Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Separate Country ~ by Robert Hicks, 2009

John Bell Hood was a handsome man, 6'2" tall. Before the Civil War in the United States, he led soldiers against the Comanche Indians, but he is remembered as commander of the Battle of Franklin, one of the worst disasters for the Confederate Army. According to Sam Watkins, 1st Tennessee Infantry:
"(Franklin) is the blackest page in the history of the War of the Lost Cause. It was the bloodiest battle of modern times in any war. It was the finishing stroke to the Independence of the Southern Confederacy. I was there. I saw it."
After the war, the McGavock family of Franklin donated two acres near their home to establish a Confederate Cemetery. I read about the battle of Franklin and the burying of the dead in The Widow of the South, an excellent 2005 novel by Robert Hicks. So when I heard that Hicks would be speaking in Chattanooga, I got a copy of his newest novel, A Separate Country, which is about the life of General Hood in New Orleans in the years after the war.

In the new book Hood is haunted by his failures and wants to be vindicated somehow. He married a strong-willed woman, and together they had eleven children in eleven years (some were twins). But always, always Hood was obsessed by what he had done as a leader, in fighting the Comanches and in the battle of Franklin.
"I didn't realize then in my cursed and doomed youth [when he led soldiers against the Comanches], that one killing led to another, geometrically, until the only way possible to escape the massacre was to lead a whole army into the maw and hope for an ending" (p. 159).

"I will send him to see my other creation, not an orphan, but a killer. The killer and the orphan, the Janus face of my life's work" (p. 410).
When I met Robert Hicks on Thursday evening, I asked if Hood had really worried about making orphans and killers. Yes, he did. It's in the writings by Hood that were published.

I was interested in his wife, Anna Marie, who had been a genteel artist before they were married. In the book she comes across as a bold person, and I liked her, especially for things like this:
"In truth, painting a man is as erotic as my mother suspected. That was another reason why we sat there in the parlor, two arms length away from each other. I stared and consumed him, I put him on a canvas. I was an artist, before there came all the children, and then there was no room for my easel and no time for mixing paints" (p. 109).
One of the most poignant quotes that I copied from the book came near the beginning. Eli, one of the main characters, is thinking about the Hood family's battle with a different sort of enemy -- yellow fever:
"But the yellow jack had got Anna Marie, and the nine healthy children had been sent off. Hood and Lydia [the oldest child] were all that remained, too sick to leave. They were the ruins of what Hood said was his own separate country. There had been enough Hoods for a country, or at least a small town, but that wasn't what he'd meant and I ain't figured it out" (p. 10).
I recommend both of these books by Robert Hicks. Because his excellent first novel was more compelling to me, I rate The Widow of the South 9 out of 10 and his second novel, A Separate Country, which is also a very good book, 8 of 10.

I'll Take a Community With That Book, Please!

Guest post by Fauzia Burke, founder and president of FSB Associates, a web publicity firm specializing in creating online awareness for books and authors. She is a featured blogger on The Huffington Post, where this article originally debuted.

With today's search empowered readers, do we need to market and publish books differently? Does general publishing makes sense in an age of Google searches, micro communities, and niche marketing?

Today's readers are tech savvy and resourceful. They know how to get the information they need and have higher expectations from publishers and authors. They don't expect just a book, they expect a community with their book.

I often hear publishers say that there are "very few brands in book publishing." But to thrive in today's competitive, niche markets, perhaps brands are exactly what we need. What readers choose to read is personal and an extension of who they are. Shouldn't their book choices be supported by a publisher, a brand that is invested in their interests?

Many small publishing companies have done an enviable job of branding themselves and building reader communities around their books. Take O'Reilly, TOR, and Hay House. You may not read their books, but you know what they publish. Their communities trust them. People who share their point of view flock to their lists. These companies publish for a niche community, and are trusted members of their community. They provide extra resources, and often their authors are members of the community itself. TOR has even launched a bookstore to meet their readers' needs. These publishers show passion for their books and an understanding of their readers, and as such their readers reward them with loyalty.

Publishing books for the community

Besides reader loyalty, publishing for micro communities may have other long-term benefits as well. For example, the focus would help publishers save money on marketing. Marketing through online communities is less expensive and much more powerful than trying to reach the general public and hoping to find the right match. The publisher's web site wouldn't have to cater to a wide variety of people, it would be designed to serve the needs of a small group. Instead of expensive advertising, they could announce the book to the community that has already bought into their brand. Publishers and authors could enlist the support of the community to spread the word (which will always be the most efficient method for marketing books). The logo on the book spine would mean the readers have a promise that the book is worth reading. The readers would know that the publisher looked at over a thousand manuscripts all on the same topic and is offering them the very best.

So are large, general publishers at a disadvantage with today's search-empowered, community-oriented readers? I think so. General trade publishing is for everyone, yet there is no "everyone" out there. Readers are part of micro communities. They want good books, and they need publishers who will support their interests and passions.

The bottom line is that publishers and authors need to evolve their marketing and publishing strategies to accommodate a new kind of reader. A reader whose expectations demand more interaction and community. A reader whose loyalty you can have once you have earned it. A reader who wants more than a six-week marketing campaign so you can sell a book. This new reader requires an investment of months and years.

Is that too much to expect? Perhaps. But this is your new reader, and she will stay with you if you stay with her.


Bonnie's question: How would you define our book community? What would you like from publishers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's the in thing

When asked to name four places I have been, I came up with this list:
1. in hot water
2. in love
3. indisposed
4. in the know
"In" is such an interesting word. When my friend Margreet was helping me learn a bit of Dutch (she's fluent in eight languages, but Dutch is her native tongue), she made me notice just how slippery some of our little English prepositions can be. For example, the woman drawn on this ceramic bathtub is actually "IN" hot water. But what are we "IN" when we're in love? What are we "IN" when we're in the know? Here are some more "IN" phrases to ponder, not all of which are prepositions:
in debt
in power
in for it
in with
hit in the face with a pie
the in book this year
paid in cash
written in Dutch
in equal parts
a drawing in pen and ink
split in two
a life in theater
in need
in pursuit
wrote in to the editor
closed in
one in three
three in one
stepped in
took in the view
in reference to your letter
what's in this season?
in Indiana, IN means Indiana
Oh, I love playing with words! Don't you?
Cross-posted on Joyful Noiseletter:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jim the Boy ~ by Tony Earley, 2000

Tony Earley said in an interview, "I never write until I have the first sentence and the first sentence never changes." Here's the first sentence in Jim the Boy:
During the night something like a miracle happened: Jim's age grew an extra digit."
Two digits, a one plus a zero. It is now 1934, and today is his tenth birthday. Jim, whose father died a week before he was born, lives with his mother and three uncles in the little town of Aliceville, North Carolina. This is a gentle book, with no action-packed car chases, no murder mysteries, nothing flashy. Well, unless you count the night electricity came to Aliceville and the new brightness pushed away the darkness and made the stars seem to fade. Excitement means things like a ferris wheel, the opening of a new school, and learning that Ty Cobb is on the train stopped at the station. Drama arrives in the form of polio, at a time when Franklin D. Roosevelt is both president of the United States and a victim of that dread disease. And resolution comes as the reader sees Jim growing up and expanding his horizons little by little from the town to the ocean to the mountains his daddy came from.

Tony Earley is from North Carolina and now lives in Nashville, where he teaches creative writing at Vanderbilt University. Jim the Boy, his first novel, provoked a lively discussion at my book club meeting Tuesday evening. (My online Book Buddies also read and discussed the book in 2008.) I rate it 7 of 10, a good book.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Question of the week ~ owning myself

If I own myself, does it follow that I should be free to sell myself into slavery if I wish to do so? Answer yes or no, and then please tell us why.

Philosopher John Locke believes that your “unalienable right” to liberty does not include the right to kill yourself. Is he right? What does your liberty entitle you to do with yourself? Where do the limits come from?

John Locke believes that government, once it is set up, should be guided by the principle of majority rule. However, he also believes that the purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, including their “unalienable” right to property. What if these two goals conflict? What if a poor majority wants to tax a rich minority?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teaser ~ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Today's teaser is from page 62 of the 2008 novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

"Blomkvist was sure that it was not the old-fashioned kind of love that leads to a shared home, a shared mortgage, Christmas trees, and children. During the eighties, when they were not bound by other relationships, they had talked of moving in together. He had wanted to, but Erika always backed out at the last minute. It wouldn't work, she said, they would risk what they had if they fell in love too."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Facebook ~ today's teaser

This teaser is from page 77 of The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community, by Jesse Rice, which came out on the first day of this month:
"Do you remember how your high school bedroom tried to reflect everything about who you were as a person -- your likes, dislikes, beliefs, affiliations, and attitudes -- in the space of just four walls? Facebook serves a similar end, allowing us to decorate our pages with any kind of flair necessary to demonstrate the things that are closest to our hearts."
Makes me want to analyze what's on my Facebook page: family photos, visit from an out-of-town friend, quotes from books (books? me?), links to issues and kitten with deer and climate change and humor and another book. Uh-huh, I'd say it represents "me."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Question of the week ~ tax the rich

Would it be just to tax the rich in order to provide health care for the uninsured poor? Answer yes or no, and then tell us why, if you like.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Hair of Zoe ~ by Laurie Halse Anderson, 2009

Mom and Dad Fleefenbacher think their daughter Zoe's hair is wild and beautiful. And for her kindergarten teacher, Zoe's vivacious tresses were a comfort. But Zoe's about to start first grade, and her new teacher doesn't fool around....

"School has rules," she says. "No wild hair in my class!"

So what are Zoe and her free-spirited hair going to do now? The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School, a 2009 children's book by Laurie Halse Anderson, is about unruly red hair that seems to go far beyond what Zoe wants her hair to do. Some of us have hair that flies away, and Zoe’s hair could do that, too. But does your hair know how to open the cookie jar? Didn't think so. Her hair could "turn on the TV, pour a glass of juice, pet the cat, and play on the computer — all at the same time." And when confronted with those first grade rules, Zoe's hair does all sorts of mischievous things, like tickling classmates and (by shaping itself into a dragon) chasing the teacher away. In the end, however, the book is about cooperation and the wild hair becomes helpful. (I wish I had a young child to share this book with. Cady is 9-1/2 and reads big girl books now.)

Three of my granddaughters fell in love with another book about hair, If I Had Long, Long Hair by Angela Elwell Hunt, published in 1988. Loretta thinks about the good and bad things that might happen if she had long, long hair. She wants it long enough to flow around her like royal robes, but that means it would also be long enough for hamsters to nest in. If her hair grew extraordinarily long, maybe she could use it as a jump rope or be able to sweep the floor with it. But then other people might step on it, and think of how difficult it would be to wash. Loretta was a girl who stopped traffic, and my granddaughters couldn't get enough of her. I have to give this one a 10 out of 10.

You have a chance to vote for The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is in the running to be one of five books that Cheerios puts in their boxes in 2010. Take a minute to do it, because Zoe may be this generation's hair book. Laurie Halse Anderson adds, "Tell them all pretty, pretty please with a headful of unruly red hair, PLEASE VOTE FOR ZOE."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Little Black Sambo ~ by Helen Bannerman, 1899

Little Black Sambo was written by Helen Bannerman, a Scot who lived for 30 years in Madras in southern India. Many people have challenged this book for being racist. But let's look closer. This drawing for the original 1899 edition was made by Helen Bannerman herself. Yes, the boy has dark skin, but remember that this woman spent her life in India. Tigers, which are a major component of this story, are in India. People in India have dark skin. The boy is wearing shoes with curled-up toes. In no way does this book depict racism directed against blacks in the United States.

Aside from the drawings, the story itself is very positive, showing a child outwitting wild animals. This little boy is brilliant! He figures out all sorts of really clever ways to save himself from the tigers, who want to eat him. He gives one his beautiful little red coat, another his beautiful little blue trousers, a third gets his beautiful little purple shoes with crimson soles and crimson linings, and the last one takes his beautiful green umbrella. (It's a colorful book!) But wait! What would a tiger do with two shoes?
And Little Black Sambo went on, and by and by he met another Tiger, and it said to him, "Little Black Sambo, I'm going to eat you up!"

And Little Black Sambo said, "Oh! Please Mr. Tiger, don't eat me up, and I'll give you my beautiful little Purple Shoes with Crimson Soles and Crimson Linings."

But the Tiger said, "What use would your shoes be to me? I've got four feet, and you've got only two; you haven't got enough shoes for me."

But Little Black Sambo said, "You could wear them on your ears."

"So I could," said the Tiger: "that's a very good idea. Give them to me, and I won't eat you this time."
Ah, clever young man! Little Black Sambo escapes tiger after tiger and then watches as the tigers argue about which one is the grandest tiger in the jungle. The tigers, in a frenzy, chase each other around a tree in such a blur they turn into butter. Or "ghi," as it is called in India. What a smart little boy! There's no reason this book should be banned.

But let's look at changes to the story over the years. I have a copy of the book from my library with three copyright dates: MCMXXV (1925), MCMXXVIII (1928), and MCMLV (1955). The boy's looks have changed, as you can see in this picture, captioned, "Oh! Please Mr. Tiger, don't eat me up." The little blue pants are longer, and the toes of the little purple shoes with crimson soles and crimson lining no longer curl up. But his mother does, even in this version, make pancakes.
And she fried them in the melted butter which the Tigers had made, and they were just as yellow and brown as little Tigers.
This version has cute drawings, but something's off about these pictures. When Sambo hides behind "a palm tree" to watch what the tigers do, it is so very obviously NOT a palm tree, as you can see in this illustration. Maybe it's an oak tree, like those we have here in the southern part of the United States, but in no way is it a palm tree. Who made these changes? The artist? The publisher? Why? I have no idea, but this may be the version that seems racist to some. The problem is the drawings, not the story itself, which is STILL about a clever boy who saves his own life from four ferocious tigers. Not a mean feat, you know.

My verdict? Not racist. A Scottish librarian agrees with me. Since she says the book is "one of my childhood favourites," she may even agree with my rating of the book:   10 of 10.

Update 11-29-18:
I found "sambo" in the book I just finished reading:  The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg (2003 and 2011, that I rated 9/10).  Here's the quote about denigrating, unacceptable talk:
"sambo," from Spanish "zambo," meaning a person of mixed Indian and African descent (loc. 4518).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Thirteen ~ climate change

1. This logo has been posted on my sidebar for days. Have you noticed it?

2. This is my third Blog Action Day post on this blog today.

3. My first was about blue-footed boobies, posted at 12:43 a.m. when there were only 7,777 blogs from 140 countries signed up.

4. In my second I asked, "What sparked your interest"? By then there were 8,541 blogs in 148 countries taking part.

5. Now (as I type this) the number participating has climbed to 9,563 blogs in 150 countries. People must still be finding out about this event.

6. Blog Action Day was founded by Collis & Cyan Ta'eed in the summer of 2007.

7. By focusing on a single issue, their goal is to start a discussion about that issue. Last year the subject was poverty, this year it's climate change.

8. Colleen wrote about 350: The Most Important Number in the World. Read her post and see why everybody's talking about 350.

9. We've already passed that 350 limit. People are making "350" photos for October 24th, just nine days from now.

10. Five ways climate change will change business in the 21st century.

11. Travel blogs are participating today. If you want to read some of them, check out this list.

12. You still have time to blog about climate change. Register here and go write something!

13. Maybe humor is the best way to fight global warming.

Don't mess with old folks

George, an elderly man, was going up to bed when his wife told him that he'd left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window. George opened the back door to go turn off the light, but saw that there were people in the shed stealing his things. He phoned the police, who asked, "Is someone in your house?" He said "No, but some people are breaking into my garden shed and stealing from me." The police dispatcher said, "All patrols are busy. You should lock your doors and an officer will be along when one is available." George said, "Okay," hung up, counted to thirty, and phoned the police again.

"Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you don't have to worry about them because I just shot and killed them both. The dogs are eating them right now."

Within five minutes, six police cars, a SWAT team, a helicopter, two fire trucks, a paramedic, and an ambulance showed up at his residence, and the burglars were caught red-handed.

One of the policemen said to George, "I thought you said that you'd shot them!" George replied, "I thought you said there was nobody available!"

Moral of the story: Don't mess with old folks.

What sparked your interest?

How did you become interested in global warming, climate change, energy efficiency, alternative energy, renewable energy, and such?

When I was in elementary school, I learned about deforestation. I got the idea that we were losing all the trees in the world, and I love trees! So I decided then and there that I would have a tree of my very own. I'd put a fence around it so nobody could ever cut down "the last tree in the world."

Obviously, I had not yet learned that, without lots of trees, I wouldn't be there to save the last tree. Without trees, the world would be filled with carbon dioxide, lacking the oxygen I would need to breathe, to live. So now that I'm an adult, I want to save not one, but a world-full of trees. (Is "world-full" a word?) We need trees! While we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, trees take in carbon dioxide and "exhale" oxygen. Pretty good system, huh? Your turn. What sparked your interest?

By the way, this post is part of Blog Action Day. There are more than 8,541 blogs in 148 countries taking part in this today, each posting something about climate change.

Blue-footed boobies

"Scientists say abrupt and frequent changes in sea temperatures and the death of coral reefs near the islands show that global warming is taking its toll on local sea life."
I was looking for a hook, something to hang today's story on, when I found this article about how global warming is affecting the Galapagos. The first sentence gave me an image that appeals to me:
"Climate change could endanger the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, and scientists are trying to figure out how to protect vulnerable species such as blue-footed boobies and Galapagos Penguins."
Penguins are cute, but I know nothing about blue-footed boobies. So I searched for a photo and found these at Wikipedia. (Click to enlarge photos.) I am fascinated by the blue feet. The blueness of their beaks doesn't show up as well in the picture above, but it's my favorite, maybe because of the ocean in the background. Wikipedia says the feet of these boobies range from a pale turquoise to a deep aquamarine, and the males and younger birds have lighter feet than females do.

What big beautiful wings you have, sir! This fellow is displaying, or in other words, I'd say he's showing off. Actually, he's probably dancing.

"When mating, the female parades and the male points his head and tail high to the sky and his wings are back to show off to the female. The male blue-footed booby also makes a high-piping whistle noise. Males do a dance to attract the females. The dance includes the males lifting their blue feet high and throwing their heads up."
So what's happening in the Galapagos?

Home for these boobies is a volcanic archipelago, about 600 miles west of the Ecuadorean coast. Islands are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and these islands have coral reefs. "The coral reefs create a habitat; they are like a forest, like the Amazon. They are home to scores of species. ... If the corals die we lose thousands of species that are associated to the coral," said German marine biologist Judith Denkinger, who is based in the Galapagos.

Everything is inter-related. Whatever affects one part of the eco-system affects all the other parts as well. I would hate for us to lose the blue-footed boobies. Or the Galapagos Penguins. Or any other species. Ultimately, that could mean us, the five-toed language-speaking species. We aren't above what happens to our world. We're part of it, and demise of a coral reef or two could affect us more than we now realize.

By the way, this post is part of Blog Action Day. There are more than 7,777 blogs in 140 countries taking part in this today, each posting something about climate change.

One more thing

On October 24th ordinary folks like you and me will come together in a series of events designed to bring awareness to an important number -- 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. That's the maximum safe level for carbon in the atmosphere, at least if we want to keep living on this planet. Here are three of those events:
On the melting slopes of Mt. Everest, Pemba Dorje Sherpa, who holds the record for the fastest ascent of the world's highest peak, will be spreading banners and signs.

On the dying coral reefs of the Maldives, the government's entire cabinet will don scuba gear and hold an official underwater meeting to pass a 350 resolution to send to the Copenhagen summit.

On the shores of the fast-drying Dead Sea, Israeli activists will form a giant human "3" on their beach, Palestinians a "5" on theirs, and Jordanians a "0" - reminding us we need to unite on this vital issue.
Visit to find an event near you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Question of the week ~ guardrail

Community residents want to install a guardrail on a dangerous stretch of mountain road, after several people have driven off the cliff and died. But city officials say that expense would leave the city with no money for parks, business development, or even garbage removal. Should the city install the guardrail? Answer yes or no, and then tell us why, if you like.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cady made pasghetti

When Cady called to say she and her mom would be at my house in half an hour, I asked whether she'd like to have a sandwich for lunch or spaghetti.

"Pasghetti!" she said.

I waited until they arrived so Cady could help me make meatballs and stir spaghetti into the boiling water. While that was cooking, we made a daisy for dessert.

Open a package of bake-it-yourself orange danish rolls and separate the round rolls. Then unroll each round into one long strand and cut it in two. Loop one of the halves to make the center of the daisy, then fold each of the other halves into loops that touch the center. It will look like a child's idea of a daisy. Put one or two slices of mandarin orange inside each loop of the daisy, including the one in the center of the flower. (Note: a small can of mandarin orange slices will make two daisies or allow the baker to eat the extra slices herself.) Bake as instructed on the danish package, but watch that you don't let it get too dark. Drizzle the orange icing over the entire daisy while it's still hot. Let the daisy cool before you eat it.
We did. We started with salads (Cady's was nothing but lettuce and bits of cheese, with no dressing), then we had spaghetti and generous helpings of cantaloupe on the side. Cady had seconds and maybe thirds of the cantaloupe, which she loves. Notice Cady's "improvement" on the daisy art form (top photo, above, and slightly visible in the second photo), where Cady put all the extra mandarin orange slices atop the center section.

Looks like Cady was pleased with what we produced for lunch, don't you think?

Unfortunately, I didn't think to start taking pictures until time for dessert. Click on the photos to enlarge them so you can see the daisy better, including Cady's orange center, which came out much better than my daughter and I expected.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Karen Armstrong

"There are some forms of religion that are bad, just as there's bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too."

Karen Armstrong said that in a 2002 interview with Bill Moyers, which begins like this:
BILL MOYERS: "If you were God, would you do away with religion?"

KAREN ARMSTRONG: "Well, there are some forms of religion that must make God weep. There are some forms of religion that are bad, just as there's bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too. Religion that has concentrated on egotism, that's concentrated on belligerence rather than compassion."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why should I be good?

Humanism for Parents by Sean P. Curley (2007) provides our teaser quote for today:
"Each and every one of us needs to try to live our lives as a good person regardless of whether or not heaven exists because it is the right thing to do, not because there might be some reward we could get for doing so" (p. 54).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao ~ by Junot Díaz, 2007

I struggled to get through The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, 2007. Not only did it annoy me incessantly, but I frequently only halfway knew what was going on. Sometimes less. I don't speak Spanish, and since the author swears all through the book, I'm afraid to quote because I have no idea what he may be saying. The author apparently doesn't want English-speaking readers, unless they are bilingual. I took German, Latin, Greek, and a little Hebrew, but no Spanish, so here's a sample of how little I understood:
"Listen, [something]: you have to grab a [something], [something something]. That will take care of everything. Start with a [something]. [Something] that [something something something]" (p. 24).
Try writing a review based on that. This may be my shortest review ever: I didn't like any of the characters, I wasn't captivated by the plot, and I am totally annoyed that I wasted my time. I read it only because I promised to discuss it with a friend. The only "wondrous" thing about it is my "wondering" why I didn't stop halfway ... or sooner. Rated: "nah," don't bother.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two roads diverged

This morning's cartoon has made me wonder how different my world would have been if I hadn't said "I do" to the man I married. Here are some things that immediately come to mind:
I would have gone to Emory University as an undergraduate, using the scholarship I had won. I was already registered and my roommate was Sandy, who graduated with me from high school. I had intended to go on to medical school after college. Maybe I would now be a physician.

My three children would never have been born. Or at least not as early. (I married at eighteen.) They would probably be different people completely if they had a different father ... or mother! Interesting thought, that they might not have been mine at all. At any rate they wouldn't be who they are today, and neither would I. And that would change the worlds of my in-law children, as well. That also means my grandchildren and great-grandchild would never have been born. It would affect my ex-husband's present wife, too, for that matter, since he would likely never have met my friend.
The changes are escalating, piling up on each other. Additional questions arise: Would I ever have married? Maybe I would have been my generation's old maid Auntie Bonnie, like my mother's sister for whom I was named.

On the other hand, my world would also be very different if I hadn't gotten a divorce. In what ways, I'll never know. For every fork in the road, there was a road not taken.

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Alarming news

And I have .... a wired-together breastbone, which set off the alarms when I went to the Courthouse on Friday. My pockets were empty, so the woman scanning people who enter asked me, "Do you have on a belt?" I said, "No, but I've had heart surgery." I reached up to pull down the neck of my tee-shirt to show her the scar, but she was already waving me through. I was told by a nurse friend that the wire could possibly set off scanners at airports, in which case I should just show them the scar from my surgery. My "wiring" did set off alarms, surprising me (sort of), but mentioning the surgery also worked and I was ushered through.

Ah, the joys of being a bionic sort of person. Or better, in my case .... Ah, the joys of being held together with baling wire. (And you thought that only applied to Model-T Fords!)

Question of the Week ~ about cannibalism

Suppose four shipwrecked sailors are stranded at sea in a lifeboat, without food or water. Would it be wrong for three of them to kill and eat the cabin boy, in order to save their own lives? Answer yes or no, and then tell us why, if you like.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A teaser from Ireland

This teaser comes from the first page of Ireland by Frank Delaney (2005).

"Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. He glanced out of his bedroom window, then looked again and harder -- and dared to hope. No, it was not a trick of the light; a tall figure in a ragged black coat and a ruined old hat was walking down the darkening hillside; and he was heading toward the house."

The most challenged book

This article may explain why protesters challenged And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. I didn't know -- and don't care -- that the authors are gay. Click here to read my granddaughter Cady's 2008 review.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Can you be certain that at this very moment you are not a dragonfly dreaming that you are a person?