Sunshine

It’s a gray, rainy day, more like November than January. It has been raining slowly but steadily since the middle of the night and there are no more than a few remnants of snow remaining on the ground. We need sunshine and I’m just the person to provide some!

Rays of the autumn sun
Rays of the autumn sun
Bright autumn flowers
Bright autumn flowers
December Sunrise
December sunrise
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Dawn over the Atlantic
Chinese lily
Sunny lily
 December
Sun after snow
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Solitude at sunrise
Sun streaks by Crown and Eagle central canal
Sun streaks by Crown and Eagle central canal
The sun, just above the horizon in April. My woods.
The sun, just above the horizon in April. My woods.

Thanking my readers in a tangible way: The Reader Appreciation Award

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As the first month of this new year crawls to a close, I am grateful to be given a brand new and very special award: The Reader Appreciation Award from Sharla at catnipoflife. Sharla and I exchange scoops, family news, compliments and regrets that we don’t live close enough to visit in person pretty much every day. She has become more than “another blogger.”

She is a friend, the real deal and my world is better because she is in it. I think the world is better for everyone because she is in it and if you have never visited her site, please do. Poetry, quotes … thoughts, feelings and reminders of why being alive is worth the trouble. That’s not facetious: sometimes I need a reminder!

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There are a few rules for this award, fewer than for most. As the name implies, this goes to other bloggers who have taken the time to comment and sometimes, contribute to your blog … those readers and followers who have moved from the anonymous category into virtual friends. Some live so far away I know we’ll never meet, yet we depend on each other and we care.

What you can’t do:

1) You can’t award it to anyone who has already gotten it during the same year. So if you got it in 2012, you can’t get it until again until 2013. It can be difficult to determine who has which awards since many bloggers get awards but don’t display the badges, at least not obviously. I’ll just take my best guess.

2) The award can’t be given back to the person from whom you receive it. This is a problem because Sharla is always on the top of my recipient list and she is giving me the award. Drat.

As to whom you should give the award, this one is quite specific. The Reader’s Appreciation Award is given to the top 6 blogger/commentors on your site. This is a little complicated for me personally. Of the top six, two are my husband. No, I only have one husband, but my site recognizes him as two people depending on whether he is writing from his desk or laptop.

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Consider yourself awarded!

It would seem odd to give him a blogging award since, although he is an enthusiastic commenter, he isn’t a blogger but he is my biggest and bestest fan. So instead, to Garry who is always rooting for me, I appreciate you a whole lot.

Sharla herself would be getting this award, but she’s the one giving it to me so again — thank you!

The envelope please:

After due diligence, the award goes to:

Gabrielle at My Heathen Heart

jcalberta at A Celebration Of Western Movies … Pardner !

Bob Mielke at Northwest Photographer

Tyson Carter at Head In A Vice

Sally at My Beautiful Things

Emily Guido at “The Light Bearer Series”

This list is in no particular order and there are people with whom I have a lot of interaction that are not on the list because I can’t include everyone, though I would if I could. Because I appreciate my readers more than any of you can know. You are the people in my world who make doing this, writing, posting, sticking with it every day, worth it. You are the folks who let me know that I’m being heard, being understood. You guys “get” me; that’s something special.

I want to extend my warmest appreciation to all my visitors, followers and readers. Although I have listed only six names (my top six commenters after excluding my husband (times two) and Sharla for reasons previously noted 🙂 so if your name is absent it isn’t because I don’t appreciate you. Moreover, this award is about thanking readers.

It’s meant to be given away … so if you have supporters to whom you would like to express your gratitude, feel free to grab the badge and pass it on! This is about saying thanks to the wonderful people who support our efforts and enrich our lives. In the end, it is about the joy we get from giving something back to those who “feed” us!

As always, I add the proviso that awards are supposed to make us feel good, happy. We all know that fulfilling the “requirements” of most awards is time-consuming and sometimes, close to impossible. Please do not feel obliged to press yourself beyond your comfort zone. Whatever you do in response to this award, have fun, feel appreciated and don’t stress. This isn’t supposed to make your life harder!

 

If the moccasins pinch, wear them

I just read another post on the power of positive thinking. I was glad to hear again how I can conquer pain and make my problems go away by believing they will.  Does God really reserve his blessing for those with a positive attitude?

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I don’t think there’s a malevolent deity or evil destiny stalking me or anyone else. Life just is. It’s not omens and portents: it’s stuff that happens.

Positive thinking is not bad.  It’s just that positive thinkers have a way of forgetting how suffering people don’t necessarily want a pep talk. They want to be in less, preferably no, pain. They want love, comfort and sympathy. My suggestion? Listen to them, find out what they want and do your best to give it to them. Your positivity may cure your problems and you are welcome to use it to make yourself feel better. Just don’t impose it on me or anyone else. Don’t force people to smile when they want to cry so you can feel okay.

I’ve got more than a few physical problems that are difficult to manage. There are bad days. I want to avoid dragging others down, but I have given up trying to make everyone else feel better by internalizing everything.

It’s unfair to tell people to relax, be happy, smile and that will make everything fine. It’s not true. Internalizing pain and sadness increases stress and makes problems worse. Don’t stop believing, but quit imposing. If you can make your own pain go away by force of will, good for you. In the meantime, remember: only you are you. The rest of us are different. A single solution, attitude or way of thinking does not fit everyone.

It is said you cannot know anyone until you’ve walked in their moccasins. Be careful: those moccasins can pinch something fierce.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

When I was in college studying drama, one of the assignments was to perform a poem … something long and epic. Most of my fellow students felt a need to showcase their dramatic skill by performing “How do I love thee” or one of the many Elizabethan sonnets. They did so using a variety of accents that would have caused old Will Shakespeare to run screaming from the room.

I have always felt that 19-year-olds should avoid excess dramaturgy. They look silly. Or maybe they were merely bad actors. None of them have been seen on stage or screen since. For that matter, neither have I but I never  dreamt of a life under the spotlights. I was studying drama because it was an easy major, letting me mark time until I figured out what I really wanted to do.

Ever marching to a different drummer and as an aficionado of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, my performance piece was The Walrus and the Carpenter. To this day, I can still recite the whole thing (more of less) from memory. Jabberwocky, too. I’m that good.

So happy birthday Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson:  January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898), master of literary nonsense and political satire. I’m a few days late, but I fell down a rabbit hole and lost track of time.

The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

Walrus and carpenter
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?
“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Gazing through from the other side with a British accent

It’s 5 hours later in London than in New England. I was reminded of this today because a few minutes after 4 in the afternoon, I got almost 400 hits from England on a blog I wrote Last September.

The post is about the première episode of this season of the CBS series “Criminal Minds.” For those of you who have never watched the show, it is based on the FBI‘s Behavioral Analysis Unit based in Quantico, Virginia.

I wrote the original post on September 26, 2012, which was when the première episode for this season of “Criminal Minds” aired in the United States. For some reason, that post hit the top of Google’s search engine and has stayed there ever since.

The series supposedly portrays the FBI’s best and brightest. The words “gazing through from the other side” were left at a crime scene and in the show, the team can’t find any reference to those words anywhere in the virtual universe. Of course the first thing I did after they said they couldn’t find it was type the words into Google and hit “Enter.” Up came the song, the lyrics, the group … and it took me perhaps 10 seconds.

Apparently the same thing happened today in England when the show aired for the first time. Everyone watched the show, heard the line, grabbed their tablet or laptop, Googled the phrase … and found me.

googleSerendipity

I realize it’s TV, not the real FBI, but surely even the fake FBI can do a simple Google search. My granddaughter was doing Google searches before she finished first grade, so it is hard to believe a television show would portray federal agents as less computer savvy than a 6-year-old.

It had been an unremarkable day, even a bit slow. I usually get most of my hits in the evening, so when I looked at my site in mid afternoon and saw I had around 140 hits, it seemed normal.

A screenshot of the BAU Team on the jet.

When I went back to look at my site a bit after 4 in the afternoon, I had gotten almost 600 hits, the vast majority from Great Britain for that same post about “Criminal Minds.” I may not be the sharpest tack in the tool box, but I deduced today was the British première of the show. I was so sure I didn’t even bother to check until an hour ago when I Googled “criminal minds UK première” and it came up as 28 January 2013 at 9pm — 4pm my time.

That little post, written between commercial breaks, has been my all-time most popular post. It isn’t my best work. It isn’t even close to my best. I’ve posted hundreds of better pieces, but none ever got such a big response. It makes me think about why I’m blogging. I want to be read, but it would be nice to be recognized for work of which I’m proud. Regardless, my most popular stuff is never my best. Sometimes, it isn’t even mine — it’s a reblog. That hurts.

When I get responses to posts on which I worked hard, it makes me happy. Responses from people who “get me” are gratifying. The only thing that could make it better would be money. Feel free to send cash or checks. I’m sorry, but I don’t accept credit cards.

Shacks

Snow shack

Out near UMass, in Hadley, last week. They have some very photogenic shacks. The old shack in the next photograph is a symbol of the town, so whenever the shack starts to really collapse, they prop it back up. Great for photographers.

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Redshirts, by John Scalzi: A Book Review

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas | [John Scalzi]The story within a story (or play within a play), where fictional characters interact with people in the real world is not new or unique. Shakespeare used it and as Scalzi himself bears witness, there have been a lot of movies, plays, books, and so on that have used one or another variations on this theme. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I enjoyed his willingness to explore a classic form and was curious to see where he would go with it. I also appreciated his acknowledging the other authors and script writers who have used some version of it.

The first portion of the story was fun. The characters gradually realize they are part of a  TV series. This isn’t a spoiler; the book’s title refers to the red-shirted characters on Star Trek who were always killed before the first commercial break. In Redshirts, after discovering they are characters in cable sci fi series, the characters slide into the real world. Even though it was obvious from the beginning what was happening, it didn’t matter because what the author was doing was less important than how he did it. John Scalzi has a unique and quirky perspective that make his books interesting and highly entertaining. At least for the first half of the book, Redshirts was no exception.

Then the codas began. The codas are rather like alternate endings, but also like an extra piece of story, tangentially related to the main storyline. It’s an interesting idea that didn’t really work. At least, it didn’t work for me.

The first coda explores the mind of a writer in the throes of writer’s block and was mildly interesting. Not exactly gripping, but not bad. When the first coda drew to a close and the second began, I realized I was restless and finding it difficult to stay focused. The final coda felt like a postscript and held little interest. Worse, the book felt like a writing exercise. Interesting in a technical way if you happen to be a writer, I nonetheless found myself muttering “Okay already, I got it. You made your point.”

I listened through to the end, though I kept drifting and had to remind myself to pay attention as the book plodded to its conclusion.

Less would have been more. The basic idea was good — cute and clever. In its audiobook version, it was helped along by a skilled narrator. But there wasn’t enough plot to go the distance, like a movie that runs out of script 20 minutes before it runs out of film. The story was too thin to support its length. The first half could easily have stood on its own as a novella.

By the end, I had lost track of the characters and plot. Too many endings, characters appearing and disappearing with blinding speed. A score card might have helped but ultimately, I didn’t care.

I’ve read worse books … but John Scalzi has written much better.