Sunday, November 04, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Revish - a new site for readers

If you are a reader and like to talk about the books you read with others, you might be interested in a brand new kid on the block called Revish. I've been one of a handful of folks helping Dan Champion, the founder of Revish, test the site for the past week. Since Dan is a web standards Guru, this site is sure to be accessible and usable.

Revish is kind of like your local book club combined with the book section of the newspaper. As a member you get to write reviews, list the books you are reading or have read. You can also comment on reviews written by others. What makes this place different, among other things, is the quality of the reviews. If you write a review you are asked to follow a set of fair, but definite guidelines as to the length and depth of the review. No "I liked this book, it was good" for Revish.

If you're interested, head on over to and sign up for the beta. They are going to invite more people to help test the site, so if you're interested, don't delay.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

If Neil Gaiman asked me to jump off a bridge, would I?

Of course I wouldn't, but I would make a link on my blog so he can mess with someone's head.

Penn Jillette?

Cross-posted several places.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cedar Waxwing Nest

How cool is this! I especially like it when the mom waxwing takes the poop from the young.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tille Olsen

While doing a search on something completely unrelated I came upon a blog entry that alerted me to her death which led me to A Tribute to Tillie Olsen

In 1993 when I was preparing to return to the classroom after being on child care leave I took a class on women in literature. In that class we were required to read "I Stand Here Ironing" by a Tillie Olsen. That story spoke to me in a way I found both jarring and comforting.

As a relatively new mother, I often felt as if I were short-changing my children in some ways. I felt that my daughter was missing out on my attention because we had a second child so early after she was born. I knew, deep down that she'd survive it, but felt guilty nonetheless. Ms Olsen's story comforted me in letting me know that children are strong and can survive worse things than new siblings. She speaks of a feeling of failure with the first, but that the second benefits from what the first lost out on. I resolved to let my daughter know how important she was, how beautiful she was, how talented she was and how much I treasured her.

She has turned out to to be an exceptional person, a far better person than I am - smarter, more talented. She wants to write when she grows up (among other things).

In 1999 or so a friend of mine asked me if I'd like to come to a reception at his house honoring Tillie Olsen. "The I Stand Here Ironing Tillie Olsen?" was my response, mouth agape. Yes, he assured me, that was who he was talking about.

I went to the reading at American University, where she read from one of her stories, but didn't join the long line of people waiting to get their books signed. I made my way over to Glen's apartment and waited with the rest of the invited guests for Ms Olsen to arrive.

It was very late when Ms Olsen and her publicist arrived. Ms Olsen hadn't wanted to disappoint anyone in line, and chatted with each person for as long as they wanted to talk.

We all stood when Ms Olsen arrived. She greeted each of us in turn and talked about this and that. When she got to me I blurted out what I'd rehearsed over and over in my mind:

"Ms Olsen, I just wanted to tell you that as a new mother, I've read all the books on raising children, but what has inspired me most is your story, I Stand Here Ironing and Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born. Ms Olsen, looked at me solemnly, held both of my hands with hers and said, "You must write that in a story."

Later we chit-chatted some more while we ate a late snack.

I could have asked her to sign a book or two I had bought or even had my photo snapped with the two of us, but just being there, sitting, talking having met this woman, I felt as if I needed nothing else - no proof for the outside world to know I'd met her.

I missed her birthday tribute by one day, but then I usually miss people's birthdays. I'll read some of her works today instead.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Comcastic Christmas

Each year around December 23 we make the long drive to Illinois so we can spend the holidays with our families. Dean and I grew up in the same area, so visiting family is easier than for many transplanted offspring.

We've lately avoided staying at my parent's house - it tends to be too crowded there, and my dad sometimes has trouble with anger management - by either staying with my aunt and uncle in South Elgin or my brother in Batavia. However, this year in May, my aunt and uncle moved to Mississippi. My brother's house was not an option either because he'd recently relocated (along with his two teenagers) to my parents house for a while.

So we knew we were in for an interesting time of family togetherness this year. And in retrospect, it was not bad. Dean was bored out of his mind, but he had places to go and things to do to keep him occupied when he got up at 4 or 5 AM. (Although the first hour or so for him was difficult, as every comfortable place in the house was being used as a place to sleep.) It was nice spending long periods of "do-nothing" time with my parents, brother and his family. I don't get to do that very often.

Dad was on his best behavior and only lost his temper a couple of times. It can't be easy for him - he confided to me that he feels useless. He has no independence at all. He never had any real hobbies and can no longer do the things he really liked to do. His one passion in the past decade has been to lie on the couch and watch TV (well, channel surf actually).

For Christmas this year my mom got digital cable and cable internet. The digital cable was hooked up when we got there, but the internet was not. Unfortunately for my folks, the digital cable remote and interface is pretty complicated. Mom sort of understands it, but it is totally lost on dad. Every fifteen minutes my dad needed someone to either get him a movie or change the channel. Several of us had tried to show dad how to go up and down the channels with the remote, but he never remembered how to do it. There is no way he will learn how to get a movie for himself. He may actually be able to channel surf, but mom doesn't want him to do that because she fears the remote will get all sticky. I suggested putting it in a plastic bag. Dad needs something to do. He was about to go to bed at 10 am one morning when he couldn't watch a movie (more on that later).

I'd brought my old "B" router along so I could connect wirelessly with my laptop, so was anxious to get the cable internet system up and running. The day after Christmas Dean and Kevin routed the coaxil cable under the front porch to the computer (in between watching a football game on TV). They connected it to the cable modem and connected that to mom's computer. Following the directions from Comcast I called the appropriate number and talked to a technician. He was concerned because he couldn't see the modem from his location (or whatever they see there in Comcast-land), so scheduled a service call for us for the next afternoon.

The Comcast technician arrived within the time he'd been scheduled and was friendly enough. However he had a slight attitude about being there and it was obvious he wanted to go home. He also said that he got 28.50 (or something) for the service call if it was a troubleshooting call - which meant it was free for us). If he was to do something else he'd have to charge $69 or $99.

So he fiddled around with the wires and modem, looked at the way everything was set up and after what seemed to be a long time said we were connected, but I had to set up the computer to work with the modem. I did that while he checked something at a basement connection. When he got back, it was apparent we were not connected any longer. He said it must have been something I did when I followed the directions on the computer interface, so he fiddled some more, made some unhappy noises and said that the really best thing to do would be to make a direct connection to the computer from outside, but that would cost us between $69 and $99.

I asked what he had done in the basement and he swore under his breath. He went back downstairs and when he came back we were connected. Apparently he disconnected something downstairs and forgot to re-connect it. He did something and said I still needed to do the computer portion of it.

He wrote up our ticket and I thought he was charging us for the service call, but he said he was treating it as a troubleshooting call after all. I gave him a Christmas Cracker and he gave me his name (Roland) and his cell phone number in case we needed help within the next half hour and then he left.

A few moments later the doorbell rang and he was back and said he decided to do more for us, no charge. So he did the computer stuff and we were really up and running. I was so impressed I handed him a $20 bill out of gratitude.

We went out to dinner and my niece and kids used the connection that evening.

In the morning however, we could no longer connect to the internet and the correct lights were not flashing on the modem.

So I called Comcast again. This time two technicians came out. They used a device that measured something on the cable cord and said that it was very low -19 units. They fiddled around and got it up to +5. I mentioned that the guy last night said the best thing would be to have a direct connection and they concurred. I asked if they could do that, knowing it would cost money. They said it would not cost anything (Roland lied?) and the hooked it up for us. As far as I know, the connection is still working great.

Now for the TV issues. The On Demand aspect of the Cable interface was not reliable. Sometimes it worked but often it resulted in an error message directing us to call the cable company. After the technicians left that day my dad wanted a movie, but we got the error message so I once again called 1-800-comcast and once again made an appointment for technicians to come out. This time mom dealt with them and by the time I got home the cable was fixed. But for how long? I've since returned home to Maryland and have not spoken to my folks so I don't know if they are still ok, or if the cable is acting up again.