Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Carving Grows on Us

I guess we all know that pumpkin carving and Halloween decorating is turning into a veritable art form. I just think this effort by a neighbor down the shore a bit deserves exposure beyond those of us who drive by!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Highwood Seeks World Record!

For several days, I've been watching as more and more carved pumpkins have shown up on racks in the nearby town center. I've never seen anything quite like this!

Of course a web search solved the mystery of the pumpkin racks and the daily increases in carved pumpkins showing up in Highwood all through the past week. And the answer is:

an attempt at a Guiness Book of World Record

Friday, October 22, 2010

Got Block Styrofoam?

One of my reoccurring disposal problems involves those bulky, white blocks of foam you get when you buy new computers, printers, TVs and so on; it's a form of styrofoam and most routine recycling efforts don't take it.

This is very local and probably temporary, but for friends and neighbors near Chicago's suburban North Shore, here's an opportunity to dump that stuff!

This Saturday in Highland Park from 10AM to 5PM -- one day only! --
you will be able to drop off clean, white packing styrofoam (the
bulky stuff that electronics get packed in) for RECYCLING! Usually,
it goes into landfill.

On Saturday, you can recycle it in Highland Park at the Hidden Creek
AquaPark on Fredrickson at Central, near Route 41.

Lake County Board member Anne Bassi arranged with Moraine Township,
the Park District of Highland Park and Abt Electronics to
conveniently drop off styrofoam at Hidden Creek.

Abt Electronics has a machine that processes the bulky styrofoam into
condensed, reusable material that they send to China for re-use.
Customers can drop off such materials to Abt in Glenview all through
the year, but they have generously agreed to bring a 53 foot trailer
to the Hidden Creek parking lot to make it irresistibly easy for us
to recycle this troublesome material.

If this project is successful, we plan to repeat it. Please help us!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've been busy elsewhere

Nothing new here -- sorry. But, check out the review I posted yesterday, over there: Readworthy Books, Fast Track.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Death, Aging and other laughing matters

For no particular reason, I ended up reading Ian Frazier essays this morning. Well, actually, it was sort of a carry-over from some stuff I was reading and thinking about during Poetry Month, April. I'd headed out to the Internet in search of an Ezra Pound essay entitled "The Lyric Impulse/X-ta-see and Po-a-tree." While I couldn't find that essay, I did find a reference to it in one of Frazier's essays ... but that's a digression already.

In a hilarious send-up called Researchers Say, Frazier tells us:
According to a study just released by scientists at Duke University, life is too hard. … As the data accumulated, … they provided incontrovertible proof that life is actually worse than most living things can stand. … A major disadvantage to living which the study called attention to is, of course, death. … Death’s effects on life … are two: First, death intrudes constantly and unpleasantly by putting life a risk at every stage … degrading its quality and compromising happiness. … Second, and far worse, death also constitutes an overwhelmingly no-win experience in itself.

From Lamentations of the Father: Essays by Ian Frazier; essay entitled Researchers Say, pp. 88-89; Picador, New York, copyright 2008.

Moving on from death itself, Frazier reflects on the challenges to quality and enjoyment of life posed by the inevitable processing of aging. And, furthermore, the daily challenges faced in just getting through the day.

Then the essayist reports that solutions – exciting possibilities – are under development daily … although his explanations leave the reader suspecting this could just be 'puffery.' And he cautions, in conclusion, that “…we must not underestimate our adversary, life itself. Uncomfortable even at good moments, difficult and unfair usually, and a complete nightmare much too often, life will stubbornly resist betterment, always finding new ways of being more than we can stand.” pp. 92

Or, as another great contemporary commentator, scriptwriter Robert Towne tells us through one of The Missouri Breaks characters, “Life … it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Where I've Been! (Reviews elsewhere)

Someone mentioned looking here for a recent post I'd mentioned.

Obviously that was an oversight on my part! Here's the link to my recommendation of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Here's something you shouldn't miss!

Early this past December, a member of my family suffered a stroke. In discussing how family members could help with his recovery, my brother reminded me of a book several of us read a year or two ago. Although I remembered reading the book and being impressed, I couldn’t recall the relevant recommendations in any detail, so I quickly got my hands on a copy to refresh my memory. (Actually, I downloaded a copy to my Kindle for a modest price.)

On the morning of December 10, 1996, 37-year-old neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had a massive stroke. In the hours, days, months and years following the event, Jill's brain and body became her laboratory, a theater where she learned more about human capacities and potentials than any school or classroom had offered to teach her.

In her book My Stroke of Insight, Taylor details her experience. She includes an appendix of 40 specific notes about the things she needed from the people around her in order to recover.

Without question, if you care about someone who has had a stroke, Taylor’s book is a must read.

But the book works on so many levels that – even reading it a second time – I couldn’t stop thinking of all the loved ones, friends and even acquaintances I wanted to share it with.

Whether you face a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual challenge, whether the challenge is yours directly or concerns the recovery or growth of someone you care about, Jill Bolte Taylor’s book offers something you need to know.

For example, Taylor's experiences and her conclusions tell us not to make limiting assumptions about how much a victim can recover or grow. Eight years after her stroke, Taylor was still regaining skills.

Taylor's left-brain stroke introduced her to her right-brain capacity to experience herself as merged and peacefully at one with the universe. As she recovered, she wanted to regain her sense of herself as a separate and whole individual. But she hoped to recover that sense without also regaining her "egotism, intense desire to be argumentative, need to be right, or fear of separation and death..”. (Taylor, My Stroke of Insight, digital edition location 1778-1780.)

She also explains how externally triggered emotions can take control of a person – or, alternatively, how the person can wait out the initial emotional-biochemical rush and gain purposeful control.

Taylor has followed the success of her book with many appearances, U-Tube posts and interviews, further expanding on the book. In the following excerpt from an interview published on-line, she discusses how she now uses what she learned to keep her life more in balance today.

Can you describe that feeling of bliss that your stroke brought on, and how you're able to hook into it now?

I know that I have a choice in how I look at any situation, and I can create tools that help me recognize when something is stimulating my stressful circuitry. I feel my anxiety and my body pumping up, and it doesn't feel good physically. What do I need to do to step to the right of that? For me, it's coming to the present moment by getting back into my body -- going for a walk, changing my visual scene, and thinking about what I'm looking at. Often I'll sing a song, a very soft melody that's slow and simple, because for me it's an issue of escalation.

My anxiety and stress circuitry runs fast and I can feel that, so I'll consciously choose to shift into something slower. And when I consciously shift into a slower thought pattern, there's just this incredible absence of urgency, of stress, of thinking about all the things in my life that give me stress. A deep inner peace pervades me. There's a celebration of life -- a joyfulness. It's a beautiful experience.

from an interview with Jill Bolte Taylor reported at

I've put Jill Bolte Taylor’s book on my shortlist of works I go back to over and over. I hope you will, too.

[Cross-posting with]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Transition Time

Despite a blue-gray, lazy-feeling Sunday, we went for one last winter walk on the beach --

before returning to family and friends in scenes more like this --

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Moon over Miami

Last night the moon was full and the Earth and Moon were closer togother than they will be again in 2010.

Here's how it looked from our balcony.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

South Beach Balcony Night Views

Looking north from our balcony.
Watching people drop off donations for Haiti in small park across from our building.

Looking south from our balcony.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Let’s grab our gobsticks and gobble some grub. (Vocab. #10)

About a month ago my friend, Sandra Kungle, posted this status update on her Facebook:

“Upper East Side, Hunter College at 68th and Lexington, 5 P.M Saturday afternoon.....SIX consecutive cab drivers refused to take a little old lady (me) to Penn Station......gobsmacked!”

Gobsmacked – what a great sounding word. But where did she get it and what does it mean?

Dedicated followers may remember that novelist Shirley Hazzard contributed quite a number of words to my evolving vocabulary project here. One of the reasons Hazzard’s word choices seem fresh to my ear is because she is British. More recently I’ve been reading another Brit: Mark Haddon, who has a contribution here today.

My friend Sandra first heard ‘gobsmacked’ from yet another British attraction: Susan Boyle.

In the British Isles, the word ‘gob’ is slang for mouth. (And I have no issue with slang, as will grow clearer over time, I expect.)

Thus, ‘gobsmacked’ means smacked in the mouth; in other words, speechless or astonished.

Sandra’s post caused the word ‘gobstopper’ to pop into my mind, but again I didn’t know where the word came from or what it meant. A stopper for the mouth? Could it mean something like ‘put a sock in it’? That’s an expression I ruefully admit I’ve used a time or two.

When I tried to check the definition for ‘gobstopper’ however, I came up so empty handed I concluded I’d dreamed the word up myself.

So I moved on. But I happen to be working on a review of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Among Haddon’s earlier work I find a children’s book called Gilbert’s Gobstopper! Turns out a gobstopper is a large, hard, round confection; state-side, we called it a jawbreaker.

Last but not least, in locating the meaning of ‘gobstopper,’ I found this great alternative for ‘spoon’: ‘gobstick.’

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Can a blog recrudesce? (Vocabulary #9)

About two months ago, I suspended blogging in response to pressing family needs. While several of these needs continue, dealing with them has become routine and it’s time to get back to the business of blogging.

I was in the midst of a vocabulary riff when matters went south and I'd like to resume, recommence and return with a bit of verbal fun -- ideally an unfamiliar but altogether usable word meaning 'to begin again after a break' or 'resume after a hiatus.'

Reverse dictionaries suggest 'recrudesce' (re kroo des), which, in its most generalized sense, means 'to become active again.'

Taken thus, I am tempted to say I am ready to recrudesce, acting with recrudescence to make Tiddlywinks and Pick-up Sticks recrudescent.

Unfortunately, ‘recrudesce’ shares its source with ‘crude’ and, like ‘crude,’ has a somewhat negative connotation. Medical professionals speak of diseases, rashes and sores recrudescing; health, vigor and production could recrudesce but that’s not the most typical use of this unusual word.

So, you can decide. Me? Reviving the blog vocabulary commentary, I intend to resume, recrudecse and rekindle. Next up is a blurb on gob-words. Then, later in the week, watch for what fashion magazines can do for your vocabulary.