Monday, June 30, 2008

When Paying Tribute, . . . Be Sure to Check Your Currency

In follow-up to my George Carlin post of the other day, I thought I'd share this cartoon with you (seeing as Carlin and I are cut from the same cloth when it comes to religion . . . and our lack thereof).

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere . . .

I grew up in a house located one block from the creek in one direction and one block from the beach in another. On the way to that beach was my grandparents' and aunt and uncle's houses. So, I spent the majority of my childhood summers playing Marco Polo and making a tide pool in my aunt and uncle's pool with my cousins; at the beach catching baby crabs and swimming; eating my weight in lobster and steamed or fried clams or mussels in my grandparents' backyard screen house overlooking the creek; or out on my grandfather's boat fishing. (To the left here, you can see my grandfather, catch in hand. To the right, you can see me providing perspective for my father's catch.) All this is to say that at a very early age, I developed a deep love and appreciation for the water . . . and a neat set of flipper-sized feet. (Coincidence? I think not.).

That love of the water has stayed with me. Pictured here to the left, you see me as a young adult rope-swinging Jane-of-the-jungle-style into a river. And, to the right, that's me taking a surfing lesson in California. Nowadays, my seafood addiction leans more toward the healthier side (I opt to eat my fish raw most often instead of battered in tasty transfats), but it remains an addiction nonetheless. And I'm still utterly incapable of living somewhere landlocked, the thought provoking genuine feelings of claustrophobia - I may have moved thousands of miles away from where I grew up, but it's okay because I'm still near an ocean.

After my husband and I eloped (see us to the left seaside in Big Sur last October), we decided to have little post-wedding parties - one in California, where we presently live; one in Ohio, where he's from; and one in Massachusetts, where I'm from. Matt got to choose what we would do for the Ohio party, we compromised on the California party, and I got to choose what we'll do in Mass. Given what I've stated above, it should be no surprise to find out that I've opted for a clam bake (catered by Woodman's of Essex). When my grandfather passed away, we pretty much stopped having family get-togethers in my grandparents' backyard - my grandmother just couldn't bear it - so it's been a really long time since the whole family has gotten together to do something like this. I know we can't recreate the past, but I'm still really looking forward to doing this with and for my family and close friends.

Since I'm on the subject of water, I thought I'd also mention that I watched a National Geographic special the other night called "Most Dangerous Catch." It's one in a series they're calling "Strange Days on Planet Earth," hosted by Ed Norton. In it, they discuss and show how overfishing and improper waste disposal are affecting the delicate ecosystem of the ocean. They do a nice job of connecting all the players involved in the ripple effect. In the end, I was left wishing eating seafood wasn't so hard-wired into my sense of self, wishing again that I were strong enough to go vegetarian. (Yes, I'm starting to sound like a broken record.) I'm still not ruling it out; it may happen. Alas, for the time being, it's going to have to wait until at least after my party in Mass later this summer. The caterer is set and there's really nothing I can do to get that money back, . . . and I've been craving steamed clams and lobster for, oh, about a year now. What I will do from now on, though, as suggested by the NG special, is only buy fish that has been approved by the Marine Stewardship Council. If you're a seafood lover, I would encourage you to consider doing the same.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What a Pain in the Neck. No, Really.

Pain. The kind of searing, sudden pain that makes you wince and sweat a little bit. That's what hit me yesterday afternoon when a nagging ache in my upper back/neck area turned wrong. Very very wrong. The kind of pain that makes a hypochondriac like myself worry that she's doing permanent spinal cord damage just by turning her head too quickly. This isn't something new, but it's something I haven't encountered for several months now and had all but forgotten could be a problem. How quickly the memory returns with the recurring pain though.

The first time my back bothered me like this a couple of years ago, I went to a chiropractor on the recommendation of a few friends at work. Won't do that ever again. Too much forced popping and cracking. I gained my range of motion back but felt weak and damaged for days afterward. The second time it happened, I went to a physical therapist who was able to realign my back with gentle massage, electroconvulsive charges attached to my muscles, and isometric exercises. That was all well and good, but my health insurance which was supposed to cover the costs . . . didn't. Eight months after leaving the company that provided said insurance and I'm still fighting them over it.

So, this time around, I'm just taking it easy, spending a lot of time lying flat on my back on the floor, icing, taking ibuprofen, and wearing a neck brace (which has me feeling much like Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles). Has kind of put a damper on the weekend because we were supposed to go to a party tonight and I'm just not up to it. If things aren't better tomorrow, it means missing out on my first trip to the beach this summer too. And worst of all, horror or horrors, it means less time sitting at the computer indulging in the Internet. And, with that . . . I will bid you adeiu until I'm feeeling better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Love Words: Circa

Usually, this recurring post "I Love Words" is about a word I fancy for one reason or another. Occasionally, though, I'll be talking about other word-related issues. For instance, since I'm smitten with words, I also abhor their misuse and abuse. Not that I'm the perfect grammarian; I admit I'm not. (What? I never said I wasn't a hypocrit?!)

Today, . . . I have a bone to pick.

I apologize that this picture to the left here is a little bit blurry, but it's the best one of this storefront in the Port Columbus International Airport that I could find. Allow me to tell you what it says: "Heritage Booksellers, Circa 1996." Yes, "circa 1996." Now I realize, technically, that circa can be used to mean "at" or "in," but the most common usage, I think everyone would agree, is "around," and people use it most often with a date to state a time period because they're not quite certain of the actual date (i.e., usually when something was such a long time ago, there really aren't records to confirm an exact date). So, you usually see it as "circa [a nice round #, e.g., 500BC]." My point in all this? I think Heritage Booksellers can probably confirm with surety that they officially opened their doors for business in 1996 and should have used a phrase like "est." (established) in lieu of "circa."

Ok, phew! One less nit to pick this week. If you're a grammar nitpick yourself, you might enjoy checking out the various "I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar" groups on Facebook. They post some hilarious photos and observations of occurrences of poor grammar found "out in the field." You can comment on what's posted and post pieces yourself. Conversely, if grammar is your nemesis and you're more apt to join a group on Facebook called "I judge you when you judge me when I use poor grammar" (actually a group), you might want to check out Grammar Girl's podcasts or newsletter.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Life Intersects: Pleasure Reading, Work, and Family Ties

Last month, I picked up a copy of Lush Life in hardcover (oh how I love hardcovers). I don't typically read crime novels, but I heard the author Richard Price being interviewed on NPR and became intrigued. He is also the author of the book Clockers, the screenplays Sea of Love, The Color of Money, and Ransom, and several episodes of the tv show "The Wire." I've never seen "The Wire" but I understand it's received a lot of critical acclaim. What those critics give him a lot of credit for, with the tv series and Lush Life, is getting the small-time crime scene and characters of NY right. I grew up in Revere, MA, which is considerably closer to being what you would call "the 'hood" than someplace you would confuse with Bel Air, and I would say I agree with the critics. The thug dialog and mentality are indeed very much believable. The story line is unique (at least to me, again, not having read many crime novels to-date) and compelling, for the most part. My only complaint would be that, sometimes, Price tries a little too hard - in some sections, sentences are just jam-packed with the "lingo," as if he was trying to impress his readers with his "street cred." (We get it, Price - You legit, bra. The real deal.)

Reading Lush Life was also interesting for me for other reasons. As a freelance editor, I work on manuscripts on a regular basis, and during the time I was reading Price's book, I was also working on a chapter for a forensic and legal psychology textbook that deals with interrogations and confessions. At night, I would be reading about detectives Matty Clark and Yolanda Bello playing good cop/bad cop in Price's book, and, during the day, I was reading in the textbook manuscript about how that particular technique can lead to false confessions. Very interesting stuff. I wish I could take credit for planning this reading pairing as a continuing education lesson for myself, but it was all just serendipity.

I myself have never done anything more to break the law than exceed the speed limit while driving on the highway (who hasn't?). I guess you could say I'm a pretty straight-laced kind of girl - which makes it all the more shocking to people when they find out I have personal connections to people who have lead lives of crime. (Another likely reason that reading Lush Life was interesting for me.) There was the ex-boyfriend who went to prison for selling cocaine . . . with his father. We had long since broken up by the time he was taking part in this sort of illegal activity, but still. Closer to home, though, there was my uncle who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted armed robbery because his co-defendant shot and killed a police officer. A source of serious shame when I was younger, . . . but here I am writing about it today. Because? Well, because I have a different perspective on things now that I'm an adult.

Now that I'm an adult, I am more familiar with prison reform and rehabilitation issues, I know more about my uncle's upbringing, and I also have a degree in psychology and the experience of 10 years working in the psychology textbook publishing industry. This all combines to give me a different lens through which to view my uncle's situation. This isn't to say I think that what he did was okay. I still think it's a tragedy that a police officer died as a result of something in which my uncle was involved. He can never undo what was done that day; that family will never get their father/son/husband/nephew/uncle back. No amount of sincere apologies (and he is deeply sorry), even if genuinely accepted, will diminish what was done. The best my uncle can do is to try to prevent things like that from ever happening again. A tall task, but one to which I am happy to say he is fully committed. Since being released from prison five years ago, my uncle has been very active with the American Friends Service Committee, speaking often about issues of prison reform and prisoner rehabilitation. In fact, he recently helped Jamie Bissonette write the book When the Prisoners Ran Walpole: A True Story in the Movement for Prison Abolishment, for which he also wrote the epilogue. I'm glad to see him do something positive like this (although I haven't quite finished reading it yet myself). With a degree in sociology (which he earned while in prison), he tends to focus on the social structures and institutions in his approach to understanding punishment, reform, and rehabilitation. Given my psychology background, I'd love to some day help him make better sense of his personal story (involving his father's abandonment of the family, growing up in tough neighborhoods, and beginning his life of degeneracy in the criminal breeding grounds of boys' reform schools). Given that I also have a degree in English, perhaps that too will take the shape of a book.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Blogging Community

So, I’m new to this blogging thing, but really enjoying it. Well, technically, I guess I started a blog with my husband (my boyfriend at the time) back in 2004 to journal our restaurant experiences in Pasadena (we called it . . . PasaDiner. Yes, how clever.). But we never really wrote much and ended up abandoning it altogether when we moved out to Ventura County. (Although I did add a couple of my entries from that blog to this one, so you can check them out here if you like.)

While, I’ve been new to blog writing, I’m not new to blog reading. Over the past couple of years, I’ve stumbled across quite a few good ones, some of which I’m totally addicted to reading on a daily basis now (see the list in my sidebar to the right). One of those is a blog I encouraged an author of mine to create back when I was an acquisitions editor for a textbook publisher. (Without me there to prod him, however, I do fear that his blog may go the way of my PasaDiner blog . . . .)

Blogs come in so many flavors – personal, professional, topic-specific – but there does seem to be at least one unifying element to each and every one of them – they are created for sharing and connecting with other people. I haven’t quite figured out what I want my blog to be yet, but I do hope it connects with people. I imagine that group of people will be comprised primarily of my friends and family, but, if that generates some organic growth, I say the more the merrier! In the meantime, I’m also looking into getting involved with some blog communities. For instance, recently, I discovered BlogHer, an online blogging community for women who blog.

For my female reader friends who also blog, here’s info from BlogHer’s “about” page:

“Founded in February 2005 as a labor of love by three bloggers, BlogHer's mission is to create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. Today, BlogHer provides the number-one community for and guide to blogs by women, via annual conferences, a Web network, and an advertising network of more than 1,400 qualified, contextually targeted blog affiliates. BlogHer Inc. is majority-owned by three co-founders and has backing from Venrock.”

I won't likely make it this year, but, for anyone interested, they’re also having their annual conference in downtown San Francisco July 18-20:

The Westin St. Francis Hotel
Union Square
335 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 397-7000

They offer opportunities to carpool and different, reasonable pricing packages, including student pricing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On Poetry: Langston Hughes

In my last entry, I mentioned a dream deferred, which of course got me to thinking about the Langston Hughes poem by the same name, so I thought I’d share for anyone unfamiliar with it:

“Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Going in the Same Direction on a Different Bus

Yes, I’m disappointed there won’t be a woman president in the White House in 2008, but I’ll get over it – because that is a dreamed deferred, not abandoned. I was on a bus that didn’t take me all the way to my destination. Now, I will spend no time sulking or wavering; I will get on a new bus going in the same direction and support Barrack Obama 100%, not choosing him as a consolation prize candidate but as someone I can truly feel passionate about and who I will be proud to call President. As a democrat, I feel extremely lucky this election cycle to have had so many outstanding democratic candidates from which to choose, but I’m happier now to have a united democratic party and one candidate to stand behind. This is the year, people. This is the year!