Archive for April, 2010

Just Another Thursday Night

April 29, 2010 @ 7:45 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Links

Sent at 8:19 PM on Thursday

me: “It’s often very hard to measure the thing that you’re hoping for. You don’t actually care about how calories you eat; you care about how much weight you’re going to gain from the calories you eat. But as soon as we go, oh, well, calories are a pretty good proxy for weight gain, we start to come up with these foods that are incredibly unhealthy but nevertheless have very few calories in them. In the same way, Google doesn’t really care about inbound links because inbound links are good per se; Google cares about inbound links because inbound links are a good proxy for “someone likes this page; someone thinks this page is a useful place to be, is a good place to be.” But as soon as Google starts counting that, people start finding ways to make links that don’t actually serve as a proxy for that conclusion at all.”

Sent at 8:25 PM on Thursday

Scott: where’s that from?

me: Cory Doctorow, in an interview w/ a Duke prof who is using his book Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom in a utopias course.

me: You should read that, btw

me: Is the baby in the dishwasher?

Scott: no.

me: Whew.


(Here’s the link to the Doctorow interview. I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom last year; blogged about it here.)

Know Thyself

April 29, 2010 @ 7:36 am | Filed under: Geek

Thanks to Girl Detective’s handy chart, I know at last that I am a geek, not a nerd. At least, I don’t think I am socially inept. Not often, at any rate. OK, maybe sometimes. Like the famous family story of the first time I met Scott’s older sister. When Scott and I started dating, Susan was living in Somalia, so I was hearing about her for a good year before our paths crossed. Susan is seriously brilliant, beautiful, poised, and accomplished, and I was just this awkward college student with little-girl looks and bitten nails. I knew how much Scott respected his sister and felt somewhat intimidated about making a good impression.

Shortly after Susan returned from Africa, a friend’s wedding drew the family together. I knew I would be meeting Susan for the first time. When we arrived at the church, Scott dropped me at the front entrance and went to park the car. I entered the foyer and recognized a knot of women chatting quietly in one corner: Scott’s mother, two of his sisters-in-law, and—I knew her from photos—Susan. As I crossed the foyer I silently rehearsed what to say: Hi, Susan, I’m Lissa. Hi Susan, I’m Lissa. But just as I reached the group, Susan put out her hand and said warmly, “Hi, Lissa!”

Completely thrown off my mental script, I blurted, “Hi! I’m Susan!”

Perhaps we should go with 70% geek, 30% dork. Intelligence and social (in)eptitude may be fluctuating variables, but I think it’s pretty safe to say obsession is the constant.

Swoon with me…

April 28, 2010 @ 9:55 am | Filed under: Betsy-Tacy, Books

…over these gorgeous covers for the new reissues of the Maud Hart Lovelace Deep Valley Books!

These lovely reissues of Emily of Deep Valley (with a new foreword by Mitali Perkins) and Carney’s House Party / Winona’s Pony Cart (foreword by yours truly) will arrive in bookstores on October 12th.

I am counting the days!

Posts I’ve written about Maud’s wonderful books, because I love them with a mad passion:

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
Heaven to Betsy
Emily of Deep Valley, my hero
The famous Cat Duet

Birdwatcher

April 28, 2010 @ 6:26 am | Filed under: Baby, Huck, Photos

IMG_6967

Look! For once it’s not a bee…

April 27, 2010 @ 3:16 pm | Filed under: Nature Study, Photos

But what the heck IS it??

It flew over the fence, stopped for a brief sip, and zoomed off again. In this picture it has a kind of preying mantis shape, doesn’t it? Except for those copper-colored wings. Could those curly antennae be any cuter?

UPDATE: Dude!!! Tracy identified this beastie in the comments. It seems we have ourselves a (gulp) tarantula hawk wasp.

Tarantula hawk wasps are so named because they utilize live tarantulas as food for their growing young. Adult tarantula hawks are not carnivorous, but drink nectar just as honey bees do. But when a female tarantula hawk is ready to lay an egg, she must find a tarantula, sting it (with one of the most potent stings of any North American insect) and drag the paralyzed spider to its burrow, as shown in this photograph. The wasp will then lay a single egg on the spider, which will soon hatch into a maggot-like larva. The larva will feed on the still-living, but paralyzed tarantula for about a month. The adult wasp will emerge from the burrow the following season. Tarantula hawks may look intimidating, but are generally mild-mannered towards humans. Nonetheless, one should never attempt to pick up or molest a tarantula hawk as the sting is extraordinarily painful!

From the San Dieguito River Park website; thanks for that very helpful link, Tracy!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shudder.

I Know, I Know…

April 27, 2010 @ 10:48 am | Filed under: Nature Study, Photos

…all my photos look the same.

Same salvia, same bees, same blur.

Can’t be helped. I am powerless to resist those blues, those greens, those coppery wings, this pointed face buried in blossom.

You understand, don’t you?

(You’re just lucky I’m not into spiders.)

Martha & Charlotte Books in Studeo Giveaway

April 26, 2010 @ 6:20 pm | Filed under: Links

Love2LearnMom, who is one of my dear online-first-then-real-life friends, is celebrating five years of blogging at Studeo with a giant giveaway. Among the gifts she is offering in a drawing for commenters are three copies of my books: one of The Far Side of the Loch and two of Across the Puddingstone Dam. How nice is that? Hurry on over and throw your name in the ring for those or other nifty prizes, including a copy of a book that made me cry like a baby not too long ago.

Happy Anniversary, Studeo!

Comments are off

Whew

April 22, 2010 @ 7:12 pm | Filed under: Family

Hands tired! So instead of a post, a hasty recap of the day:

—Dawned gray, cold, rainy. Scott picked a playlist of songs about rain, but then the sun peeked out just as Karen Carpenter’s spirits began to sink. It was like that all day. Sun, rain, sun, rain.

—Set bread to rise. A basic white loaf, today. Made darn good paninis later.

—Some bookish time with the girls, while baby napped and littles played. Some days this works a treat, other days there’s too much hubbub and the older kids wind up reading on their own, or doing other things. Both ways are good.

—So we read some Plutarch. It has been a while. Jane and I really enjoyed wrestling with Dryden’s prose to get to Brutus last year. I thought Rose and Bean might be ready. Rose was skeptical at first, but the opening comparison between Pompey and her beloved Hercules reeled her right in.

Me, reading: “The people of Rome seem to have entertained for Pompey from his childhood the same affection that Prometheus, in the tragedy of Aeschylus, expresses for Hercules, speaking of him as the author of his deliverance, in these words:

‘Ah cruel Sire! how dear thy son to me!
The generous offspring of my enemy!’

Rose, excitedly: “I know what that’s saying! Cruel sire means Zeus, he was cruel to Prometheus, but his offspring—Hercules—set Prometheus free.”

And so it went from there. One line in particular generated a fair amount of discussion:

“When he gave, it was without assumption.”

How often, we pondered, do we give without assuming there will be something in return? A reciprocal favor, gratitude, praise, a reward of some kind? We thought about people we know who, like Pompey, “give without assumption.” Rose named our next-door neighbor, who sometimes mows our lawn just because he’s mowing his own, and shrugs off our thanks.

—But I was going to try to keep this recap brief.

—ASL practice. I’m determined to step this back up.

—We’ve been reading bits of Wordsworth lately. Today I happened upon “The Solitary Reaper,” with a quote above it from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal about seeing reapers working in small groups or even alone, on her tour with William through Scotland in 1803. Dorothy’s journal was an important research source for me during the writing of the Martha books, as I’ve mentioned before. (Terrible formatting of the poem in that post; sorry; I’ll try to fix it tomorrow.) Well, today we talked about how a line in a travel book (see the link above) and the sight of the reapers sparked the idea for Wordsworth’s poem, and Rose said it was sparking a story idea for her, and I felt exactly the same way. The girl “singing at her work/ and o’er the sickle bending,” the poet tramping past, the song lingering in his mind “long after it was heard no more…”

—But again with the fearful lack of brevity.

—What else? Oh yes, Jean Redpath—I wanted some old Scottish airs after that poem. “I’ll Walk Beside You” is one of my favorites. The girls thought Jean Redpath sounds like “the lady at church, not a real singer.” (Which: ouch, poor lady at church.) We YouTubed it, listened to four or five versions. The nicest was three ladies at church (!), at a funeral, singing in harmony. I can’t be bothered to look it up again now, sorry.

—I cleaned out the freezer and we had to test some foods for freezer burn. “Some foods” is a euphemism for Toaster Strudel.

—The mail came; Wonderboy brings it in, a job he takes most seriously. Today’s pile included the kids’ nature magazines, and there was a picture of a mama stinkbug guarding her hideous pale army of offspring, so that caused quite a sensation. You understand, I’m sure.

—And then the bread was out of the oven (it went into the oven, somewhere up there), and the baby was awake, and people ate lunch, and older children scattered to do older-children things, and I did little-children things with little children. Rilla painted. Wonderboy needed to hear The Berenstain Bears and The Spooky Old Tree again, and who can blame him? It’s a perfect picture book, and I’ll go to the mat saying so.

—Afternoon. Rose made chocolate chip cookies, with Rilla and Wonderboy’s help. Now, that is a very casual statement but it’s something I rather marvel at. I am really not gifted at baking with small children. Or, let’s face it, without them. But especially with them. I fuss and hover. Rose—at this activity specifically and uniquely—is calm, collected, a veritable Mary Poppins.

—So they made cookies, and I ate a lot of the dough, and there was this little bitty someone is wrong on the internet thing happening in Twitterland, and, well, the afternoon was quite lively.

—And the cookies were really, really good.

—And the milk.

—And I read Inside, Outside, Upside Down to Wonderboy (again, again, again), and that too is a word-perfect picture book, however painful the later Berenstain Bears books may be.

—Later, there was a lot of Wii, and tidying up and dinner and things. And I think Rose was a governess, a very strict one, I gather? At any rate Rilla was saying “ma’am” a lot. Which is probably what put Mary Poppins in my head a minute ago.

—But now my hands are really tired, and Scott and Jane are waiting for me so we can watch TV and eat up all the rest of the cookies.

—The End.

—No, wait! I forgot about Journey North! We pinpointed the location of our Mystery City, and Rose was terribly pleased because it is known as the City of Cats. And we learned that Nebraska has a unicameral state legislature, and what that means.

—And I was wrong last night; it was only Scott waiting for me, not Jane, and we didn’t eat cookies. The baby came down with a fever and was tossy and turny all the rest of the evening, and all night. And now it’s morning, so instead of The End, I will finish with:

—The Beginning.

Snippets

April 19, 2010 @ 6:01 am | Filed under: Books, Family, Snippets

I have had this post sitting open on my screen all week. What kind of week is it when you can’t even get a snippets post written?

And yet it’s not that we’ve been so terribly busy. Just regular busy.

It’s rainy here and that throws me off in every way. I’m not complaining, mind you—we need the rain. It’s San Diego; we always need the rain.

Out there in the wet backyard, the salvia has erupted into bloom. And suddenly the sunflowers are fencetop-high and fat-budded. The cilantro went and flowered on me again. I can’t be annoyed—I love those flat, cascading planes of white blossom. Little gleaming golden flies love them too, tiny lace-winged things so shiny they could be crafted of metal. Pollinating nanobots? Suppose it comes to that someday!

I got to slip out on Tuesday night and meet Scott and everyone he works with for a screening of The Losers, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The film is based on comics by our pals Andy Diggle and Jock, whom we met in Barcelona two years ago this week. Jock’s got art all through the film: very cool.

It rained most of that week in Barcelona, too. Good art museum weather. But I think today we’ll not venture forth—anywhere. Feels like more of a popcorn-and-movies day. Jane and I are halfway through The Importance of Being Earnest (thank you, Wii-streaming Netflix). The littles are on a My Neighbor Totoro kick—have I mentioned before that I think that is the most perfect children’s movie ever made? Because that’s what I think. We were given a copy on video when Jane was stuck in the hospital for months, around age two. I bet I’ve watched it over a hundred times. (Stuck in the hospital for months.) It’s a perfect movie.

I am looking forward to reading The Day I Became an Autodidact—Jane chuckled all the way through it. But I’ve promised her to read The Perilous Gard first—another Elizabeth Marie Pope novel. An easy promise to keep; you know how much I loved The Sherwood Ring.

I’m also deep into, and enjoying tremendously, Crow Planet, which arrived in a happy bundle with Caw of the Wild and In the Company of Crows and Ravens, thanks to the generosity of a very kind friend and crow lover. Thank you so much, You-Know-Who-You-Are. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Speaking of delightful surprises, how nice is this? Love. That. Ramona.