Monday, September 29, 2008

Random Thoughts from a Stuffed-Up Head

  • I Hab a Code id by dose. Ad id by chest. I. Do. Not. Like. It. In a way, I would rather have major surgery, or the flu (but wait -- I have a shot for the flu).  
  • No hurricane here, but it did rain quite a bit and one nearby section of a state road washed out twice. It's nice and warm though, about 60 when Rusty and I took our walk mid-morning.
  • Last night I watched The Shadow in the North, the second of Masterpiece Mystery's(well, really BBC's) adaptations of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series. Sisterfilms and I enjoyed these books about 10-12 years ago, so my memory for the plots is imperfect. I felt the adaptations used some fancy camerawork to the detriment of keeping the plot and characters understandable, so that the shows seemed squashed compared to the books (which were not nearly as long and wordy as his Golden Compass series) and I often found myself thinking, "Wait, where did that character come from?" Also, the color-blind casting was confusing in a costume drama. Although the main characters were believable as Victorian Englishmen and -women, minor characters and "extras" were more representative of England today. I'm generally a fan of color-blind casting in the theater -- Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis has made a practice of it and I've seen some great theater there -- but in this case it added nothing and actually distracted at least one viewer from the story. 
  • One of the events I missed this past weekend because of the cold in my head was the first event in a months-long farewell to my old high school building (well, one of them). Since the building of a new school in the late 90s, the old school has had some use but has also been allowed to deteriorate. Despite many volunteers' work trying to come up with a plan to reuse it, the final decision was to tear it down and build our new Grades 3-5 elementary school on the site.  This has spurred the creation of an Alumni Association (which didn't exist before) and there will be several events before the demolition in February or March 2009.
  • I attended three high schools. The first, Roger Ludlowe HS in Fairfield, CT, was closed in 1987 but reopened in 2003 under the name of Fairfield Ludlowe. The school newspaper, which was The Fox when I worked on it, is now The Prospect.  The second school, Ludwigsburg American HS in Ludwigsburg, Germany, changed its name regularly as Department of Defense school-naming rules changed; sometimes it was Ludwigsburg, sometimes Stuttgart. As US military presence in the area declined, and the school building aged, the high school closed, and a new one reopened at Patch Barracks nearby, called Patch American HS. The building now houses the Erich-Bracher-Schule which appears to be a technical or business-oriented high school. And, the third was Brunswick HS, whose fate I have detailed above. 
  • From first through eighth grade I attended six different schools. The first two were Burnet and Coldwell Schools in El Paso, TX, which appear to be still in existence in approximately the same form. Coombs School in Bowdoinham (where my mother also went all 12 years, as it included high school then) has given way to the Bowdoinham Community School, but the building is still in use as the town library and town offices. Hoyt S. Vandenberg Elementary in Wiesbaden, Germany is still there, under the name of Hainerberg Elementary (that's the housing area where it is and where we lived). Point Beach School in Milford, CT is now a community center, and Mill Plain Junior High in Fairfield is the same building which is now Fairfield Ludlowe HS -- the addition was under construction during our eighth and ninth grade years. 
  • That's a lot of changes!

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Johnny Appleseed Friday Five

Singing Owl at RevGalBlogPals asks us to:

Raise your hand if you know that today is Johnny Appleseed Day!

September 26, 1774 was his birthday. "Johnny Appleseed" (John Chapman) is one of America's great legends. He was a nurseryman who started out planting trees in western New York and Pennsylvania, but he was among those who were captivated by the movement west across the continent.

As Johnny travelled west (at that time, the "West" was places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois) he planted apple trees and sold trees to settlers. With every apple tree that was planted, the legend grew. A devout Christian, he was known to preach during his travels. According to legend, Johnny Appleseed led a simple life and wanted little. He rarely accepted money and often donated any money he received to churches or charities. He planted hundreds of orchards, considering it his sevice to humankind. There is some link between Johnny Appleseed and very early Arbor Day celebrations.

So, in honor of this interesting fellow, let's get on with the questions!

1. What is your favorite apple dish? (BIG BONUS points if you share the recipe.)
Any apple dish I've ever had, at the time; but to make, and to eat, my favorite is Danish Aeblekage (say Ehhh-bl-kahhh).  And here is the recipe, which I got from Onkel Hankie Pants' mother, The Best Mother-in-Law Ever, with suggestions for people who don't live in the Midwest.  Quantities are approximate.
One package of Jacobsen's Cinnamon Toasts, or plain toasts; if you can't find these, get two packages of zweiback from the baby food section

Your favorite variety of cinnamon (yes, there are different kinds)

A little sugar

One or two sticks of butter.  Personally I would not use margarine, and I don't think the tub varieties work well here.

One big jar of natural-style applesauce (chunkier the better) OR, MUCH BETTER, peel and core six to eight apples, depending on size, and cook them with a little water and sugar until they are soft, but don't strain or puree.

Whipped cream, and, if you like, red currant jelly (traditional) or other red jelly for decoration.

In a blender or food processor, or with a rolling pin between sheets of waxed paper, pulverize the toasts/zweiback to small crumbs. You will probably have to do this in batches.

Take a large skillet and melt the butter gently.  When it's all melted, put in the crumbs, cinnamon, and sugar (less of the latter if you got cinnamon toasts).  Stir gently with a wooden spoon until all the toast crumbs and butter are mixed together moistly.

Take your nicest serving bowl, preferably glass.  Layer the crumb mixture alternately with the applesauce, starting and ending with crumbs.  You can put the whipped cream on top now, if you are ready to serve, or you can chill the aeblekage and top it just before serving.  It is traditional to decorate the whipped cream with small dabs of red currant jelly, or another red jelly could be used if currant is unavailable.  Although I am a convert to the make-your-own-applesauce practice, anyone who sometimes has need for a special dessert in a hurry would be wise to keep applesauce and toast (and don't forget the whipped cream) on hand.

2. Have you ever planted a tree? If so was there a special reason or occasion you can tell us about?
Oh dear, I believe we planted a few, but they didn't do so well. But this was just as well. When my children were small, they would often bring home a pine seedling from school around Arbor Day. However, our small city lot had plenty (or even too many) trees already. It was like taking coals to Newcastle.

3. Does the idea of roaming around the countryside (preaching or otherwise) appeal to you? Why or why not?
Yes and no. To be like Johnny Appleseed, always roaming and never settling, is not appealing. But to spend some time traveling about would be fun. I don't think I would do much preaching, though. (This makes me think of one of my favorite books, Cold Comfort Farm, in which one of the characters' dearest wish is to travel about in "one o' they Ford vans" preaching. The movie is pretty good too, but don't miss the book. It's by Stella Gibbons.)

4. Who is a favorite "historical legend" of yours?
I have a soft spot for Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and the band of merry men in Sherwood Forest.  I grew up with Roger Moore's version on TV and Howard Pyle's book, and more recently have been enjoying the historically inaccurate, seemingly allegorical Dominick Minghella one on DVD.  

5. Johnny Appleseed was said to sing to keep up his spirits as he travelled the roads of the west. Do you have a song that comes when you are trying to be cheerful, or is there something else that you often do? 
Well, the Danish Hiking Song works pretty well.  You can listen to a line or two here. We sing it at Family Camp.  
And speaking of singing and Family Camp -- we usually use the Johnny Appleseed grace at least once, and here is the original Disney version.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Five: Fall Equinox Edition

I took this photo last year on September 19, and yesterday this same tree looks just about the same.

Over at RevGalBlogPals, Songbird (who lives not far from me) posts:

It's that time of year, at least north of the equator. The windows are still open, but the darned furnace comes on early in the morning. My husband went out for a walk after an early supper and came home in full darkness.  (Auntie Knickers says: I just went around closing windows so the furnace wouldn't come on, as it's after 9 am and the temp is only about 40 degrees, which is the lowest setting on our thermostat).

And yes, where we live, leaves are beginning to turn.

As this vivid season begins, tell us five favorite things about fall:

1) A fragrance: When I was small, it was burning leaves. We don't do that any more, but especially here in Maine, more people are using woodstoves and the fragrance of woodsmoke can sometimes be discerned. It brings happy memories of my grandmother's woodstove.

2) A color: Red - the red of new apples and the "Irish setter red" of maple leaves. But then what about the gold of the leaves of other trees, and of the grasses I remember from the Midwest? And who can forget orange, pumpkins, leaves, and Halloween decorations?  

3) An item of clothing: Fleece jackets and vests -- I'm wearing one already as I write this for the chilly morning. 

4) An activity: Buying and planting spring bulbs -- always looking ahead.

5) A special day: Thanksgiving - all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin (or at least we hope so!) Making special food for special people. I only wish there were a special morning church service to attend near me; I miss the one we had in Minneapolis.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuneful Tuesdays: Where Are the Comfort Songs?

(To the right, the best photo I could find to illustrate comfort....)

So, today I was transferring some old cassette tapes to the computer (since who knows how much longer the cassette player will last) and came upon Willie Nelson singing Bridge Over Troubled Water.  That made me think of some other comforting songs and realize that most of them (if not all) were written in what I'd call "my day" -- the late 60s and early 70s.  (Well, OK. I just remembered one that was written 20 years ago, more about that later). Right now, I'm doing fine. But a lot of people aren't -- most recently victims of Hurricane Ike, for instance. We all need some comfort songs sometimes.

I wonder what are the comfort songs of today? Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Program put out a CD a few years ago called Comfort Keepers, which has some great songs on it, but for the most part they are what I'd call "buck up" songs, like The Mary Ellen Carter ( a great song, by the way).  I Will Survive and the Chumbawamba song I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again are a couple more examples.  But that's not what I'm talking about right now.

My criteria for a "comfort song" are that it should be comforting not only in words but in music, and should be usable as a lullabye if you're so inclined.  To show you what I mean, here are a few. I'm using links instead of embedding this time, for a specific reason:

Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. I remember this song as coming out during my last semester in college, the semester of Kent State, Jackson State, daily casualty lists from Vietnam -- and of course, our own little worries about life after college. We really needed that song. At the Maine Veterans' Cemetery Chapel in Augusta, there's a carillon that plays before and after funeral services. People can donate money to have specific songs put on it. At my father's funeral, I remember hearing Bridge over Troubled Water. I imagine it was requested by someone who was burying a Vietnam veteran there.  It still comforts me.

You've Got a Friend by Carole King. I associate this song with a time when I was far from home, among mostly strangers, and King's album Tapestry came out. I like her own version best.

Sweet Baby James by James Taylor -- to make up for slighting his version of You've Got a Friend.  Another one from my college years, this one seems to say that sometimes you have to comfort yourself, even if it's by singing your own lullabye.

Lean on Me by Bill Withers.  This song came out in 1972, which was a year of great happiness for me but also great loneliness.  It's a great song because it points out that in a moment, we can change from being the leaner to the leaned-on -- or vice versa.

Warning: the only video on YouTube for the following song is, shall we say, rated R.  View at your own risk.
Lullabye by Cris Williamson.  This 1978 song was introduced to me through the Christmas album Snow Angel; Cris Williamson's music in general I learned about from Cordeliaknits.  It's the most recent of the songs except for the next one.

How Could Anyone Ever Tell You by Libby Roderick (this video has it sung by Shaina Noll).  This year is the twentieth anniversary of this song, and Libby Roderick had a video contest for videos to go with it. There were several of them on YouTube, but oddly enough, this one, which doesn't appear to have been part of the contest, seemed to me to capture the spirit of the song best of all.

I hope some of my younger and/or hipper readers will comment about comfort songs written more recently!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Five: Back to School

Do schools start later in California? Mother Laura, at RevGalBlogPals, writes this week:

It's time for a Back-To-School Friday Five!

1. Is anyone going back to school, as a student or teacher, at your house? How's it going so far?
Sort of, but it hasn't really started yet. Onkel Hankie Pants is now on the sub list for at least one local high school (they all have different requests as far as references so it's a slow process) but, not surprisingly, hasn't been called yet, since school has only been in session since 2 September.  I'm sure he'll report on it when the time comes. He's also going to take a class on Keats in Senior College from an excellent, 90-ish teacher from whom he's taken several other classes. That starts next week.  In my 'virtual household,' of adult children, Sisterfilms' classes started again 25 August.  She's enjoying her three film classes so far, a new program was announced which will make it much easier for her to end up with a bachelor's degree, and she's even beginning to think about graduate school.  Cordeliaknits is not in school, first time in 7 years, but is nannying two under-1-year-olds, which is sort of like being a teacher (teaching them to nap at the same time is her priority right now!)

2. Were you glad or sad when back-to-school time came as a kid?
I was glad to go back to school, just as I was glad when school was out in  June.  Summers were delightfully unstructured then, and that was fun, but I also enjoyed school, for the most part.  

3. Did your family of origin have any rituals to mark this time of year? How about now?
Back-to-school shopping was much more of a ritual in my family of origin than when my kids were small, I think. Also back-to-school sewing! My mother made most of my clothes when I was in early elementary school, and quite a lot of them all through high school and even college.  (She made my sister's clothes too, my brothers', not so much, although I recall her making striped t-shirts, which were then called polo shirts for some reason, at least once.)
The ritual in our family was blueberry muffins for breakfast on the first day of school. I think this may have started out as blueberry pancakes but, given my kids' desire to sleep as late as possible, and their wide age separation (5 years between each pair) causing differing school schedules, muffins worked out better.

4. Favorite memories of back-to-school outfits, lunchboxes, etc? 
Oh, yes! I'm pretty sure it was 2nd grade and it wasn't technically back-to-school, since we moved in late October, but it was for starting a new school. Although I liked the dresses my mother made, I was really thrilled to get my first skirt with no suspenders attached, which we bought at the PX in Wiesbaden, Germany.  It was a Black Watch tartan pleated skirt; I think I wore a white blouse with it.  Now you must know, you young folks, that in my childhood it was implicitly believed that young girls needed suspenders on their skirts, or they would fall down. Sometimes the suspenders were attached and made of the same fabric as the skirt, or you could get elastic ones that were transferable. Getting a skirt with no suspenders made me feel very grown up -- just as, and I don't think this happened for another 3 years or so, getting my first pair of loafers, i.e. shoes with no laces.
I think I had a Lone Ranger lunchbox once, or was it Gene Autry? Lost in the mists of time.

5. What was your best year of school?
It would be a toss-up between 3rd grade and 10th grade, although there were good things in each year.
Third grade at Hoyt S. Vandenberg Elementary in Wiesbaden, Germany (and if anyone has a photo of that school I'd sure like one) : my teacher was Mr. Thomas Foster. My class was the (err-hmm) gifted and talented class, and he had free rein with the curriculum. We went through the official 3rd grade speller in days instead of weeks, and thereafter our spelling/vocabulary words were taken from films we watched, stories we read, and especially field trips. For some reason, learning to spell 'metamorphosis' after a film on butterflies has stayed in my memory. We also learned multiplication and I remember my mother drilling me on the times tables.  The field trips -- I remember going to a vineyard and then to a Sekt winery (German version of champagne) -- we kids just got to have the unfermented grape juice. The only unfortunate thing was that that was the year I got all the childhood diseases then common (measles, mumps, chicken pox) and missed several of the trips. 
Sophomore year at Roger Ludlowe High in Fairfield, Connecticut -- because the junior high and high school had switched places, this was our first year in the high school environment and it was exciting to us to meet the upperclassmen (and women) and participate in various activities, in my case, The Fox, the student newspaper.  I had one of the best social studies teachers ever, Jack Strauss of blessed memory, and once again field trips were a highlight -- we saw Beyond the Fringe on Broadway and also went into the city to see A Man for All Seasons, AND our Brooklyn-born teacher made sure we got to eat at the Automat.  I also got to attend a student journalists' convention at Columbia.  The bad thing that happened that year took place during English class, when the announcement came over the PA that President Kennedy had been shot. Still, the Intellectual Diaries Mr. Strauss had us keep helped us process that experience. (I don't think journaling in school was nearly as common then as it is now.)
Well, this got to be long! But maybe it will make up for several days of not blogging.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Great Canadian Quiz - wherein I'll probably display my ignorance of the land of some of my foreparents

Darlene Ryan, one of the bloggers at Poe's Deadly Daughters, wrote this week:

...I’ve discovered that other people don’t know a lot about us. I did a little survey this past week, asking non-Canadians what they knew about Canadians and found out that—at least among the people I asked—we’re thought of as polite people who drink a lot of Tim Horton’s coffee and watch a lot of hockey. And maybe that’s the reason the rest of the world doesn’t know much about Canada. Instead of talking about ourselves we’re standing in line at Tim’s, talking about last night’s game and telling the young woman at the counter, “No, I think he was here first.” 

So to educate you about some things Canadian here is The Great Canadian Quiz, twenty questions  on this country and its people. Check back Sunday night for the answers. (At Poe's Deadly Daughters, which is in Auntie Knickers' blogroll - if you want to take the quiz yourself scoot right on over there before reading the following)

1. Who is Don Cherry? . Sorry, no idea. A hockey player?
2. What is dulse? Dried seaweed, used as a snack in the Maritime Provinces, and I think I could buy some at my local supermarket here in Maine.
3. What is a double-double? Clueless here.
4. What’s a two-four? Clueless here too.
5. What are the Original Six? Hmm. I'm guessing: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia???
6. What do you do with fiddleheads? Pick them in the spring in the woods, steam and eat. They are a type of fern and another thing that's available here.
7. Name the Canadian president. Oops, good thing I'm not running for VP.
8. How long is a CFL field? I don't even know how long an AFL field is!
9. What piece of hockey equipment was Jacques Plante the first person to use in a regular season NHL game? A helmet? My friend The CEO's grandfather was the first one to use one at all, in a Harvard game. He used his leather football helmet.
10. How many provinces and territories are there? I'm saying thirteen.
11. Where is the CN Tower? Toronto. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
12. If it’s ten o’clock in New Brunswick, what time is it in Newfoundland? I'm guessing 11 o'clock.
13. What color is the $50 bill? Red. (Just a guess, never seen one.)
14. What color is the one dollar bill? Grey-green? It's been a while.
15. What is a loonie? A one-dollar coin with a picture of a loon.
16. If you’re in Cavendish, PEI and the weather forecast says it’s 32 degrees outside will you be going swimming or tobogganing? Swimming, as long as there's a pool. I suspect the water is even colder than here.
17. When is Thanksgiving in Canada? October but I forget the day.
18. Name Canada’s major league baseball teams. Toronto Blue Jays, Montreal -- ???
19. When is Canada Day? July 1
20. When is tax day in Canada? . I don't know this either.

Well, I'm afraid this is a pretty poor showing for someone with one-fourth of my ancestry having been Canadian for nearly a hundred years, and who has Canadian cousins on both sides, and who's recently been watching multiple episodes of Due South. How did you do?  I do have a feeling sports fans may do better than I.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Five: Vulnerability

Sally, this week's Friday Five positer at RevGalBlogPals, remarks:

I have recently been reading a book entitled Jesus wept, it is all about vulnerability in leadership. The authors speak of how Jesus shared his earthly frustrations and vulnerabilities with a select group of people. To some he was the charismatic leader and teacher, to others words of wisdom were opened and explained and some frustrations shared, to his "inner circle of friends: Peter, James and John, he was most fully himself, and in all of these things he was open to God.

So I bring you this weeks Friday 5:

1. Is vulnerability something that comes easily to you, or are you a private person?
I don't like being vulnerable. I'm a private person who takes a long time to make a friend. This seems to increase with age. But then there are occasions when I find someone I can open up to quickly.

2.How important is it to keep up a professional persona in work/ ministry?
Hmm. I've mostly worked in fairly small organizations so it hasn't been as big a deal, given that I tend to be rather self-protective anyway.

3. Masks, a form of self protection discuss...
I have certainly been guilty (?)of wearing the "always cheerful" mask in the past.

4. Who knows you warts and all?
My spouse and my 4 oldest friends -- and very likely my children.

5. Share a book, a prayer, a piece of music, a poem or a person that touches the deep place in your soul, and calls you to be who you are most authentically.
A prayer written by Robert Louis Stevenson, whose picture appears at the top of the page; we've said an abridged version at all our children's baptisms.
LORD, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies, that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth, and our friendly helpers in this foreign isle. Let peace abound in our small company. Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge. Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Offenders, give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders. Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavours. If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another. As the clay to the potter, as the windmill to the wind, as children of their sire, we beseech of Thee this help and mercy for Christ's sake.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Alphabet: C is for Children's Literature

    I can't remember learning to read, nor a time that I couldn't read anything that came my way. My mother said that she taught me to read when I was 2 1/2 (probably in self-defense, as Brother #1 was imminent). So I've been reading for almost 58 years, and in each of those years I'm sure I read at least one children's book.  I've also read quite a bit of the history and theory of children's literature, and had many opportunities to hear writers and illustrators, particularly when I had a student job at the Kerlan Collection.

    My favorite book when I was small was called Dr. Goat.  It was a rhymed tale of a goat physician and his animal patients, and what happens when he himself gets sick.  It was a Tell-a-Tale book (published by the Whitman Co. in Racine, Wisconsin, and I believe, less expensive than the Little Golden Books) and probably cost 15 cents or less in 1950. Now? Copies in varying conditions, some pretty bad, go for $72 and up -- close to $300 for a copy in very good condition. I'll probably never see it again. (My copy was lost, either to the depredations of siblings or the exigencies of multiple military moves.)  You can see a picture of it above.

    During my first few years in elementary school, my parents enrolled me in the Junior Deluxe Editions book club, which brought me everything from Myths Every Child Should Know to Black Beauty to Oliver Twist.  Here's a picture of what those editions looked like (I still have most of those I got and have picked up others whenever I saw them at sales). Actually, the picture is above. I'm using Chrome, the new Google browser, and its interface with Blogger isn't as seamless as one would have wished yet. 

    They would also pick up books for me at used book sales. The first of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books I read was The Long Winter, because it was the one they found. It's still my favorite. One of my cousins recently returned my copy to me (it had been passed on to her and her boys consider themselves too old for it now).  Mine is the original edition illustrated by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle, not by Garth Williams as most of us are familiar with.

    School libraries and, starting with the Mary Taylor Memorial Library in Milford, Conn., public libraries, supplied me with still more books.  I spent some of my first post-college earnings at the Old Corner Bookshop in Boston on boxed paperback sets of The Little House Books and the Chronicles of Narnia.  When I was in the Army in Monterey, California, I got to visit the wonderful children's bookshop, The Magic Fishbone.  And, of course, once I had children of my own there were still more excuses to buy new books, old books, signed copies, library discards, and to read them all out loud.

     Children's literature has enriched my life and continues to do so. My most recent children's book purchase was My New Best Friend by Onkel Hankie Pants' cousin, Julie Bowe. It's the sequel to My Last Best Friend, her first novel. I highly recommend both!

     Of late, I've been more involved in mystery stories, and have slacked off a bit on keeping up with children's literature. So I've decided to add a little reading project to my two others (the Edgar Best Novel Winners and the A Mystery for Every State project), and read the Newbery Medal Winners and Honor Books, starting with this year and going back to 1922.  I've just finished the first one, Good Masters! Gentle Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz, with wonderful illustrations by Robert Byrd.  The author teaches in what sounds like a really neat school, where the kids were studying the Middle Ages. She wrote these dramatic monologues (a few are parallel monologues for two actors) featuring the young inhabitants of a medieval village, so that each child could be the star of a playlet.  The book also includes sidenotes and occasional two-page essays on aspects of medieval life. Schlitz doesn't sugarcoat some of the more repellent features of the Middle Ages, but her characters have a universality that would help young readers and actors see what they and the medieval young people have in common. This was a really good choice for the medal, and different when compared to the usual novel or occasional non-fiction title.  I'll be posting my reviews of the other books on Goodreads as I finish them.  I have the same sobriquet there as here so it shouldn't be hard to find them.

I'd like to know your thoughts on favorite children's books and whether as "grown-ups" you still read some.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Techie Talk: I Like the Chrome, So Far

A few months ago, I started making use of Picasa, the Google photo-filing and -sharing program, to post my trove of family photos and invite relatives to view it.  While discussing with Sisterfilms whether this would necessitate said relatives' signing up with Google, she said, "That's OK. In a few years everything will be Google anyway."  Well, that day is a bit closer now, with the release yesterday of their new web browser, Chrome. I downloaded and installed it this morning, and so far, I like it. 

I've been using Mozilla Firefox as my default browser for a few years now, with occasional forays into Microsoft Internet Explorer for certain websites that don't seem to work with Firefox. By and large I've been happy with it, although I sometimes had trouble with certain video or audio things that didn't work.  I'll need to do some more exploring with Chrome to see if that sort of problem occurs. And, since it's still a beta-testing application, I am not yet making it my default browser.

One thing I like is that it's easy to read and easy to use, without much clutter on the screen. There is one search box into which you can type either a URL or a search term -- that will save me many daily mouse-clicks right there.  My Google Calendar, which had been displaying oddly in Firefox, looks nice and is easily readable in Chrome.  (I should note I've been playing around a bit with my screen resolution settings to make The Master Genealogist work better, and this has played some havoc with other sites and programs.  It would be nice if Microsoft or somebody would come up with a way to attach the best resolution to each program.)

For a listing of pros and cons, go here.  I am reserving judgment on the "Google will know everything about you" issue. For one thing, I think they already do. Yesterday Onkel Hankie Pants was perusing the St. Paul Pioneer Press website for news of the RNC protests in St. Paul, when he was surprised to see a coupon from our local (ME/NH only) supermarket!  Besides, I really have little or nothing to hide.  (Please, Mr. FBI Agent, I can explain why I looked at the YouTube video of the Italian Communist song Bandiera Rossa. It all started back in 1966 when The Boss learned the song from an Italian friend. It stuck in my head, popping up occasionally. Then I was reading one of Donna Leon's Venetian detective novels and someone said "Avanti!" which apparently means "Come in," as well as "Forward!" Well, of course I had to look up the song. Really! I'm a Democrat!)

Anyway, I will report further from time to time if it seems appropriate.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuneful Tuesdays: School Days

School starts today here in Uppity College Town, and the college students are back as well. Possibly one of these days even Onkel Hankie Pants will be heading off to school, since he got on the substitute teacher list. Thoughts of songs about school have been running through my head, aided somewhat by YouTube.

I couldn't really find any good elementary school songs. The first one I thought of was "School days, school days, good old Golden Rule days, Readin' and writin' and 'rithmetic, Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick...." (I must add that in the 5 elementary schools I attended I cannot recall witnessing any corporal punishment, even at the two in Texas.)

The second one that came to mind was John McCutcheon's "Kindergarten Wall," based on the essay by Robert Fulghum, "All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." The only YouTube presentations were by actual kindergarteners -- cute, but not very good sound.

But as I was looking for pictures of the first two elementary schools I attended, in El Paso, Texas, (see above) I remembered this:

This was the first song I learned in school, in first grade at either Burnet School (on left above) or Coldwell School (on right above). I learned today that it's played at UT Longhorn football games and was also played at the end of Lady Bird Johnson's funeral -- if you look up that version I think you will see at least some of the presiding ministers making the Longhorn "Hook 'em Horns" sign. A bit strange.

So, songs that evoke high school. The classic Chuck Berry song comes to mind first:

Some things never change, unfortunately, or perhaps even for the worse; I think it's still true in most high schools that "You're fortunate if you have time to eat" with 20-minute lunch periods.

I truly, truly hated pep rallies in high school. One reason was that I was much more self-conscious then than now. But this is still a great song:

College songs, ah, college songs. Here's Tom Lehrer's generic and satirical college "alma mater:"

(Lehrer, of course, is a Harvard man, thus his slighting reference to the Whiffenpoof Song.)

A Host at Last University, being only my own age, may perhaps have an alma mater; it may even have a fight song, but when I was there it did not have a football team. Onkel Hankie Pants used to sing the kids to sleep with one of the two songs he remembers easily, the Carleton Fight Song (to the tune of Give My Regards to Broadway). However, no recordings available. So for the football fans among you, here's the song from the University that the most members of the Pants family have attended one way or another, the University of Minnesota. Two versions, one "real," and one that's even more truly Minnesotan.

And to close, the international student song, sung by some nice Norwegians; the first syllable is truncated but it is, of course, Gaudeamus Igitur. This was my favorite of all the many renditions.

Five years ago this week, I got to sing along to this at the opening exercises when Cordeliaknits began her studies at Smith College. Good times!

Monday, September 1, 2008

At last, the birthday boat ride

Yes, today everything came together perfectly and we took my birthday boat ride. This was our last chance for this year, as the Casco Bay Lines ends this particular run on Labor Day. A few of the things we saw:
The boat has just come under the Cribstone Bridge. This is the only bridge of its kind in the world, made of granite blocks with no mortar and spaces to let the tide flow through -- plus the larger space for small boats and ice floes.
Here comes the ferry, the Island Romance. Passengers from Portland mostly get off here on Bailey Island for lunch, and we get on.
This is the really special one. It was such a clear day that you could see all the way to New Hampshire -- Mt. Washington, 90 miles away. You have to look closely at the righthand third of the photo, and you may have to click to make it bigger. But it's there! Really!
And last but not least (I took 40 photos but I'm sparing you), here is the marker/lighthouse on Little Mark Island. The story is that if a vessel was in trouble, and could make it to Little Mark Island, there would always be supplies there enough to keep a crew of 15-20 men for up to a month until they could be rescued. The black stripes on the marker, which you may see if you enlarge the photo, are to keep seabirds from flying into the marker on foggy days.
So, is my birthday finally over? I don't think so. For one thing, Sisterfilms has promised me a package in a week or so. Certain other offspring may profit from her example. Still, I feel very fortunate that today turned out to be such a beautiful day. Looking at this, it's hard to believe that some of my blogging friends in the Gulf Coast area are battening down the hatches for Gustav. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.