Thursday Morning Open Thread: Oh Joy, It’s Pollen Season Already

Betcha you don’t even have to ask how I can tell! But if I’m unusually disorganized or cryptic in the near future… well, blame it on the juniper / poplar / maple. Especially the Norway maples which are prominent among the local trash trees.

Meanwhile, random (mostly) happy, uplifting news tidbits…

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Welcome the Worm Super Moon

Seriously. According to lore, it’s when the frozen ground softens enough for earthworms to emerge, thereby encouraging the return of the robins. Perhaps more importantly, the Spring Equinox arrives just before 6pm EDT… and I, for one, am ready for this winter to be over.

And speaking of spring, with the impulse for housecleaning it inspires, this is very sweet and also embarrassingly reminiscent of our whole house…

When I was a child, the grownup books in my house were arranged according to two principles. One of these, which governed the downstairs books, was instituted by my mother, and involved achieving a remarkable harmony—one that anyone who has ever tried to organize a home library would envy—among thematic, alphabetic, and aesthetic demands. The other, which governed the upstairs books, was instituted by my father, and was based on the conviction that it is very nice to have everything you’ve recently read near at hand, in case you get the urge to consult any of it again; and also that it is a pain in the neck to put those books away, especially when the shelves on which they belong are so exquisitely organized that returning one to its appropriate slot requires not only a card catalogue but a crowbar.

It was this pair of convictions that led to the development of the Stack. I can’t remember it in its early days, because in its early days it wasn’t memorable. I suppose back then it was just a modest little pile of stray books, the kind that many readers have lying around in the living room or next to the bed. But by the time I was in my early teens it was the case—and seemed by then to have always been the case—that my parents’ bedroom was home to the Mt. Kilimanjaro of books. Or perhaps more aptly the Mt. St. Helens of books, since it seemed possible that at any moment some subterranean shift in it might cause a cataclysm.

The Stack had started in a recessed space near my father’s half of the bed, bounded on one side by a wall and on the other by my parents’ dresser, a vertical behemoth taller than I would ever be. At some point in the Stack’s development, it had overtopped that piece of furniture, whereupon it met a second tower of books, which, at some slightly later point, had begun growing up along the dresser’s other side. For some reason, though, the Stack always looked to me as if it had defied gravity (or perhaps obeyed some other, more mysterious force) and grown down the far side of the dresser instead. At all events, the result was a kind of homemade Arc de Triomphe, extremely haphazard-looking but basically stable, made of some three or four hundred books…

Saturday Morning Open Thread: “The Obama Presidential Library That Isn’t”

The public book repositories that were such an important part of so many of our childhoods have changed considerably since the days when Maurice Sendak was best known for illustrating Else Minarik’s Little Bear easy readers. Our little New England industrial town is on the point of reopening a new, totally redesigned library that will feature (along with much improved access to books & magazines) “… our new video gaming setup… 3D printers, laser cutter, and laptop vending machine in the Makerspace… our business center [where] the scanner can translate the text on a scrap of paper into over 50 different languages… “

And the New York Times knows this, which is why the headline is more than a little disingenuous, but it’s still a great read:

The Obama Presidential Center promises to be a presidential library like no other.

The four-building, 19-acre “working center for citizenship,” set to be built in a public park on the South Side of Chicago, will include a 235-foot-high “museum tower,” a two-story event space, an athletic center, a recording studio, a winter garden, even a sledding hill.

But the center, which will cost an estimated $500 million, will also differ from the complexes built by Barack Obama’s predecessors in another way: It won’t actually be a presidential library.

In a break with precedent, there will be no research library on site, and none of Mr. Obama’s official presidential records. Instead, the Obama Foundation will pay to digitize the roughly 30 million pages of unclassified paper records from the administration so they can be made available online.

And the entire complex, including the museum chronicling Mr. Obama’s presidency, will be run by the foundation, a private nonprofit entity, rather than by the National Archives and Records Administration, the federal agency that administers the libraries and museums for all presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.
Read more

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Happy News

Not necessarily in order of importance…

Writer Jill Twiss and illustrator EG Keller are collaborating on “The Someone New,” HarperCollins Children’s Books announced Wednesday. Scheduled for June 4, the book is a parable about welcoming outsiders. It tells of a forest in which a chipmunk worries that the entrance of a snail will ruin the world he knows. The publisher will donate some proceeds to a charity aiding immigrant children.

Twiss is a staff writer for John Oliver’s HBO program. She and Keller worked on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” which spoofs a picture story by the wife and daughter of Vice President Mike Pence by making Bundo a gay rabbit…

Nancy Pelosi knows Elijah Cummings is an excellent mentor for young firebrands…



Recommended Reading #4: 2018 in Review

Good afternoon and welcome back to Recommended Reading! I’ve been putting this post off all month. Now, my current short story is resting between drafts; I’m going to be hiding at home from a cold front for twenty-four hours; and I’m making myself do some writing before I start playing Octopath Traveler. It’s the perfect moment to talk about the best books we read last year.

According to Goodreads, I read around thirty-two novels last year. Here are the titles that stood out to me, in no particular order. (Many of them were recommendations by y’all, so thanks!)

  • The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks

This was my first foray into the Culture books. Interesting universe, great starship names, fun story.

  • The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi

Many authors fail to find the line between telling you just enough and being too obscure; Rajaniemi is not one of them. The Quantum Thief is a richly imaginative and wonderfully-wrought heist story.

  • A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge

This was one of the best attempts I’ve read at writing from the perspective of an alien.

  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester

A science-fiction classic for a reason; incidentally one of William Gibson’s favorite novels.

  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

Absolutely brilliant characters. Looking forward to my next foray into this universe.

What did you read last year that you loved?