© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just an observation

Our new puppy (in the house officially for a week now) has a very short attention span and an even shorter memory.

Half way through something, she can't remember why she's paying attention.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Here's what I did all day

I'm not editing the following paragraph. I'm reading the article it came from. It's from a journal article I have to read (along with about 12 other similar pieces) in order to write the brief articles I write for a health providers newsletter.

C-reactive protein was discovered and named for its binding to pneumococcal somatic C-polysaccharide [29] in which it recognizes the phosphocholine residues which are present in this ribitol teichoic acid [30]. Phosphocholine is the natural ligand to which CRP binds with highest affinity and this key ligand is ubiquitous as the polar head group of phosphatidlyl choline in cell membranes and plasma lipoproteins. Phosphocholine is also present in constituents of many bacteria, fungi and parasites and plants and the importance for mammalian biology of its recognition is exemplified by the fact that a significant proportion of the germline antibody specificities are directed at it. However, CRP does not bind to all materials containing phosphocholine as the residues must be 'available' or in an appropriate sterochemical configuration. Thus CRP binds to dead or damaged cells in which significant amounts of lysophosphatidyl choline are present, but not the surface of living healthy cells [31]. Binding of CRP to apoptotic cells is controversial and the most rigorous evidence suggests that CRP only binds to so-called late apoptotic cells which are effectively necrotic [32–34]. CRP also binds to oxidized phospholipids [33], platelet activating factor [35], modified LDL [36], β-VLDL, concentrated normal VLDL [37] and to small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles (which do not contain phosphocholine) when these are exposed in dead or damaged cells [38, 39].

That and watch the dog. I was an English major, for crying out loud. I think my brain just went necrotic.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How I came to write poetry -- Part 1

Bee asked me in a comment when it was I first started writing poetry. I tried to answer her but it felt as if I was writing too much to leave in a response. So I promised to post my answer. The answer is I don't know. That is I don't know if you count juvenalia.

My mother claims my favorite book when I was a child was Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse. That may be why I bought it for my own kids when they were small.

My first success at poetry -- we're talking real juvenalia here -- came in the third grade. The Holy Name Catholic School newspaper published a poem I had written about my religious joy. I don't remember much except how it started.

I wish I were the little bell
That tinkles loud and clear
To tell the people kneeling down
That you are coming near.

That was it for poetry for a long time. When I was in the fourth or fifth grade I won an essay contest sponsored by the newspapers in Columbus. There were three winners from the city -- one for each paper -- and I was the youngest of the three. The essay was about why my father should be named father of the year, and the prize was three days and two nights in Washington DC at the Mayflower Hotel, including air fare, tickets for the All Star game, and fifty dollars pocket money. The editor of the Dispatch also arranged for a friend of his, the head of the transit company in DC, to give my father and me a personal tour of the city.

My family was not a literary family. The only books I recall being in the house until I was 11 were kids' picture books, Reader's Digest condensed novels, books about art, books about crafts, and scout books. My father was a boy scout leader. He also painted, worked with ceramics, did wood carvings, made things out of leather, and invented his own art media. He also taught ceramics at night in a studio on the north side of town. The one thing he didn't do was quit his day job.

I did go to the library and got books from school. At the library I would find juvenile sports novels. The kind where some bright and talented high school football player went to Small Time College because he needed to stay close to home and help the family by working in the five and ten. (They call them dollar stores now but five and tens were much better.) He makes the football team, has problems in school that weren't entirely his fault, and almost gets kicked off the team. Things always seemed to work out, though, and he'd make the team just in time to play so that Small Time College got it's biggest win ever against Humongous State University.

The books I got at school were mainly hagiography. The one I remember the most was called God's Teenager about the life of Dominic Savio who died at the age of fifteen. The biggest effect these books had on me was to make me do things like go to sleep at night wondering what it felt like to wear a hair shirt.

I continued writing little poems in the style of A Child's Garden of Verse and getting them published in the school paper and other similar venues. But I much preferred prose and studying math and history.

When I was 11 we moved into a house outside the city that had belonged to a professor friend of my father who had died. We got the furniture and the books. And I was hooked on books.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike 1932-2009

The world is a better place for his having been a part of it. He will be missed.

His knees trembled, as if after an arduous climb. He had made it, he was here, in Heaven. Now what? ("Bech Enters Heaven" in Bech: A Book , 1970)

Friday, January 23, 2009


Dying, the salmon leap the dams, taking
no food until they reach their destined stream,
then lie together to climb, forsaking
all but release from the dark primal dream

of birth, the odor of gravelly holes
that went with them down to sea, there to rise
like tides swelling the mouths of rivers, shoals
that rush headlong backwards in time. Their prize,

death without knowing, obliteration.

Just as here, I, shedding a lifetime’s fears,
feel the dark rush of anticipation.
In hope of hearing songs of ancient seers
I’ve stalked the echoes of superstition
and learned the rhythms of death’s repetition.

Originally published in The Amherst Review, 1986.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The day after

Yesterday was truly a great day for America. So I'm not sure why this bothers me. But why in what is supposed to be his most inspiring speech did he use these lines, and why have they become the lines everyone quotes?

I mean I do see their appropriateness, but they are no "Ask not what ..."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugaration Day

"My God. We did it. We did it."

Colin Powell

Monday, January 19, 2009

Challenger: An Elegy

“The world stopped when the Challenger exploded.”
A visitor’s note at the Challenger Web site

Nothing works. Neither day nor night.
All the stars disappear. Birds in mid flight
Fold their wings and fall, refusing to fly.
The sun sinks slowly then freezes in the sky.
The winds stand still. Fish die in the ocean.
The pendulum’s swing remains the only motion.

That night I saw Orion rising overhead and knew
That things exist beyond the meaning of the words we use.
Some things are only light, or sound, or pressure on the skin.
Some things inhabit space before the space where words begin.

Now all the words in all the books cannot inhabit space
Reserved for things that vanish from our lives without a trace.
The names we give we give to things we know can be recalled.
And words won’t salvage anything when you see the heavens fall.

Once Jupiter held up the stars for a longer night of love.
Jehovah stayed the sun with force for slaughter from above.
But never once has someone made a minute fail to pass
Or just by willing made the trilling air of a bird song last
Beyond its final note dissolved inside an evening wind.
Yet still the sky at night gives hope you’ll hear it once again.

goddess boat -- serpent
at the feet of Orion,
trailing the heavens
bodies without down-
link fall from the sky, and you,
leaping like a hare,
lift the hunter killed
by his love past my window.

gods and goddesses
tease the human isolate
with monstrous burning
while we raise new myths
from the scattered debris
of human yearning.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Friday, January 16, 2009

More odds and ends

Just a couple of observations today.

1) I know quality when I see it

This morning S gave me a white coffee mug, the kind you would pick up in the dinnerware section at Target, that had her company's logo on it. (I don't even drink coffee, but that's another post.) It was a nice mug, but as I said, there was nothing special about it except for the gift card that came inside it:

A Gift for You
This beautiful gift is of the finest
quality available. Hand prepared by
true craftspeople, the design is kiln-
fired for permanence and inspected
no less than seven times through
production. All in all, your gift is the
product of our uncompromising
commitment to quality.
Now I was impressed. So I turned it over to see who had made such a fine mug. Printed on the bottom:
Made in China
2) How old do you have to be to get a job on a newspaper in Atlanta?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta's major daily newspaper, prints teases for stories on the inside down the left sidebar of the front page. This was the first one today:
New reason
to look for
life on Mars
We're not sure
anyone is there to
say "excuse me,"
but a mysterious
belch of methane
gas on Mars hints at
possible microbial
life underground,
a new NASA study
found. It also could
come from changes
in rocks, but option
No. 1 is cooler.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Captain Lee

Lee’s father died the night that Lee was born
By falling down a well. He’d drunk too much.
He was the one Lee’s uncle calls the lush.
Lee’s mother sang in clubs. They tried to warn
Her not to trust the SOB who’d torn
Her dress and forced her in his car to touch
His crotch then cried. But she was in a rush
To wed, though all their marriage brought was thorns,
Or so the note his father left had said.
When Lee turned twenty-one, his uncle gave
The note to him. “Our secret. Let the dead
Stay dead. No one needs to know I saved
It.” So, Lee hid the note behind his bed
And keeps his father’s secret in the grave.

Lee rises every day at dawn. The rose
That bleeds each day to orange, then gold, then blue
Is music for his eyes. He likes how dew
Ignited by the sun dances and throws
Off sparkling light like jewels his uncle shows
To buyers at the store, the people who,
His uncle says, can see a stone has true
Worth only when they see how bright it glows.
Lee likes the way his uncle always tries
To help. He buys his mother clothes. He finds
Odd jobs for Lee and doesn’t realize
That Lee can’t learn, although in teacher’s minds
Lee’s always been unteachable. Lee’s days
Shine like rubies lit by his uncle’s praise.

Lee’s uncle told him once, “Enterprise earns
Respect. You do a job. You win a game.
People make it a point to know your name.
That goes for learning too. The man who learns
Is not the one who quits and idly yearns
For things others say he’s no right to claim.
All that comes from quitting’s feeling shame.
But work and study both will get returns.
I know they told you you were dumb. But a lie
Can’t change what’s true, and thorns won’t keep a rose
From bloom. And you will bloom. I’ll tell you why.
You’ve watched the sun. You’ve seen the way it burns
Away the night. Well we can be the same
And burn up demons dressed in teachers’ clothes.”

Lee’s mother tried to sympathize. “I’ve seen
The way my brother’s words could calm a flock
Of hungry crows. But listen when he talks
To what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t mean
To hurt you. But his argument implies
Your life’s your fault, your woes all self-imposed.
What keeps you down’s not laziness. You grew
Inside me wrong. Your blood in my womb drew
From mine the retribution for my highs
And lows. I drank. I’d reasons, but the whys
Don’t matter. Blame your mother. Your uncle knows
You can’t do things the same as others who
Are right. He shouldn’t tell you enterprise
Can remedy those things I can’t undo.”

Like ensigns on the bridge, the birds outside
Lee’s window sound alerts, and anyone
Who hears them knows how long before the sun
Appears. Lee takes his post as daylight slides
Across the edge of night. A captain’s place
Is at the helm. When Lee first heard the world’s
A wanderer through space, it made no sense.
The sun came up, went down, the stars encased
By night came back and didn’t change, like pearls
Inside an oyster, Lee behind a fence.
But when Lee heard of Enterprise he knew
And understood. The earth’s a bridge, and dawn’s
The power source that’s kept him moving to
Where only he and no one else has gone.

© copyright 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog
All rights reserved

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who is this guy More?

First of all, thanks to everybody who responded to my post yesterday and for the positive thoughts. I'm not really worried financially about the contract coming to an end. I mean everyone covets wants more money. But I don't really need the money I'm making from this contract. And, I just took on a new project that pays quite a bit more so I may not even notice the difference. But there are some things that bother me.
  • This is a job I've been doing for more than 12 years. (I know. Let it go, Grandpa.) And I'm going to miss it.
  • There are more people than me involved. I have a whole slew of writers and another editor who have been involved in this particular publication. A number of the writers have won awards -- several, more than one -- for the material that they published in this publication.
  • The decision to shut down the publication is being made by someone in this very large publishing corporation who basically didn't even know the publication existed before it came time to renew the contract. (In all fairness the official decision hasn't been made yet. And I did survive a similar situation several years ago.)
  • I got the heads up in an email sent long after I would ordinarily be in my office from someone I thought I had the kind of relationship with that would have earned me the courtesy of a phone call.

I just now decided it doesn't really feel good to bitch in public. (I'll keep bitching to S. That's part of our contract. I have to listen to her and she has to listen to me.) I am sorry about my writers maybe having to find other outlets in this very specialized market. But they'll do all right. They've won awards.

So, who is this guy More. That's what ...45 and aspiring asked me (She also said, "Poor b*st*rd sure has a lot of articles written about him.") when she sent me a link to an article with this headline:

More May Benefit From Cholesterol Drugs

Study Shows More Would Qualify for Statin Treatment if Levels of C-Reactive Protein Are Considered

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I know I shouldn't post another poem after just posting one yesterday. But I don't trust what I would say if I did an original post tonight. I just got a heads-up that a very long-term contract is about to come to an end. I'm going to be okay, although this contract saw me through some very lean years when I first started freelancing full time. But what makes me upset is the way I got the notice.

That's another post. Here's the poem. Treatment is a term used in film making. I wrote this poem while attending a short-film festival.


Montage, or composition by juxtaposition, is the most characteristic feature of film form.
"The Art of Learning How"

So much depends upon our ability to perceive & to recognize the difference between accident & design.
"Language without Words"

black lines shift through white space
forming simple boxes on animated film
squared edges heave
melting into perfect circles
that breathe to shape
themselves like pears
that grow faces & fall
from trees on terraced
plots where thurber dogs
chase balls that blossom
into thin lined roses spreading
from center screen with a pink tinge
that flares red

dew jeweled petals
against flaming repetitions of dawn

fade full color stills fleshed
3-D thrills of life bleeding
on kitchen floors through looped screams
of gargled deathless pain
out of sync with silent loops of the dying
dissolving to black
pinpoint etchings of light
crisscrossing the screen
until only white space remains

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Occasional poem

That sounds like a description of my writing frequency.

Actually it's a kind of poem that is written to commemorate a specific occasion. I've done several, including poems my parents required at Thanksgiving to be read before the meal. One year, it would be the sons' turn (there were four of us) to write and read the poems. Then the next year it would be the daughters-in-law's turn. (Someone in the group would always go for the sentimental statement, but mostly we went after the laugh.)

Occasional poems are never really easy to write. There are several reasons. The two most immediate reasons that come to mind are, first, they need to be focused on the specific occasion, and, second, if you're writing a poem for it, the occasion is probably very significant and deserving of your best effort. One of the challenges is to not "force" the imagery to fit the situation. The poet needs to let the poem, to borrow an image from Frost, ride on it's own melting like an ice cube on a hot stove. But sometimes poems go where you don't expect them to go. So, how do you reign them in without reigning them in?

Another challenge is they are usually very public poems. They are often meant to be read at the specific occasion. That's a lot more pressure than a poet experiences at a typical poetry reading. Yes, you want your listeners to get it, and they always have their own preconceived notions. But with an occasional poem, you know what their notions are. Or at least, you know what they think their notions are.

This poem created extra problems for me. When my oldest son got married, he asked me to write a poem for the ceremony. Then he asked his brother if he would read it. I don't write under a deadline, and I don't like to think about embarrassing my family when I write. So it wasn't an easy task. I decided to write a double sonnet. It took several months of writing and revising while I worried whether I could measure up. This is what I came up with.

For J and R

When I was small, I had a place to be
That I called home, and all my world was there.
The sun, the stars, the wind were mystery,
Each day a jewel, and wonder everywhere.

The seasons changed. I watched the snow outside
My window, saw the crocus where the snow
Had been. I saw the birds of summer glide
Above the fields and watched the sun dip low

Against the southern sky. Then suddenly
My home had grown too small, the rooms too spare.
I watched the birds assemble in the air,
Rehearse their flight, then vanish from the trees,

And I was seized with longing, a need to go
Where they had gone, to know the things they know.

The world around me changed. The wind brought
Melodies as sweet as figs, and I could see
Horizons glowing as gold as apricots.
But when I started out, I never thought
I’d find a place to mean as much to me
As home--or as the place I once called home,
For when I turned around, it wasn’t there,
And all the things I’d found I couldn’t share,

Until today, when we as groom and bride,
Come before these people and say as one
That we have found a place to be. I’ve come
To be yours and you to be my journey’s guide.

I say before the world I’ve found a home.
I say to you my home is at your side.

For J and R, Saturday, November 18, 1995
Nashua, New Hampshire

© copyright 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog
All rights reserved

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday fun day

This is just plain fun, and a classic example of great editing.

I saw the movie three times the first wek it came out.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another note on the way the language works, or

I just passed along some erroneous information

I read this sentence today in Discover magazine:
People who grew up watching black and white television are more likely to dream in black and white than are people who grew up watching color.

Then later when I saw S, I wanted to share my new found knowledge with her, so I said:
Did you know that people who grew up watching black and white TV are more likely to dream in black and white.

Now that may be true, but it isn't what the magazine's sentence said. The magazine said if you put two people side by side, one who whatched black and white TV as a kid and one who watched color TV as a kid, if one of them dreams in black and white, the odds are that it is the one who watched black and white TV.

My sentence said if you asked someone who grew up watching black and white TV whether he dreamed in color, chances are good he'd say no.

If you don't find that difference as fascinating as I do, than either you don't hear the voices in your head, or you haven't exhausted your brain by spending too much time working with words.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Wood Pile

There was wood to split, pulled from the thicket
Beside the arbor. Man’s work, a man’s sweat
Wetting my clothes as I swung the hammer
Through its arc and drove the wedge deeper. Dad,
I felt you watch from the window where you
Stood the summer before while I pruned fruit
Trees. Cut it here, you had told me, and here,
Then left me to work, though I knew you watched.
Potato bugs picked and dropped in a can
Of kerosene, berries picked and waiting
In pails beside the sink, and all the time
I felt your eyes freeze me, as they do now,
The sledge lifted over my head, my arms
Straight, muscles pushing toward release.

Inside there was a fire, here a blearing
Wind. Behind your window you sipped coffee;
Here I let the work keep me warm. You watched
The pile of wood grow higher; I heard echoes
From the barn’s side keep alive each blow
So that even as I raised the hammer
To restrike, another me brought it down.

I wanted to sink into the grayness
Of winter light, disappear from your vision
And leave behind only the smell of green
Splitting logs. It wasn’t for you I came
Out, and I thought if I could lift one more
Piece of wood, I could build a wall that shut
Me forever in dusk, free from the glare
Of yellow kitchens, and your eyes behind
The pane, and then you joined me.
We leaned into the wind and built the pile,
Hearing echoes together through the dark.

Originally published in Ohio Journal, Autumn 1979
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog
All rights reserved

Just a note on the way the language works

I went for my annual physical a couple of days ago, and my doctor said if I didn't cut back to just two drinks a day, he was going to increase the drugs he gives me. Something about the expression on his face made me think he was trying to mean that as a threat, but, huh?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Her name is Rachael Chatoor. Her Web site is here. Her blog is rachaelpachelwasmyname. Both are well worth a visit.

She calls this first video a rough draft of an original song that's about to be released on a compilation CD from Stupid Cancer. You can here the final arrangement by clicking on the widget in the sidebar.

On her blog she says she doesn't think of herself as a recording artist. I predict that's going to change.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hearing the music

Early in November, S and I went to the Atlanta Symphony to see and hear Joshua Bell perform the Barber violin concerto. We enjoyed it immensely. It wasn't the first time we'd seen him, and it's always been money well spent. We also have a number of his CDs. Again, money well spent.

A couple of years ago, Bell gave a performance in a different venue. The performance was actually part of a social experiment being done for an article in the Washington Post Magazine. One day during rush hour, Bell walked into a Washington DC Metro stop, took out his violin and began to play.

Having lived in Boston for so many years, I've enjoyed a lot of good street performers and heard a lot of good music in the subway stations, especially around Harvard Square. But it's hard to get an audience to just stay there and listen. How many people do you suppose stopped for Joshua Bell? It makes me wonder who I've passed by and what great performances I've missed. Maybe I'll try to stop and listen to the music a little more often.

The video is by John W. Poole.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Letters to Caroline

(The title refers to the poem that comes after after the note. The note is to the people in the Blogosphere, not Caroline.)

Note: I'm feeling a little guilty because I haven't been able to spend as much time as I would like in the blogosphere for a couple of weeks now. The first week I was on vacation. This one I'm trying to catch up on my work after being on vacation. The good news is I'm almost caught up and I'll be able to respond to people's comments again pretty soon. Just don't give up on me. You guys leave the greatest comments. They make me feel good. (It's great to feel that way without having to use some foreign substance.)

One more thing. We had a visitor at our house a couple days before Christmas. He was in the neighborhood and just wanted to stop by and say "hey" because he's often too busy this time of year. But it was good to see my old friend Nick and get caught up on what he's been doing.

Letters to Caroline
We've been a month without snow.
Last month, it seemed it would never stop;
now the ground in spots is bare.

Since we've stopped talking, we've lived side by side,
lying in the same bed without touching,
so well we've learned the impenetrable zones,
even in our sleep.

Only a month of winter left,
but then no real spring,
only weeks of mud
and unfulfilled promise.

I remember the cat standing at your feet
in front of the couch
while you read the newspaper. If you'd put the page
down and let it,
it would have leaped on your lap. It stood watching you,
wanting, as cats want,
to be touched, then gave up and lay beside
the rocker.

Snow's predicted tomorrow night,
twenty-four hours
too late to help the skiing.

If I asked about him, would you tell me he listens?
That he leaves messages at your terminal?
That you like the way he laughs?

And that he doesn't need and so
makes you young again?

Two suns in our morning skies;
five days in parallel worlds,
we expand and contract, knowing neither
what blue nor gray winds fill
the other's days.

Then at night, I cruise the space between,
seeking light from familiar stars that inhabit both
our skies: Evidence of love we can both remember.

The usually clear walk was strewn with pebbles
thrown up by the tide. You pointed it out
as we looked for words to break the silence.

Kids playing with kites ran over the rocks
at Odiorne Point, through the winds that blew in along the shore
and mastered the land in a way the waves
only pretended to do.

But it was the waves, Caroline,
charging, pounding, I felt rip my heart.

Low tide and no boats.
We could see the Isles of Shoals.
We could hear the waves.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Rose

Caroline, the rose dropped its head.
Petals still unopened already dead.
Too fragile flower. I dropped it in a bag
And wiped rings from the table with rags.

Had it been music it might have lasted
After the playing stopped, much like bubbled glass
Can hold delicate butterfly wings
Or preserve youthful blooms from spring
That were snipped too soon from vines
And never tasted the bitter aging wines.

Things die with time, a poisonous dart
That neither rhythm nor rhyme can stay.
All our days, Caroline, begin in darkness.
All our days end that way.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.

© copyright 2004, 2008 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.

All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I got an award

This award came from LegalMist (thank you, LegalMist) while I was out of the office, and it also came with a set of rules. But I don't have to follow them.
Here are the original rules:
• List 10 honest things about yourself - and make it interesting, even if you have to dig deep!
• pass the award on to 7 bloggers that you feel embody the spirit of the Honest Scrap.
But since LegalMist is an attorney, she made a compelling argument for changing the rules. Here are the new ones:
1. Follow the original rules if you like, or these amended rules if you prefer.
2. Post the award on your site if you want to.
3. Write some honest things about yourself if you want to. Make them interesting even if you have to dig deep.
4. Pass the award along if you want to, to any number of other bloggers from 1 to 10.
So technically I'm done, but that's not really keeping with the spirit of the award, so I'll make a stab at saying some honest things about myself.
1) I've got a good sense of humor and a quick wit, and I can make you smile or have a whole room full of people laughing without even trying. But I am no good at humor on demand. If you expect me to make you laugh (or if I think you expect me to make you laugh or if you look like I think you expect me to make you laugh) you'll probably have a jollier time reading Macbeth's soliloquy lamenting the passing of his wife. I once was invited to give a speech to a college club made up of economics students. The topic was exploring alternative careers. (I understand economics majors do that almost as much as English majors do.) I wanted to be entertaining and make the audience laugh without getting too far off topic, so I told my diving story that I had told a couple weeks earlier to a class of freshman English students. In the classroom it worked perfectly because I wasn't really trying to make the students laugh. I was teaching by analogy, and they forgot they were in a class they didn't want to be in and had a good time. The economics students, though, just sat there and stared. The next day I went into the English class. One of my students had been at the meeting and I heard another student asking her how I had done. When she said I told the diving story the first student asked, "Did they laugh?" "Not so much," was all the student who'd been there said.
2) I once introduced myself at a poetry reading celebrating Black poetry during Black History month by saying, "I'm not Black. And I'm not a woman."
3) I write because I think there is something very wonderful about making people cry. When I was eight or nine, I was sitting on the porch at my grandparents' house with my cousin who was a year younger than me. She asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to write books about Jesus. She clapped her hands together and said "How wonderful. My mother will read them and cry." I was hooked. What could be better than putting down words on paper that made people cry?
4) I had my first kiss at age five. I was sitting on the couch with the little girl who lived across the street. (Her name was Peggy, and she was also five. We went to the same kindergarten.) I had a book in my hand and was reading it to her (or maybe making the story up as I went along). Right in the middle of a sentence, she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. I looked at her and leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Then she ran into the kitchen to tell my mother what we had done.
5) I like to dance. Not very meaningful, and I'm not really that good at it, but it's honest.
6) I don't know which is the bigger incentive for writing -- making people cry or getting kissed.
So that's enough about me. Let's talk about you. Anyone who comes here to read what I post or what other people say about it deserves this award. So please, consider yourself a recipient of the honest scrap award. And have a wonderful 2009.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Vacation's over

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left comments while I was out of the office. I even got an award that I'll try to put up tomorrow. Thanks, Legalmist. It will take a while, but I'll get caught up on all the Blogs I've missed, at least I'll try. Here's wishing everyone who comes by a very happy and prosperous 2009.