Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cedar Waxwings in my Yard

cedar waxwing on snowy branchI've been sick since Friday. My son brought home a case of croup and I caught it from him. I hate to be sick, especially during the holiday season where I have so many things to do.

Last night it snowed here in Bethesda. Not a lot, but enough to settle on the branches of the trees and cover rooftops and grassy areas with a couple of inches of white powder. I'm not a big fan of snow, but I like looking out the window at it the morning after a snowfall.

english robin on christmas cardThis morning, while drinking my cup of coffee, I sat looking out the side window of my living room. I saw a lot of action in the bushes and noticed many robins flying around, and settling on branches. It's not often I see robins in the snow, even though I know some winter here. One robin sat on a very snowy branch, with his head turned and looked exactly like the English robin featured on a Christmas card I received yesterday from a British friend. I thought about getting my camera, but didn't want to take a photo through the window and was feeling too sick to actually get dressed and go outside to take a picture of a bird that by then would have flown away.

I then suspected that with all of the robin activity, I might be lucky and see a flock of cedar waxwings as well. I often do see them when the robins come through after cold weather sets in. They both like eating the holly berries on the trees in the neighborhood. We only have two, but our neighbors have several.

So, I went to each window and searched the branches for more bird activity. I was rewarded at the second window when I saw a solitary cedar waxwing sitting in a tree that grows in the grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. (I grew up calling it a "tree bank", but I've gotten such funny looks when I call it that, I don't call it anything).

I did get the camera and took several shots of the waxwing through the window, none of which came out very well. Later I think I saw several cedar waxwings in the trees in the back yard and thought about getting dressed and trying to get better shots, but didn't do it and the flock few to a different yard.

cedar waxwing on branchIt is such a treat to see these birds. They are obviously my favorite bird, given that I am "Cedar Waxing" in most of my online travels. I love their sleek look, their unique markings from the eye markings that look like pointy sunglasses to the bright red tips of their wings that give them the name "waxwing" (it looks like their wings have been dipped in wax) to the bright yellow line on the tips of their tails. I love their gregarious nature. From what I know about them, they always travel in flocks. I even heard that waxwings will sometimes sit in a row on a branch and pass a berry or petal from one to another down the line until everyone is fed.

The sighting didn't make me better, but it gave me the energy to think about feeling better. And that counts for something.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Is Blog a word? Let's ask Blogger!

I thought this was funny. After writing an entry today using the Blogger interface I did a spell check. The word "blog" was highlighted as misspelled.

Isn't that kind of funny? You'd think the Blogger folks would have added that to the dictionary.

That is not as bad as the program w.bloggar where anything capitalized ends up getting flagged as a spelling error. The days of the week, months of the year, names of countries and cities are all counted incorrect.

Luckily Blogger's spelling tool allows for "learning", so if I write blog again in a blog after clicking the "learn" button, the word blog should not be highlighted.


We will see... Hmmmmm

Oh dear.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Photographing Fairies

hollow tree houses fairies On a small trail near the C & O Canal in Glen Echo, Maryland is a Sycamore that has somehow been hollowed out, yet remains alive. There is room for several people to stand upright in this tree.

My husband, at the request of our daughter, took a photograph up inside the tree trunk. The photo here is what I saw when I looked at the photo on the computer.

About a dozen small colorful orbs seem to be dancing in the hollow trunk of the tree.

After seeing the tree my daughter wondered aloud what creatures lived in that tree. I guess we found out.


Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 10, 2005

or Why F. Scott Fitzgerald was mistaken

Perhaps because I am now of an age where I have more of a past than a future, I have been examining my past self, places I've lived and people I've known. Perhaps it is only because I have been reviewing old family movies and it is simply nostalgia for what once was. Most likely, it is because I've been given the opportunity of seeing my hometown through the eyes of others.

My hometown, Elgin, Illinois, has been a source of slight discomfort for me for the past several decades. I've very recently discovered that, while it really doesn't much resemble my hometown anymore, I no longer feel the urge to mumble the name when telling others where I grew up.

Until I went to a close-by but out-of-town university, Elgin was simply my hometown. I was born at Sherman Hospital the first year Elgin was considered an All American City. My family was a typical working class family of the time. My dad first repaired cars, then appliances. My mom stayed home until my brother was at least in junior high school and I was in college.

I even had a sense of pride in Elgin because I could trace my ancestry through my maternal grandfather to the early years of Elgin. His mother was a Tyler, a family whose name was given to a local creek and park. Other ancestors of my grandfather built a church on Highland Avenue, west of town and gave their name to a country road there.

When I went to college, however, I discovered that the name Elgin usually elicited the response, "state hospital"? It had not occurred to me that our local mental health facility would be what made Elgin known to others. I assumed people would remember the Elgin watches, not the insane asylum.

In 1979, when I graduated from NIU with a teaching degree, Elgin's school district, U-46 was considered a prime place to land a teaching job. At the time, I remember the professors saying it was second only to Schaumburg in terms of desirable places to teach. I applied to U-46 when I graduated, but was told to get some experience elsewhere and try again.

I met my future husband in 1979 and we moved to Pennsylvania in 1982. That far away from Elgin, we had to tell people we were from a town about 35 miles west of Chicago before they understood where we were from. At least people didn't wonder if we had spent time in a madhouse.

Since our move from the area, the school system declined, farmland has been destroyed for more and more housing, and riverboat gambling became a reality.

I cannot find data regarding school performance before 1999, but since then district U-46 has not done well on standardized tests. I'm a product of the U-46 schools and while my education might have been lacking in a few things, I think they did a decent enough job educating me. Because I have nieces and nephews who are school aged and live or lived in Elgin, I've been forced to become aware of the school situation in Elgin. My sister-in-law, who grew up in Batavia, disliked U-46 so much she spent more than she earned on private schools for her children when she lived in town.

Each visit to Elgin saddens us with more housing and less farmland. I grew up on the west side of Elgin and remember when it was the edge of the city. We even had well water for a few years of my childhood. Now the west side of Elgin extends about two miles west of my childhood home. My husband's brothers are all farmers in the area and my husband grew up on a farm that will soon be demolished and turned into a subdivision.

In the early 1990s when Elgin considered riverboat gambling. I remember being dismayed at the idea of gambling in my hometown, and prophesied Elgin would become a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah if it went through. Proponents of the gambling boat claimed Elgin would see income from profits from the boat and in 1993 the idea became a reality and the boat was built and opened in 1994. Not long before that an episode of the television program, The Simpsons, enacted my worst fears when the hometown of the Simpsons, the fictionalized Springfield, opens a riverboat casino and the town becomes a virtual Pottersville.

So, as you see, until recently I've been disappointed in Elgin and embarrassed to call it my birthplace. It was not living up to my childhood expectations. It was going through swift changes and making me more and more uncomfortable with each subsequent visit. I also felt as if I had outgrown Elgin. After all, I lived near Washington, DC and was well-versed in computers, website design, blogs, chatrooms and bulletin boards and few years ago when I suggested to a class reunion chairperson that a website (freely made by me) or email list would be a valuable contribution to the class of 1975's 25threunion plans I was told that no one used email or the Internet. That did it. I put Elgin at the back of my mind except for the dreaded visits back home for Christmas and occasional summer vacations.

A few weeks ago I looked up Elgin in the Wikipedia and found, to my surprise, an entry. That entry led me to flickr photos of Elgin, which led me to a blog which led me to several other blogs. In the few years since my high school reunion, Elgin had come online and out of the 20th Century. After being amazed and in awe about this miracle, I began to realize that not only was this a good opportunity to know what was going on in Elgin, it also gave me a chance to see Elgin through the eyes of others.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby:
"It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment."
I disagree with Mr. Fitzgerald. I had been looking at Elgin through the eyes of people who had only heard of Elgin because of the state hospital. I looked at Elgin through my sister-in-law's eyes who distrusted the school system and harbored a prejudice against the city. I looked at Elgin through my own biased eyes after having my technology ideas rejected by former classmates. Now I can look at Elgin through the eyes of people who are proud to live in Elgin, or who live there temporarily, but willingly.

This new awareness does not alter the fact that the farmland is swiftly being replaced by tract housing. Could it be for the better? Is it making the Elgin area a better place? Maybe, but it still is depressing. It reminds me of when my husband and I lived in Pittsburgh and an old bar was remodeled into an upscale drinking and dining establishment. Because we were newcomers, it made little difference to us, but I vividly remember passing an older gentleman whom I had often seen drinking at the bar before the remodel as he left the bar the night of its grand re-opening. He looked incredibly sad and mumbled something under his breath about "damn yuppies" and I never saw him at the bar again. As I look upon the thousands of homes being built on former corn fields, I think "damn newcomers".

While I am still not sold on the idea of riverboat gambling in Elgin, and believe Elgin could become like Atlantic City with glitz and glitter less than a block away from abject poverty, I am willing to open my mind to hearing positive stories about the profits from the endeavor. Besides, it's almost fun watch late night cable in Bethesda, Maryland and see the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin advertised on the Discovery Health channel.

Not long ago when I was asked where I was originally from, the person making the query then remarked that he had been to Elgin. He didn't say anything about the state hospital, nor did he mention watches. He had gone there to gamble.

Oh well.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Observer | UK News | Holy war looms over Disney's Narnia epic

To millions The Chronicles of Narnia are a childhood tale of wonder and triumph now made into a film that could inspire millions of children to read. To others, including the celebrated fantasy author Philip Pullman, they are stories of racism and thinly veiled religious propaganda that will corrupt children rather than inspiring them.

So begins an article in the Guardian Observer.

Geez, can't Pullman leave Lewis alone? I'm sick of this debate. Good grief, it cannot even really be a debate because one of the debators has been dead for more than four decades.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Awareness wristbands and Lent

I posted this post this last spring on my Live Journal blog and forgot to crosspost.

What do those colorful plastic wristbands that are popular to wear these days and Lent have in common?

Here in my household they both are not much more than fads.

There have been articles written about the "devaluation" of the colorful wristbands such as this one from the Philadelphia Enquirer:

"Red, blue, purple, pink - no one color can be exclusively related to a particular group or ailment. So, how meaningful can sporting these awareness bands be?

And there's a rampaging ubiquity to it all, as with other fast fads. Our culture seizes on something, then wears it, says it, or does it to death.

Besides, let's face it, it's a tad self-aggrandizing to show the world you've donated - minimally - to a charity.

What do women say when they see a band dangling from the wrist of a guy at a bar? "Ooo, Jenny, he's tall and he hates heart disease. I think he could be the one"?...

...Teen-tilted stores such as American Eagle Outfitters are selling multihued wristbands that have nothing to do with doing good.

It's becoming mere fashion now."

My daughter wears a Livestrong band that she was given by her well-meaning Girl Scout leader, and one she found that is multi-colored. I asked her what it stood for, and she didn't know, and said she didn't care, it was a wristband, and wearing them is in style.

To me, this is not much different than what happened during Lent this year. She struggled to figure out what she wanted to "give up" for Lent. I asked her why she was going to give up something at all, and she reminded me that it was Lent. I took that at face value, after all, she attends church pretty regularly, and perhaps her youth group was promoting it. She eventually chose to give up sour things including lemons and pickles, two of her favorite foods. Giving up these foods meant we could not serve one of our staples around here - chicken piccata which has lemons and capers.

After a while this Lent thing got old. Not because we couldn't have chicken piccata, but because when we did put pickles or lemonade on the table she would whine. Loudly. And remind us of her sacrifice. Loudly.

I asked her why, exactly, she was giving up something for Lent and if she could explain the religious reason for it. This must have been in a weak moment for her, because she answered honestly. She told me it had little to do with Jesus and was mostly because all of her friends were giving up something for Lent. Well, maybe not her Jewish friends, but most of the others were. It was something to talk (whine?) about at lunch - how they could not have chocolate or pickles or candy or whatever they had chosen to give up for forty days.

I saw this first hand during the girl scout meetings. It was especially noticeable when one of the most vocal girls chose to give up talking for 24 hours. Did you know that someone who doesn't talk can cause more noise than if she were talking loudly? Really, it is true. The person uses sign language (well her own made up sign language) and then all the other girls shout out what they think she is trying to say. Think charades. With 10 teenaged girls who are grumpy because they are giving up something.

Then there was the weekend of fasting where two of the girls (one was the girl who couldn't talk the week before) moaned about how hungry they were and gloated that they were making such a sacrifice for their beliefs. Of course then the rest of the non-Jewish girls whined about their own sacrifices. Loudly.

I write this mostly "tongue-in-cheek". Teens are teens. They quickly follow fads and drop them just as quickly. Maybe wearing various awareness bracelets "will" cause them to think about whatever charity they are wearing the bracelet for. Perhaps not now, but maybe when they are older and able to help out the cause in some way. Perhaps giving up things during Lent really does make them think about what Jesus sacrificed (or whatever the reason people give up things for Lent). It sure makes me think about it. I mean when they give things up. And moan or whine...

Come to think of it, I was a teenager in the 1970's. I wore a POW bracelet.

POW bracelets were the fad in the 1970's. Did all we teens wear them because we cared about the person whose name was on the bracelet? Sure, some did, but others of us wore them like we wore White Stag ski jackets, peace sign pendants and bellbottoms.

So I guess the moral of this entry is, times change, fads change, but teenagers don't. Really.

And next Lent, I am going to try to talk my daughter into giving up fads. Just for forty days.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Neil Gaiman, again

Living in the DC area, I was lucky in that Neil Gaiman had two scheduled events nearby on his book tour for Anansi Boys. Saturday September 24th he was at the previously mentioned National Book Festival and on Sunday, September 25 he was at a Borders Books in Northern Virginia.

I arrived at the Bailey's Crossroads Borders Books sometime around 7 pm for Gaiman's 7:30 reading and bought a copy of Anansi Boys with part of the birthday money I got from my mother-in-law. I doubt she would be pleased. From the looks of the crowd, it was obvious Gaiman was a science fiction writer. Lots of black clothes, pony-tailed men and a smattering of individuals who looked like their last event that day had been the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Either that or they were dressed as characters in Gaiman's graphic novels.

Another blogger, Puzzledance, and I planned to meet at the the event so I walked around the store for a while looking for someone wearing what she said she would wear. After a while I came to the conclusion that she had been one of the lucky few who got a seat and didn't want to risk giving it up to find me and we would meet up after the reading or had not gotten back from her dance camp event yet and would either be late or be not able to come. I finally found a spot behind the other Gaiman fans, but in front of a low table against which I could lean.

Gaiman opened with a few words about what would take place that evening, chatted a bit and then began reading from his book after telling us the "story so far". Because the sound system was a little wonky and I was tired, I decided to sit on the floor instead of stand. I also thought I may have given Puzzledance an incorrect phone number so I tried to check one of my gmail accounts to see what number I gave her, but I could not figure out how to do that on my Sidekick. (although I know it can be done, having done it in the past). As I was giving up on my email, I noticed a pair of shoes pointing at me and not towards Gaiman. I looked up and saw that Puzzledance had arrived.

We listened to the reading, but I left before the signing as I was #287 and didn't want to stay that long. I hear the signing went smoothly though, but am not sorry that I left. I think I may have had a literary burn-out last weekend as I over-indulged in authors. Is such a thing possible? I also think I was intimidated by the crowd. After all, I've only read a sprinkling of Gaiman's works, although I am quite a fan of his journal. I never feel quite comfortable actually talking to authors in person as they sign their books. First of all, I think I am somehow putting them out by making them write their name. Secondly, if I really like the author, I usually say something stupid and feel stupid. So, I saved myself from the possibility of being embarrassed by myself.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hair Mayonaise, Grins, Awe. Obsessions and a Sullen Teen

My trip to the national mall yesterday to see several of my favorite authors was better than I expected in some ways, but worse in others. I saw four of the authors I planned on seeing, but missed most of the talk of one of them because my daughter was boredtiredcoldandfeelingsick and wanted to leave. Since the festival was sharing the National Mall with a large peace demonstration, it was much more crowded than in previous years.

It was a amazing to see John Irving. I'm not sure I'd ever seen him interviewed at all before, although did read the interview he gave for Pages magazine about his newest book that I am listening to on CD. I've loved Irving's writing since the late 1970's when I read The World According to Garp before seeing the movie. After reading that, I read all of his books, and immediately devoured each new one as it was published. I've only missed out on reading a few of his books. I lost interest in his style of writing for a few years, but began reading him again with Widow For One Year. It was a pure pleasure being under the same roof (OK, tent roof) as Irving.

I really should learn that obsessions are not contagious and should not try to drag others into them. My daughter loves to read but she cares little about seeing the authors who write the books she loves. And she cares even less sitting through book talks by authors she has not read. Combine that with being hungry and tired in a very crowded place and you have a slightly sullen teenager. She was funny about it though. She refused to try to push through the mass of people while I was listening to John Irving's interview and suggested I leave my semi-prime location to stand outside with her. She text messaged me several pleas, finally stating that she was tired, hungry, cold and "about to be trampled by peace ppl". Luckily that was at the end of the interview and we both found seats for the next author, Neil Gaiman.

I first heard of Neil Gaiman during my volunteer orientation for last year's book festival but since the name was unfamiliar to me, it didn't stick. At the festival itself, my daughter saw a book in the sales tent that she had heard of and wanted to buy. The book was called Coraline, but she didn't know the author. A few weeks later, at a book store, we tried to find Coraline, but it had been sold out at that store. The sales clerk wrote the name of the book and author, Neil Gaiman, on a sticky note. At Christmastime Clare put the book on her wish list. We were able to get the recording on CD for our drive to Illinois, and we all thought it a wonderful story and well read by the author himself. Since then I have been reading Gaiman's online journal and looking forward to his book tour so I could see him for myself.

Gaiman looked thinner and frizzier than I expected him to look. He seemed tired as well, but having read his latest journal entry it was understandable. He commented on the helicopters overhead and once stopped talking to make a remark about a very loud protester outside the the fiction and fantasy tent. "He's not going to make many friends that way." He also tasked a question asker with finding the answer to her own question regarding "hair mayonnaise" and posting it to the FAQ part of his web site. As excited as I was to see Gaiman, I was left feeling let down. Must be the day after Christmas phenomena.

After eating a lunch of pasta salad, vegetarian pita sandwich, cheese pizza, apple and free water, Clare was less interested in hearing authors talk than before. She began to complain in earnest. We decided to sit in the Teens and Children's tent to hear the author. Walter Dean Meyers, before Sharon Creech. It was good we did because the rain began just as we sat down. I was glad to see that author since Creech used him as a character in one of her books.

Dean and Andrew arrived (noisily and distractingly) during Mr. Meyers' talk. Clare decided to go to a museum with Dean while Andrew loyally sat with me. We got a front row seat (albeit on the ground) for Sharon Creech's talk. The highlight of my day was when she was being introduced. I must have had a big grin on my face because as she looked out at the audience, grinning herself, her smiling eyes met and held my eyes, and her grin widened. A small connection, but one that I'll remember for a long time. She was entertaining in her presentation, calling children from the audience to play out scenes in her latest novel for kids, Replay. The only disappointment was that she said she had a wrist injury. She said she had a wrist injury two years ago too when I was helping out with the signing lines. Perhaps she has a chronic injury and can only sign one book per person, but I briefly wondered if she made it up both times.

Andrew was hungry so we headed over to the food area where he got in a very long line for a piece of over-priced pizza. I ran over to the Children's tent to see Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, but was interrupted by a text message and then a phone call from Clare who claimed we had a deal to leave at 3:30, even if it meant I could not finish listening to Ms Naylor. While I would have liked to hear what she had to say, I was fine with leaving. I'd spent an afternoon with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor when she visited my daughter's school. I got to sit near her, help her with the autographing (I got to be Shiloh that day, stamping his pawprint in the books she autographed) and talk to her about writing. I think I she was pleasantly surprised when I told her I read and enjoyed her adult novel. I sort of tired of Ms Naylor after reading some of the Alice books and being uncomfortable about some of the material in them.

The trip home was uneventful except for one line overheard on the metro. A still psyched up middle-aged protester asked a young man what language he was speaking. He replied that he was speaking Russian. They discussed his visit to the US and she remarked that "we had a pretty good meeting down there today" to which he smiled and pointed at the anti-war slogan on her t-shirt. He then asked when the big protest was taking place. She looked taken aback and said that it was today. He smiled, shook his head and asked again. "But when is the big protest?" He got on the metro at the same stop we did so I am surprised he didn't see the throngs of protesters. Or perhaps he was joking with her. I thought it was kind of funny.

Clare seemed to feel guilty for dragging me away from the last speaker and was very chatty on the way home.

Below are a few photos I shot with my sidekick. They are all very low resolution.

John Irving
The tiny speck on the right of the stage is John Irving. (the seated one)

Neil Gaiman
This is Neil Gaiman. I think he forgot to use his hair mayonaise.

Sharon Creech
Here is Sharon Creech getting ready to call up audience members to play out some
scenes from one of her books.

Friday, September 23, 2005

National Book Festival

If someone gave me a choice to spend a day among authors or a day among famous actors I'd choose the day with authors without hesitation. Tomorrow is such a day. Tomorrow there will be more than 80 published authors in Washington DC between 14th and 7th Streets on about 12 acres of land.

Tomorrow is the National Book Festival on the National Mall.

This will be the third year I've attended, and the first year I didn't volunteer. The first year - 2003 - I got to see several of my favorite authors who write for children and young adults. It was a cold damp day but I was prepared with sweaters, gloves and raingear. I was lucky enough to be working with the signing tables, so saw these men and women up close. I also heard a few during their talks. I was not brave enough to talk to any of them - most were preoccupied with signing hundreds of books. I wished I had talked to Nancy Farmer whose The Ear, the Eye and the Arm was a favorite of mine when I was a teacher. Her line was the shortest and she was free for a few moments before the end of her designated signing period. I also got to hear Avi, Jane Yolen, Sharon Creech and R. L. Stine. I was surprised that Stine was the most outgoing, but maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.

The second year, last year, was a beautiful day, however I had a less interesting job of picking up debris and straightening chairs between authors in the Children and Children and Teen tents. I was able to hear a few interesting speakers including Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi who co-wrote the Spiderwick Chronicles. Another interesting author was Richard Peck. He happened to be reading from his book The Teacher's Funeral. During his talk he claimed to have thought up the best opening line in the world for the book he was writing: Here Lies the Librarian which comes out in January 2006.

So tomorrow I will get to hear some of my favorite authors but not have to work. Here is my schedule for tomorrow:

I'll try to get there by 10 so I can go to the pavilions and maybe pick up one of the coveted Book TV(?) bags that usually run out by noon.

I'll head over to the Fiction pavilion close to 11:30 to get in line to get a seat for John Irving's interview at 11:50. Getting a good seat for him will be great since Neil Gaiman follows him at 12:40.

I will probably try to find a bite to eat, or eat a bag lunch I brought and then head over to see Sharon Creech in the Teens tent and then Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in the Children's tent. Finally, if I still feel up to it I want to see Jon Kabat-Zin.

Sunday night I plan on going to Virginia to see Neil Gaiman once more. So I guess this will be a literary kinda weekend for me.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

If I dig a very deep hole, where would I end up?

If I dug a deep hole in my backyard,

I'd end up somewhere west of Australia, in the Ocean.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Went to bed late last night and didn't sleep well and got up early due to some volunteer work issues.

Decided to get some work for pay done early this morning when my husband called me upstairs to show me some "big red headed woodpeckers" in the neighbor yard. I assumed they were pileated, and was correct. What I didn't expect was to see four of them, three foraging on the lawn and one hammering on the nearby tree trunk.

I've seen several pileated woodpeckers in my life, and have seen up to two from my front porch (there used to be a dead tree kitty corner from our house where they may have lived). I had never seen four of them together though. I imagine it was a family, but I don't know the family dynamics of woodpeckers.

I pronounce pileated with a "long i", but most people pronounce it with a "short i". I once read in a Northern Wisconsin publication it should be pronounced with a "long i". Answers.com gives says both are correct:

pi le at ed (pi-'le--a-'ti(d) pronunciation also pi le ate (-i(t) adj.

It was a nice surprise on this morning of minor worries.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Globetechnology: Please -- it's LEGO, not Legos

I had no idea I was incorrect.

Forgive me LEGO. I won't make the mistake again!


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Something Cool Flickr and Google can do

Originally uploaded by anoddeel.
This is an experiment of a cool thing to do with googlemap images and Flickr. Just testing right now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Once again I didn't see Ike Reilly Live

We don't get out much. Parenthood is like that. When we do sometimes things happen.

Like Saturday night. I wanted to see a band I have begun listening to. They are from Illinois and they don't get out here much.

They got to the venue (a dive bar) in DC late and argued with the management who told them to leave.

We left (and got back our cover - glad we did because they didn't even pay the band as it turns out)

This article was in the Post this morning...

From The Washington Post

They Like Ike, to the Tune of $700
• The kindness of strangers: After a Chicago pub-rock band called the Ike Reilly Assassination got into a squabble Saturday night over its place on the bill at the Velvet Lounge on U Street, the management told the musicians to hit the road before showtime. But as frontman Ike Reilly, his mates and road crew were about to leave unhappy and unpaid, two fans who witnessed the bum's rush went over and introduced themselves. They gave the band $500 to make up for the lost gig fee, Reilly said, and treated the seven ejectees to a $200 dinner in Bethesda.

Introducing themselves only as "Paul" and "Matt," the good Samaritans kept saying, "Don't give up on punk rock in D.C.," Reilly recalled yesterday to Post special correspondent Dave McKenna. Asked if he would ever bring the band back to the Velvet Lounge, the rocker said: "If I can go there again and not play and make $700, I guarantee I'll book it."

Ha! I made special arrangements to see this band and was there that night. I heard what happened - they showed up late and wanted to be first in the lineup (as they were billed), but the management told them no. They told me that the band got kicked out of the club.

I was very upset since I have wanted to see them play for over a year and finally was able to go to the show. I looked for the band, but figured they had talked to the venue on the phone. I don't think I would have given them $500 though. Would have gone to dinner with the band and maybe chipped in for their food. I'd like to meet these Matt and Paul guys.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Photo of Frances

Frances "Birdbath" Lide

I was surprised and delighted today to receive a comment on my entry about Frances Lide. I thought I was the only one who sometimes "Googled" her name, just to see what was out there.

This is the photo I mentioned in the first entry about Frances. It was taken by a neighbor, Ken, and given to me at Frances' memorial service. In the background is a caricature drawn by a colleague at the Washington Evening Star newspaper. I vaguely remember the story about how Frances had written an article about birds or birdbaths and was given the nickname "Birdbath" by her colleagues.

I love how, in the photo, Frances seems to be looking directly in the viewer's eyes, listening to every word the viewer may be saying. So much like the Frances I remember.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Dream

Last night I dreamed we moved to a large brown brick Georgian style home on a corner of a posh neighborhood in London. Pedestrian gates marked the entrance to the neighborhood and in the dream I took great pleasure in that fact.

The house had two staircases, one in front and one in back that led to the kitchen. I don't remember the kitchen at all, perhaps I didn't go in it in the dream, but I do remember the entryway. It was huge with warm wood paneling on the walls. We had enough room for the bench I would love to buy, but discussed putting a half circular table against the wall instead. We would also place a dish my husband brought me from Africa that would be the key catch all.

The bedrooms were large and inviting. Ours had many nooks that I didn't have time to explore. The house also had extra bedrooms and in a corner of a hallway was a built in cozy bench, perhaps for reading or even extra sleeping area for company. The upholstery was in need of repair, but even that did not subtract from the magic of the house.

Walking up one of the staircases and looking up, one saw huge simply carved dark wooden beams. I remarked to my husband in the dream that I was completely content now that I had this beautiful home.

On the roof I noticed that a neighbor child had walked up the steps and when I asked her what I could do for her, she replied that she lost her key in this house and would we help her find it. We searched, but could not find it.

A final memory of this dream was walking down the back staircase and finding a small opening in the bottom of the wainscoting that had a sort of door. It was below a window that had been covered up by a pantry or something (perhaps I did go in the kitchen after all) and light came from the opening. I opened the small door and found a yellowed note with a message from a child that once lived in the home. It was addressed to me and my husband and decorated with designs of a fantasy nature.

I awoke twice during this dream, but willed myself to go back to sleep and visit the home again. It was hard making myself get out of bed this morning because I wanted to go back to this place. I was disappointed when I awoke and remembered that we had not moved.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Update on Dad

Dad got out of the hospital about two weeks ago. He was sent home with a walker (that he said he would not use) and a schedule for when the PT and nurse would visit. When I talked to my mother a few days ago she said he was doing really well.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Whalesong - Live and Archived Sounds of the Humpback Whales from Maui, Hawai'i

Whalesong - Live and Archived Sounds of the Humpback Whales from Maui, Hawai'i

Now this is cool. Am sitting here listening to Whales in Hawaii!

The Poet as a Young Man

Grandpa Green in his 20's or so. Posted by Hello

This is my grandfather, traveling thread salesman and sometime poet, walking in our hometown. He looks young here, younger than I ever remember him. The styles of clothing on the people in the background suggests it may have been taken anywhere from the 40's to early 50's.

My grandfather was born to middle-class parents in an industrial town in Northern Illinois. His mother's side of the family had a long history in Elgin. I think his father either left him and his mother or died young*. I don't remember anyone talking about him much. His mother's name was Jesse Tyler and I used to wonder what she was like because I somehow ended up with a copy of The Secret Garden that had her name inscribed on the title page in old-fashioned spidery script. His stepfather was killed while crossing a train track.

As a very young man my grandfather sold thread for a company I thought was called Collier or Colliers, but I cannot find any information on a company by that name.** He traveled to nearby states to sell his wares and on one trip met my grandmother in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Most of what I know about my grandfather's past, my grandmother told me. She also told me about their courtship and how they used to go to speakeasys and how her family was sad to see her move to a different state when she was married. By the time I came along, my grandfather was assistant postmaster in the Elgin post office. I remember visiting him at his office, in both the old building and the new one.

One branch of my grandfather's family had emigrated to the United States from Scotland. This family helped build a church outside of Elgin. The church stopped having services many years ago, but it remained standing and my grandfather had a key to it. He took me there once and I decided then and there I was going to be married in that church (which I was, but that is a different story).

My grandfather retired around 1970 and my grandparents moved to their cabin in Chetek, Wisconsin. I visited them for long periods of time during my summer breaks. I remember one summer he wanted to teach me how to golf. I ended up just walking with him and his friends, working on a tan and struggling to carry his golf bag. I might have liked golfing, but my mother wanted me to stay with my grandmother instead of going golfing with my grandfather which I suppose was reason I was staying so long with my grandparents. I remember his look of disappointment when I told him I was not going to go golfing with him the next week. He had given me a bag of old golf balls and golf tees from his golf bag and I think he hoped I would like to golf or maybe he just wanted to hang out with his oldest granddaughter. When I later told my mother about that, she told me that I could golf with him the following summer.

My grandfather didn't talk much, preferring to read, sip beer, do crossword puzzles or play solitaire. I also remember he didn't eat many vegetables, especially salad. He said that it made his nose twitch like a rabbit when he ate salads. He also wore a piece of napkin under his wristwatch, "To keep the ticks off my arm", he said.

That fall he had some pain in his foot and visited a chiropractor which was what was in vogue at the time. To be fair, I think my grandfather thought he must have pulled a muscle when moving something heavy, thus the pain. The chiropractor did whatever chiropractors do but his pain only got worse. Eventually he went to a doctor. The doctor immediately sent him to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for tests and treatment for a blood clot in his leg. Treatment consisted of amputating his leg just below the knee. We visited my grandparents in Wisconsin, probably the following spring or summer. I remember seeing his leg, being horrified at the ugliness of the stump, but then getting used to it. When we were out and about the town (technically that means bar-hopping, it was Wisconsin after all) I would be furious at the strangers that stared at him. I remember mentioning to my mother that he wanted me to go golfing with him and she said that she was sure he could golf again once he was fitted for an artificial leg.

Later that summer he developed another blood clot and returned to the Mayo Clinic. I was 16 going on 17 that year and trying desperately to not turn 17 without being kissed by a boy. My mind was not exactly on the suffering my grandfather was going through, but on my own teen-aged angst. However I remember my mom being gone a good deal of the summer of my 17th birthday, staying with my grandparents on the campus of the Mayo Clinic.

My mother was there when her father died. He warned everyone that he would not survive another amputation. But the doctors were concerned that his knee would become gangrenous and poison his system. He told everyone that even though he was under anesthetics during the surgery he remembers the sound of the saw cutting through his bone during the first amputation. He had a heart attack during the second amputation and lapsed into a coma that lasted a few days. My mother swears he whispered something in her ear while in the coma, but the health care professionals said it was impossible.

I was in my attic bedroom when the phone rang. I must have known it was about my grandfather. I picked up the bag of golf balls and tees he had given me and walked down to the bottom of the stairs. I could hear my father's muffled voice through the door that led to the attic and understood that my grandpa was gone. I cried then. I cried for myself. I cried at myself for being so selfish. I cried for my grandfather with whom I would never again get a chance to walk on a golf course on a summer evening.

---addendum ----

*Since writing this post I have learned a little more about my grandfather's father. His name was Albert Green who was the son of Swedish immigrants, Emil and Amanda (Johnson) Green. He was born in Chicago but moved to Elgin with his mother, sister (Hildur), and brother (Harold) after his father died of typhoid fever. Albert and Jessie married on May 5th 1909 and my grandfather was born the following January. Shotgun wedding? Maybe...

Albert ended up leaving Jessie and my grandfather when my grandfather was still an infant and eventually they divorced. It was Albert Green and not Frank Harris who died by being struck by a train in South Elgin. Frank allegedly hanged himself.

**The name of the company for which my grandfather sold thread was Collingbourne Mills, According to Old Elgin: A Pictorial History, by E. C. Alft:
"The Western Thread Co. of Chicago completed a plant on Bluff City Boulevard in 1910. Albert B. Collingbourne acquired a controlling interest two years later. The firm, later called Collingbourne Mills, produced millions of silk, cotton and rayon spools as well as stamped embroidery patterns. It went into the hands of the receivers in 1938."
Mr. Alft tells what happened to the Collingbourne Mills goods when the factory closed in The History of Elgin, Illinois:
"Organized in 1946 to market what was left of Collingbourne sewing materials as well as war surplus nylon thread, LeeWards grew with the acquisition of hobbycraft merchandise. The search for a firm name ended with a map showing the Leeward Islands. At first only a mail order house, a retail store was opened in the former Flexonics plant in 1962. The plant once occupied by McGraw-Edison and Motorola on Illinois 25 was purchased for administrative offices and a mail order building in 1970. Today, LeeWards Creative Crafts has more than forty stores located throughout the country. Until the mail order business was discontinued in 1983, the firm mailed out more than thirteen million catalogs annually."
Lee Wards was one of my favorite places to go when I was younger. It was a huge craft store that closed down in the 80's or so. My cousin worked there for a brief time as a security guard in the 1970's.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Frances Lide

Frances Lide
Originally uploaded by anoddeel.
I met Frances when my brand new husband and I moved into a rental house in Alexandria, Virginia. I was 29 and she was in her mid-eighties. She lived next door and she and I became good friends that year as she helped me learn about my new town. She was retired from a position on the Washington Evening Star as a reporter. She had many stories to tell that I wish I had written down.

We moved to a different house after one year, but Frances and I still saw each other, and spoke often. When we moved to Maryland we saw much less of each other, but still spoke. After a while we drifted apart, but I always remembered her. On her 91st birthday I called her house to wish her a happy birthday. She didn't know who I was and acted confused. I talked to some of her old neighbors about my concern and within a day Frances was in the hospital and within a week she had died following surgery.

I have a photo (not this one) in my office and I often look at for strength or to work out some troubles or another. Frances was the most influential person in my adult life aside from family members.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Update on Dad and Andrew

Andrew and Dean got home at 4:10 am. The next day Andrew was upset, as would be expected. The story (from both boys and at least 3 witnesses) is that they were just playing around and the teachers overreacted. The teacher that saw them is not known for being very understanding. I am not at all fond of him. We didn't punish Andrew because we think he was punished enough. I even got an email this morning from a mom whose two kids were on the ski trip. She said,

" I also wanted to tell you how upset Julia and Will were about the incident on the Pyle ski trip. While Julia didn't actually see what happened, Will said he wasn't really watching closely but he had the impression that Andrew and Sam were just fooling around. I don't know why I'm writing, except that I, too, felt upset that the teachers couldn't handle the kids' high spirits-particularly after a few hours sitting and waiting in McDonalds. Sam and Andrew are such good kids. I'm sorry that the trip turned into such a bad experience for them."

Dad is still in the hospital. One of the tests showed blood on his brain. This could be from lots of things, including stroke, the fall, cancer in some part of his body, or taking too many blood thinners. A doctor went to his room and asked him questions that sounded like a memory test (short term) and my dad failed it. He also didn't know the date, but said it was because he didn't have his watch on.

I called and talked to him yesterday evening and he was in very high spirits. I would almost call him giddy. He has always been gregarious, but lately he has not seen people much, for a variety of reasons. He doesn't wash, so people don't want to be around him. He apologized again for what happened this summer when he stuck Clare. I wonder if he has been worrying about it. I apologized for lashing out at him for it. It was not a good summer.

Ooooh cool

I made it into Neil Gaiman's online journal.


Here is what I said and his response.

In doing a search on the Narnia action figures by Gentle Giant Studios I saw that they are also doing Mirrormask action figures. I have only been reading your journal for a couple of months, so if you mentioned this, I missed it.http://www.entertainmentearth.com/hitlist.asp?theme=Mirror+Mask(I am a brand new Neil Gaiman fan after hearing Coraline on a long car trip.)Dona

Not sure they've been mentioned for a while. So yes, Dark Horse are doing MirrorMask models (the ones in the pictures are early prototypes.)

Friday, January 28, 2005

The men in my life

A few months ago my son signed up for a ski trip with his school's rec club. The trip is this weekend. My son had to be at school at 7:15 to get all of his gear to school before the other kids arrived. They left for the slopes just after school today.

About an hour ago the teacher leading the ski trip called and said that we had to come up to get Andrew because Andrew was in a fist fight with another boy. This boy is a wrestler on Andrew's team and what probably happened was that they got to horsing around/wrestling and it got out of hand.

My husband is on his way to get Andrew. He is riding up with the father of the other boy, with whom we are friends.

Just before my husband left I got a text message from my mom and dad's next door neighbor saying that my dad fell and cut his head. I called the neighbor's cell phone and discovered they had all been at the hospital for the past two and a half hours.

I guess that my dad tripped and fell and cut his head open. My mom had a couple of beers and didn't think she should drive so she called the neighbor (who does not have a license) whose girlfriend drove them all to the hospital. The hospital is keeping my dad because his blood pressure is unusually low. They took xrays of his shoulder as well. He is on oxygen too.

My son and my father, both in trouble in different ways. Maybe this happened with my dad so I would realize how trivial the issue is with my son in the big picture. My son's problem will be an anecdote in his life, told at some point with humor. Whereas my dad's problem will never be told with humor.

They both are scared in their own way, Andrew about the consequences he knows he will face and Dad about...well maybe about the same thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The one that got away or "We'll Always have London"

Sometimes obsessions are good things, other times they just nag and nag at you until you do something stupid. This post is about something stupid I did because of an obsession.

Because I was planning marrying an Englishman, I did my student teaching in London. I planned on spending Christmas in Yorkshire with my fiance before heading down to London in January. Things had happened the autumn before I left for England and my fiance and I broke up just before Christmas leaving me a free agent for my three months in London. I was young and unattached for the first time in four years.

I met T one of the first nights at Southlands College in London. He was from the States as well. Actually he was from the town where my university was located (his father was a minister at a local church there). He attended a different University however. I remember thinking that T looked like one of the cooks at the restaurant where I worked and who I had kind of dated the month before. (Yes, I know I was engaged at the time - I said things happened!).

Anyway, back to T. T was the one all the girls wanted, both British and American. He was funny and cute and smart. His best friend was George and George liked my friend, Candy. We would eat dinner together in the food hall and then all have tea in someone's room. I must have discussed liking T with Candy at some point because one evening we went back to George and T's dorm after being out at a pub in London. We all ended up in T's room (no one shared rooms at this university) and suddenly Candy and George were gone. I went to follow them and they told me to go back to T's room because they wanted to be alone. I was upset, thinking that our fun evening was over, but then T said, "Come here" and kissed me. I was pretty surprised because I had never expected to "get the guy" that everyone wanted. After that, T and I spent a lot of time together.

One night we had tickets to see the London Symphony (or was it the Royal Symphony?) at the Royal Albert Hall. That afternoon, Marnie, one of the other American girls at Southlands asked me if I wanted to go with her to see Cheap Trick. Her cousin was the drummer and she had backstage passes and an invitation to an after the show party. I declined since I was going to the symphony with T. (yes I have kicked myself several times for not going with Marnie instead). T and I showed up late for the symphony and ended up going to a pub called "The Sherlock Holmes" . We had a good time that night.

Another night I remember was the "Fancy Dress Three-legged Pub Crawl" for charity. I don't remember what charity we got drunk for, but it was a memorable night. We got pledges from others to pay for each shot or pint we drank in each of several pubs. We dressed up in costume and were tied to a partner by one of our legs. T and I dressed up as Ugly Americans and came in last. (Did I mention it was also a race?).

T, Dona and Bob (aka the jolly green giant) during the 3-legged Fancy dress pub crawl.

I mostly remember getting drunk a lot and having the time of my life those three months in London. During that time, I fully expected that T and I would continue to date once he went back to the states. One night, not long before I was to leave he pretty much told me that was not going to be the case, that what we had in London was great, but that once we were back in the US we would not date. We might see each other again, but not as a couple.

I left in March of 1979 and we wrote back and forth once or twice. He ended up staying an extra year and once there was talk of a reunion. It may have happened. I don't know, but I was not there.

After all these years you'd think I'd get over it. I'm married and have great children and a happy life. I think what bothers me most is that I wasn't good enough for him.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Talking with my son

Several years ago a friend recommended I read the book, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I kept on forgetting the name of the book and authors and never got around to reading it.

At book group the other evening another friend recommended Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by the same authors.

I was let loose at Barnes and Noble a few nights ago and ended up purchasing both of these books. I wish I had read the first one many years ago.

Earlier in the week I left the books on the dining room table, quite by accident. My son picked up the first one and wondered why I got it. Then several times afterwards he looked at me suspiciously when I spoke to him, asking, "Did they tell you to say that in the book?" I was never trying to follow the advice, in fact had not really read much of the book until two days ago.

Last night I did begin to use some techniques from the book:

Andrew had been banned from using his video games, television and computer for a minor infraction earlier in the evening. He was bored and plopped himself on the office floor, wrapped in blankets. I turned off the computer and looked at him and said that it seemed as if he was upset about something. He agreed with me and I used the "Oh", "Ummmmm" and active listening techniques. I said very little and he went on and on. After a while he remarked, "See, dad and I could never have a talk like this". I stupidly said, "I guess he should read the book," and Andrew seemed appalled that I was using the book techniques. I jokingly said, "You seem upset about that" and he said that it was not me and he likes me so quit using the book. He put the blanket over his head. So I did the only thing that made any sense. I got on the floor and got under the blanket with him. He asked me if the book also said to make a tent with your child and talk under the tent. I assured him the book didn't tell me to do that, or at least I had not gotten to it yet. We both had a good laugh and went on to have a nice talk about lots of things including the cool way your face looked all orangey red when you shone a flashlight in your mouth in the dark.

I do wish I had read this book when Michele told me about it in the last millennium. Perhaps it would have made a difference. I hope it is not too late now though.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Grandpa's Poem

Poem written by Grandpa Green on the event of my birth. Posted by Hello

My Grandpa Green was an avid reader, loved solving crossword puzzles and wrote bad poetry. Here is a copy of a poem I found in his Wisconsin cabin after his death. My mom never really liked it as it hinted that she and my father might have actually had sex. I guess it was because it was her father writing about it that bothered her.

I guess he wrote it before he knew my parents had used creative spelling for my first name (Dona). I was named after my uncle Donald Leroy, but that is another post topic. Anyway in the poem he has written my name as Donna but x'ed out the second n in both instances.

The poem is hard to read in the picture, so here it is in html:

To Donna Lee - My First Grandchild

Broadcast it to the Universe
So to all it may be heard,
That Donna Lee Patrick arrived
On August twenty-third.
From fooling around
Between Patsy and Elvin.
They received a wee bundle,
Straight from Heaven.
Her Dad asked for a boy,
But it was not
He could readily tell 'cause
It had a ----- pink bootie
Her eyes are brown and
So is her hair.
When she arrived there was
An inch of it there.
She is very tiny
But so is her mother.
Now try again
So she can have a brother.
(Walter Tyler Green)

Popularity - Part I

I know from experience that popularity is a driving force in adolescence. I was not popular in junior or senior high school and even today have bad memories of those who were. But this post is not about me and my experiences. It is about my middle school children and their experiences.

My 13 year old daughter uses the word "popular" at least once a day. She is not popular. She would not mind being popular. She won't wear certain clothes because popular people wear them and she would be a poser if she wore them. She won't wear her hair in certain styles for the same reason. One of the first topics of conversation she has with her Illinois cousins each time she sees them is popularity. It seems her cousins are popular. Her best friend from elementary school is popular, or at least knows a lot of popular kids. That makes my daughter no longer such good friends with this girl.

My 12 year old son seems to be popular. His sister says he is. He seems to think he is. Popular people do not use Chap Stick®. My son has chapped lips. His bottom lip has a crack that looks very painful. I suggested he take a tube of Chap Stick® to school today and put it in his pants pocket. He looked at me as if I just suggested he go to school nude. Then I recalled a conversation my daughter and I had about, you guessed it, popularity (and Chap Stick®):

DAUGHTER: I like lip gloss.
ME: Not me, I like Chap Stick®.
DAUGHTER: Only people who want to be like Napoleon Dynamite use Chap Stick®.
ME: What about boys? What if a boy has chapped lips?
DAUGHTER: They lick their lips. No one but nerds use Chap Stick®.
ME: Oh. That is stupid.

So my son is at school today with a painful crack in his lip because he refuses to use something that will help but is "social suicide".

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Mr. Tumnus and Charlie Fink

Lisa Snelling's Charlie Fink reminds me of a plaster sculpture I had in my yard for years until he finally disintegrated from rain and weather. He used to be a statue of a faun or satyr. I called him Mr. Tumnus. My dad called him Mr. Numbnuts. I bought him at K-Mart for $10 when I was a teenager. Recently I found him again on the Internet, but he was much more than $10. Now that I have a lamp post in my yard I could do with a faun.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Neil Gaiman

In October my daughter and I attended (actually, I worked and she pouted) the National Book Fair on the Mall in Washington DC. I worked in the children and teens and children pavilions but never got to walk around to the other ones. Next year I plan on not working, just enjoying.

On the way out I allowed Clare to look in the Book Sales tent. When she was finished she mentioned that she wanted a book called Coraline. She had heard of it from a friend. A few weeks later she was at a book store and we tried to buy the book but it was not in stock. The book store sales person wrote down the name of the author, Neil Gaiman. I looked him up online, but didn't buy the book. I did suggest to people that they give it to her for Christmas though.

We like to listen to books on tape on long car trips, so this time I checked out from the library the audio version of Coraline read by the author. We all found it to be delightful and I made a note to pick up more of his books when I had a chance.

The other day I bought myself Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of short stories by Gaiman and Good Omens, a novel written with Terry Pratchett. I began reading Smoke and Mirrors the night I got it and am in love with the writing. I wrote the following on 100 words:

January Batch - 13

Sometimes, discovering a new author is like falling in love. If that is the case then I must be in love with Neil Gaiman*. His writing is so refreshing and readable that I cannot seem to get enough of it. We listened to his Coraline on the drive to Illinois and I recently bought myself two of his books, Smoke and Mirrors and Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett. Something about his writing, his voice, tickles my insides and makes me feel good all over.

*Of course I am not really in love with Mr. Gaiman -- just with his writing.

What I like about Gaiman is mostly his humor. He writes in a style that is amusing and clever and intelligent. Another reason I like him is his accessibility. He has a journal on his site that he updates regularly. Recently someone wrote him and asked about literary agents. He answered her in depth on his blog so she and anyone else interested in the subject could learn from him and his experiences.

I hope someday to see him on tour. Had I known of him, I could have seen him in October when he was at the very book fair where I worked in the science fiction and fantasy pavilion. Until then I will just have to watch the cybercast (click on Neil Gaiman under Science Fiction and Fantasy and wait for the real player popup) instead.