Thursday, August 31, 2006

Happy Blog Day! Tag, You're It!

Oooh, I'm so excited.

I got tagged today for a blog post, and Liz from A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy listed me as an interesting blog. Only 8 weeks in, and I'm famous...

Let the party begin!

Here are the BlogDay 2006 rules:

Find five new blogs that you find interesting.


Notify the five bloggers that you're recommending them on BlogDay 2006.


Write a BlogDay post today with a short description of each blog, and a link back to each one.


Add a BlogDay 2006 Technorati tag and/or link back to the Technorati BlogDay 2006 page.


Link to the BlogDay website.

My five (tough to pick just 5) "interesting blogs" are listed here:

Big Window - a great mix of art, poetry and creative prose to discuss; also, Robin is kind enough to present an occasional writing challenge, which I always enjoy.

Blue Rose Girls - thoughtful and though-provoking discussions about their pursuits in the world of children's books, art, and creativity.

Crossword Bebop - my very first blog... found him while fighting to survive the Starbuck's Ultimate Coffeehouse Crossword Challenge. Word of the day, crossword musings, and a little music thrown in to jazz things up.

Jen Robinson's Book Page - anyone who can create lists of 200 cool girls and 175 cool boys of children's literature is a person whose writing interests me!

Mother Reader - one look at her profile and you'll know that Mother Reader knows how to take serious issues and infuse just the right amount of humor to make her thoughts that much more clear. Great reviews of children's books, among other things.

Technorati tags:

Quote of the Day, 8/31/06

Two from Glenn Ford
If they try to rush me, I always say, I've only got one other speed and it's slower.
It's more difficult to go down a mountain than to go up. A lot of people don't realize that. Don't forget when you're going up you're looking at the side of the mountain. When you're going down, you're looking at nothing.

Lines spoken by Glenn Ford

From Gilda
Pardon me, but your husband is showing.
I hated her so I couldn't get her out of my mind for a minute.

From Blackboard Jungle
Yeah, I've been beaten up, but I'm not beaten. I'm not beaten, and I'm not quittin'.

My personal favorites are Courtship of Eddie's Father and Pocketful of Miracles.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quote of the Day, 8/30/06

Spiders, spiders, spiders:
From Charlotte's Web
"Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?"

"Oh, no," said Dr Dorian. "I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle."

From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
He never knew how long he was in the creature's clutches; he only knew that the darkness suddenly lifted enough for him to see that the leaf-strewn ground was now swarming with spiders.

...Spiders. Not tiny spiders like those surging over the leaves below. Spiders the size of carthorses, eight-eyed, eight-legged, black, hairy, gigantic.

Yeah, somehow I think Rowling is not the fan of spiders that White was.

Tales of Horror (Scary Spiders)

Here was my writing exercise for the day, left as a comment to this post over at the Deblog.

Scariest spider I've ever encountered...

3 years ago I moved into an old-ish house in New Jersey. The basement was pretty wide open, but had plenty of scary parts (not to compare with my current terrifying basement, which I only visit when the need is positively critical -- I think there are more spiders in there than in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)... okay back to my story...

I was doing laundry one day (current house has washer and dryer upstairs, thank god) and on my way back to the stairs, I saw a large black spider out of the corner of my eye. It was sitting halfway up the wall, and it was SO LARGE that my first thought was, who left that silly Halloween decoration down here? Seriously, it was at least 1 1/2 inches across the BODY ALONE. Plus big legs. Oh my god this was the biggest spider ever.

So I went upstairs and got my can of Raid. I never let my Raid supply run out -- it is more important to me than food or toilet paper. Back downstairs to face down Mega-spider. By now, the spider seemed to have doubled in size.

Deciding I needed a good strategy against a beast of this size, I first sprayed the Raid on the floor beneath the wall where the spider sat. I created a poison puddle about 18 inches wide and 9 inches out from the wall. Then, from a distance of about 8 feet away, I started spraying up the wall....

When I hit the spider with the Raid, the spider immediately dropped into the poison puddle. UNDAUNTED, the spider looked me in the eye and began walking out of the puddle towards me ("Ha! I spit at your puny poison, human!"). The distance between us got a lot smaller pretty quickly, and I backed up, and kept spraying and spraying the spider.

The fumes were overwhelming. I was seriously imagining myself fainting from the poison spray, and all I could think was that that THING would surely get me then.

At long last, the power of the spray pushed the spider in the other direction, and I continued to use the liquid to push the spider against another wall. I kept spraying until the spider drowned -- I don't think the poison touched him. (Okay, I know the poison finally got him, but it took half a can of Raid to do it!)

I called Orkin the next day, and have never been without an exterminator since.

Okay, I tried to add a picture that closely resembles the actual spider I jousted with. Ew! Ew! Just finding that picture has me checking the corners of my room. And that's the nice picture. There are other pictures of the same type of spider that are much much scarier. I won't post any picture or tell you what type of spider, because if you see the pictures, you'll have nightmares. The same nightmares I'm now looking forward to tonight.

Words on Wednesday - Create-a-word Contest

The weekly contest over at Mental Floss asks contestants to coin a new word. You have till Friday to come up with a new funny, topical word. Oh yeah, and use it in a sentence.

Go here for more details.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Best Juggling I've Ever Seen

Am I the last to see this "world famous" juggling act?

If you haven't seen it, please, go here. Watch the juggling. It may take a while to load. Wait for it.

If you enjoy it, you might also like this rather bitter parody (the parody itself isn't bitter, but the liner notes are).

I still like the first one best. But then I'm not a juggler, so I'm probably more easily impressed than others.

Quote of the Day, 8/29/06

Two today about inner light.

I could not find a picture of Mary Dunbar, and had difficulty even finding out who she was. My best guess is that the Mary Dunbar quoted was a well-known author of cookbooks during the 30's and 40's. Go figure.

Mary Dunbar
We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within.

Brain Teaser

Here is another brain teaser from I.Q. Challenge.

Three switches outside a windowless room are connected to three lightbulbs inside the room. How can you determine which switch is connected to each bulb, if you may open the door and enter the room only once?

The answer is in the comments.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Quote of the Day, 8/28/06

Ray Bradbury has just celebrated his 86th birthday, so I offer three quotes from the man himself:

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You cannot try to do things. You simply must do things.


I've never doubted myself; I've always been so completely devoted to libraries and books and authors that I couldn't stop to consider for a moment that I was being foolish. I only knew that writing was in itself the only way to live....

My stories run up and bite me on the leg-I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.

More on my brief encounter with Bradbury in the post below.

Ray Bradbury and the Book-Signing

In October of 1992, I was a graduate student at the University of Southern California, when Ray Bradbury came to campus for a pre-Halloween book-signing. It was nearly Christmas-shopping time, and I knew my father was a fan of Bradbury's work, so I resolved to get there and endure any line for the chance to have Bradbury's book with Bradbury's signature.

It was important to me to meet Bradbury and get that signed book for my dad.... Earlier that same year, my dad had spent several weeks in Baystate Hospital's intensive care unit after coming within minutes of dying of septic shock. He was let out the hospital in February, but faced months (even years) of recovery still. Even though he was slowly getting better, when I left for grad school in August I felt I was abandoning my dad in the middle of a crisis.

I remember waiting in line for Bradbury's autograph, and wishing my dad was there himself. When my turn came, I summoned my thoughts and emotions about my dad's illness, and quietly told the author the important points about why I was so happy to meet him and have him sign a book for me. Bradbury told me that he himself had been recently ill, and he hoped for my dad's good health. He was friendly, he looked me in the eye, and he allowed me the extra minute for my special request. In my dad's copy of Yestermorrow, he wrote:
Tom, Stay Well! Ray Bradbury
October 23, 1992

And that was it. One minute with Ray Bradbury, but a quality minute. One short note inside a book, but a message that let me give my father a gift nobody else would have: that book -- with that note -- could only be for my dad.

In a recent interview with Pasadena's KPCC, Bradbury talked about his writing: "I write hours every single day for the last 70 years. So that's how I'm spending my 86th birthday," he said. "You just keep doing it because it's so great."

Ray Bradbury turned 86 just the other day. At the risk of sounding derivative, stay well Mr. Bradbury, and thank you!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Quote of the Day, 8/27/06

Today's quote comes from a writer who put a unique voice in New York writing.
Damon Runyon
You can keep the things of bronze and stone and give me one man to remember me just once a year.

Okay good quote, but what comes next is really exciting. While wandering through the various Damon Runyon links this evening, I came across a site where you can listen to old radio shows for free. I'm linking to the Damon Runyon Theater here, and I especially recommend "Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown," this of course being the source for Guys and Dolls.

I believe I now will have to go converse with my father about the other fine and respectable radio programs at Free Old Time Radio Shows to which I should be listening.

Sorry, that was my best Runyonese for this time of day.

Writing Challenge

Manderley, over at The Smug Cloud, has presented a new writing challenge. The task is to write a story of exactly 200 words, using all of these:

I just finished and submitted my entry, and yes, I had a blast writing this! I can't post my story here, but will link to it once the contest entries are up.

Entries are due by September 2. Use this link for more details.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Quote of the Day, 8/26/06

I'll admit to having little appreciation for Ezra Pound's poetry. Even today, I searched for something to include here with this quote, and I struggled with the task.

I'll offer this link to "In the Old Age of the Soul", a poem that says a lot but may take 4 or 5 careful readings to thoroughly understand. Like most of Pound's poetry this one exhausts me, but it has many lines which I find beautiful. Try it, but be patient with it.

Okay, on to the quote of the day, which thankfully, is much more accessible than the poetry.
Ezra Pound
Properly, we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand.

No Book's too Young for Me

For all you bloggers out there who've been talking about adults enjoying children's books, I have just one word for you (click for link):

Isn't that a much better word than "kidult" or "adultescent" or any of the other similar words that came before it? It's a word we can be proud of, I think.

Many thanks to Mental Floss for pointing the way on this one.

Key links on this topic:
Go here for Leila's list of young adult books that adults will appreciate.
Go here for Kelly's post with the link to the original article.
Go here for Jen's comments on the article and here for Jen's follow-up with even more great links.

Bonus link for the truly playful:
Go here for Jen's weekend round-up, where she links to this post, and if you keep using these two links (hers and mine), you can make yourself dizzy like when you used to spin yourself to the point of falling down. Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Start Fibbing!

Don't forget to send your fibs in to the Fib Review! The deadline is end of August. The presses are warming up even as we speak.

A Little Poetry for You (A.A. Milne)

It's Poetry Friday! From A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories, a poem by Eeyore:
Christopher Robin is going.
At least I think he is.
Nobody knows.
But he is going -
I mean he goes
(To rhyme with "knows")
Do we care?
(To rhyme with "where")
We do
Very much.
(I haven't got a rhyme for that "is" in the second line yet.
(Now I haven't got a rhyme for bother. Bother)
Those two bothers will have to rhyme with each other

Go here for the rest of the poem.

Quote of the Day, 8/25/06

I believe this one is actually the great philospher Pooh himself speaking. It's an interesting idea -- you can't seek out the poem (or story or any other piece of art you might create). You have to let it find you.

A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jim... It's Too Late... We've Lost Pluto

Pluto is no longer a planet.

Many scientists and pundits have weighed in on this debate. So far my favorite ponderings are from columnist David Grimes:
Pluto has always been my favorite planet because it was named after Donald Duck's dog. (If you disagree with this, please send your letters to: P.O. Box 1234, Uninterested, Calif.) Granted, Pluto was a rather minor character in the Disney universe, but let's face it: When you're the ninth planet from the sun, do you really deserve to be called Mickey?

Quote of the Day, 8/24/06

This quote from Pearl S. Buck struck a chord for me:

I love people. I love my family . . . but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that's where you renew your springs that never dry up.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pleasant Surprises II: Butterflies Dining

I walked out my door this evening and saw this about 3 feet away. Not quite like driving into the middle of a huge balloon festival, but cool nonetheless.

Bad Guys + Bad Gals from Kids' Books

Just a reminder that I'm still seeking contributions to the list of Great Antagonists of Children's Literature . Once I have a decent number, I'll pull them out of comments and put up a new post.

Very very very bad

Bad, but redeemable

Jury is still out

He Sure Made Learning Fun

Mental Floss provides the best of the best again.

Today they include a write-up on Tom Lehrer, and his memorably funny and educational music. For the best selections of the Tom Lehrer videos, be sure to check out these 2 links highlighted in yellow in the Mental Floss post: "flash animation" and "ly."

Quote of the Day, 8/23/06

In honor of "Words on Wednesday" I offer the following thoughts on "right words." And a howdy and thank you to Douglas from Quote Puzzler for pointing out the Twain quote!
Joseph Conrad
He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense.

Mark Twain
The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning- bug and the lightning.

Dorothy Parker
As artists they’re rot, but as providers they’re oil wells; they gush. Norris said she never wrote a story unless it was fun to do. I understand Ferber whistles at her typewriter. And there was that poor sucker Flaubert rolling around on his floor for three days looking for the right word.

Words on Wednesday - Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Here's something to keep the kids busy. Have them compete to see who can find the most smaller words hidden in any of these three large words.

My 3rd-grade enrichment reading teacher gave us the first word as a challenge, and I won. But I think I only got about 300 words of the 16,725 possible. Maybe I got 1,000. Fuzzy memory may work in my favor here. Yeah, I got over 1,000. Anyway, I remember I won a pencil-topper that was an orange. I was pretty darn proud.

Nonsense word from Mary Poppins
34 letters
16,725 words can be made

Describing something as meaningless or worthless
29 letters
1,272 words can be made

Being against people who oppose the establishment (church)
28 letters
8,175 words can be made

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

There Must be a Children's Book in This Story!

Well, he didn't get far, but for him I'm sure it was the trip of a lifetime.

Quote of the Day, 8/22/06

Today's quotes come from Berkeley Breathed, creator of the Bloom County comic strips.
Negative humor is forgotten immediately. It's the stuff that makes us feel better about our lives that lives long. Much more satisfying. Enter children's books.

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

By the way, next time you're in the market for a great Christmas story, check out A Wish for Wings that Work. Very sweet, very funny, and beautifully illustrated (of course). In fact, here's another Breathed quote, from A Wish for Wings that Work.

It was a good morning to fly, even if it had come late and slow and so cold that a penguin feared his nose might freeze and drop off like one of the icicles hanging over the porch.

"Fly," Opus whispered to himself as he ran to the top of Duck's Breath Ridge at dawn to watch the snow ducks soar above. "Fly!" he whispered as he lifted his wings and waited to be swept up beneath the fading Christmas moon with the other birds.

But it was on mornings such as this that Opus's heart grew as cold as his nose. A penguin can surely say the word fly, but he cannot do it.

Anne of Green Gables, Japan, Germany...

For people who love Anne of Green Gables, here is a clip from the Japanese anime series Akage no Anne. To keep things interesting, this is the Spanish airing of the German version of the opening to the Japanese animation. I find that heartwarming.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Leave the Map, Take the Journey?

I have a fascinating story idea kicking around in my head. Every day another piece becomes clear, and it's beginning to get exciting.

I have not started writing yet.

I'm sorely tempted to take all these ideas, which are now jotted on various scraps of paper that are perilously close to becoming coasters for drippy water-bottles, and put them into a sort of story map. My worry is that the mapping might take all the fun out of the idea, and leave me at a loss for words.

The other option is to just start writing. But I desperately want to KNOW where the story is going before I start, as I feel that will make my writing better. Then again, my best non-fiction writing always came about when I started with no clear plan, wrote the first sentence, and let that take me wherever.

What to do? What to do?

Quote of the Day, 8/21/06

My copy of Jane Langton's The Diamond in the Window arrived today, and I am happily curled up with beverage on hand and book in hand. Here is the second paragraph (the first being where we find out that Edward wants to be President and wants a different name):
Eddy took out of his pocket a collection of bottle caps, matchboxes, and pennies and arranged them on the ground in a decorative pattern. If only fathers and mothers would be more careful when they chose names for their children! If only they would pick names that sounded well in Backwards English! "Edward Hall," for example, was all right in ordinary English, but it was terrible the other way around -- "Drawde Llah" didn't sound like anything. But "Robert Robinson" -- there was a name! If you turned it backwards and softened the "s," it was transformed into a name as strange and fantastic as that of an ambassador from some foreign land -- "Trebor Nosnibor"! Edward put his two ambitions in life together and whispered under his breath, "Introducing the President of the United States, Trebor Nosnibor." How glorious! Edward sighed.
I picked this paragraph out because it occurs to me that for a few years of my childhood I had a habit of turning names and words backwards too -- probably inspired by this book. As a note, my name is a horror backwards, even worse than Drawde Llah.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Quote of the Day, 8/20/06

From Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time:

There was a whirring, and Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which were standing in front of them, and the joy and love were so tangible that Meg felt that if she only knew where to reach she could touch it with her bare hands.

Mrs Whatsit said breathlessly, "Oh, my darlings, I'm sorry we don't have time to say goodbye to you properly. You see, we have to -- "

But they never learned what it was that Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which had to do, for there was a gust of wind, and they were gone.

But I Never Learned the First Mnemonic

Scientific American is seeking a new planetary mnemonic!

Many thanks to Debra over at the DEBLOG for pointing this out.

My entry has been submitted, though I don't think I gave it my best, so I may have to try again.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Quote of the Day, 8/19/06

Thinking today about learning, and curiosity...
Dorothy Parker
The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

Eleanor Roosevelt
I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.

Franklin P. Adams
I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.
I had to smile at the Adams quote, because it was exactly what I was thinking when I stumbled on this set of quotes for today -- I always find good stuff I'm not looking for when I go looking for something else.

Go Away Ma, I'm Watching TV!

A recent study finds that for children undergoing medical procedures, watching cartoons does more to reduce pain than the presence of a parent.

Link to article

Here's the quote I found particularly interesting:

The effectiveness of watching TV in reducing pain raises some concern about TV's power in the home.... "If TV can overcome pain better than mothers do, it can influence children's attitudes and attention more than parents," [Dr. Carlo] Bellieni speculated.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Little Poetry for You (W.H. Auden)

It's Poetry Friday! From W.H. Auden, a poem entitled "Stop all the Clocks." Another one you may remember from a movie -- read at the funeral scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral. It's incredibly sad, and with a perfect use of the perfect words.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

Go here for the rest of the poem. It's worth it.

Quote of the Day, 8/18/06

We went to the Davis Mega Maze in Sterling, MA today. In honor of the occasion, here are two quotes related to mazes:

Alexander Pope
A mighty maze! but not without a plan...

Henry David Thoreau
The world seemed decked for some holiday or prouder pageantry ... like a green lane into a country maze, at the season when fruit-trees are in blossom.

We made it through in just over an hour, but we were lucky -- we took one good turn and suddenly found ourselves at the finish without a clue how we had gotten there. Usually, we have to spend a lot of time strategizing and scoping out our path from the top of one of the bridges. (Not that I'm convinced such strategizing is helpful, but it makes us feel some small degree of control.)

Here are two pictures of what things look like from a bridge in the middle of a corn maze. From inside the maze, all you see is corn and paths, with lots of amusing stops along the way to keep you from getting bored or nervous, but still, basically corn and paths.

6th Carnival of Children's Literature is Up at Castle of the Immaculate

For a great round-up of blog posts on topics near-and-dear to children's lit bloggers ...


... to this month's Carnival of Children's Literature, hosted this month at Castle of the Immaculate.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Quote of the Day, 8/17/06

On good and evil...

Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

Things You May Not Know About Chuck Norris

I am posting this for my dad, who I know will find this funny.

But anyone else interested in reading 14 Amazing Chuck Norris Facts should read Chris Marshall's great list. My favorite by far is #13, but you've got to see the whole list to truly appreciate it.

Jersey Girl, thanks for the heads up on this!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Words on Wednesday - Word Squares

I'm starting a new series of posts, Words on Wednesday. Every Wednesday I'll hunt down some sort of word game, fun word site, or other language-related amusement and post it here, under the "Words on Wednesday" title.

Here's a nice word challenge I found today. Go ahead and try it -- it'll keep you young.

By the way, the answer to #1 is here, which you can peek at if you highlight the box just below. I'll leave the other 6 to you to solve.

Also, on puzzle #7, consider what might be even more cool about this answer, if the first word started with a different letter.

A Child's Love of Reading

Okay, so part of me was saying, "Yeah right, this kid has that vocabulary." Perhaps I'm just jealous. And it's still a pretty good ad, worth watching if you ever think about how reading can inspire a child.

Ad for the !ndigo Love of Reading Fund.

Quote of the Day, 8/16/06

A few thoughts about antagonists in general (see post below about antagonists in Children's Literature):

Edmund Burke
He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.

Ernest Bramah (from Kai Lung's Golden Hours)
It has been said... there are few situations in life that cannot be resolved promptly, and to the satisfaction of all concerned, by either suicide, a bag of gold, or thrusting a despised antagonist over a precipice on a dark night.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (from "The Final Problem")
You know my powers, my dear Watson, and yet at the end of three months I was forced to confess that I had at last met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal. My horror at his crimes was lost in my admiration at his skill.