Saturday, February 26, 2005

Pilot lights, bad design, etc.

Had to use the heat today (it got down to around 40 last night), and discovered that the pilot light on the furnace was out. This required that the pilot light be re-lit, a task that was complicated by the fact that the access to the pilot light was on the side of the furnace closest (about a foot and a half) to the wall. To be fair, another side of the furnace is cheek by jowl with the other furnace, but that leaves two sides that have 12 or so feet of clearance. So, among the great questions of our time is, why on earth wouldn't you install the furnace so that it was easy to access the pilot light?

University of Illinois engineering alum Henry Petroski's got a number of books about design, and engineering and similar questions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Lawyers among us...

Included herewith is a (partial) list of lawyers/former lawyers/recovering lawyers in the children's/YA lit biz. I'm sure there are other obvious ones I'm blanking on:

Franny Billingsley
Sara Jane Boyers
Alex Flinn
D.L. Garfinkle
Ruth Pennebaker
Sean Petrie
Louis Sachar
Greg Leitich Smith
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Cheryl Aylward Whitesel
Janet Wong

Monday, February 21, 2005

Happy Presidents' Day!

Okay, back in the mists of time, there were these two holidays: Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday. For reasons not entirely clear to me, these were apparently combined into one when Martin Luther King Day became a national holiday. Since it's generically "Presidents' Day" I'm not sure if it's supposed to honor all our presidents, including say, whatshisname who died from eating cherries, or just Lincoln and Washington.

Regardless, here are a couple links to things L and W.

NIU's Lincoln Net
Abe Lincoln Presidential Library

George Washington at the White House
Mount Vernon

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Catcher in the Rye

I have a confession to make. I can't stand this book. I think Holden Caulfield is a spoiled, whiny baby.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Austin Restaurant Guide for TLAers

The Texas Library Association conference is here in Austin this year for the first time since Johnson was president (Lyndon, not Andrew) and I've been getting requests for restaurant advice. So, here's a quick and dirty guide to Austin restaurants. All are within walking distance or a quick cab ride of the Convention Center and convention hotels (in no particular order):

Best Places to go on an Expense Account:

Driskill Grill (One of Austin's best, in the recently restored Driskill Hotel)
Cafe at Four Seasons (Very good, best place to rub shoulders with celebrities [Lovett, Bullock, etc.])
(Note: The Driskill Grill and the Cafe are typically Austin's highest rated restaurants)
Bitter End Bistro and Brewery (Good beer, good food, recommended for carnivores)
Vespaio (High end Italian. I don't know if they take reservations, though, so you should be there at 5:30 or be prepared to wait)
Louie's 106 (Mediterranean, in the historic Littlefield Building)
Truluck's (seafood, in the heart of the Warehouse District)
Jeffrey's (the Bushes' favorite; tables are a little close together, though)
Zoot (high end American)
Fonda San Miguel (Interior Mexican, a bit of a hike from downtown)


Uchi (Sushi, but with a twist)
Kyoto (on Congress Avenue, with a tatami room)
Musashino (also a bit of a hike, but worth it)


West Lynn Cafe

High End Chains:

Roy's (Asian fusion)
Sullivan's (steak)

Other Downtown/Near Downtown Restaurants:

Roaring Fork (New, in the Stephen F. Austin Hotel, a little loud)
Restaurant at the Mansion on Judge's Hill(in boutique hotel in newly restored mansion)
Manuel's (Mexican upscale)
La Traviata (Italian)
Z Tejas (new Southwestern)
East Side Cafe (they grow their own vegetables)

Funky Austin Places (inexpensive):

Magnolia Cafe
Kerbey Lane Cafe
Hyde Park Bar and Grill (look for the fork in the road)
Guero's (Tex Mex)
Katz's New York Deli
County Line (barbecue, but a little outlying)
Iron Works (barbecue)
Stubb's (barbecue)
Hoover's (southern home cooking. And barbecue)

Happy Days and the late 70s

The other night ABC had a 30 year retrospective/reunion show on HAPPY DAYS. Very nice show; they even had a segment on the "jumping the shark" episode, although they were a bit, hmmm, nuanced on the exact definition.

Of course, this also got me thinking about other things going on circa 25-30 years ago:

Cell phones were the size of bricks (A "brick" is something that used to be employed more often in the building of houses.).

Music came on vinyl disks the size of dinner plates.

Beta vs. VHS

8-track vs. cassette.

There were only three television networks. Most of the country received them via a piece of wire called an "antenna."

64K was considered a lot of memory for a computer.

There was only one long distance telephone company.

Saturday morning cartoons were actually cool and an entire generation learned the words of the Preamble to the Constitution during the commercial breaks.

Chrysler was still an American company (although the recipient of a government bailout) and its most prominent product was the K car.

Chicago had a mayor who was not named Richard Daley.

Jimmy Carter, a former peanut farmer and submariner, was president of the United States. (On February 19, the Navy will commission the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf-class attack submarine, in his honor).

Ellen Raskin won the 1979 Newbery Award for The Westing Game.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Lobsters feels no pain...

when dropped into boiling water. At least according to this study by the University of Oslo.

Freddie would disagree.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Old news, but still bizarre...or who was Antonio Meucci?

According to House Resolution 269 (June 11, 2002), he was the inventor of the telephone. As for Alexander Graham Bell, he was a fraud. And worse, a Scotsman.

According to a poster (postee?) "[t]he question of whether Bell was the true inventor of the telephone is perhaps the single most litigated fact in U.S. history, and the Bell patents were defended in some 600 cases. Bell never lost a case. HR 269 directly contradicts findings of courts in New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Ohio, Maryland, and numerous others states. (See among others American Bell Telephone Co. v. Dolbear, 15 Fed. Rep. 448; American Bell Telephone Co. v. Spencer, 8 Fed. Rep. 509, and American Bell Telephone Co. v. Molecular Telephone, 32 Fed. Rep. 214.)." HR 269 also apparently directly contradicts the findings of the Congressional Committee of 1886, set up in response to the Pan-Electric Telephone scandal.

Hmmm. Almost makes you remember the good old days when the Indiana House decided pi was equal to 3.2.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day

So tonight I'm trying to recreate something Cyn and I had a few years' back at Le Cinq, a restaurant in Paris: (whole) lobster and (whole) chicken, steamed together, with a sauce (I don't know what the sauce was, but I'm shooting for something like a remoulade). I'll probably just use a couple lobster tails and some chicken leg/thighs, though. Also, steamed asparagus and heart of palm salad. Chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. And a Petit Syrah (I know it's a red, but Cyn doesn't drink white, and besides, it's a fairly light red and the lobster and remoulade are rich, anyway).

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Things I am not doing today...

The Austin Marathon. I've done it a few times before - it's got a pretty good route. The first few miles are up in the northwest part of town (lots of concrete and strip malls), then it meanders downtown in front of the state Capitol and Congress Avenue, and then around Town Lake and Zilker Park. Twenty-six point two miles, but it's all downhill.

Yeah, I feel like a slug.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

I'm going to completely geek out now.

Fair warning: I'm an electrical engineer.

Please look the other way.

Star Trek: Enterprise has been canceled. After four seasons. I'm disappointed, though I have to confess I never made it completely through the first season, but have watched episodes here and there. I did like that they picked up more on the Andorians and Tellarites, but generally found that the show was oddly lacking in drama, had a mawkish them song, and frankly, seemed to made no sense at all within the Star Trek timeline. Also, I really didn't care at all about any of the characters. Including the Vulcan in the bodysuit. Possibly by now I would have if I had applied my "third year" rule (see below). On the other hand, I do intend to watch next week's episode on "How the Klingons Got Their Spots""Brow Ridges."

IMHO, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the best of the Treks, although it didn't get going really until the third season and the whole Bajoran mysticism was a bit much. It did, however, have excellent acting, generally compelling stories, much more character development, and was, by and large, less sappy than TNG.

Star Trek: The Next Generation had its moments (again, only after the second season) but Data and Wesley should've been pitched out an airlock. Also, at times it was almost sickeningly touchy-feely (Ship's counselor? ON THE BRIDGE? You've got to be kidding. Oh, and they didn't get a "real" engineer until third about alienating your base!). Also, am I the only one who thought it was a bit fetishistic for Sarek to have been (i) the only Vulcan to have ever married a human woman and then (ii) to have married a second one?

I'm still watching the occasional rerun of Voyager (AKA, "Gilligan's Island in Space"), so won't comment at length, although I did think Kathryn Janeway was often a better captain than Jean-Luc "John Tesh" Picard (Picard: "Q, is there anything I can do to make you feel better while you're blowing us to smithereens? Maybe a nice hot toddy?" vs. Janeway: "Q, get the hell off my ship!").

Then there's the Original Series, which started the whole thing. I remember watching the Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al., reruns when I was a kid, and thinking it was real, and then being disappointed we'd only recently just gotten to the moon. What more can I say? Other than thank heaven there were episodes like The City on the Edge of Forever, to make up for Spock's Brain.

There now. I'm done. You can look again.

Although I warn you that someday I might blog about the movies.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Random Readings...

Some of these are duplicates to ones Cyn has already blogged about, but I thought I'd give my own two cents:

D.L. Garfinkle's Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl (Putnam 2005) is the hilarious story of Michael "Storky" Pomerantz and his first year of high school. (In case it is not obvious, "Storky" is not a term of endearment.) Cyn's blog-post has more superlatives, so take a look. Of related interest is this essay "Why Nerds Are Unpopular." Incidentally, and apropos of nothing, as a kid, I had a German shepherd named Rex.

At the other end of high school is Prom, by Laurie Halse Anderson, the story of Ashley Hannigan, who has absolutely no intention of attending the eponymous event. But when the math teacher embezzles the prom fund, Ashley's roped into emergency planning by her best friend. Can they pull off a successful prom with no money and only nine days to go? Another winner by the author of Printz Honor Book and NBA finalist, Speak. Cyn blogs Prom here.

Maya Running, by Anjali Banerjee, features Indian-Canadian Maya Mukherjee, living in Manitoba in 1979 (the horror), with deeply eccentric parents, and a lot of ice and snow. She wants nothing more than to fit in and go out with the John Travolta look-alike who, to her surprise, seems to like her as well. Then her gorgeous cousin Pinky arrives from India with a statue of the trickster god Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles. When Pinky "steals" her prospective boyfriend, and Maya's parents announce they are moving to California, Pinky invokes the god Ganesh. A funny and unique tale of a wish that backfires. Cyn's blog entry is here.

Naming Maya (Apparently a very popular name) is Uma Krishnaswami's latest and also features an Indian-(North)American girl, who is dragged by her mother to Chennai, India, where she must deal with the "new" culture of the Old Country, a whole passel of extended relatives, and her parents' divorce. Rich and lushly written, Naming Maya explores universal themes amidst a unique setting.

JA WWII Camp Art Trivia Quiz

The National Japanese American Museum is sponsoring a promotional relocation camp art trivia quiz. Winners will receve museum merchandise.

Headache, fever, and a chill...

Anyone who grew up during the 1980's should recognize the quote.

Yesterday was my "fun with flu" day. Yech. Feeling somewhat better today (amazing what 18 hours of sleep will do for you), but am still planning to take it easy. Call in sick, that sort of thing.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

2005 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award

Someone posted this to one of my list servs yesterday, though I haven't seen the official web page announcement:

The award, named for poet Lee Bennett Hopkins, is given to a volume of distinguished poetry.

The winner is HERE IN HARLEM by Walter Dean Myers (Holiday House)

Two Honor Books were chosen:

CREATURE CARNIVAL by Marilyn Singer (Hyperion Books)

IS THIS FOREVER...OR WHAT? TEXAS POEMS, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye (Greenwillow Books)

Congratulations all.

Marilyn Singer is on a writer list serv with Cyn and me, and was gracious enough to organize a breakfast at last year's NCTE conference in Indianapolis. (We missed her presentation, though :-().

We did, however, have the pleasure of seeing Walter Dean Myers and Naomi Shihab Nye present here in Texas last year: Myers presented selections from HERE IN HARLEM at last year's Texas Book Festival, and Nye presented IS THIS FOREVER... at last year's Texas Library Association conference.

Does anyone else think

there's something very Iron Chef about the AKC Dog Shows?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl Sunday and I don't care...

New England and Philadelphia. Feh. Don't have a dog in that fight, as they say.

Had an odd moment yesterday ("I grow old, I grow old..." :-)): I was lifting weights at the Y yesterday, when the radio they have on starts playing this show called The Time Zone, "[a] music and information show. . .that features a specific year and discusses what was going on socially, politically, etc. including the popular songs."

For the inaugural show, they featured the music and history of the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eighty-Two.

Freshman year of high school. Brrr.

On the other hand, I can bench press more now than back then :-).

Friday, February 04, 2005

Writer-illustrator blogs

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, has a new blog and a new novel, Prom, that's getting all kinds of good reviews. Cyn read and loved it. It's now on my nightstand as a "next-to-read."

Haemi Balgassi, author of Peacebound Trains, has a blog that provides insights into her writing life. Also check out her website.

Debbi Michiko Florenceblogs books she's read, author interviews, and her life in general. Her website has interviews of Cyn and me.

Winner of the 2002 Newbery for A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park blogs "What She's Reading." Her new novel, Project Mulberry, comes out this spring. Intriguingly, the novel offers character interaction with the author, Ms. Park. Can't wait to read it!

Austin illustrator Don Tatetells about his "highs and lows." His most recent book is Sure As Sunrise: Stories of Bruh Rabbit and His Walkin' Talkin' Friends.

YA author of TAYSHAS list novel Contents Under Pressure,Lara Zeises, blogs at girl interrupted.

Copy-editing the great American novel...

No, not me. This lady.

Of particular note is this line: "The Great American Novel's editor will expect no less of me [than my full powers of anal-retentiveness], for his house will be paying me upwards of $15 an hour, more than it paid the author himself."

And she gets benefits, too.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Texas Library Association Conference

Cyn and I are going to be on a panel at this year's TLA Conference, held right here in Austin, Texas (April 5-8)! (This is not new news, but we just got the program.). We're on a panel with Alex Sanchez on Humor in Multicultural Literature. (If you know of any, let us know :-)).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Their brains are smaller...

Or, well, not fully developed. Teenagers, that is. The Washington Post today reports that a 2004 NIH study "suggests" that "the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25." This, we are told, has "implications for a host of policies, including the nation's driving laws." Here's the link, but you have to register.

Oddly, the article doesn't state what the parameters of the study were (apparently involving MRI scans), although they did state generically that "brain-imaging research," indicates "no proven correlation between brain changes and behavior."

Also oddly, the article quotes the leader of the study as saying "[w]e'd thought that the highest levels of physical and brain maturity were reached by age 18."

Obviously, the good doctor has never been to a frat party...(Yes, I know, I'm guilty of conflating brain maturity and behavioral maturity, too, but the line was too good to pass up.)

Finally, the article also notes that scientists have recently discovered that teenagers are willing to succumb to peer pressure ("take more chances when friends are present") and that "the judgment of teens deteriorates with distractions."

I'm speechless.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Mutual Admiration Society :-)

Cyn is blogging about Teri Lesesne, Goddess of YA Literature (who has some lovely things to say about TOFU), and who responds thusly.

11,000 Years Lost

11000 Years Lost (Harry Adams Books, 2004)(Ages 9-12) is the story of Esther, an eleven-year old girl in present-day Texas, who gets transported back to the neolithic and has to survive with a hunter-gatherer clan as they hunt the Columbian mammoth. A realistic and intriguing glimpse into Texas pre-history by San Antonio's Peni Griffin.
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