Selasa, 25 Mei 2010

Jim the Boy

Tommy called me from school yesterday with a stomach ache, wondering if I could come get him. That's a rare call -- I don't think I've gotten one this year -- and I went right away. He never actually got sick, but he felt miserable enough that all he wanted to do was lie in bed and listen to me read. I was happy to do that, and it was a treat to have him home and have that time to read. We started Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley. It's about a boy in rural North Carolina in the first half of the 20th Century. The boy's father died a week before he was born, and he is being raised by his mother and her three brothers (one a farmer, one a cotton gin operator, and one a storekeeper...though they all help with the farm work). It's also about a time and a world that is not entirely gone, but is certainly more than endangered. It's a time and a world that I want Tommy to carry somewhere inside him, and I think he does, and I think he will. He loves the book, and I don't think he'd love it if he didn't already have some of that world in him.

This morning I read an op-ed piece by David Brooks in The New York Times. Midway through, there is this: "Burke, a participant in the British Enlightenment, had a different vision of change. He believed that each generation is a small part of a long chain of history. We serve as trustees for the wisdom of the ages and are obliged to pass it down..." Yes. And Tommy is getting some of that wisdom from Tony Earley and Jim the Boy.

Sabtu, 22 Mei 2010

A Modest Proposal

I love libraries. I think I’ve made that clear in previous posts. I love libraries in general and I love, specifically, those libraries that feel like home to me. I love the East Lansing Public Library, and I love the people who work there: a fantastic staff of children’s librarians who are kind, patient, generous, and funny; several friendly, approachable reference librarians who are smart and curious and helpful; and all of the people who greet me with smiles when I walk in, who help me check-out my selections when I am ready to leave, and who accept my payments for overdue books with grace and diplomacy and never make me feel embarrassed for my irresponsibility.

I don’t, generally, feel too bad about giving money to the library. It goes to a good cause! I’m still getting a tremendous value! (I have, on several occasions, checked out my maximum of 30 books; and librarians have, on several occasions, purchased books they did not have when I requested them.) But sometimes I discover a New Release Book, which can only, legally, be checked out for two weeks. And sometimes two weeks is not long enough with something you love. And sometimes I keep things longer than I am supposed to, and then it becomes rather more like renting books than borrowing books. So it is, or so it will soon be, with John McPhee’s Silk Parachute. I’m a huge McPhee fan. I own at least one copy of most of his books, and in some cases I have duplicates so I can loan them out without fear. When I saw Silk Parachute on the New Release Shelf I had to have it, which is to say I had to borrow it, which is to say I am now renting it. It is overdue, and I really need to get it turned in and settle up my account. But this time I’m battling a new sort of agitation and guilt. By borrowing (renting) this book from the library, I’ve had a chance to read it and am now less inclined to purchase it. When I pay my fines, I will be paying, in part, for the pleasure of reading the book, and I feel as though some of that should go to the author. I know: the library purchased his book. They can collect the overdue fines. BUT… shouldn’t authors of Books Too Good to Return on Time get a cut too? What a fantastic poster that would make: 20 Percent Of All Overdue Fines Go Directly To The Author! It could add up…

Jumat, 21 Mei 2010

Quiet, Please

On Tuesday, this article appeared in The New York Times. It is titled "Meditations on Noise," and subtitled, "Three Explorations of a Cacophonous World." In it, Dwight Garner reviews three books about silence and noise. I read it with some interest because, as Garner writes, "noise is among the thorniest class issues of our time." True.

For years, I have (silently) resented the intrusion of noise in our neighborhood. I notice it most in the summer, when the windows are open and when long days of heat and languor are frequently disrupted by an invasion of industrial-size lawn mowers and weed whackers. Our lots are small in this neighborhood, and yet all day trucks pull in and out, pulling trailers with equipment designed for big places. There is no efficiency in this outsourcing: people hire all different landscaping companies to perform this work, which means the jobs are spread out not just throughout the day, but throughout each week. I keep thinking it would be great if those who use these services could somehow organize them, or organize themselves, so that people on one street contracted with one company. In this scenario, one designated bid-winning company could come out on one day of the week and consolidate those jobs into one afternoon. It would seem that one extended but consolidated time of sonic disruption would be less annoying than many.

Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that many of those who use landscaping crews are not home when these crews show up. The noise isn't affecting them. And it's not just the big mowers that are noisy. Any two-cycle engine is. Add to this the reality that when people are busy, they mow when it is convenient for them...Sunday mornings and weekend evenings. The city's noise ordinance prohibits "construction noises" on Sundays, and there is some mention of engine exhaust, but two-cycle engines are not specifically addressed. It surprises me, a bit, to wish this, but in the (growing) absence of neighborly consideration, I think it would help to impose some formal regulations on the use of two-cycle engines. As in, here are the hours of the day during which a two-cycle engine can be operated. If you operate a two-cycle engine outside of these hours, you may be fined. "Construction noises" are limited to the hours between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Fair enough: when you're getting a new roof and you've got one sunny day to get it on, you need a crew to start early and finish late. But I don't want to hear a lawn mower at 7:30 a.m. when I'm drinking coffee, and I don't want to hear a lawn mower at 6:30 p.m. when I'm eating dinner, and I don't want to hear a lawn mower every 45 minutes throughout the day.

I know this is an awfully grumpy post. It just seems that, come summertime, it ought to be quiet enough to hear what I like to think are the true sounds of the neighborhood: a toddler crying a few houses down, somebody playing a piano, cicadas, birds, silverware clinking on a patio at dinnertime.

Moon Pie and Sunshine

Today is a lovely rainy day, but we've had some real sun too. I've weeded and planted and run, and now it's a good morning to spend at the computer, drinking coffee. Coffee, though, is making me want something more than toast, and I can't stop thinking about Zingerman's Moon Pie, which I finally tried on Wednesday. I see them every time I go to the Co-op, but I usually buy something on the savory spectrum...focaccia with cheese and tomatoes. Wednesday I bought a moon pie, which I brought home and ate in the sunshine. Two days later, I'm still thinking about cake and butter cream dipped in dark chocolate. I even wrote a poem about the moon.

Kamis, 20 Mei 2010

Dragonet Pattern

Have you ever wanted your own pet dragon? Well, generally they're a bit big to fit in the house, so what you need is a Dragonet, a small or young dragon. I've finally finished my latest pattern, so now you can crochet yourself a Dragonet, a fantastical friend who will hang around your home.

Small for a dragon, but pretty big for an amigurumi - they are about 17.5" long and have a wingspan of 22". Of course, if you're a Lego person, they are just the right size for a ride, as one of my pattern testers discovered:

I'm very happy, after a certain amount of experimentation, with the wings. I managed to make them fairly stiff without using any wire or anything else apart from crochet and stuffing. I also tried out different eyes - they can be made with either safety eyes (ones with a slit rather than a round pupil look best, I think) or with round beads - the red Dragonet has clear glass ones.

If you want to make your own Dragonet, the pattern is for sale in my Etsy shop: