this, how many memories I have associated with Christmas music, and I'm sure I have more socked away in my brain, waiting to be remembered. Perhaps, that's part of the appeal of Christmas music. The nostalgia, during such a nostalgic time of year.
Anyone else have specific memories associated with specific holiday songs?
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Nasa plans to go to the moon again with a landing in 2020. That will be 51 years after the first moon walk.
Hmmm... I was born the year of the first moon walk. Who would have thought back then that I'd be approaching retirement by the time they got a moon base built and manned, and then pushed on to Mars?
(See: NASA says it will set up polar moon camp and Why The Moon?)
Sunday, December 03, 2006
We were pounded with a big snowstorm on Friday. It started with freezing rain, laying down a good layer of ice, then moved on to heavy snow. When it was all finished, we had probably about six to eight inches at my house. Doesn't sound like *that* much, but remember there was that coating of ice, and the snow was *heavy*.
Silly me, I declined when a neighbor-boy offered to clear my driveway for $20. I had a new Toro electric shovel that I'd picked up at a garage sale for $1 over the summer and I was eager to try it out. (For some reason, Dave and I have never invested in a snowblower.)
Well the electric shovel worked great, but the snow was just deep enough that I had to make multiple passes with it to clear all the way to the pavement. Plus, it shoots forward only, so it took a while to figure out a clearing strategy that didn't leave me blowing the same snow around all the time. And clearing our two-car driveway was a workout. I'd soaked my sweatshirt by the time I called it quits. The weathermen weren't kidding when they called it heart attack snow. But, hey, it saved me a trip to the gym. (Lesson learned: Pay the neighbor-kid next time there's a heavy snow like this and save my electric shovel for the four-inch fluffy snow.)
Where was Dave while I was clearing the driveway? He was stuck in Dallas. He tried to out-think the airlines and regretted it, twice. He was supposed to come home Thursday night, but an ice storm in Dallas messed up the flights. In a preemptive move, he switched to a Friday flight. Turns out, the flight he would have been on Thursday was one of the few that got out of Dallas that night. Then, the storm in Chicago messed up the flights on Friday. After a few hour wait at the airport, he decided to spare himself some grief and switched to a Saturday flight. Guess what? His Friday flight ended up being one of the few that got out that day, too. (Lesson learned: You can't outwit the airlines.)
Loki and Thor couldn't have been more pleased with the weather, though. Being good Bernese mountain dogs (think Swiss Alps), they romped and played. And when the weather took a colder turn, dipping down into the single digits, all the better. Loki laid outside the door, giving me that look that said: Just keep the door open so we can come and go. It's too warm in the house anyway. Oh, and by the way, can I have a treat here? (Did I ever mention that Loki is an excellent trick-or-treater? Paw at the door, door opens, stand there looking cute, wag tail, door starts to close, insert paw in opening, continue to stand there looking cute, wag tail.)
Not as much to share this week, but it's not due to a lack of interesting stories out there. I guess my time spent reading was down.
'Tower of Babel' translator made
A "Tower of Babel" device that gives the illusion of being bilingual is being developed by US scientists. Users simply have to silently mouth a word in their own language for it to be translated and read out in another.
US Mexicans haunted by repatriation
Seventy years ago, more than a million people of Mexican origin left the US in a little known "deportation frenzy" that still haunts many of them today. "They wanted us out of the country. I didn't understand why when we'd been born here."
String Theory: New Approaches to Instrument Design
New York Times
Mr. Martin, 63, whose day job is designing sleek rowing shells that slice through ocean surf, is consumed in spare moments by a similarly unorthodox pursuit: abandoning age-old norms of acoustic instrument design as he chases his conception of the ideal violin sound.
Ancient Moon 'computer' revisited
The delicate workings at the heart of a 2,000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists. The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck, was used by ancient Greeks to display astronomical cycles. ... "When you see it your jaw just drops and you think, 'bloody hell that's clever'."
From Medieval Relic to Roman Haven
New York Times
For most people, owning a centuries-old “appartamento” in a medieval Italian town is the stuff of dreams.
Non-Asians Show a Growing Interest in Chinese Courses
New York Times
With its booming economy and aspirations to expand its global influence, China may have achieved a victory in American classrooms.