Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh deer

Deer have become a big problem in Swarthmore over the last few years. The college backs up to some woods that have always been a deer habitat, but their population has exploded recently. It has become more and more common to see deer not just in the twilight near the woods, but at all times and places - a family of 5 bounding through the field during a soccer clinic at 10:30 am, wandering on a street in the afternoon, etc. 3 years ago we had our first deer damage in our yard, and we considered ourselves lucky: we have some friends whose yards are overrun to such an extent that if something isn't fenced, it's eaten.

Last night they struck again.

Our little garden received a severe setback. A large, almost-ripe tomato with a bite out of it, and another big one (just turning red) broken off. ALL the little tomatoes eaten off another plant. The top of every cucumber plant sliced off, along with their tiny cucumbers. The butternut squash and eggplants were okay, but we're grieving for our little plants.

There has been much debate about how to manage the deer population, with lots of back-and-forth about the relative benefits of sterilizing them, airlifting them elsewhere (!), or culling the herd. The plan right now is to have some sharpshooters go in, but not until December. Right now, I'm feeling that the sooner it's done, the better.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Happy Birthday JNJ!

Good afternoon to my summer birthday friend! Hope you are having a glorious, summer day birthday at home with family and friends.
Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you, and bundt cakes.

Have a great day!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back to Fiction

Well, sort of. I've read more Tudor history in the last few weeks than ever before. Yes, I've enjoyed it. No, I didn't read every word of those biographies. However, I think I will attempt to find them used to purchase and have on hand.

Although I am a history geek, I still can't read those biographies! I tried, really I did. I did make it through quite a bit of a bio on Anne Boleyn and a history of Henry's 6 wives.... just not all of it. And I desperately need to return to fiction!

Despite my disillusionment with historical fiction of late, I'll give it another chance. Anyone have suggestions?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Books everyone has read...right?

I just read Anne of Green Gables, prompted by Julia's shock that I had never read the Anne books. Now, there are plenty of things I haven't read, and plenty of things that I'm sure you wouldn't necessarily expect that I would have read. But aren't there certain books that you just assume that your friends have also read? E confessed that he has never read Hamlet. (He did finally read the Odyssey as a condition of our marriage.) I've never read the Bible. Any other confessions to add?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dr. Horrible

Though this is not directly related to a book, I do think Joss Whedon is a writing god. Here is a little project that he and some friends are working on called Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. Here is Joss's explanation of what this project is all about:

Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Frustrated with the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very mid-life-crisisy. Aided only by everyone I had worked with, was related to or had ever met, I single-handedly created this unique little epic. A supervillain musical, of which, as we all know, there are far too few.

The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the internet. To show how much could be done with very little. To show the world there is another way. To give the public (and in particular you guys) something for all your support and patience. And to make a lot of silly jokes. Actually, that sentence probably should have come first.

I know not everyone is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, but how can you not like a "supervillain musical" that stars both Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. I, for one, cannot wait.

P.S. I promise a more literary post soon . . . really soon.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

E's list

Here is E's list from the Swarthmorean. You could list up to five favorite books and five to read this summer; he chose to go for a less effusive style than I did.


The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon (F)
I could say it’s a murder mystery with chess, Esperanto, pie, and Jews in Alaska, but would that really help? The plot and characters are engaging, but it really shines in the richness of its descriptions of everyday things.

Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz (NF)
A welcome reminder in this election year that being a leader is less about being in a position of authority than about persuading people to take on the hard work of change for themselves, and that we all have responsibility to lead in the ways we can.

Moss Gardening, George Schenk (NF)
Why fight the moss in your lawn? This book is a great guide for enjoying the lush green carpet that grows so naturally in our shady borough.

To read:

The Lady of the Snakes, Rachel Pastan (F)
The Country Under My Skin, Gioconda Belli (F)
The Book of Getting Even, Benjamin Taylor (F)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Summer Reading

Every summer, our local paper, the Swarthmorean, solicits lists from readers. They ask for your five favorite books of the year and five on your summer reading list. E and I received a personal request from the editor to submit ours, so we did. Having my reviews on Goodreads was helpful, but paring it down to five was hard...and of course there's the fact that this is a public announcement of my reading habits, so I felt somewhat constrained by that. How to look somewhat erudite without totally disowning the YA books? I included comments about each book because it drives me crazy that a lot of people just have lists of titles with no explanations.

My favorites:
The World to Come, Dara Horn (F)
This book starts with an awkward singles cocktail party at the Jewish Museum and Ben Ziskind’s unlikely theft of a small Chagall painting. The narrative spins out forward and backwards in time from there, both detailing the consequences of his action and slowly filling in the pieces to explain how it became a family heirloom. Horn repeatedly returns to the themes of memory, beliefs, and trust in relationships.

Away, Amy Bloom (F)
It is amazing how many vivid environments Amy Bloom manages to create in this fairly short novel. Lillian Leyb leaves Russia after her family is killed in the pogroms and settles in New York in the 1920s. As she says early in the novel, “Az me muz, ken men” (When one must, one can), which describes Lillian’s approach to her new life. On her cross-country quest to find her lost daughter, Sophie, she moves through the worlds of other marginal people, adapting to their rules.

Lady of the Snakes, Rachel Pastan (F)
We follow Jane Levitsky during her first year as an assistant professor, dealing with the grind of all-new preparations and the pressure to publish; in addition, she has a toddler and a husband in law school. Meanwhile, the subject of her research, the wife of a 19th century Russian writer, becomes more than the breakthrough that might make her academic career. Jane measures herself by the Masha she knows through her diaries, and the parallels between them exacerbate but also vindicate her feelings. As Jane’s tenuous balance between her career and family starts to slip, we feel Jane’s anguish and desperation as she keeps looking to her Russian alter ego for answers.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver (NF)
I love Barbara Kingsolver’s writing, and I am a firm believer in seeking out locally-produced food, so I was pretty sure that I’d like her account of her family’s attempt to live a year as true locavores, growing much of their own food and finding local producers of anything they couldn’t grow themselves. I especially enjoyed her anecdotal sections about her daughter Lily, who was 9 at the time, and her budding chicken farm; trying to figure out how to encourage her turkeys to have sex; and her trip to Italy. I came away from reading this book with a strong desire to can tomatoes and make my own cheese.

The True Meaning of Smekday, Adam Rex (F)
This is an account of an alien invasion of Earth, written by 11-year-old Gratuity “Tip” Tucci for a time capsule contest. Her journey across the country with an alien named J.Lo. in a car that is souped up with alien technology would be harrowing if it weren’t so funny. Adam Rex punctuates the story with drawings and drawn “photos.”

To Read:
Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark trilogy (F)
I read and re-read his Prydain chronicles when I was a kid, but I’ve never read these.

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (F)
One of my best friends from college was appalled to learn that I’ve never read this, so I promised to read it this summer.

The Red Queen, Margaret Drabble (F)
Recommended by Rachel when I said how much I enjoyed The Commoner.

Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin (NF)
My token non-fiction for the summer, Penn’s One Read pick for this year.

Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin (F)
A reworking of Vergil’s Aeneid by a wonderful writer.