Saturday, March 31, 2007

Silly Words Day!

New additions are at the bottom, and some of them are very silly indeed!

As previously proclaimed, March 31, 2007 is Silly Words Day.

Thanks go out to everyone who shared their silly words with me for the Silly Words Contest. You can still enter till midnight, so keep those entries coming if you're so inclined. I'll draw the winner tomorrow afternoon.

In the meantime, here are the silly words we've celebrated so far. I've included links to audio wherever possible, because the words are so much more silly when you hear them out loud.


smock (hear it!)

Whimsy (which is also a good silly word, come to think of it)
bonnyclabber (hear it!)
widdershins (hear it!)
razzmatazz (hear it!)
slugabed (hear it!)
snickersnee (hear it!)

Alkeda the Gleeful (gleeful also a good silly word... we may have a theme)
underpants (hear it!)
weasel (hear it!)
ubiquitous (hear it!)
measles (hear it!)
polyp (hear it!)

Alkeda points out that those last three have serious meanings but silly sounds.

The Old Coot
persnickety (hear it!)
codswallop (hear it!)
wombat (hear it!)

Miss Erin
doldrums (hear it!)
lollipop (hear it!)
bubbly (hear it!)
rutabaga (hear it!)

nincompoop (hear it!)

stidmama (who also includes some nonsense words in her post)
plump (hear it!)
polymer (hear it!)
harrumph (hear it!)
opacity (hear it!)
gerontology (hear it!)

Tim (who also recommends what might be my new favorite book: Poplollies & Bellibones)
splurge (hear it!)
polynomial (hear it!)
blurb (hear it!)

lollygag (hear it!)
rambunctious (hear it!)

balderdash (hear it!)
sesquipedalian (hear it!)
tarradiddle (hear it!)

lugubrious (hear it!)
boomerang (hear it!)
shrubbery (hear it!)

My own
kerfuffle (hear it!)
flibbertigibbet (hear it!)
discombobulated (hear it!)
indubitably (hear it!)
hullabaloo (hear it!)
guacamole (hear it!)
mollycoddle (hear it!)
sprocket (hear it!)
diphthong (hear it!)
bamboozle (hear it!)
haberdashery (hear it!)
tomfoolery (hear it!)
glockenspiel (hear it!)
kerplunk (hear it!)
thwack (hear it!)
sasquatch (hear it!)

Added Saturday

blatherskite (hear it!)
accoutrement (hear it!)
gobsmacked (hear it!)

Mary Lee and her students (Mary Lee's commentary included)
Zit (won't be long before they abhor that word!)
Dilfy (a made-up mom word for messy)
Atlatl (a prehistoric spear thrower)
Boonka (a word remembered from pre-speech, meaning blanket)
Kwakiutl (a NW tribe of Native Americans)
Mississippi (fun to say and more fun to spell FAST)
Tegucigalpa (the capital of Honduras)
Onomatopoeia (fun to say and spell - hear it!)
Gift Certificate (because the nominator only recently mastered the pronunciation of certificate...cerFITicate? cerFICKatut? Plus, they're fun to get!)
Pachycephalosaurus (there's nothing better than dinosaur names! - hear it!)
Antidisestablishmentarianism (is that really a word? - hear it!)
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (we KNOW that's not a word, but it's delicious! - hear it!)

puzzle dust
coif (hear it two ways!)
nougat (hear it!)
funiculi (hear it!)
glabella (hear it!)
incredulous (hear it!)
diploblastic (hear it!)
zaibatsu (hear it!)
somniferous (hear it!)
mycelium (hear it!)
odoriferous (hear it!)
minutia (hear it!)
mashie niblick (hear mashie! hear niblick!)

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Little Poetry for You: Keats

It's Poetry Friday!

Susan has the round-up this week over at Chicken Spaghetti.


I've always preferred the Victorian poets like Tennyson and Browning to the Romantics. But even so, I have a soft spot for John Keats ever since I spent one winter afternoon in college reading a collection of his letters. His poetic career was so short, yet brilliant. And the letters he wrote, leading right up to his death at the age of 25, can send chills up your spine with the language, the thought and the sentiment.

I found this wonderful site tonight, where you can view original manuscripts, read letters, find biographical information, and browse the poetry of John Keats. You will also find this wonderful quote there, right at the top of the site:

"The great beauty of Poetry is, that it makes every thing every place interesting."

I encourage you to spend some time at the site, and see if you don't fall in love with Keats too.

Here's my Keats selection for this installment of Poetry Friday:

When I have fears that I may cease to be
by John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Words on Wednesday: Silly Words Contest Reminder!

So, as I've previously proclaimed, Saturday is Silly Words Day.

And I've got a contest running to celebrate!

You can enter your words in the comments here, or in the comments to the previous post, or even better, on your blog (just leave me the link). Anyone who enters 3 silly words has a shot at winning this contest. It's that easy!

My latest installment of silly words:


Monday, March 26, 2007

Tanga Puzzles: March 26 - April 1

Here are the daily clues for the Tanga puzzles this week. To see the hint, highlight the space to the right of the date.

I don't give away answers here, just a small hint each day to help get you started or past a rough patch. If you want stronger hints, you can check the blog on the Tanga site itself, which is chock full of spoilers.

While I avoid giving away the answers on this page, be warned that there may be spoilers in the comments to this post, so open those with care.

Good luck!

March 26: I guessed the answer based on one word that struck me as a bit awkward. If anyone wants to guide me on the backsolving, please leave comments.

March 27: Another one I had to guess. My only hint is that you're looking for chemical elements. Oh, and the answer is a pun, similar to what we saw on 3/2. Beyond that, I haven't a clue how this one worked.

March 28: The title anagrams to two words. On the last step, you need to repeat your thinking.

March 29: If you can find the car names, you will quickly zone in on the theme. You may need to look back a bit for some of the clues. If you get this in under 20 minutes, I give you my regards.

March 30: Pretty easy if you're economical.

March 31: Sorry, I was away yesterday. The best clue for this puzzle is in the title. Actually, there are two clues there.

April 1: I'm glad I was paying attention today, or this might have gone right past me.

Lives in Letters: Little Roughneck Postcard

One thing that interests me about collecting postcards is when I find a series of postcards addressed to the same person, or the same family. See the notes below for just a few intriguing connections with this card.

West Grand Street
Elizabeth, NJ
August 18, 1916
Addressed to
Mr. George S-
Paterson, N. J.
Hello George
hope you are
taking care of
our little rough
neck, having a
great time up
here wish you
would call around
some night with
the kid.
Gertrude S.
Gertrude's postcard was sent from Elizabeth, NJ, about 20 miles south of George's home in Paterson. So when she says she's "having a great time up here" I'm guessing she was visiting New Jersey from someplace even further south. And while she was in the area, she sent the postcard to reconnect with George and ask him to come visit.
I'm guessing then that Gertrude and George are old friends. Probably part of the same set of friends that 5 years earlier were exchanging notes about country clubs and flowers and ribbons. The tone of Gertrude's note seems to fit the casual style of those earlier messages, though I find it somehow surprising that women corresponded so casually in the pre-World War One days.
I wonder who the "little rough neck" was. George's child? His little brother? Why would Gertrude call him "our little rough neck" in either case? Maybe he was a mutual friend. But then her last sentence about visiting with "the kid" makes him sound like someone younger.
Here is how wikipedia explains the term roughneck. Basically it refers to an unskilled laborer, and at the time of this postcard, referred primarily to circus or carnival workers. H.L. Mencken had this to say about the term:
Rough-neck is a capital word; it is more apposite and savory than the English navvy, and it is over-whelmingly more American.
A couple of quick notes about the Elizabeth, New Jersey of 1916...
The area where Gertrude was staying is (I think) part of the midtown area, which is also the historic district. I found a good site that offers a timeline for Elizabeth, if you want to get a sense of what was going on there at the time, or even in the decades leading up to this time. It is fascinating stuff (Singer sewing machines, Olmstead parks, Carnegie, Nancy Drew) and worth a few minutes to read.
There were a few famous people from Elizabeth around that time (with thanks to Wikipedia)...
Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825–1921), first female ordained minister in the U.S., lived and died there.
Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a founder of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was born there.
Thomas Edison (1847-1931), lived here as a young man.
William Halsey, Jr. (1882-1959). World War II Fleet Admiral "Bull" Halsey was born in Elizabeth and attended the Pingry School.
Thomas Mitchell (1892–1962), Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor, was born there.
Mickey Spillane (1918-2006), writer, grew up there. (Okay, he was born 2 years after the postcard, but I couldn't help including him!)
Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), creator of the Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew, was born and resided there.
William Sulzer (1863-1941), U.S. Congressman and impeached governor of New York, was born there.
Edward Patrick Mickey Walker (1903-1981), boxer, who held the Welterweight and Middleweight titles, was born and raised there.
I mentioned at the start of this post that I found a string of postcards written to George and his family. Here's the list, with links to my previous posts.
Postcard about Papa, 1908 ... addressed to Mary S, who was either George's mother or grandmother
Postcard from Brooklyn, 1911 ... addressed to George, asking for flowers
Postcard from the Erie Canal, 1913 ... addressed to George, from Swede who was working on a boat going through the canal
Postcard to a Sanitorium, 1932 ... addressed to Jean S, who was probably George's wife, and who was either a patient or a nurse at a mental hospital
This one from Bayport, N.Y. in 1913 that you've only seen the front of so far ... it is another from Swede to George, where Swede signs off as "your loving wife." I have yet to tackle that!
And a couple others that I haven't posted yet....

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Creative Writing: Coffee I Never Tasted but Loved

I went to a coffee shop today, to try again to become a coffee drinker. I am giving myself up as a lost cause on this -- no matter what I try, I can't seem to enjoy the taste. I love coffee ice-cream, and mocha flavored food and drink. I absolutely love the scent of coffee, and would spend all day in a coffee shop if I could. But I have never taken to the flavor and the sharpness of coffee itself.

Anyhow, here is something about my love for coffee.
Coffee I Never Tasted but Loved

My memories are flavored with the pungent smells of coffee: percolated, brewed, fresh ground, Maxwell House (sometimes better); the morning necessities, the afternoon refreshments, the nighttime rituals; the common liquid which gathered family and friends together.

In Grandma’s kitchen the coffee and the memories percolated as one and produced a blend so strong it brought out tears and laughter. In restaurants, cafeterias and diners the family meals were never complete – were never left – without the coffee after.

In our home the coffee was brewed and served till well into the night, and attracted many guests like moths to aromatic flames: the teenage boys who gathered at the table Friday evenings; the neighbor playing rummy always staying for one more game.

There were years and years of coffee en-scenting the walls, the skin, the brain; creating sense memories so deeply steeped and infused and scorched on the mind like the scorching on a pot left hot too long, so strongly pressed from the best grounds ground from the best beans, the best moments, moments of the coffee kind.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Little Poetry for You: Creeley

It's Poetry Friday!

Elaine's got the round-up over at Blue Rose Girls.

And if you haven't seen it yet, don't miss the contest I'm running. It's an easy one!

Okay, on to the poem....

There are a few poems that have stuck with me over the years even though I've never been able to wrap my mind around them completely. This is one. I don't quite grasp it, but I cannot forget it.

The Door
By Robert Creeley

It is hard going to the door
cut so small in the wall where
the vision which echoes loneliness
brings a scent of wild flowers in a wood.

What I understood, I understand.
My mind is sometime torment,
sometimes good and filled with livelihood,
and feels the ground.

But I see the door,
and knew the wall, and wanted the wood,
and would get there if I could
with my feet and hands and mind.

Lady, do not banish me
for digressions. My nature
is a quagmire of unresolved
confessions. Lady, I follow.

Click here for the rest of the poem. I particularly like the last few verses.

And of course, because I cannot resist the mixed-media angle, here's a link to all sorts of good audio from Creeley.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Bells of Saint Harvard

The Russian bells are going home.

If you've ever spent a Sunday afternoon wandering through the streets of Harvard Square, you may have heard the strange but beautiful sound of Russian bells waking Harvard's late-risers.

Or perhaps you've been lucky enough to drop in during the annual Lowell House hodge-podge production of the 1812 Overture, complete with water glasses, balloon-n-blowtorch "cannons", and yes, Russian bells.

But if you haven't heard these bells, they are simply too hard to describe. They sound like church bells, and yet, not like any church bells you'd hear in other U.S. locations. Something about the way these bells are made, and I can't explain the science behind it but I know it's true, makes these bells sound amost off-key, but again still beautiful. (The late-risers who suffered through the Russian-bell alarm clock might argue this last point.)

But despair not, because Harvard is getting a replacement set of bells from Russia, along with what seems like plenty of money to cover the costs of physically switching out the multi-ton instruments. (Because, you know, Harvard needs the money. Sorry, cheap shot.)

The bells have a pretty interesting story, which you can read about here, and here. And for a little fun, you can even play virtual bells at this site.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Words on Wednesday: Silly Words Day and Contest

I don't know why this popped into my head today, but as I was wondering what to post about for Words on Wednesday, the word "kerfuffle" came to mind.

Which made me think about other silly words, and inspired me to do a little hunt. Here are just 10 words that made me smile tonight.


Now in my wanderings to find these words, I found a post that proclaimed March 31 (2005) as Silly Words Day. I don't know if a similar proclamation was issued in 2006. But what say we go for 2007?

I hereby proclaim that March 31, 2007 is Silly Words Day. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find and post your 3 personal favorite silly words in the English language. You have 10 days to come up with your words.

When you find your words, post them on your blog and send me the link. You don't have to wait until March 31, but on March 31 I'll publish all the links, and ...

ONE LUCKY POSTER will win a $10 Starbucks gift card just for playing! Yes, I love silly words THAT much.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Interview You (meme)!

Here were the 5 Interview Meme questions I sent to Stidmama and Miss Erin:

1. If you could imagine a perfect hour for yourself, what would it be?

2. What is your favorite secret food -- food you love but that you might not like to admit to?

3. What profession would you least want to do, and why?

4. If someone did something very special for you, and you wanted to pay it forward to three people, how would you do that?

5. Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Seriously, what do people love most about you?

Go here for Stidmama's answers.

Go here for Miss Erin's answers.

And feel free to answer my Interview Meme questions yourself if you like! Just remember, when someone else picks up your meme, you need to come up with 5 new interview questions for them, just like I did for Miss Erin and Stidmama, MotherReader did for me, etc.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tanga Puzzles: March 19 - March 25

Here are the daily clues for the Tanga puzzles this week. To see the hint, highlight the space to the right of the date.

I don't give away answers here, just a small hint each day to help get you started or past a rough patch. If you want stronger hints, you can check the blog on the Tanga site itself, which is chock full of spoilers.

While I avoid giving away the answers on this page, be warned that there may be spoilers in the comments to this post, so open those with care.

Good luck!

March 19: You have to do a small sort before you can get to the bigger challenge. Then when you apply the numbers, don't get too disconcerted if the last two letters don't work. Try turning them on.

March 20: The key to this one is in the directions.

March 21: I kept following the instructions and Tanga kept telling me I was wrong.

March 22: In order to work this out quickly, you probably need to do a web search.

March 23: I've got spots in front of my eyes after that one. Gotta fly!

March 24: There's an extra step in here that might throw you off.

March 25: Apparently the apple in the background is a big hint. I thought the connection between raccoon, submarine and wood was a bigger one. If you have trouble with the order, take a second look at your list.

Biggest, Brightest and Best Carnival

That's right folks! Step right up, step right up! The biggest. The brightest. The best darn Carnival of Children's Literature to date is happening...

(No, not HERE, you gotta click the link!)

Many kudos and high praises to Midwestern Lodestar for pulling it together and for making it so much fun to dive into.

Lives in Letters: Postcard from Brooklyn (2)

Here's a postcard I've been hanging on to for a while, written from a woman to her husband, just a year before the U.S. got into World War II.

Half Moon Hotel
Brooklyn, NY
October 10, 1940

Addressed to

Mr. Charles J. K-
Hawthorne, NJ

Printed on front of card:

Half Moon Hotel – The Only New York City Hotel on the Atlantic


Hello Honey
Feeling pretty good today.
Hope it is the same with
you. Every thing seems O. K.
Here it is Thursday and
while you are attending
the Novena, I will register
for the coming election.
May the better man win.
Yes Charles! Will be looking
forward for Sunday
morning about 11AM we will
go to the Holy Name Society.
So long now. Yours, Love, Marie

I started out thinking that Marie was on holiday at the Half Moon Hotel and sending a postcard back home to her husband. But the more I read this, the more I wonder -- how would she be registering for the election if she were away from home?

About that election, perhaps Marie was excited about a local race. Maybe her husband Charles was even a candidate.

But it's equally likely she was talking about the country's first 3rd term presidential election when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for re-election against Wendell Willkie. Roosevelt promised the American people (who were hugely isolationist even at this late date) that no American boy would fight in a foreign war. But at the same time, as the fall of Paris and other events in Europe had started to change the tide of American opinion, Roosevelt began to visibly shore up America's military to prove himself ready to engage if needed. He was an extremely popular candidate, and just a few weeks after this postcard was sent, he would win his third term as President by a large margin.

Go here to see a film of Roosevelt signing the declaration of war in 1941.

What else was going on in October, 1940?

Well, the Yankees lost the pennant in 1940, for the first time since Joe Dimaggio joined the team. But that's okay because Marie and Charles were more likely Dodgers fans, being from Brooklyn.

In mid-September the first peacetime draft in U.S. history was signed into law.

Further from home, beginning September 7, the Germans bombed London for 57 straight nights. Click the link for a pretty impressive photo.

And just two weeks before this postcard was sent, Germany, Italy and Japan signed the pact that formally allied them as the Axis Powers.

Meanwhile, back on the homefront....

For all you non-Catholics or pathetically bad Catholics (like myself), a Novena is 9-day series of prayers and/or church attendance for the purpose of asking for a special blessing or favor from God. The Holy Name Society was most likely a women's club within Marie's church.

Updated theory:

October 1940 was the end of the New York World's Fair (1939-1940). I notice the postmark on this card and the write-up of the hotel that is on the back both mention the World's Fair. So my new theory is that Marie was staying on Long Island for a holiday after all. Though how she got to register to vote, I don't know. Perhaps it was an exhibit at the fair.

Go here for all sorts of good info on the 1939-40 World's Fair.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tripping over Tropes and Pinning down Patterns

Roger Sutton kicked off an interesting discussion this past Friday about tropes in children's books, in particular, the common theme of girls disguising themselves as boys. The comments there are pretty interesting and I encourage you to check them out.

Meanwhile, this set off my own thinking on two topics I've wanted to post on for a while. Before I launch into them, let me preface briefly by saying that my undergrad thesis and graduate work were both centered around late-19th and early-20th century North American girls books. In other words, I only looked at books written between 1865 and 1935, all by female authors, all with female protagonists. So any generalizations I make are only meant to apply to those books.

Forgive me if the language is a little academic -- I had to quote myself a lot from papers and such. Just for fun, I threw a few questions at the bottom of each section, in case you want to respond.

1. Violence in children's books
In April, 1995, I presented at a conference on Violence with my thoughts on violence in girls' books. My paper, "Crazy Ladies and Dirty Old Men in Turn-of-the-Century Adolescent Fiction," considered the contradiction between the conservative world of children's literature and depictions of violence and serious threat scattered through the literature. I went on to offer my thoughts on the possible value of writing violence into stories for children.
Throughout these books, young girls are violently injured, narrowly escape gruesome deaths, and are threatened with sexual assault. The dangers plainly manifest in these books overturn the "protected" status of the child's territory. Furthermore, threats of violence, injury and rape are positioned as rite-of-passage events through which the young heroines achieve maturity....

In the twenty girls' stories which make up the core of my studies, there are 3 beatings, 2 near drownings, 2 terrible illnesses, several deaths, a few encounters with ferocious animals, 2 blindings, several cripplings, and several threats of sexual assault. All told, it's a violent and dangerous world for these young girls.

The violence, I proposed, served a few purposes in the story:
  • Taming the tomboy or wild child and making her softer
  • Showing the girl as a possible victim, and distinguishing her in that way from boys
  • Marking a loss of innocence right at the start of adolescence
Here are the scenes I used to illustrate my points:

Magic for Marigold - Marigold's imprisonment in Mrs. Delagarde's house
Five Little Peppers and How they Grew - Phronsie and the hurdy-gurdy man
Emily Climbs - Emily trapped in the church with Mad Mr. Morrison
A Girl of the Limberlost - Elnora spied on at night by man outside her window

My concluding question was about how child readers absorb and understand the violence that's depicted in all these books. My answer -- that children take such things in stride. They "have been nurtured ... into a world of danger and distress" and in fact these books "allow child readers to explore violence without experiencing it."


Is violence (or danger and distress, if you prefer) still prevalent in today's books for girls?

Is it a rite of passage mechanism, or just a good plot device?

Are girls treated differently than boys in terms of violence and danger in children's books?

2. All those other patterns!
One of the commenters on Roger's post asks (paraphrased), "What about the dead mother trope?" Good question.

In my undergraduate thesis (1990), I suggested there was a clear pattern to heroine formation in girls' books. I reviewed dozens and dozens of books, and focused in on the development of 20 different girl protagonists.

Here were many of the patterns I evaluated:

No mother
No father
Motherly neighbor
Taken in by relatives
Stifling foster parent
Writing heroine
Musical heroine
Gypsy heroine
Ineffective mother
Bad mother
Good mother
Punishment of heroine (deus ex machina)
Punishment of heroine (mother)
Heroine in nature
Heroine in fantasy life
Heroine with money
Heroine in poverty
Identification with literature
Stain on birth
Community of women
Heroine rewarded
Heroine as motherly
Nature as mother
Text as mother
Heroine not pretty
Love with older man
Male control
Death scene

In the end, I concluded:
The eight dominant patterns of the heroine's development are: 1) so-so appearance; 2) obstacles; 3) domestic life; 4) artistic life; 5) no good mother; 6) absent father; 7) substitute mother; and 8) community of females.

In order to be a heroine in the girls' book of this time, a girl needed all 8 of those patterns to exist in her story. The combination of these elements developed a girl with enough freedom (no interference from parents) to explore her ambitions and enough supervision (support from a substitute mother and a community of females) to ensure her proper training in the more traditional roles of women. Thus ensuring she would end up with the independent success and even financial independence that she wants, and that she would still get the guy.
Courageous and respectful, imaginative and yet practical, independent and romantic -- she moves easily in the worlds of Nature, Society, and Home, knowledgeable and powerful in each, and forms her life as a combination....


How did the patterns change in girls' books after this time period?

What patterns are still prevalent?

What are the boys' patterns?

Interview Me (me)!

Motherreader has invited her visitors to take part in the Interview Meme, which came to her via A Wrung Sponge, and which she has now passed along to several volunteers. In our case, Motherreader provided a set of common questions (1-4) and one unique question (5) for us to answer.

If you'd like to be part of this Meme, please let me know and I will come up with 5 interview questions for you.

Here are mine from Motherreader:

1. What's your favorite quote?

It's hard to pick just one -- so many funny and wonderful things have been said or written! But I think I'll go with this one for now, from William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1950):
I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
2. How would you spend $1,500 that you won in a radio contest?

I would be sure to use some of it to buy myself something to commemorate the occasion. I am a big believer in that -- have something to show for it, to remember it years later. The rest would easily get spent here and there on anything and everything.

3. Where do you like to go to get away from it all?

Penobscot Bay up in Maine. I go at least twice a year, and when I'm there I am more at ease and tuned in to myself than anywhere else in the world. What does Penobscot Bay have going for it? Beautiful scenery, quiet, wildlife, old-fashioned New Englanders (accent and all), ocean, stars.... What is it missing? Jobs. Or at least a job I could do while living there. So... I live in New Jersey, and escape to Maine.

4. If you had the complete attention of everyone in the United States, but only for thirty seconds, what would you say?

This is a tough one. Having everyone's attention doesn't mean I can make them do what I say, so I guess "play nice!" won't do it. Which means I have to assume that I wouldn't be able to cause much change with my air time -- at least not directly. I think then, I'd use the 30 seconds to tell a short story about someone from my family, or some event from my childhood, that I wanted to share and have remembered. Hopefully I'd have a lot of time to prepare ahead, to come up with just the right story and to condense it to half a minute. If I had no prep time at all, maybe I'd read or recite a poem, maybe even one of my own, again just to share it and have it remembered.

5. I put you in the writer category of my blogroll because it seemed the best fit. How do you see yourself?

I was actually pretty shocked to find my blog listed under "writers" in your bloglist MR! It's true, I do write, but purely as hobby so far.

How do I see myself? As a fan mostly. A fan of children's books, of words and language, of poetry, of puzzles, and of things that make me crack up or cry.

Quote of the Day: Hayes

From the first lady of American Theater, Helen Hayes:
From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bye Bye Miss American Pi

I can't believe I missed Pi Day on 3/14!

Which, by the way, was also Albert Einstein's birthday.

Next thing you know, I'll be missing Milk-and-cookies Day!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Little Poetry for You: Irish Poets

Happy Poetry Friday, and in advance, Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Liz has the round-up this week. Much Yeats and other good things to be found there.

As I've recently discovered (or admitted to) my Irish ancestry (a full one-eighth... at best), I thought I would put on a little green and and a little Irish spirit and delve into a little Irish poetry.

I'll start you off with this List of Irish poets (born in Ireland or Irish citizens) from Wikipedia.

I'm offering bits from four of these Irish poets today. For the first two, you can click on the last word of the excerpt to see the entire poem. For the others, I've shown the links separately, as there is also audio (of course!) to enjoy along with the text.

Bagpipe Music
Louis MacNeice

It’s no go my honey love, it’s no go my poppet;
Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit.
The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.
I Hear an Army
James Joyce

I hear an army charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging; foam about their knees:
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the rains, with fluttering whips, the Charioteers.
Mossbawn Sunlight
Seamus Heaney

There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
water honeyed

in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall
Go here for the rest of Mossbawn Sunlight, and the audio. It's quite lovely.

And of course, no quick look at Irish poets is complete without a nod to this man...
The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
You can find the full text of The Second Coming here. I've always loved this poem, especially the "things fall apart" line.

Also, I know I linked to this a few weeks ago, but I still love listening to Yeats talk about how his verse should be read, and what a "devil of a lot of trouble" it took to get the verses just right.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Words on Wednesday: Blarney

With St. Patrick's Day approaching, and mindful of my new-found Irish heritage, I went out to find you a few Irishisms. Enjoy!
Beyond the Pale
Paddy Wagon
Take the cake
Tying the Knot

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tanga Puzzles: March 12 - 18

Here are the daily clues for the Tanga puzzles this week. To see the hint, highlight the space to the right of the date.

I don't give away answers here, just a small hint each day to help get you started or past a rough patch. If you want stronger hints, you can check the blog on the Tanga site itself, which is chock full of spoilers.

While I avoid giving away the answers on this page, be warned that there may be spoilers in the comments to this post, so open those with care.

Good luck!

March 12: There is no good way to clue this without spelling it out. First, you need to know the puzzle-maker's name, which is Monica Lewinski. Then, the title of this puzzle is at the top, but for that step, you need to consider the word "last" differently than you did in the earlier steps.

March 13: They had server issues tonight, so it took a while for me to be able to enter my answer. Anyhow, the top piece is a bit misleading. Probably easier if you ignore the numbers.

March 14: Nice one! The top is easier if you put the numbers up front. 99 B of B on the W, for instance. For the bottom, try replacing those equal signs with asterisks, or some other less distracting symbol. Also take a look at all those letters!

March 15: The pictures are good, there's a clear theme and it's easy to figure out which letters to select for the final answer. The one sticky point is how to fit the words into the spaces. You'll have to do some transforming/condensing, and allow things to overlap a little counterintuitively. It looks like a crossword, but....

March 16: I won't tease you with bad clues for this one.

March 17: Romeo: My very friend, hath got his mortal hurt in my behalf.

March 18: In the words of Bonnie Tyler ordering takeout from Mykonos: "I need a gyro! I'm holding out for a gyro till the end of the night!"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Creative Writing: Labyrinth of Mind

Here is a first-draft poem I wrote this weekend. Note the phrase "first draft."
Labyrinth of Mind

Within the labyrinth of mind
There are dead ends
Places where your
thoughts refuse to take you
Or where you refuse to take your thoughts.
And then there are familiar paths
The easy
The well trodden.
But those don’t take you anywhere either
Just over and over through the same circles
Or circuits
Or circus.
The trick is breaking through
Before you break down.
These borders must not contain you.
They’re after all just the lines you drew
To map the world in earlier days.
And they were drawn in pencil after all.
And maps can be recharted after all
Must be recharted.
Do stop telling yourself the same stories.
You are boring and well trodden.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

If You're Happy and You Know it...

Over at 7-Imp, Jules and Eisha have launched a "reasons to love life" post and are looking for your happy notes to add to the list.

Think about any good things that have happened this week. Or pretty things you've seen. Or read. Or heard. And add them to 7-Imp's great list.

Of course I'd love it if you'd comment here too, because I love hearing about what makes people happy. Here, by the way are my comments left on 7-Imp.

Quote of the Day: Wrapped in Quotations

I ran across this quote today at Quote Puzzler, and it seemed worth sharing.
Rudyard Kipling
He wrapped himself in quotations -- as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Little Poetry for You: Whitman

It's Poetry Friday!

I was all set up to share some Robert Creeley this week until I stumbled upon this poem and remembered how much I love it. So this week, Whitman, and Mr. Creeley can just wait till next.

When I Heard the Learned Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them...

Go here for the rest of this poem. And if you don't already own a book of Whitman's poetry, it is worth exploring.

Here's an audio recording of Whitman reading some of "America." In case you want to hear his voice. It's pretty scratchy, but there are pictures with it to distract you.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Words on Wednesday: The Good Word

Ever have someone ask you, "What's the good word?"

Someone asked me that at work yesterday. I paused a moment, then said...


It seemed like a good word in the moment.

What's your good word today?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lives in Letters: Postcard from the Auto Roads

A quick old postcard for your amusement.


Delaware Park,
Buffalo, N. Y.

July 17, 1918

Addressed to
Mr. & Mrs. H. H-
Patterson, N. J.

Noted below address: Furniture Mfg.
Arrived here this P. M.
after a wonderful trip
by Auto roads. Weather
& country beautiful. Hope
this finds you and Mrs. H-
in good health. Kindest
regards from the T-‘s

Check out the clothing in the picture. It's very 1918.

I don't understand why there was an extra note scribbled at the bottom (under the address) that said "Furniture Mfg." Perhaps it was a business address.

There's not much to say about the message, but I loved the reference to the "Auto roads." I can almost imagine a time long ago, when an automobile trip would be a quiet and wonderful experience that allowed you to see the beautiful country. These days, you pretty much only see the SUV in front of you and the big rigs on either side.

Update: In the comments, a link with some very cool info on Delaware Park. I didn't realize it was an Olmsted creation. Thanks dshep!

Tanga Puzzles: March 5 - March 11

Here are the daily clues for the Tanga puzzles this week. To see the hint, highlight the space to the right of the date.

I don't give away answers here, just a small hint each day to help get you started or past a rough patch. If you want stronger hints, you can check the blog on the Tanga site itself, which is chock full of spoilers.

While I avoid giving away the answers on this page, be warned that there may be spoilers in the comments to this post, so open those with care.

Good luck!

March 5: At first it might be hard to understand the ribbon, but think about it.

March 6: Keep it casual. Oh, and I'll put the superhero names in the comments.

March 7: Scissors would make this easier, but if you don't have them handy, you can probably let it take shape just with a careful review of the pieces.

March 8: There are two different people who could be the answer for #5, but one of them is the answer for #1 instead.

March 9: I was so addicted to Tetris in grad school that I used to play it in my sleep. It was so satisfying to see those rows disappear! Really tough to resist.

March 10: I got off track with this one and tried to make it more complicated than it needed to be. This hint was brought to you by the letter H.

March 11: Yech! That's not a belly-button. And when you get the clue phrase and look up the answer, you can only use the first word of what you find.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Book Shelves Meme

Courtesy of Little Willow, here's a meme I thought was interesting. Feel free to post your answers here, or on your blog.

1. How do you organize your books? By genre, by last name, by title, by publication date?
2. Do you have a shelf reserved for your favorite books and/or authors?
3. What is the first title and author on your bookshelf?
4. What is the last title and author on your bookshelf?
5. What genre dominates your collection?
6. Which author is the most represented? (You own the most number of books by...)
7. You own all of the books written by...
8. You own the entire series of...
1. How do you organize your books? By genre, by last name, by title, by publication date?

I mostly split the books by genre. One bookcase is all children's lit, organized by size and author. One bookcase is adult fiction on the top and various reference books on the bottom (with some miscellaneous in between). On a third bookcase in another room I have a hodge-podge of unread books that have been mocking me for years. On a fourth in yet another room I have a hodge-podge of unread books that have only been mocking me for months -- those are again divided out into children and adult.

2. Do you have a shelf reserved for your favorite books and/or authors?

I keep my favorite books and authors together, but this covers many shelves.

3. What is the first title and author on your bookshelf?

It is either Complete works of Shakespeare, or Complete works of Twain. Or it might be The Hobbit.

4. What is the last title and author on your bookshelf?

Which shelf? This one is pretty impossible to answer, because I end up sideways stacking and so I don't know where "last" is.

5. What genre dominates your collection?

North-American books for girls, written between 1865 and 1935. I did my college thesis on this collection back in 1990, and I bring the books with me everywhere I move.

6. Which author is the most represented? (You own the most number of books by...)

Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden) and Lucy Maud Montgomery

7. You own all of the books written by...

I suppose Shakespeare and Twain, because I have the "complete works." I'd like to own all the books written by Stephen King.

8. You own the entire series of...

Trixie Belden mysteries. It took me a while to find them all too!

Creative Writing: From the Orchard

I decided to play with Magnetic Poetry again today. I couldn't stick to the 20-word limit, but was able to keep it pretty brief anyhow.
Arm-in-arm we walked --
orange burlap bags on our backs.
Our shadows sought the wall, and silhouetted
bodies bent like oxen with our burdens.
You leaned against the emptied crates --
your laugh saturated with orchard juice.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Indexed Got a Book Deal

A few weeks ago I mentioned this great blog called Indexed. The blog is a little bit of magic, combining the raw power of the index card with the quirkiness of one human brain.

I have trouble articulating exactly what Jessica Hagy does on this blog, so I'll use her own words:
This site is a little project that lets me make fun of some things and sense of others. I use it to think a little more relationally without resorting to doing actual math.
And her own pictures:

Do check it out. Jessica's just gotten a book deal out of the wonderful work she's done with this blog, and if you take a moment to look at just a few of her entries, you will quickly see why.


Friday, March 02, 2007

A Little Poetry for You: Poe

It's Poetry Friday! This week, rather than find an audio of the poet reading his or her own work, I found a different way to have fun with the full experience of a good poem read aloud.

For a good dose of gloom and darkness, why not listen to Basil Rathbone reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven?" I assure you, you'll be glad you did.

Possibly even better, try Christopher Walken's rendition. You're bound to find it excellent, or at least laughably horrifying.

Here are the first lines, to get you in the mood.

The Raven
by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

I hope you had fun with that!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Gutsy Girls Got a Place to Go!

Okay, this just arrived in my email, and it's very exciting stuff.

Please be sure to share this info about readergirls with the gutsy girls in your life.

And why not go check it out yourself, using one of the big bold links below? (I especially recommend you read the "manifesta.")

And for even more info, you can seek out Little Willow's discussions and praise of readergirlz.



SEATTLE, March 1 – In honor of Women's History Month, four young adult authors are launching readergirlz, a new online book salon celebrating gutsy girls in life and literature.

Starting on March 1, readergirlz founders Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover, and Justina Chen Headley will unveil a monthly book selection, featuring young adult novels with gutsy female characters.

More than just a book club, readergirlz aims to encourage teen girls to read and reach out with community service projects related to each featured novel. As well, readergirlz will host MySpace discussions with each book's author, include author interviews, and provide book party ideas, including playlists, menus, and decorations. All content will be available through the readergirlz website(, MySpace( and, and LiveJournal (

"We want girls to be the best women they can be,' explains Headley. The inspiration for readergirlz came from Headley's book tour last spring where she made a special effort to visit urban communities that couldn't otherwise bring in authors. She recruited three critically-acclaimed novelists—Calhoun, Carey, and Grover—to start readergirlz as a way to talk to teens about reading and writing.

"Readergirlz is a way I can connect wonderful books to girls I'd never be able to meet otherwise,' agrees Calhoun.

The founders hope readergirlz will change the way girls experience literature and see themselves. "I want to challenge girls to go for their dreams,' says Carey. "I learned how brave girls can be through books, and I want to share the power of literature with girls, wherever they are.'

Using MySpace and a website, the readergirlz founders, dubbed the divas, plan to provide a rich literary experience for teen girls online. "We already have over 750 friends on MySpace. From surveys to playlists to author interviews, we'll provide young adult readers with fun, meaningful content," explains Grover. "Why not harness the power of MySpace to get girls to think critically about what they want to be in the future?'

Each book selection will dovetail to a topic, identified by the readergirlz divas and prominent children's lit bloggers as topics teen girls should know about in this millennium.

The first topic is Tolerance, a theme explored in the kick-off book selection for readergirlz, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies). As prominent blogger, Jennifer Robinson of, noted, teens "need to know that when they are mean or intolerant to other people, they're doing damage.'

In conjunction with the first novel, teen girls will be encouraged to visit to learn how to safely stop bullying and to apply for one of the organization's Mix It Up grants to break social and racial barriers within their schools.


Dia Calhoun is the winner of the Mythopoeic FantasyAward for Children's Literature, and author of five young adult fantasies, including Avielle of Rhia and The Phoenix Dance.

Janet Lee Carey won the 2005 Mark Twain Award for Wenny Has Wings, and her forthcoming young adult fantasy, Dragon's Keep, has already received a starred review in Booklist.

Lorie Ann Grover is a former ballerina-turned-verse-novelist whose acclaimed work includes On Pointe and Loose Threads, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age.

Justina Chen Headley sold her first two novels at auction, including her debut, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies), named Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best.

For more information about readergirlz, please visit their website (, MySpace( and, and LiveJournal (

Contact: Justina Chen Headley at