Jesus wept

I want you to be aware of this story, to read it and understand what lurks behind that smiling, affable face of his. At a recent Christian supremacist conference he was captured on a live feed saying: “I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it.” The video was edited later to remove that “joke” but it’s been captured and put on YouTube so that the people of this country can see Huckabee’s true colors.






So who is this David Barton?  He is the leading promoter of a brand of falsified American history altered to support the claim that America was founded as a Christian, rather than a secular, nation.  I’m serious when I say that this is a threat to all of us, Christians included because the kind of Christianity these people are pushing will know no dogma save their own narrow and fanciful interpretations.  Please watch the video and read the articles cited, and then, if you are as concerned as I am, pass this along.  This country needs to know what it’s facing if we allow men like Mike Huckabee to have any sort of power at all.




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Oh no she didn’t!

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr
Author trainwreck alert!!

Every author knows the feeling.  You get a so-so review and you think “Well that reviewer didn’t get it at all!”  But of course if you have even two working brain cells, you pretty much know that the most you should ever do is correct any factual errors without anger or sarcasm.  Just be cool, always be cool.  Arguing with the reviewer is a bad idea because even if you’re right, you’re the one who ends up looking like a horse’s ass.

Someone should have explained this to Jacqueline Howett before she got into it with BigAl’s Books and Pals over his review of her book “The Greek Seaman” which was given two stars mostly for the amount of typos and mistakes.  Ms. Howett’s response is to blame the reviewer for not downloading the “right” version of her novel, implies that he didn’t like her book because she’s English (OMG, my English ancestors are spinning in their graves right now.) and says she’ll stick with all the many good reviews from places like, three of which she proceeds to post in the comments section!

Reviewer proceeds to explain that yes, in fact he did download the file she told him to download and it’s still a mess, and no, it’s not her Englishness that’s turning him off it’s the crappy quality.  Author replies that her writing is just fine and (forgive me, but I must quote this because I couldn’t begin to do it justice by paraphrasing):

“And please follow up now from e-mail.
This is not only discusting and unprofessional on your part, but you really don’t fool me AL.

“Who are you any way? Really who are you?
What do we know about you?

“You never downloaded another copy you liar!
You never ever returned to me an e-mail

“Besides if you want to throw crap at authors you should first ask their permission if they want it stuck up on the internet via e-mail. That debate is high among authors.

“Your the target not me!
Now get this review off here!”

Oh no she didn’t just tell a reviewer to remove his review from his blog!   *headdesk*  BTW, the mistakes?  Hers, not mine.

She makes me embarrassed to call myself an author.  You’ve got to read the thread to really appreciate the scope of Ms. Howett’s unpleasantness.  Not only does she say that her writing is “great” she tells commenters to “Fuck off.”  Yeah, really.


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I am such a technology victim…

Kilroy was here
Image via Wikipedia

This is me doing my Kilroy impersonation over one of my inspiration notebooks.  Why?  Because I’m bored stupid.  I can’t watch TV or sit in my living room, and my laptop is running hot and shutting down a lot so I’m being utterly irrational and deciding my life is over.  I could read, but I’m feeling restless and dissatisfied.  Wilson didn’t get very far with my walls.  The furniture is moved and the curtain rods are down, but that’s as far as it’s gone, which means this is not going to be a two-day job the way I’d hoped but a three-day one and three days really taxes my emotional limits.  At the three day mark I start being sullen and snappish, and not nice to know.  So here I am trying to amuse myself by showing you the color I chose yet again.

I’m also refining my rule of tasty groceries because it’s something to do, and the mango sitting here in front of me supports the rule:  If you buy a particular sort of  meat, produce or deli item and it’s absolutely delicious, you will buy more the next time and it will be crap, you’ll hate it, and will have to force yourself to eat it or let it sit in the fridge until it rots and you have to throw it out.  I don’t know why this is except that nature is capricious and cruel and so are fresh markets.

My mango is flavorless and fibrous.   I can deal with the former but the latter makes me want to yak.  I bought a case of them last week.  Figures, right?  The ones the previous week were little tastes of heaven.  I’m choking this down but I still have two more.  Ugh.  And now I can’t even leave it out for Holi-bunny because of the rats who decided my yard was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Yes, I’m rambling.  I did end up taking a nap and now I’m stupid.  I baked some pierogies for supper, sprinkling the tops with parmesan, chili powder and a bit of salt.  Nice but no cigar, really.

Why do you always want to do the things you have no access to?  The human brain is an incredibly perverse organ.  At least mine is.


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Displaced and fantastically tired

Displaced and fantastically tired, originally uploaded by dargie.

I’ve been displaced to the sun porch (Note sun) while I listen to my living room be dismantled. The terrifying sounds are about the only think keeping me awake right now.

Charles and I went to Benny Moore around noon, and got a gallon of the teal, and a gallon of a slightly blued gray for the ceiling. The city came and pronounced our back yard rat burrow free, and Israel came and took my old sofa and a load of other stuff to sell or give to needy people, so things are coming along.

I got nearly no sleep last night so I’m feeling pretty fried. I don’t really have a place to sit or a TV to watch, but I’d prolly fall asleep if I did, so this is just as well. Early night tonight, I think.

Those rotten little squirrels seem to have eaten all our bulbs in front, but left most of the ones in the back. I guess the ones in front were riper. Little shitheads. Next year they’re getting sprinkled with cayenne. The bulbs, not the squirrels. And poor Buddha needs a paint job. Ah the work never ends, does it? But one of my mini roses is going to bloom under the new grow light so that’s a good thing.

I hurt

But it’s worth it.  I’m getting my living room painted tomorrow which means I spent most of the weekend moving furniture, books and tchotchkes.  What color is it going to be? you ask.  Please to look at the photo to the left.  It’s going to be a beautiful, gem-like teal.  My accent colors are warm colors from cranberry to orange.  And I’m finally moving my secretary from my bedroom to the living room because I need the desk space.  The secretary?  Here it is in my old place. I really need a makeover.

And yes, I do have a fondness for color.  My kitchen is “smoldering red” which is a deep, ever-so-slightly blued red (just enough to keep it from leaping off the wall and throttling my guests) and the dining room is going to be a deep violet.  Bedroom, French blue again because I love the way it looks at different times of the day, nearly purple at night, warm lavender blue in the morning and during the brightest part of the day it shows its true color.  I was going to paint the office the same green I had on my dining room walls at the old place, but it’s such a dark room that I think I’m going to go with an acid yellow because it’ll reflect light better than any other color I could use.  It’s my most hopeless room, filled with cast off furniture, my desktop, and the cheap, flowery curtains that were on the windows when I moved in along with filthy blinds because I have a bookcase up against the window.  I never open it, it’s only a few feet from a wall, and no air ever comes in.  It’s also directly over the furnace, consequently it’s the hottest room in the house.

I did, however, manage to cull almost six boxes of books, and have already given away about a box worth.  I have a sofa, a desk chair (maybe) and a pile of boxes and bags filled with stuff to go to the Salvation Army.  I also have a blistering sinus headache from all the dust.  Such fun!  But my new sofa will be here maybe this week, and the living room at least should look terrific.  Go me!

How to fix a sinkhole in Chicago

An excavator-mounted hydraulic jackhammer bein...
Image via Wikipedia

Because you just might need to know this.

  1. Ignore hole.  Continue to ignore until irate residents threaten to storm alderman’s office with torches and pitchforks.
  2. Put sawhorses up around hole.
  3. Ignore hole and sawhorses for at least six more months or until local child falls into hole and has to be rescued by firemen.
  4. Send a truck out to break up street with ginormous jackhammers, enlarging hole for necessary below-street repairs and proving to residents that the alderman is doing his job.  Put up more sawhorses with blinking lights, and surround area with yellow caution tape.
  5. Ignore hole for at least six more months, or until sawhorses disappear and a truck accidentally drives into hole and ends up in China.
  6. Send another guy out with another machine to make the edges of the hole perfectly straight.  Leave remnants of yellow tape tied to tree.
  7. Wait several weeks.  Send a crew out to stand around, discuss and point vaguely into hole while one guy works.
  8. Fill hole with gravel.
  9. Remove gravel.
  10. Send another guy into the hole to work while a crew watches and uses walkie-talkies.
  11. Fill hole with gravel.  Put boards over hole, erect more sawhorses with flashing lights and wrap entire area in more yellow tape.
  12. Ignore calls from irate residents about children playing on boards.
  13. As elections approach, send four cement trucks to hole.  Have them block the street while at least six workers mill around.  Fill hole with concrete and put sawhorses and tape back.  Cover fresh concrete with tarps.
  14. Remove tarps, sawhorses and tape. Hold elections.
  15. Send crew out to break up street directly across from the previous hole.
  16. Go to #5, above.  Repeat.
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Bookshelf Porn

Image by dargie via Flickr

It may seem ironic that on a day when I’m  culling my books yet again, I ran across this Tumblr site:  Bookshelf Porn and it literally made me feel all weak at the knees.  I am a book hound, a lover of the small packages of knowledge, adventure, romance; of whatever is contained between the covers.  I even — when the spirit moves me — make altered books like the one pictured here.  So why am I culling instead of finding little spaces to tuck yet another book?  Because I love reading even more than the physical book, and sometimes the latter gets in the way of the former.  I tend to be acquisitive, even obsessive about things I love and sometimes instead of appreciating the things I have, I collect more and more of the same until I’m overwhelmed and I end up unable to use or even appreciate any of it.


A second issue is space.  I just don’t have the space to indulge anymore.  I can pile books onto my Kindle, but actual physical shelf space?  Sadly, I’ll never be one of those people posting photos at Bookshelf Porn, not anymore at least.

And the third reason is that I no longer keep books I’ve read unless I am utterly in love with them.  I just turned 59 and I am aware of how many more reading years I might still have and how much there is left to read.  I asked myself if I really wanted to waste the time left to me re-reading books unless they’re somehow special to me.  When I think of it that way, the answer is obvious.

Meanwhile I browse photos of other people’s libraries the way some folks browse porn sites.  Bookshelf Porn… I’ll be in my bunk.

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Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks
Image via Wikipedia

No matter who you are, there is one fact of life you will escape only at the end of life: You have a body and things will go wrong with it. And because of that, you will probably come into contact with the medical establishment at some point during your lifetime. If you’ve taken this fact and all it implies for granted in the past, reading this book should at least make you think more seriously about what it can and does mean to you to trust not only in the skills of your doctors but their ethics as well.

Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who died of a particularly virulent form of cervical cancer. During the course of a radiation treatment, her doctor cut some cells from her cervix and sent them to be cultured. He did not ask Henrietta for permission to do this or even tell her or her family that he’d done it. It was 1951, and there had never been any serious discussion of the ethics of collecting biological samples, or of the patients’ rights regarding the disposition of those samples. That the doctor never really expected her cell line to survive doesn’t matter; he did something that had the potential for unforeseen results. And as it happened, Henrietta’s cancer cells did survive. They were the first human cell line to survive in the lab, and they not only thrived, they multiplied at an astounding rate. The line was named HeLa and as soon as it was clear that these were strong, viable human cells, researchers began to share them with one another. Before long, Henrietta’s cells were all over the world being used in studies not only of cancer, but other diseases, being sent into space and exposed to the effects of a nuclear explosion. Henrietta’s cells outlived Henrietta; they were referred to as “immortal.”

Science writer, Rebecca Skloot had read about these immortal cells in school, and determined to find out more about the woman from whom they’d come. She made contact with Henrietta’s family — husband David and four living, adult children — and was met with active hostility. The Lacks family had only found out about the cells decades after Henrietta’s death. Since then, their desire to know the details of her illness and death had been met with evasion, condescension, lies and even attempts to scam them. It took a long time to win enough of their trust to begin to work with them, but Skloot persevered. She did her homework, she learned a great deal, not only about the medical standards and practices of the post-war era, but about the vast inequities of medical care with regard to race. When she was finally able to speak to the family, she was prepared to help them wade through the morass of information about Henrietta and her immortal cells. I doubt much could have prepared her for the mistrust and misinformation she dealt with, but Skloot remains utterly non-judgmental. She no apologist for either side, but rather and in spite of her obvious affection for Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, a dispassionate eye, reporting facts without prejudice in either direction. She allows the players to speak for themselves in their true voices, and by doing so, allows them to explain who they are and what their concerns are.

I suspect this book is going to raise a lot of strong emotions in its readers. There will inevitably be anger at the abuses, both real and perceived, by the medical and scientific communities. Some will be justified, some displaced anger over the current state of care in this country, and some just flat-out based on a lack of understanding. There will be people who judge the Lacks for their lack of education and the (often understandable) paranoia about the motivations of people who are concerned with Henrietta’s cells. Some will be as paranoid as the family itself. But what Skloot set out to do — show us who Henrietta Lacks was and what her gift to the world has been — is the one message all readers should take from this book. Once we lose sight of someone’s humanity, once they become to us nothing more than a disease or a mass of cells, we begin to lose our own humanity. Skloot never loses sight of this single most critical issue; these are real human beings with all their flaws and very human concerns. Beyond a story of a scientific milestone, this book is being a family, and about being human.

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Good morning

And happy birthday to one of my heroes, J. S. Bach.  This is always something of a holiday for me.  I keep the radio on all day.

It was a relatively quiet weekend.  Pam and her mother visited on Friday along with Miss Annika, but over the weekend we didn’t see any of the folks we usually see, and basically didn’t go anywhere.  It was sort of nice to have a weekend at home.  On Friday night I made a white bean and Swiss chard dish which was very good, though the leftovers weren’t much to write home about.  I’m thinking that if I make more than we’ll eat in one meal, I might reheat it and add some sauteed leeks or something.  I also made a loaf of Irish soda bread, and a loaf of saffron bread because I found the recipe while I was working at scanning a lot of family photos.

I come from a family of picture-takers.  Seriously, we are picture-takin’ fools, the lot of us, and I have thousands of photographs to sort and scan dating from as early as the 1850s.  The one to the left looks like a photo looking south along Michigan Ave.  At first I thought the structures in the distance might have been part of the Colombian Exposition, but the site was much further south, so I don’t know if I’m mistaken about where this was taken, or what it is that’s shown here.

The young lady to the right is Ella Jane Osgood, my great-grandmother.  I estimate that this photo was made in the very early 1860s.

For a while now I’ve been thinking seriously about putting together a cookbook of recipes from my mother’s family along with photos of the women who created/compiled them.  And as I started through the most recent stack of photos, I wondered if I didn’t have enough material for another book, a nostalgic look at what is now the greater Chicago area.  I’ve got a lot of written material to draw on, too (I also come from a long line of educators many of whom had a passion for writing.)  These are complimentary and long-term projects, but when you have source material like this, it would be a shame to do nothing with it.

Just FYI, the photos I’ve posted from my collection are not to be used commercially, though I don’t mind if you reblog.

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Review: Under the Poppy, by Kathe Koja

Opium Poppy flower showing a bud and a fruit i...
Image via Wikipedia

This was a birthday gift and I am forever indebted to the giver for introducing me to Kathe Koja‘s work.  I barely know where to start with this review because I am so enamored of both story and style that it’s difficult for me to separate the two.  And perhaps I shouldn’t even try. Koja’s writing is dense, often difficult.  She does things no writer should ever do, but she does them so adeptly that they feel right.  Her use of language is part of what makes “Under the Poppy” so, well… addictive, I would say since the phrase itself — under the poppy — means to be in an opium dream.  And Koja’s story does seem to qualify.

This is a murky, complicated story in which things are not always explained, people do not always have happy endings, and events are not always what they seem to be.  The first half of the story focuses mainly on a strange triangle.  There is Decca, the madam of the brothel known as Under the Poppy.  Rupert is her “front man,” a job that is a little bit of the businessman, a little bit of the bouncer, a little bit of the host.  Opinion is divided on these two; are they siblings?  Lovers?  Both?  Into the house comes a puppet master named Istvan who clearly raises some strong emotions in both Decca and Rupert.  Much of the first half of the book is the playing out of the emotional script between the three of them.  The second half begins as a new triangle: Rupert, Istvan and Lucy, but rapidly becomes a series of interconnected triangles, and new relationships that reiterate old ones in curious patterns.

Koja presents us with a cast of characters who are all-too-human, who do terrible things to each other, never seem to quite know what they want (Save for Istvan, and even he is brought up short on a few occasions.) People whose hearts break or simply stop beating.  And for all that there is a clear divide between the world of the brothel and the world of 1870s society, what is even more clear is that there really isn’t much difference between a whore and a nobleman.  As one character says, which of us hasn’t sold ourselves?

But in the end, the language is what carried me away.  It’s gorgeous, rich, quirky.  It flows along like a river, like a song.  And it requires patience and attention.  If you’re not willing to give both, don’t bother with this book; you’ll hate it.

I finished and very nearly went back to the beginning to start again, that’s how much of a hold the narrative had on me.  But I think I’d best put some distance between myself and these people before I reacquaint myself with them.  They’re all a bit dangerous, and I think I love them.

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