Thursday, January 31, 2008

What IF?

What if connections were being formed between people all over the world? What if women who could not travel half-way around the world could meet each other, share their thoughts, their family concerns, their lives? What if ideas and gifts and friendships could flow across oceans and borders as easily as the rays of the sun? What if people of different countries and languages could find out they have more in common than in difference?

"What IF" is happening. The Internet has enabled communication between people with common interests such as literature and work, vocation and hobbies, and the last barrier - language, will come down shortly as translator programs are perfected and computers become more powerful. Meanwhile, people who have learned more than one language are bridging the gap even now.

Thank you Angela, for bridging the gap by writing your blog in English too, for sharing friendships at GoodReads, for reaching out with kindness, and for the hand-made jewelry. It is a joy to know you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My new old house

Our house was built in 1983, a time of rising interest rates and builder's nightmares. Two years later, as rates began to fall, we bought the house with a V.A. mortgage. Twenty-two years later, we have replaced the roof; painted the exterior for a fourth time; replaced the carpeting; replaced over half the fencing that GoldieBear installed all those years ago; turned a partially enclosed patio into an exercise room; upgraded the electrical panel and wiring; refurbished the solar plumbing; had a kitchen fire and replaced the microwave and stove hood; replaced the dishwasher.

This week it was time for the kitchen plumbing - the garbage disposal and the pipes under the sink. New homes, like cars, have a certain length of time when we may enjoy them without doing much maintenance and repair - and then one day, it is time to refurbish, repair or replace so many things that it seems like a good solution to just replace the whole thing with a newer model.

But we have lived here for twenty-two years, and are quite fond of our place -- it is home. It is familiar, and dear to us. So there is a schedule for the remaining work: replace the garage door opener, repaint the interior; install the back-flow device on the watering system; replace and insulate the hot water pipes; refinish the aggregate floors and replace the window coverings.

Keeping a house, instead of just trading it in for a newer model, takes time and effort. Sort of like keeping a spouse after a few decades -- keep investing in the relationship -- repair, refurbish and replace old habits and patterns with ways that work better; sometimes hire a trained professional to help with the project. It is worth it in the long run, to have a marriage that is dear, a familiar friend that our heart's home.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Newly Published - People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

ISBN: 978-0-670-01821-5
The Penguin Group; January 1, 2008

Inspired by her experiences as a journalist in Sarajevo, Geraldine Brooks breathes life into the history of a rare illustrated Hebrew manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah.

People of the Book spans centuries and continents to follow the guardians of the Haggadah as they flee war and persecution, often with little but the clothes on their back and their precious artifact. Muslims, Catholics, Jews and atheists take their turns defending the art, literature and culture encompassed in the small, fragile volume.

The religions that set The People of the Book apart have their common roots in the pictures and stories in the Haggadah. Every event in the novel resonates with our news today, as cultural treasures, individuals and ethnic groups are being destroyed by the same ancient divisions and hatreds, and the same greed for power and wealth that endangered the book and its keepers over hundreds of years.

A story of manuscript conservation and scientific inquiry which could easily be dry and boring vibrates with energy and life in this unforgettable novel. The people of the book are fascinating characters living in interesting times and their lives are relevant to ours, their choices and decisions speak to the greatest issues of our times.

Hail and Rain

Cold, hail and rain this morning, and a little water ski boat pulling away for the last time from the driveway. We waved good-by as a new and younger family took the boat home, and we were left with an empty place in the garage, but happy memories in our hearts.

Southern fried chicken, frosted brownies, long summer days and Beach Boy tunes on the tape player; teenagers braving the cold water to ski around the lake; oops - red flag, skier down, turn the boat. Friends and cousins, picnics and suntan lotion, sun-burned noses and sand buckets.

Life goes fast: catch a wave.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cruising the Caves

I've been cruising through writer caves over at Paige's, thanks to a link from Somewhere Silver. My writer cave was moved from a room with a door, to a corner of the family room this week, when I surrendered our son's bedroom as he returned home from college. The mother in me rejoiced, but my Muse left the scene sobbing that she just couldn't possibly work anymore. I told her that tears would get her nowhere, and then offered her some bamboo. (Panda muses are famously fond of bamboo, particularly the chocolate variety.)

After viewing dozens of pictures of writer's lairs, it seems to me that the only equipment a writer must have is a creative mind. Of course, a laptop or a computer is a help, but after that, a writer's cave can be pink or punk, elegant or haphazard, cluttered or streamlined, pink, blue, white, yellow, red or rainbow -- what matters is the writer inside the cave and the mind inside the writer.

A book that I'm finding especially helpful in writing my family history, and in particular my mother's biography, is Organizing & Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, by Katherine Scott Sturdevant. Her ideas are solid and practical and I'm applying them to things - like how to organize and present the letters my parents sent each other in WWII. There are only twenty-three pages about preserving and using photographs, out of a 238 page book, so it is important to note: Sturdevant's focus is on documents - diaries, letters, recipe books, baby books, scrap books, autograph albums, account books, etc. and how to extract meaningful information from them.

I would like to find a good book on 'Organizing and Preserving Your Family Photographs' too. Scanners, digital cameras and software to manipulate photographs have improved and changed so dramatically that the most recent book I could find is outdated, although only five years old.

Sturdevant also wrote Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History, but it has become so rare that most copies go for over $50. Thankfully, the Portland Library still has a copy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

John Scalzi

Science Fiction writers who examine nanotechnology, biotechnology, aging, war, xenophobia, and the social implications of enhancing the human genome are among my favorites. John Scalzi just shot straight to the top of my list by hitting on all the chords at once!

Old Man's War was a Hugo Award finalist in 2005.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Running Away

See how many ways to run? Running away in books, running away in mindless computer games, sugar highs and old movies, so many ways to run away.

When life is unbearable, what is your preferred escape? Intense music and furious dancing? Exercise until you drop? Compulsive chatter?

Some escapes are more constructive than others. What's yours?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

NEW IN PAPERBACK - Cherryh's "Deliverer"

Better and better and even more so, Cherryh just keeps on delivering the goods with her Foreigner saga. The ninth book - Deliverer, was just released in the paperback version on January 2nd. Deliverer furthers the story of Bren, a diplomat-linguist of the highest order. In fact, he has been endowed with the title "Lord of the Heavens", although in this story, he is entirely planet-bound.

The Foreigner series examines the impact of human space technology on a planet which had an eighteenth-century society, and very alien responses to social groups. There are also the insights into a human's responses to this alien society, and not just any adventurer, but a human trained and educated to be the interpreter of humans to aliens and vice versa.

Think of it as Star Wars meets Jane Austin. The technology of space-faring humans threatens the stability of a highly structured, formal alien society, while humans simultaneously fail to comprehend the subtleties of that society, and its exceedingly complex tangle of interwoven loyalties. All this gives the writer marvelous opportunities for creating conflict, and raising the stakes.

Like the rest of the series, Deliverer has a complete plot-line which can stand on its own, but reading from the beginning of the saga will enhance the enjoyment.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Goose Bumps

I just watched a trailer for Amazing Grace, and even though I saw the entire movie just two nights ago, that eighty second trailer gave me goose bumps. I cannot do this movie justice by describing it here - please follow the link to see the trailer and some great reviews.

We ushered in the New Year watching The Ultimate Gift, a movie the whole family can enjoy. It was recommended by a movie buff who knows our tastes, and she was so right. I try to avoid movies starring precocious child actresses, but I will follow the career of the unusual Abigail Breslin, who stole the show from such seasoned actors as James Garner and Bill Cobbs. We will add it to our permanent collection. It reminded me of another all time family favorite - Pay it Forward, starring Kevin spacey and Helen Hunt.