Tuesday, October 31, 2006

QEP Display!

Moving Mathematical Mountains

How do you like our mountain of math books?
Betty clarified the idea and Dustin and Terry created the final product. Can you believe it stands alone by its own weight? I actually caught a student looking behind it today. So Cool!
Here's another angle.

QEP = Quality Enhancement Plan

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bel Canto Book Discussion

Book discussions are fun!

I enjoyed leading this one; although, I feel I made some mistakes. For example, I may have moved the discussion too fast and not given people the chance to chime in. I was afraid of losing my train of thought, so I bounced on comments with more questions.

One participant remarked that it looked like I was dancing during the talk. I was probably rocking with extra excitement. I also talked too much! Can you imagine!?! Maybe I should limit the coffee intake on RRT days.

Man, I love this book! It took this second reading to realize Ann Patchett's style is very much like her favorite authors: Nabokov, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Chekov, Raymond Chandler and Joan Didion.

I look forward to her next book!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Spook/Ghost Hunters (copy)

When I was little, around nine, my Sunday school teacher told me God never sleeps. He is omni-something. My mother later cleared up my baffled head by explaining omnipresence.

I just thought this was awful. God must get pretty tired. I know how I drag around when I lack sleep. Surely He is allowed a little shut eye or cat nap.

That night, after I thanked God for my Mom, Dad, Sweetheart, Papa, Pa, Granny Smith and ratty brother, Ferrell, I invited Him to lie down. I had just upgraded to a double bed from a twin and had plenty of room for Him.

At the time, I had a cat named Puff. I guess you can tell I learned to read with Dick and Jane. Puff had the habit of sleeping with me at the foot of my bed. It was her nature to stay up with the parents and amble back to my room once the lights were turned off. She would jump on the bed, knead the covers, circle twice, and then lie down. After her rigamarole, I would bend down and pet her goodnight.

Each night I would add a little assurance to God during my prayer. God, you can take a little nap, and I’ll stand guard for you. God, there is plenty of room, and I promise not to knock you off. God, I’ll wake you up if you over sleep. God, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t tell.

After a week of prayer, I was about to give up. I decided to approach Him with a different request. God, I understand you have a duty and must keep your eyes open, but what if you just have a seat? Next thing, my bed compressed down at my foot, like the cat claiming her space for the night. I reached down to pet her goodnight, but she wasn’t there. I patted the empty space and smiled, knowing God had finally taken my advice.

Throughout history man has pondered the afterlife; two new books address this subject. Spook by Mary Roach and Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum both search for proof through scientific measurements.

Spook considers all the world’s religions. Author Roach travels to research arenas like India to learn from the experts. In her first chapter she meets with Dr. Rawat at the International Centre for Survival and Reincarnation Research to discuss the phenomenon.

Author Blum explores renowned philosopher William James and his endless search for proof of life after death in Ghost Hunters. The first chapter opens with an honest, ghost story. How fun is that? It makes my “God taking a load off” story sound trivial.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Look, I don't cook...

Okay, this is the story I’m telling sweetie.

My friend Jane’s birthday is today and she is a chocoholic, so I decided I was going to make her a special treat, chocolate chip muffins. I love Jiffy cornbread because of its sweetness and I though putting some chocolate chips in them would be excellent. (Jane thinks this alone is funny!)

Now, I’ve never done this, but mixing corn mix, one egg, and some milk isn’t hard. I can also handle throwing in chips and pouring the mixture into a sprayed muffin pan. Pretty easy peasey, right?

Here comes one of the difficult parts…what do I do with the oven? We have an old, state-of-the-art, 1940s double oven built into the cabinetry. The last time I tried to heat a pizza, let’s say the year was 2004, the bottom element actually blew-up. We got that fixed and then the upper element did the same thing to Pete last year.

The second difficulty lies in the correct oven. Do I use the bottom or top? I’m thinking the upper oven is correct, and I turn the preheat on. It is heating no problem, and then I think no, it is the bottom one. I turn it off, turn the bottom on, and call my sweetie, who does all the cooking in our home. He tells me that the bottom is correct, and not to use the upper one.

As we are chatting, I notice that the bottom oven isn’t warming at all. I clarify the bottom is right, and then I tell him it isn’t getting hot. This is when he spouts out his infamous line, “Do not use the upper oven.”

He knows nothing. He is confused. I’m standing here and he is 600 miles away. I can tell which one is working. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure top hot, bottom not. “Okay, Pete I’ll just throw the muffin mixture in the trash.”

If you know me at all, you will realize the most difficult part of this story just happened.

I hang up the phone and flip the upper oven back on, setting preheat to 400 degrees. I then skip down the bowling alley hall and plop down in my rocker for some quality TV time.

Time elapses...

Ah, the smells of burnt cheese being reborn as I stroll down the hall. You know the smell. It is universal and just means spilt food from the last usage is currently burning off the elements. I reach the kitchen, the oven is slightly smoking, and my detector begins to buzz.

No problem, I constantly use the smoke detector as a timer for my frozen pizzas. I even have an efficient way to stop the buzzing. Pull the fan cord, which blows the smoke down, and give a couple of waves with my dishtowel until it hushes.

Man, the elements are red hot. It has to be more than 500 degrees. I’ll just turn the bake on and it will cool down with one less element burning.

Hop on one foot. Pet the cat. Feed the cat. Pet the cat again. Okay, it should be cool now. Open oven and place muffins on top rack. Turn around to replace mitten, look back at my soon to be delicious dessert, and see the pan on fire. Um, I must have used too much spraying oil. It will burn off.

Next thing the oven interior is on fire!

“What the Hell!” Billowing smoke and my mind is thinking “how” as I dial 911 after turning off the oven. Must move paper products out of the upper cabinets...Burning eyes…Must move liqueur, too…Getting dizzy from all the up-down chaos of moving stuff…Starting to cough…

Two trucks and five firefighters later, the joke is on me…Pete must have put your Christmas present in there. The one place you would never think to look!” Ha-ha.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Oceans of Patience

Sarah Stewart has the incredible ability to remember events past and turn them into modern classics for today’s young children. Her gift for nostalgia has produced two books I love, The Library and The Gardener.

I commend her for writing The Friend and the possible conversations from reading it. This is a story that is long overdue and extremely needed. Although, I wish it was available 20/30 years ago, allowing more time for the civil rights generation to share.

In the South, things were separate and unequal to keep the races from mingling. One of the few acceptable interactions would be between employer and employee. This interaction was not equal; however, it did allow opposite races a means to acceptable conversation. Many laborers that worked indoors with the family became part of the family. If you truly accepted the house cleaner as part of the family, wouldn’t you want to stop the oppression of unequal treatment?

House cleaner Bea isn’t accepted as a family member from the parent’s point of view, but from the child’s she hangs the moon. It is obvious that Belle loves Bea and Bea loves Belle.

When racism is the topic in book clubs, a scenario loops like a stuck record needle. The older women proclaim they had a “Mammy” or “Auntie” that they loved; yet, “No, we can’t put benches outside the library. Certain people will lay about discouraging visitors.” My understanding, yes they truly loved their caregivers, but never considered them equal.

I believe that as Belle looks back on the wonderful gift that was Bea her thoughts aren’t of race, injustice, or equality. She is purely thankful that Bea was there to watch over her when no one else cared. Belle’s thoughts concentrated more on the ocean of patience Bea had just for her.

Maggiereads Note: I learned from judging books, that this title appeals more to adults than to children.

Short Eerie Reads...

Did last week’s book talk inspire you to pick up an eerie book for the month of October? “No,” you say. “Who has the time to read? Maggie, not all of us work in a library and have unlimited hours to peruse books.”

Well, don’t fret. I thought of the perfect solution. Read a short story!

Short stories are perfect because they are, um, short. That’s right; I just stated the obvious, but stay with me. They are akin to compact, story bombs: any well-written tale will leave a lasting impact. I remember “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving as read by my teacher Mrs. Margaret Hamilton.

Short stories are perfect for retelling at later events. Read a short story during the day then personalize it for a chilling fireside ghost story. Retell “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce using a local train trestle and creek as the setting. Main character, Peyton Farquhar, could be your great-great-great grand uncle unable to serve in the Civil War for medical reasons. These personal touches give the story a real feel.

Short stories are perfect because they appeal to all generations. Edgar Allan Poe is fresh to today’s youth and is an old friend to the retiring. Reading aloud these gems to either group can be rewarding. (Short story reading is perfect for senior care centers because the listener doesn’t have to juggle too many characters or plots.)

If this sounds more appealing to your time than reading a whole book, here are a few author suggestions: Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, W. W. Jacobs, Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, and H. G. Wells.

Two of my favorite twisted tales are “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Law of Life” by Jack London.

Classic short stories are now accessible to internet users through www.shortstory.byethost6.com. Browse the index for title/author then print for later reading. At most, an hour is required to read the tales, promising a ghoulish quick fix.

If you still think reading one of these short stories is impossible because of time, might I suggest a poem by Edgar Allan Poe titled “The Raven”? “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary….”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What's this Dribble...

RE: The Thirteenth Tale #2 RIP Challenge

That's right. I've been telling everyone about how great this book is, but when it comes to writing it down--nothing but boring dribble. I had big plans too! I mean I finished it Saturday and had upteen hours to think and write, yet I wait until the very last "deadline in sight" and write crap. What about the ghost? What about the incest? What about the twin connection? Man, I'm worthless...
Sometimes you hit homers and sometimes you just foul out!

The Thirteenth Tale (copy)

Don’t you just love the fall season? The weather with its cool crisp winds, clear blue skies, and large harvest moon makes one want to don a sweater and drink spice tea. It also presents the perfect setting for eerie fireside ghost stories.

For the month of October, I plan to book talk some new, classic, and truly ghoulish tales. I chose to read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield as a compliment to this month’s Friday thirteenth—another day in our psyche that also conjures up eerie happenings and bad luck.

Author Setterfield is new to the book world. The Thirteenth Tale is her first book, yet it sits number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. This is an unprecedented accomplishment. For one thing, she is an unknown English author—unheard of even in England. Another thing, she hasn’t sold that many copies in her own native land.

The only English author to land number one on the American list had Robert Redford’s help. In 1996, Nicolas Evans’ book, The Horse Whisper, had a movie deal prior to its publication. So you can see the shock on American publishers’ faces at this moment.

It took Mrs. Setterfield six years to write this gothic tale. She carried ideas around in a box while working as a French teacher. Her husband agreed to live hand-to-mouth until it was written. That was a good choice, since they are bona fide millionaires now.

Main character, Vida Winter, is on her death bed and needs a capable writer to author her biography. Ms. Winter is a writer more popular than John Grisham, Danielle Steel, and James Paterson combined.

The reading public has enjoyed all of Vida Winter’s work but is reminded of her one mistake. She published her first book titled The Thirteen Tales but only included twelve. The scandal forced the recall of all her books. Fifty years later her fans still want to know what the thirteenth tale is.

Margaret Lea has grown up in her father’s antiquarian bookstore which specializes in rare and expensive books. She prefers books to people and even enjoys writing biographies in her spare time. One particular biography about twin brothers catches the eye of Ms. Winter, who request Margaret personally to be her biographer.

Margaret is wary of taking on the request. Ms. Winter has a reputation for making up events rather than telling the truth. In the past 22 interviews alone, she has told unbelievable tales, more elaborate than her books. This leads Margaret and readers to wonder if this gothic story is true.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale (notes)

"All morning I struggled with the sensation of stray wisps of one world seeping through the cracks of another. Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes--characters even--caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you. Well, it was like that." p289-90

This same feeling happened after I finished Love in the Time of Cholera. The next four books I picked up to read were pure fluff compared to LitToC.

"What better place to kill time than in a library? And for me, what better way to get to know someone than through her choice and treatment of books?" p41

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Yippee! Review Published!

The new Mississippi Libraries contains a review I wrote for Victorian Houses of Mississippi by photographer Sherry Pace. Pace was lovely to interview, we did it via e-mail, and I hope she enjoys the review. As always, I want to thank Jane for all the help.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Memphis is Burning...

Downtown Memphis firefighters are currently fighting a fire which has spread to a third building. The fire started at the historic First United Methodist Church built in 1893. The Lowenstein (Jolly Royal) building, a beautiful brownstone, is lost and now the Lincoln American Tower is on fire. All of these buildings are landmarks to the downtown skyline. My strength goes out to those currently fighting the fire.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Move Over Gayle...

Oprah, poor soul, had her dreams for a smarter reading public shattered last summer. By all accounts, her 2005 book club featuring Faulkner didn’t sizzle; it fizzled.

What was she thinking? Any teacher could have told her people don’t willingly submit to Faulkner or Tolstoy. Book clubs are meant to be fun, uplifting, inspiring, and reflective, not seen as a mandatory trip to the dentist.

Her vision started to erode in 2003 after Jonathan Franzen, the author of The Corrections, refused to appear on her show. He was a bit embarrassed to have been picked by the talk show diva. “She’s picked some good books,” Franzen said, “but she’s picked enough schmaltzy, one-dimensional ones that I cringe….”

The Million Little Pieces fiasco in 2005, when author James Frey admitted his non-fiction blockbuster was slightly invented, sent Oprah on a tirade. How dare he lie to the person who made him famous?

From that moment, Oprah declared her club would read only the classics—no more making millionaires out of contemporary authors. Well, it’s hard pushing “dead” authors on a very much “alive” audience.

Now, I’m afraid Oprah is too gun-shy to continue with the book club. She did switch back to living authors. Her choice for this 2006 season was Night by Elie Wiesel; unfortunately, that was a January read, and she hasn’t announced another selection since.

To Oprah’s credit, she stretched a short, one-night read into three full episodes. We accompanied her and Wiesel on a trip to Auschwitz; we listened to first-hand accounts of survivors, and enjoyed a question and answer session with Wiesel.

Maybe Oprah just needs some help picking another book. If anyone knows her cell number, please pass it along to me. I’m willing to push Gayle out of the way so we can really talk books. She has done so much for the reading public; it would be a shame to let this club come to an end.