September 27, 2005

Popping in...

I'm at the library for my weekly 60 minutes on the computer to check email, most of which seems to consist of deleting obscene spam at

My last week has included:

a six-hour long annual meeting with the organic inspector; I thought he was moving in. I promise I'll never again complain about the two-hour semi-annual visits from our home school facilitator;

thanks to on and off again showers, on and off again harvesting and a suddenly full septic tank, resulting in not being able to use any water at home for over 12 hours. Coincidence or not that we're reading about life at the courts of Henry VIII and his daughter, and how they would have to leave their palaces for airings out, and how ripe the elaborate outfits must have been? Yes, I appreciate running water inside my house, but only when it's really running.

our first field trip of the season, to the fire training school in town, which attracts students to its 12-week courses from all of the over the world. The kids had a ball.

mooning over the TEAC LP to CD contraption in the Hammacher-Schlemmer Christmas catalogue. It's $399 US, but I have hundreds of LPs, many of them from my dad's old collection (before he moved to CDs, which he found out this summer in the tropics can in fact go moldy -- it's the labels. Who knew?) and being able to transfer them to CD would be a fabulous, not to mention incredibly educational lol, resource.

starting SOTW3. Finally. Hurray!

Must dash, before I turn into a pumpkin and the librarian removes me bodily...

September 20, 2005

Down for the count until further notice

My laptop died last Thursday night, so there won't be much blogging going on until it's fixed. I'm writing this from the computer at the library, and hope to get my laptop to an authorized Apple type -- the closest one is about two and a half hours away -- within the next few weeks. So there may be nothing new here for about a month.

On the other hand, that gives me lots of time to clean the house, read stories with the kids, go for walks (keeping eyes peeled for bears, of course), clean up the garden and plant our tulip bulbs, and can some more pears. Stay tuned!

P.S. Tom's brother returned home Saturday night. A sudden dramatic improvement, thank goodness. Looks like he'll need some speech therapy for a bit of a stutter, but other than that he's almost all back to normal, and fortunately his sense of humor is still intact.

September 15, 2005

Not a good week

On Monday morning, Tom's youngest brother -- 37 years old and the father of three kids under the age of 11 -- had a stroke.

Fortunately, neither he nor his wife had left for work yet, and she was able to get him into their van to drive to the small hospital nearby. Assessing his amnesia and beyond-bloodshot eyes, the doctors and nurses realized right away that he needed to get to the experts at the University of Alberta hospital -- two-and-a-half hours away -- immediately. We got the news just as the ambulance was taking off, in a phone call from my sobbing mother-in-law. Fortunately and unusually, Tom was at home, having stopped in to pick up some more tools.

We spent the next 24 hours waiting for news. By Tuesday afternoon, we'd learned that it was definitely a stroke -- we still haven't heard much more than that -- but in a way that information has been confusing for the family. How could someone so young, so healthy, so strong (he's a big guy who'd still be playing intramural hockey if his knees had held up), and presumably without any of the risk factors (we're not sure about the high blood pressure) get a stroke? Or as a friend of both Tom and his brother said to me yesterday when he phoned for any news, "If Mike can get a stroke, then anyone can."

Aside from jumping every time the phone rings and being consumed with wondering what life will be like for Mike, his wife, and their kids after this and if (please, please, please) it will ever go back to normal, or near normal, the other thought all of us have had is that one. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone -- to me, my husband. And we won't have any warning.

I thought back to the day before this all happened. I don't care too much about leaving a sinkful of dirty dishes, a kitchen floor that needs mopping, a pile of unfiled papers, or even a head that needs shampooing when the ambulance comes and life as I know it is gone forever. But...did we remember to check on the kids last night and watch them for a bit as they slept, the quilts rising and falling gently with their breaths? Did I agree to the pleas for "just another chapter" for their bedtime readaloud or did I firmly shoo them to bed so I could jump in the shower? Did Tom and I have a chance to talk for a bit before bed, rather than just exchanging a quick list of what we each needed the other to do the next day? Did we all remember goodbye kisses when Daddy left in the morning? Did I decide to fold laundry in the living room with the kids while we all watched our new kids' DVD of Midsummer Night's Dream rather than hop on the computer quickly to check my email? We have more yeses than nos when we do the tally, which is good.

Then again, you can't really live each day as if it might be your last, can you? But I think you can try to do your best, especially for your own family and for yourself. I'm haunted right now by the fact that those memories of that last day of doing your best -- or not -- may be what you take with you in that ambulance, that hospital bed, and beyond. This is definitely a time for time, and patience, and waiting, and seeing. And hoping.

September 12, 2005

Best news I've had all day...

The Amazing Race: Family Edition begins on Tuesday, September 27th. Hurray!

We are all of us, kids included (who will be granted a special once-a-week bedtime extension), very excited. We will of course be rooting for the families with younger kids. And I'll be wondering how these four-member teams will make a go of things, when most of the couples in the previous Races seemed challenged by the concepts of co-operation and teamwork. Tee hee...

September 11, 2005

Here is New York

It is a miracle that New York works at all. The whole thing is implausible. Every time the residents brush their teeth, millions of gallons of water must be drawn from the Catskills and the hills of Westchester. When a young man in Manhattan writes a letter to his girl in Brooklyn, the love message gets blown to her through a pneumatic tube -- pfft -- just like that. The subterranean system of telephone cables, power lines, steam pipes, gas mains and sewer pipes is reason enough to abandon the island to the gods and the weevils. Every time an incision is made in the pavement, the noisy surgeons expose ganglia that are tangled beyond belief. By rights New York should have destroyed itself long ago, from panic or fire or rioting or failure of some vital supply line in its circulatory system or from some deep labyrinthine short circuit. Long ago the city should have experienced an insoluble traffic snarl at some impossible bottleneck. It should have perished of hunger when food lines failed for a few days. It should have been wiped out by a plague starting in its slums or carried in by ships' rats. It should have been overwhelmed by the sea that licks at it on every side. The workers in its myriad cells should have succumbed to nerves, from the fearful pall of smoke-fog that drifts over every few days from Jersey, blotting out all light at noon and leaving the high offices suspended, men groping and depressed, and the sense of world's end. It should have been touched in the head by the August heat and gone off its rocker.

Mass hysteria is a terrible force, yet New Yorkers seem always to escape it by some tiny margin: they sit in stalled subways without claustrophobia, they extricate themselves from panic situations by some lucky wisecrack, they meet confusion and congestion with patience and grit -- a sort of perpetual muddling through. Every facility is inadequate -- the hospitals and schools and playgrounds are overcrowded, the express highways are feverish, the unimproved highways and bridges are bottlenecks; there is not enough air and not enough light, and there is usually either too much heat or too little. But the city makes up for its hazards and its deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin -- the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled.

E.B. White, Here is New York, 1949

September 09, 2005

Lions and tigers and mother bears, oh my

One of our neighbors, from the acreages just south of our farm, sped up our driveway after supper tonight. Especially because of the kids, he wanted to warn us about a mother black bear and cub he had just seen ambling around their property headed in our direction.

Right away, new rules, wide eyes, somber nodding heads:
  • No kids allowed the run of the farm or allowed unchaperoned on bikes to their friends at the acreages, especially not by way of the through-the-woods shortcut.
  • Stay by the house.
  • No more walking to the mailboxes for any of us; Laura and I went this afternoon, just a few hours before finding about our new furry neighbors (yikes).
  • If there's a bear in the yard, 1) do not get between her and the cub, 2) get into the truck (or garage) as quickly as possible if you're closer to the truck (or garage) than the house.
  • The garage door must stay closed at all times.
  • Oh, and if you hear bear noises, especially the bear cub crying for its mother, get in the house as soon as possible. And if you see the cub and the mother is nowhere in sight, do not even think of playing with it. GET IN THE HOUSE NOW.
  • Do not touch Daddy's gun, especially if you see it outside of the locked gun closet where it usually lives. There was a reason Charles Ingalls kept his gun on hooks over the front door, for handy access. We haven't told the kids the part about Daddy making sure it was loaded tonight, and that he's going to keep it with him when he's in the truck, especially with harvest upon us, which means late nights, in the dark, and walking around fields from tractor to truck. It's 10:45 pm and I'm just the teensiest bit nervous about Tom being out of doors tonight.
Am I babbling yet? Not only is this bear family much too close, but in the last week or so we've heard about entirely too many bear attacks, including two fatal ones (in Ontario and Manitoba), across the country. There was a rash of bear attacks, some fatal, earlier this summer too. And in June we found a three-year-old male black bear three miles north of our house in a neighbor's field; that was a week after a black bear was discovered on the golf course in town, and subsequently shot by the local wildlife conservation officer. Remind me why I left NYC again?

PS A big thank you to our wonderful neighbor for the warning. It is much appreciated by this mama bear.

Plum crazy

My late Viennese grandmother's recipe for plum torte, and one of my favorite ways to eat Italian prune plums:

Viennese Plum Torte

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (aka 4 oz. aka 8 tbsp. aka 1 stick)
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
12 prune plums, halved and pitted
Topping: sugar, cinnamon (approx. 1 tsp.), half a lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" springform pan (you can also use a pie plate).

Cream sugar and butter in Mixmaster until light and fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, and mix well.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Place the plum halves in the batter, skin side up. Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar and cinnamon to taste, and squeeze lemon over all the plums (you might not need all the juice).

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove and cool. Can be refrigerated or frozen. Serve warm or cooled, plain or with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

September 08, 2005

Celebrating International Literacy Day

How to Read (for Children and Adults) and How to Enjoy Reading

The ABC's and All Their Tricks by Margaret M. Bishop

McGuffey's Eclectic Readers by William Holmes McGuffey

Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do About It by Rudolf Flesch; recommended by Flesch, and still available secondhand, is the old textbook Reading with Phonics by Julie Hay and Charles E. Wingo [I'm using this as a supplement with Daniel to great success; I found mine on eBay]

The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Reading by Jessie Wise, co-author of The Well-Trained Mind. The WTM website also has a number articles on reading; "Games to Play with Phonics"; "Teaching Reading: Phonics Programs That Work"; "Why Whole Language Seems to Work for Some Children"; "Our Favorite Books by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer"; and "Our Readers' Favorite Books"

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Educating Esmé by Esmé Raji Codell; she has a nifty children's literature website, too, Planet Esmé

How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike by Esmé Raji Codell

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom

The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Something Old

The SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages

Loganberry Books' Stump the Bookseller

The Little Bookroom: Eleanor Farjeon's Short Stories for Children Chosen by Herself by Eleanor Farjeon and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katharine S. White

Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain

The Reader's Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia of World Literature and the Arts by William Rose Benet; my old edition was published by Thomas Y. Crowell in 1948. As handy as a dictionary by a reader's elbow, especially with little ones asking all the questions they do.

Oxford Companion to American Literature by James D. Hart; I knew my edition was old (1941) but I didn't realize it was a first edition until I checked for this blog entry. Makes me like it even better lol.

Something New

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, the latest in pop-up wizardry from Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart

Powell's Books Newsletter

Bears by Ruth Krauss, newly illustrated by Maurice Sendak

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths, the new NYRB reprint of D'Aulaires' Norse Gods & Giants

Strange Affair by Peter Robinson

Baseballissimo: My Summer in the Italian Minor Leagues by Dave Bidini, guitarist for the Rheostatics; new in paperback for late-summer jaunts

The Story of Science: Newton at the Center by Joy Hakim, to be published in September 2005

Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language by Sister Miriam Joseph, publication date approx. November 2005

S is for Silence by Sue Grafton, publication approx. December 2005

Something Borrowed

Quotations about libraries and librarians

Access to the New York Public Library for non-New Yorkers: for Readers & Writers; for Children

The Library of Congress

Burnaby, B.C. Public Library Children's Literature Page, with lots of links

The Library by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small

When I Went to the Library: Writers Celebrate Books and Reading by Deborah Pearson

Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller

All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor

Reading Rooms edited by John Coughlan and Susan Allen Toth

Free printable bookplates from Anne Fine's nifty website

A Passion for Books : A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books by Harold Rabinowitz

Patience and Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book Collectors, Dealers, and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy by Nicholas A. Basbanes; and just for fun, here are the real Patience and Fortitude and also Nicholas Basbane's website

The Librarian of Basra written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

Something Blue

Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow

Pelle's New Suit by Elsa Beskow

Uncle Blue's New Boat by Elsa Beskow

Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure by Joseph Wechsberg

Book Lists

The New York Review of Books Children's Collection

1,000 Good Books List for Children, arranged by reading levels (K-12) and by author, from the Classical Christian Education Support Loop; not entirely secular but great good stuff

Searchable Database of Award-Winning Children's Literature

Caldecott Medal & Honor books, 1938-Present, awarded to the artists of the most distinguished American picture book

Newbery Medal & Honor books, 1922-Present, awarded to the authors of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children

The Good Books list, from The Great Books Academy

The Baldwin Project: Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children

The Well-Trained Mind K-4 Reading List

The Well-Trained Mind High School Reading List

Junior Great Books/Readalouds (from Mortimer Adler's Great Books Foundation)

Junior Great Books, Grades K-8 (from Mortimer Adler's Great Books Foundation)

The Great Books; also GBF's/Penguin Book's free online discussion guides for various classics

Miscellaneous "Great Books" sites and lists

Project Gutenberg: Fine Literature Digitallly Re-Published Great Books Online

Banned Books Online

Reading List for the College Bound, compiled by the Center for Applied Research in Education and online courtesy of St. Margaret's School, Tappahannock, VA; for more, get this from your library

Five in a Row's Book Lists

Online version of Clifton Fadiman's New Lifetime Reading Plan (4th edition)

A state-by-state book list for children (not comprehensive but still some good things and a dandy idea); this is one of the only times you'll find a link on this blog to anything at the NEA's website, so enjoy it...

Reading with your eyes closed (or while you're driving) (but not both at the same time, please)

Poetry Speaks edited by Elise Paschen

Storyteller Jim Weiss's audio books/Greathall Productions

Odds Bodkins, another storyteller

And finally, for Grandpapa,
In honor of the Rev. James Granger


Don't forget Part 2 of Celebrating International Literacy Day over here, with quotes about books, reading, libraries, and librarians.

Celebrating International Literacy Day, Part 2

Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather and a little music of out of doors, played by somebody I do not know.
John Keats

Oh for a book and a shady nook...
John Wilson

Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.
Kathleen Norris

To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one.
Chinese proverb

A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.
Robertson Davies

Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.
John Witherspoon

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.
Logan Pearsall Smith

When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.
Michel de Montaigne

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.
Oscar Wilde

It does not matter how many books you may have, but whether they are good or not.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
Sir Francis Bacon

In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Read not to contradict and confute nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
Sir Francis Bacon

Live always in the best company when you read.
Sydney Smith

An ordinary man can...surround himself with two thousand books...and thenceforward have at least one place in the world in which it is possible to be happy.
Augustine Birrell

A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up children without surrounding them with books.... Children learn to read being in the presence of books.
Horace Mann

The walls of books around him, dense with the past, formed a kind of insulation against the present world and its disasters.
Ross Macdonald

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice...and just as the touch of a button on our set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart.
Gilbert Highet

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry --
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll --
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul.
Emily Dickinson

You can cover a great deal of country in books.
Andrew Lang

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island...and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.
Walt Disney

In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read...It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.
S.I. Hayakawa

My education was the liberty I had to read indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out.
Dylan Thomas

My father gave me free run of his library. When I think of my boyhood, I think in terms of the books I read.
Jorge Luis Borges

There was one place where I forgot the cold, indeed forgot Siberia. That was in the library. There, in that muddy village, was a great institution. Not physically, to be sure, but in every other way imaginable. It was a small log cabin, immaculately attended to with loving care; it was well lighted with oil lamps and it was warm. But best of all, it contained a small but amazing collection from the world's best literature, truly amazing considering the time, the place, and its size. From floor to ceiling it was lined with books - books, books, books. It was there that I was to become acquainted with the works of Dumas, Pasternak's translations of Shakespeare, the novels of Mark Twain, Jack London, and of course the Russians. It was in that log cabin that I escaped from Siberia - either reading there or taking the books home. It was between that library and two extraordinary teachers that I developed a lifelong passion for the great Russian novelists and poets. It was there that I learned to line up patiently for my turn to sit at a table and read, to wait - sometimes months - for a book. It was there that I learned that reading was not only a great delight, but a privilege.
Esther Hautzig

I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
Isaac Asimov

My mother and my father were illiterate immigrants from Russia. When I was a child they were constantly amazed that I could go to a building and take a book on any subject. They couldn't believe this access to knowledge we have here in America. They couldn't believe that it was free.
Kirk Douglas

The best effect of any book is that it excites the reader to self-activity.
Thomas Carlyle

The way a book is read -- which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book -- can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it.... Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.
Norman Cousins

The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read.
Abraham Lincoln

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.
Mark Twain

Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.
Aldous Huxley

When you read a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before.
Clifton Fadiman

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first thing naturally when one enters a scholar's study or library, is to look at his books. One gets the notion very speedily of his tastes and the range of his pursuits by a glance round his book-shelves.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

I am a part of all that I have read.
John Kieran

Show me the books he loves and I shall know
The man far better than through mortal friends.
S. Weir Mitchell

In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.
Andre Maurois

My lifelong love affair with books and reading continues unaffected by automation, computers, and all other forms of the twentieth-century gadgetry.
Robert Downs

The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.
Joseph Joubert

I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage.
Charles De Secondat

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.
Charles W. Eliot

There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.
Christopher Morley

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book....
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Properly, we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand.
Ezra Pound

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
G. K. Chesterton

A room without books is like a body without a soul.
G. K. Chesterton

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.
G.K. Chesterton

Woe be to him that reads but one book.
George Herbert

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.
Henry David Thoreau

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.
Edmund Burke

When we read too fast or too slowly, we understand nothing.
Blaise Pascal

What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?
John Ruskin

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.... It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.
Edward P. Morgan

When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
Desiderius Erasmus

Wear the old coat and buy the new book.
Austin Phelps

To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser.
Robertson Davies

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
Henry Ward Beecher

Let books be your dining table,
And you shall be full of delights
Let them be your mattress
And you shall sleep restful nights.
St. Ephraem Syrus

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.
Anatole France

Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a 1000 years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Libraries are not made; they grow.
Augustine Birrell

Knowing that I loved my books, he furnished me,
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
William Shakespeare,
"The Tempest"

The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.
Thomas Carlyle

Man, the imperfect librarian, may be the product of chance or of malevolent demiurgi; the universe, with its elegant endowment of shelves, of enigmatical volumes, of inexhaustible stairways for the traveller and latrines for the seated librarian, can only be the work of a god.
Jean Luis Borges,
"The Library of Babel"

For him that stealeth a Book from this Library, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, and all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain crying aloud for Mercy and let there be no sur-cease to his Agony till he sink in Dissolution. Let Bookworms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.
Curse against book stealers, from the Monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona

The medicine chest of the soul
Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

Nutrimentum spiritus (Food for the soul)
Inscription on the Berlin Royal Library

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.
Henry Ward Beecher

A little library growing each year is an honorable part of a man's history.
Henry Ward Beecher

The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas -- a place where history comes to life.
Norman Cousins

Librarian is a service occupation. Gas station attendant of the mind.
Richard Powers

A great library contains the diary of the human race.
George Mercer Dawson

A good library is a place, a palace where the lofty spirits of all nations and generations meet.
Samuel Niger

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges

The student has his Rome, his Florence, his whole glowing Italy, within the four walls of his library. He has in his books the ruins of an antique world and the glories of a modern one.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.
Andrew Carnegie

The reflections and histories of men and women throughout the world are contained in books....America's greatness is not only recorded in books, but it is also dependent upon each and every citizen being able to utilize public libraries.
Terence Cooke

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.
Edward Gibbon

The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.
John Steinbeck

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house.
Joe Ryan

I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
Samuel Johnson

The only sensible ends of literature are, first, the pleasurable toil of writing; second, the gratification of one's family and friends; and lastly, the solid cash.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

I read part of it all the way through.
Samuel Goldwyn

I have read your book and much like it.
Moses Hadas

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I'll waste no time reading it.
Moses Hadas

This book fills a much-needed gap.
Moses Hadas

Never judge a book by its movie.
J. W. Eagan

This novel is not to be tossed lightly aside, but hurled with great force.
Dorothy Parker

Sartor Resartus is simply unreadable, and for me that always sort of spoils a book.
Will Cuppy

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
Groucho Marx

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
Groucho Marx

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
Groucho Marx

The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.
Agatha Christie

When I am dead, I hope it may be said:
'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'
Hilaire Belloc

September 07, 2005

Scratch that

Remember that homeschooling hurricane relief Yahoo group I mentioned the other day (no link again because it's really not a worthwhile place; UPDATE: old post removed)? Today, after reading several days of garbage -- bickering; a volunteer soliciting donations to make up for her own, um, donations; a definitely faith-based approach to relief despite the fact that Americans of all faiths and some with none at all are all in dire need of help -- I unsubscribed. My apologies for passing along a genuinely defective link. When I think of Christian charity and Christian kindness, I think of the attitude of the giver, not the required faith of the recipient.

I'll keep my eyes open for additional ways our family can help from up here.

September 06, 2005

A lovely and light start

It was a wonderful back to school day. The kids and I celebrated with a festive egg-in-a-hole breakfast, followed by about thirty minutes of ooohhing and ahhing over the nifty new school and office supplies (thick beginner's pencils for the boys, #1 pencils -- like dark rich chocolate -- for Mom and assorted chosen children, an enormous tub o' gel pens, colored reinforcements (from the Dollar Store, no less), stickers for decorating binders -- tanks! trucks! horses!, new Prismacolor Scholars for the first grader, Crayola colored pencils for the Kindergartener, assorted Usborne books -- Victorians, Dot to Dot Machines, How to Draw Princesses and Ballerinas, and the Jigsaw World Atlas book -- and, drum roll please, new Timex watches for Laura and Daniel (the theory being that a watch on the wrist will help Laura's rather weak time-telling skills). Yes, Davy was miffed, as expected, until he spied the new little wind-up toy bus, complete with Stop sign that folds out. I know, I know, it doesn't seem like a particularly fitting present for a homeschooled kid. But around here a big vehicle is a big vehicle, and we don't play favorites.

After decorating their binders with aforementioned stickers, they sat down to do some math (Singapore for all -- new books for the boys, and just a bit left in Laura's old set), and I went around and around the kitchen table like a dizzy, demented butterfly, helping with the multiplication tables (3's), number bonds, and number-writing practice. Davy was the first to peel off and decide that Kindergarten was done for the day, though he came back a few times for hugs and to thank me for the new watch. Daniel did a couple of pages in his new Explode the Code workbook, and then joined his brother outside with the cats. And then Laura and I sat down with the new grammar book, Rod & Staff's Beginning Wisely, which for some reason is a big hit. She loves it (then again, on a day like today, she loves everything). Because or in spite fo the fact that it's lol. Note to the Grammar Guru Goddess: hurry up with that secular grammar before my child falls too much in love with R&S! A lovely, light start to the school year. We'll add more subjects as we go on, and should have the full complement within the next two weeks.

Then we had an early lunch and hit the road to be in town for Laura's piano lesson at 1, during which time the boys and I headed over to the drugstore where I had bought the kids' watches. Turns out Daniel's Timex took a lickin' before it was even out of the box, and needed a new battery. One reason I love living in a small town is that I stopped by the back to say hello to Tom's cousin's husband, the pharmacist and drugstore owner, mentioning the watch problem and the fact that I hadn't had the time to unearth the receipt from the other month. "No problem," he boomed, reaching down to pat the boys on the head. He asked one of the clerks to help us, and by the time Laura's lesson was over, Daniel was back in the time-telling business. I was hoping he wouldn't be too distracted by his wrist at his first-ever piano lesson, which apparently went well for both teacher and pupil.

Off to the post office then to pick up our box from -- very obliging of them to make sure that our books arrived on the first day of school. The goodies include our SOTW3 audio cd's, read by the beloved (at least in our house) Jim Weiss; Loaves of Fun: A History of Bread with Activities and Recipes from Around the World by Elizabeth M. Harbison, The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim; and the Dover coloring book, Empire Fashions by Tom Tierney. (And tucked away temporarily in my sock drawer for Christmas: Isabel Bayrakdarian's Cleopatra cd for Laura, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou video -- I've linked to the widescreen dvd because apparently I got the last, non-widescreen video -- and Davy Crockett dvd for the kids to share.)

And on the way home, a big grocery shop -- milk, peanut butter, fruit, vegetables, shrimp to broil with olive oil and garlic tonight, and oodles of canned goods, on sale, because after all winter will be coming to the prairies. And lollipops and cookies for the kids from their favorite cashier, who once again let them help pack the bags.

At bedtime I read them the first chapter of Caddie Woodlawn, my old children's book club edition, illustrated by the marvelous Kate Seredy. Definitely left them hanging and wanting more -- "just a little bit of the next chapter, just so we can find out what a circuit rider is? Please?"

September 05, 2005

Who said Latin is a dead language?

I'm planning to kick start our Latin studies during our first week back by substituting some cherce phrases from the Handy Latin Phrases website (on the sidebar, at right), instead of our usual Minimus. Some of the favorites, the kids' and mine, so far:

Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.
I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear.

Vacca foeda!
Stupid cow!

Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis
exponebantur ad necem.
In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags.

Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris.
If Caesar were alive, you'd be chained to an oar.

Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota
monax materiam possit materiari?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum.
A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.

Tuis pugis pignore!
You bet your bippy!

Ita erat quando hic adveni.
It was that way when I got here. [This one seems to be getting a great deal of use, especially by the boys.]

Sic hoc adfixum in obice legere potes, et liberaliter educatus et nimis propinquus ades.
If you can read this bumper sticker, you are very well-educated and much too close. [CafePress, anyone?]

Hocine bibo aut in eum digitos insero?
Do I drink this or stick my fingers in it? [Popular at meal times.]

Illiud Latine dici non potest.
You can't say that in Latin.

And most popular when dealing with friends, acquaintances, and the extended family who think that a classical home education, even of just the neo variety lol, and any Latin instruction before the age of 12, is akin to child abuse,

Vah! Denuone Latine loquebar? Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur.
Oh! Was I speaking Latin again? Silly me. Sometimes it just sort of slips out.

Our secret -- the kids think it's fun and useful, sort of like a secret code.

If you haven't found anything useful here, you can request a particular translation; send your request to the Handy Latin website's "staff linguist" at

Or you can check the following for more good stuff:

Amo, Amas, Amat and More: How to Use Latin to Your Own Advantage and to the Astonishment of Others by Eugene Ehrlich

Veni, Vidi, Vici : Conquer Your Enemies, Impress Your Friends with Everyday Latin, Ehrlich's follow-up (recently available at BookCloseouts)

Which Way to the Vomitorium: Vernacular Latin for All Occasions by Lesley O'Mara and Rose Williams

Latin for All Occasions by Henry Beard

Ave atque vale.

A Confederacy of Dunces

Much as I dislike George Bush, there seems to be more than enough responsibility to go around for the disgraceful post-Katrina efforts, and we'd better learn our lessons quickly before the next U.S. disaster, natural or man-made. Rudy Giuliani can't be there to bail us out every time.
  • Generations of Louisiana governors and NO mayors who lined their own, and their friends', pockets at the expense of the state's and city's poor.
  • Also from the last article, "Bush had the legal authority to order the National Guard to the disaster area himself, as he did after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack. But the troops four years ago were deployed for national security protection, and presidents of both parties traditionally defer to governors to deploy their own National Guardsmen and request help from other states when it comes to natural disasters. In addition to Guard help, the federal government could have activated, but did not, a major air support plan under a pre-existing contract with airlines. The program, called Civilian Reserve Air Fleet, lets the government quickly put private cargo and passenger planes into service."
  • The shameful treatment of tourists and international visitors caught in the crisis. Ten million tourists visited New Orleans last year, and the rebuilt city, when it's up and running, might benefit from some of those tourist dollars. I remember reading on the NO Times-Picayune website (I can't seem to find a link for it now) that "At the Wyndham Canal Place, which housed 1,500 guests, employees and their families during the storm, guests were turned loose if they couldn't get out on their own."
  • The blinkered and less than constructive comments by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other African-American leaders.
  • News outlets ignoring much of the devastation beyond New Orleans, especially in Mississippi, where entire towns and cities are gone, too.
    Last Thursday, The Houston Chronicle reprinted this article from 2001. Apparently no-one in any position of authority read that, either.

    More than 16 years ago, John McPhee wrote in The Control of Nature,
    Something like half of New Orleans is now below sea level -- as much as fifteen feet. New Orleans, surrounded levees, is emplaced between Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi like a broad shallow bowl. Nowhere is New Orleans higher than the river's natural bank. Underprivileged people live in the lower elevations, and always have. The rich -- by the river -- occupy the highest ground. In New Orleans, income and elevation can be correlated on a literally sliding scale: the Garden District on the highest level, Stanley Kowalski in the swamp. The Garden District and its environs are locally known as uptown.

    Torrential rains fall on New Orleans -- enough to cause flash floods inside the municipal walls. The water has nowhere to go. Left on its own, it would form a lake, rising inexorably from one level of the economy to the next. So it has to be pumped out. Every drop of rain that falls on New Orleans evaporates or is pumped out. Its removal lowers the water table and accelerates the city's subsidence. Where marshes have been drained to create tracts for new hosing, ground will shrink too. People buy landfill to keep up with the Joneses. In the words of Bob Fairless, of the New Orleans District engineers, "It's almost an annual spring ritual to get a load of dirt and fill in the low spots on your lawn." ....

    In the early nineteen-eighties, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a new large district headquarters in New Orleans. It is a tetragon, several stories high, with expanses of sheet glass, and it is right beside the river. Its foundation was dug in the mainline levee. That, to a fare-the-well, is putting your money where your mouth is.

    Among the five hundred miles of levee deficiencies now calling for attention along the Mississippi River, the most serious happen to be in New Orleans. Among other factors, the freeboard -- the amount of levee that reaches above flood levels -- has to be higher in New Orleans to combat the waves of ships. Elsewhere, the deficiencies are averaging between one and two feet with respect to the computed high-water flow line, which goes on rising as runoffs continue to speed up and waters are increasingly confined. Not only is the water higher. The levees tend to sink as well. They press down on the mucks beneath them and squirt materials out to the sides. Their crowns have to be built up. "You put five feet on and three feet sink," a [U.S. Army] Corps engineer remarked to me one day. ..."

    September 01, 2005

    Homeschooling during a disaster

    A friend just sent me this link to Ambleside Online's Helping Hand Emergency Learning Plan, which isn't secular but could easily be secularized for any family:
    This is a free, complete, user-friendly curriculum plan for homeschooling families who need support, encouragement and alternatives to the curriculum they've lost in a disaster, and also for churches and other groups needing to set up temporary schools for children who may not have been homeschooled. All texts and teaching materials needed to implement this plan are free online. The only things you need are access to a computer and printer, paper and pencil. Please print out and share this information freely with anyone who might need it.

    We know that there are more important things than missed schooling during a crisis. But sometimes in the midst of disasters, creating a small oasis of normalcy and continuity is very important. In the midst of such a disaster, grown ups with many urgent details on their minds cannot focus on thinking up things for children to do, and it is our prayer that this free resource will fill a need.

    The most important things to do during a disaster are simple things that bring the family together -- special times that build memories and connections. This includes things like singing hymns, folksongs, reading poetry, playing silly but educational games like Mad Libs, telling stories to each other, reading and retelling the old favorites like The Little Red Hen, The Gingerbread Man, and doing silly things like dancing together, playing hide the thimble, and ring around the rosie.

    Think beyond the usual textbooks. Improvise, make the most of what you have, make things up. For example, one family was given an old board game that was too hard to use, but it had a lot of little coloured plastic pieces that fit into each other, and those became their favourite math manipulative. If your phys. ed. equipment consists of a jump rope and a ball, look for new ways to use them instead of worrying that you don't have access to more than that.

    Make use of people as resources, including you, your spouse, your relatives and friends. Use internet helps such as search engines, e-texts, swap boards, patterns, maps, Bible commentaries, game instructions, study notes, and experts with websites."
    The page includes suggestions for history and geography, math, literature and poetry, science and nature, language arts, music, art appreciation, games and handicrafts, and more.

    A couple of ideas

    from an admitted layman.

    To Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada: You might want to send help now. "Standing by", offering official sympathies (mentioned as an aside during an already-scheduled telephone exchange about softwood lumber), and leaving the deputy PM to do most of the work aren't all that, well, statesmanlike. Really rather underwhelming and makes one understand why we just got our wrists slapped over the lumber business, and why mad cow is still such a delicate issue. We might also want to remind the Americans about our little rule (they have to ask first, like playing "Mother May I") to authorize DART, so we can send the team sooner rather than later, as happened after the tsunami. Interesting that British Columbia has responded before the federal government.

    To President George Bush: Psssst. You could get out of Iraq and save face by recalling the Army and putting them to work cleaning up and rebuilding New Orleans, Biloxi, and the rest of the Gulf coast. Just think about it....

    Back-to-school day in Alberta, or, So you're thinking about home schooling...

    Today is the first day of school for Alberta public and separate (Catholic) schools, so in honor of that fateful day, two years ago, when Laura came off the school bus -- a two-hour roundtrip, by the way -- in tears after her first day of first grade (or Grade One as it's known up here) because "they're doing baby work and you have to go tell the teacher I know it already," an incomplete and highly subjective list of links from my admittedly short trip around the homeschooling block...

    • Chris has done a masterful job summarizing John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education here. If you want to read the whole thing online for yourself, go to Gatto's website, from which you can also buy an old-fashioned bound copy.
    • Lynx at One-Sixteenth has done a masterful job summarizing Albert Nock's book, The Theory of Education in the United States, based on a series of lectures he delivered at the University of Virginia in 1931, here at her blog (part I) and here (part II)
    • Homeschooling for Dummies by Jennifer Kaufeld; much better than you might think based on just the title, series, or yellow cover

    Nuts and Bolts and Links
    • Paula's Archives, a wealth of information and links, especially for the classical homeschooler
    • Rainbow Resource Center, probably the largest homeschooling catalogue in the U.S. Great prices, amazing selection. The catalogue is free and approaching the size of the Manhattan phone book.

    Hurricane/Flood Relief and Information

    A partial list, from The New York Times:

    Relief Organizations:
    Charity Navigator; information on various charities and ways to donate to the relief effort.
    Red Cross or 1-800-HELP-NOW
    Salvation Army or 1-800-SAL-ARMY
    Episcopal Relief & Development or 1-800-334-7626
    United Methodist Committee on Relief or 1-800-554-8583
    Catholic Charities or 1-800-919-9338
    FEMA Charity tips
    National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
    Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
    Operation Blessing or 1-800-436-6348
    America's Second Harvest or 1-800-344-8070
    Adventist Community Services or 1-800-381-7171
    Christian Disaster Response or 1-941-956-5183 or 1-941-551-9554
    Christian Reformed World Relief Committee or 1-800-848-5818
    Church World Service or 1-800-297-1516
    Convoy of Hope or 1-417-823-8998
    Lutheran Disaster Response or 1-800-638-3522
    Mennonite Disaster Service or 1-717-859-2210
    Nazarene Disaster Response or 1-888-256-5886
    Presbyterian Disaster Assistance or 1-800-872-3283
    Southern Baptist Convention - Disaster Relief or 1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440

    Other Information:
    Federal Emergency Management Agency or 1-800-621-FEMA
    Louisiana Homeland Security
    City of New Orleans
    Louisiana Governor's Office
    Mississippi Emergency Management
    National Hurricane Center
    National Weather Service
    Hydrologic Information Center (river flooding)

    Hurricane/Flood Relief

    Had the following note this morning from Natalie in Mississippi, an online acquaintance from her postings at a Yahoo group or two and her blog. I'll keep you posted on anything else I get from her, and will link to her blog when the information is up there. If you want to get in touch with her, too, her email contact info is at her blog, too.
    Thanks for checking in. We're in central MS in the Jackson metro area. Our neighborhood sustained some moderate damage, the worst being one home with half the roof missing. Somehow we managed to retain all our utilities, amazingly, even the satellite tv. We have some minor fence and roof damage, and that's all. We are fully aware of how lucky we are.

    We have several homeschoolers in the PEAK Coast group that have lost everything. So far, I've only heard from three of them. I hope the rest made it out. There's nothing left down there. According to the stories we've heard, reality makes the news coverage look mild. Jeanne and I are in the process of formulating a plan for people who want to help our homeschoolers. I'll blog it tonight, but essentially we're directing those who wish to help immediately to the Red Cross and Salvation Army, which is looking for monetary donations. We are also asking people who wish to assist homeschoolers with materials to go ahead and start book drives or fundraising efforts now so we can coordinate and help MS homeschoolers rebuild their resources as soon as we are able (in about 6 weeks, I'm guessing).

    If you'd like to coordinate local efforts to help specific families, let me know and I can put you in contact with two that I know of for sure who have literally lost everything. Just email me and I'll put you in contact. I know that they are both going to run short on funds very soon, so that might be an area you all can help with in a homeschooler-to-homeschooler way.

    As for my neck of the woods, Jackson is about 200 miles from the coast, so Katrina was a Cat. 2 when it hit just east of us. All the highways and interstates south of Jackson are closed, but some people have managed to make it to Hattiesburg (about 60 miles from the coast) only to be turned back to Jackson.

    Since this is the closest anyone can get, Jackson is beginning to look like one big refugee camp. Survivors from the south are being bused in to escape the devastation while people who fled are attempting to get back down there. Everything is bottle-necking in Jackson with people waiting four-five hours to get gas, grocery stores shelves stripped bare and shelters filling to capacity. Patience is wearing thin as people get more frustrated and anxious. It's kinda crazy out there.

    Happy Centennial, Alberta!

    I'm still wondering which clever educrat decided that the first day of public school would coincide with Alberta's official birthday, especially with all the (free!) centennial celebrations being held throughout the province beginning today and running late into the night and through the weekend.

    Tom, the kids, and I are taking off to the small town of Wainwright, about an hour south of our farm, to enjoy their festivities (including bison burgers) and fireworks; we're especially looking forward to hearing the Corb Lund Band.

    (Psst...Alberta is the province north of Montana. Some famous Albertans: Fay Wray, W.O. Mitchell, W.P. Kinsella, Marshall McLuhan, Joni Mitchell, Arthur Hiller, Ian Tyson, k.d. lang, Jann Arden, Paul Gross, Leslie Nielsen, Kurt Browning, Michael J. Fox, Tommy Chong, and Nickleback)

    "Alberta Bound"
    by Gordon Lightfoot

    Oh the prairie lights are burnin' bright
    The Chinook wind is a-movin' in
    Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound
    Though I've done the best I could
    My old luck ain't been so good and
    Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound
    No one-eyed man could e'er forget
    The Rocky Mountain sunset
    It's a pleasure just to be Alberta bound
    I long to see my next of kin
    To know what kind of shape they're in
    Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound

    Alberta bound, Alberta bound
    It's good to be Alberta bound
    Alberta bound, Alberta bound
    It's good to be Alberta bound

    Oh the skyline of Toronto
    Is somethin' you'll get onto
    But they say you've got to live there for a while
    And if you got the money
    You can get yourself a honey
    A written guarantee ta make you smile
    But it's snowin' in the city
    And the streets and brown and gritty
    And I know there's pretty girls all over town
    But they never seem ta find me
    And the one I left behind me
    Is the reason that I'll be Alberta bound

    Alberta bound, Alberta bound
    It's good to be Alberta bound
    Alberta bound, Alberta bound
    It's good to be Alberta bound
    It's good to be Alberta bound