Friday, December 29, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm a great fan of science, you know.

I remember a couple of things about ninth grade earth science class. We learned how geologists triangulate earthquakes. We did an exercise in which we were given the locations of some seisometer readings and had to plot them on a blank ditto sheet of a U.S. map. For some reason, I was one of the few kids who could identify the unlabeled states and so put that compass point down in the right place to start. How we really did the "triangulation," and what it's really called, I don't remember. I remember wondering how on earth my classmates didn't know which state was which, since we'd certainly all been taught that just a few years before in grade school.

I also remember that Ms. Wood encouraged us to watch a TV show called Cosmos. (That's right! A teacher encouraged us to watch TV!) Carl Sagan exuded an enthusiasm for science and a wonder about the world that seemed like a more sophisticated version of my own. I enjoyed science class -- doing Experiments! -- and was an outdoorsy kid.

As well as enjoying watching, I learned a thing or two. While his moped-speed-of-light demonstration stumps me still, I know that I "got" the exercise where you consider the history of creation as a calendar year, and that humankind arises in the last minutes before midnight, leaving our time to be the last seconds. I learned about how We are sending coded messages on spacecraft for extraterrestrials to interpret. Watching Cosmos instilled in me an enthusiasm for science and for (PBS) television programs about science that I have today.
This is what Capital City is famous for this morning? I thought every town had its lights fanatics?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fun and Games

The woman in front of me at Target this morning was buying an official cup stacking game. A box of staduim cups with holes poked in them for $30? Wow.

Track Santa on Christmas Eve, here.

I hope I won't be getting them in trouble if I say that it looked like a literacy voluneteer(?) and her student exchanged gifts at tonight's meeting. Not in a wink-wink way: just sweet.
Sagan-a-Thon Tomorrow: Write your rough draft tonight.

Cornell's invitation for all bloggers to participate, here.

Celebrating Sagan promises to post what you write, if you are blog-less and has great links.

Monday, December 18, 2006


A friend from my teenhood (not childhood) left a very strong impression when she told me her father would never by a Toyota or a Honda, because he fought a war against "those people." I had notions about a global community that were based on a 1970s view of the world shaped by "It's a Small World," International Day at school, and Girl Scout Thinking Day -- I couldn't imagine that past wars meant so much, that we weren't all friends, now. (The very same friend "researched" Bangladesh with me one Thinking Day.)

Not many years later, a family member confused me by preferring American-made goods as Christmas gifts. I was still just young enough to avoid pursuing what seemed to be a touchy subject. It seems likely to me that she would have friends and family in threatened manufacturing jobs at that time. I hope she has relented that position: it went from difficult to honor to impossible, even as I have become increasingly able to afford to shop in "better" stores, stores that might be willing to stock pricier American-made goods.

One of today's errands was to buy candy canes. Step-daughter-to-be will spend Christmas with us, so, as did my Mom, I plan to put some canes on the (aluminum) tree on Christmas Eve night. She's thirteen: old enough to roll her eyes at the notion that Santa left them, but Mom only quit humoring me with that tradition a few years ago, so. . . . So, there I was in the CVS avoiding eye contact with enticing flavored treats in cane form -- nothing by Jolly Rancher for me! -- and honing in on 99 cent peppermint canes. Phiance's cookie story always in my mind, I looked to see who made them: "Made in China." Now come on: that's a long way to ship something that does not do well in the damp. I put them back. At Ukrop's, the canes said "Made in Mexico." I bought them . . . because Mexico is a less absurd distance to ship sweets? Because I think Mexicans need lucrative seasonal candy work more then the Chinese? No, mostly because I am in no mood to chase around town reading candy cane boxes.

Capital City weather: 71 degrees

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Not the book club selection (Freakanomics), not the Dickens that Fforde inspired me to check out, not a YA novel, and certainly not a book I have out with a title along the lines of Weddings for Grown Ups -- but, instead, Wil Wheaton on the sunset on Mars.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mitch got me wondering how many years I've known the advent site, below, and so I visited Decembers past and found these cool things:


Capital City weather: 28 degrees at 8:20 a.m.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006


I have a plumber over this morning. I hate having people in to fix things. I like things that work; I don't like attempting much home repair myself -- yet I hate the ends to that means. I hate picking and calling a company, I hate waiting on the set day, I hate the inane small talk I make ("you know how old houses are"), I hate the crunching sounds and the murmered swearing.

I know what you're thinking: you think it's the forthcoming big bill that's tying my stomach in knots. It's not. "A zillion dollars? Fine." I just want everything to be okay. Maybe that's it: waiting on repairs is a long ride in the land of "Everything Is Not Okay." Other not-okay things will turn up. It stresses me out.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

On the Air

The director of libraries for UMass was on Morning Edition yesterday as I drove to work. He did a nice job of describing the place of libraries on a modern campus: providing wireless and online sources so students and faculty can access materials 24/7, and providing the busiest coffee shop on campus. He missed the chance to say that some students attracted by the new comfy chairs, the wireless, and the coffee might run into a helpful librarian who could help him/her navigate the web of online sources, so many of them hidden. Story, here.

At work, I might have reached one or two of the parent-child pairs I helped with homework. The boy had to research El Salvador; both girls had to read historical fiction. The boy (clearly forced by mom), came back to say "thanks for helping," so I could say "remember us next time you need homework help." He might have believed me. And sometimes one just gets a read off an adult thank-you: something suggests I gave more help than one historical fiction mom expected.

Listen for Phiance on WRIR on Tuesdays, 6 - 8 a.m. this month. Around 7:45, he'll play local Christmas music.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Good item from NPR: Behind Vince Guaraldi's Timeless Holiday Soundtrack

I'm not sure how to sell The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor. "If you liked The Golden Compass, try this"? But I didn't like Pullman's series that begins with that book, so maybe that's not right. I don't think one need to have read Lewis Carroll's Alice, but that's why I wanted to read it.

Beddor creates two worlds for us: Alice Liddell's Victorian England, and Alyss Heart's Wonderland -- though the young women in question is the same person. A rightful queen is overthrown; a wicked one installed. Battles are pitched. There's loyalty, friendship, and some romance; also, sadness. The Hatter appears, as does the Cheshire Cat; though I am sad to report that the latter is quite menacing.

I enjoyed it, but I don't know to whom I will recommend it.