Sunday, October 31, 2010

Retro REview: Flash Free





BLOG DESCRIPTION: An organic, fresh, informative, hip and humorous overview of evidence-based alternative approaches to menopause and the transition to midlife.

MY REVIEW: A blog that covers complimentary/interpretive medicine dealing with menopause. She has recently added a doctor as a guest contributor. Her posts cover new studies related to women's health, nutrition, interviews, and other topics - all geared toward that mid-life transition we all face. Her posts are thorough with many links to past posts and outside sources and a helpful review of all the posts at the end of each month. She posts often, several times a week.

It is well written, however, I didn't see the "hip or humorous" part but that may be up to each reader. It's an informative blog on an important subject. For those interested in this topic, this is a good blog.


Wednesday’s Bubble: easy does it with Chamomile

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Osteoporosis: what’s the 411?

Wednesday’s Bubble: another nail in the coffin of HRT

West meets East, Guest Post Jonathan Black MD/MPH Student


Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of
and also,
Silver Pieces: The Strange and

Saturday, October 30, 2010

RetroReview: Bionic Ear Blog





BLOG DESCRIPTION: She writes about living life as a deaf person. Her numero uno priority-a is de familia. You can find the southpaw not wearing 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots in the Lone Star State.

MY REVIEW: This blog is not available for subscription via the Kindle, but I think it's a worthwhile one so I'll review it here.

I was watching Law and Order: CI, which took place in the deaf community. Of course one knew immediately that the scriptwriter was a Leftist, there was a thinly veiled dig at Rush Limbaugh in the script (such references have become more overt since then!) as someone who'd need a cochlear implant after abusing oxycodone.

I think several of the actors and actresses in the episode actually were deaf. From there I thought back on other TV shows with a deaf-community role...there was one in the original CSI, for example.

About ten years ago, I used to work with a deaf woman. Prior to that, I actually took sign-language class for a few weeks, but like so many of my attempts to learn a different language it fell by the wayside. And several months ago I wrote a blog entry (at my youflygirl blog, about Nellie Zabel Willhite, and I continue to get hits from that from people who read about it on another deaf community blog, who had also done an entry on her.

Anyway, this is an excellent blog - and gives one to think. I was particularly struck by her entry about reading a story to her daughter who was in second grade, and having the other kids tease her because of her mother's deaf accent - I hadn't thought that kind of cruelty happened until kids got into their teens.

Anyway, check it out.

Sample post:
Everyone with hearing losses uses sign language and reads lips. I know a drop of sign language, which I’ve picked up here and there like I’ve picked up words in other languages. My dad and grandmother lost their hearing as they got older. Neither knew sign language nor how to read lips.

Talking louder will help a person with hearing loss to understand. No, it puts us in an awkward situation. It is possible to talk too loud to me, but I can’t be sure if it’s someone’s normal volume or trying to do me a favor. Either way, I don’t want to risk hurting anyone’s feelings. It’s all about annunciation.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants restore hearing to normal. I wish! I’ve used both and I still cannot hear a conversation on the phone, from behind me or on TV.

People with hearing loss are stupid, mute and unsuccessful. I run a successful full-time freelance business. Before doing this, I had a great career in both the government and in telecommunications. A recent article discusses two employees at a large local company, one is an engineer. Unfortunately, if we dare ask “What did you say?” or don’t look like we understand, we’re perceived as stupid.

People with hearing loss tend to be older adults. I was born deaf. ‘nuff said. I’ve met many deaf kids my age over the years.

People with hearing loss are defined by their hearing loss. Hardly. I’m a wife and mother first. Then a writer and volunteer. Being deaf does motivate me to work harder. I’m as much as a lefty as I am a deafie.

Having hearing loss is shameful. Some folks who lose their hearing as they get older do struggle with the loss just like we all struggle with different things that come with aging. But as a person who was born deaf and never experiencing hearing like the average person, it’s not shameful. However, it’s true that some folks are in denial about their hearing loss.

When people with hearing loss miss something, it’s OK to tell them, “It’s not important,” or “I’ll tell you later.” Yeah, my brother did this to me all the time as closed-captions weren’t around until I was a teen. But I know he did it because it’s easier. It’s no different than when kids ask their parents what they were talking about to each other. They just don’t need to know everything.

People with hearing loss are rude and pushy. From my view, I don’t like lose track of the conversation or force myself not to care what people are talking about. So in my anxiousness to stay on track, I might come across as pushy when I don’t mean it.

People with hearing loss mostly hang out with other people with hearing loss. I’ve had very few deaf friends over the years. The only ones I know are from social networking. However, it’s true that some folks do all they can to be active in the community with other deaf people. It’s no different than Jewish people interacting with each other, Blacks and so on. You’ll find this in every race, culture and creed.

Everyone who needs an assistive listening system can use ear buds or headphones. I can’t use ear buds at all. They’re not loud enough and they don’t reach my hearing aid. I use headphones and switch my cochlear implant to T-Coil to shut out regular sounds and only hear what comes through the headphones. The T-Coil has been around since I was a kid. Great invention.

The wheelchair symbol represents universal access. It represents people who need to know if there’s access for someone with mobility challenges.

Hearing access isn’t needed because it’s so rarely requested. “Many people with hearing loss are so accustomed to there being no accessibility accommodations that they don’t inquire about it unless it is publicized.” Very true. I’ve gotten to the pint that if someone tells me about a video, I don’t bother to check it out unless they say it’s captioned or has no words.

People with hearing loss read braille. My husband ran into this when he was moving to Washington, DC, and I hadn’t yet joined him. Riding in an elevator, a coworker, who knew I was deaf, asked if I could read braille. Sure, I can rub my ear all over it and know what it says. Not really.

Providing access for people with hearing loss is very expensive. I can caption my own videos for zero cost. (OK, we won’t go into the fact you need a computer and Internet connection.) We can also access relay services online.

Deaf, hearing impaired, handicapped or disabled one is as good as the other. Even I get lazy and say “deaf person” referring to me. But it’s true that the correct way is “people who are deaf or hard of hearing.” Using “deaf person” or “blind person” implies there’s nothing else to the person. Some deaf people (see?) prefer to be known as “deaf person.” I also get lazy and say “hearing impaired” instead of “hard of hearing.” I’ve used all three terms. The only thing I don’t like is “handicapped.”

Companies or accessibility experts with no background with hearing loss can know what best meets the needs of people with hearing loss. Not all companies have the ability to hire someone to be an expert. That’s why you do research, ask questions and contact experts.

--You Tube Captioning
--Links: Captioning, Olympics and 508
--FCC Announces New Closed Captioned Complaint Rules
--Olympics Continue to Falter with Web Site
--Two Difference Experiences in Talking to Children
--Hearing Aid Tax Credit
--Employees with Disabilities Think outside of the box daily
--Cowboys Stadium Kicks off New Assistive Service
--17 Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss

Here's her biogaphy:
Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook and the co-author of Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites. She has written and edited for AbsoluteWrite, ECT News Network, The Dallas Morning News, Gamezebo, Lockergnome, MarketingProfs, PC Today, O’Reilly, Pearson, Sams, Web Worker Daily, Wiley, and WROX. Meryl has written copy for businesses ads and games including Fib-or-Not? and Meet, Mix, and Mingle.

Meryl writes and edits content for businesses and publications. She helps business build and maintain relationships with clients and prospects through content. She’s also a long-time blogger who started blogging on June 1, 2000.

She is the original Editor-in-Chief of Shavlik’s The Remediator Security Digest, a popular newsletter on computer security that started with a few thousand subscribers and climbed to over 100,000 subscribers during her tenure. She’s also the editor of Professional Service Journal, an email newsletter for business-to-business (B2B) service providers and Intel Solution Services’ Connected Digest.

Want some CSS inspiration? Check out the CSS Collection, which she handed off to talented folks who promised to keep the site strong.

Meryl has worked as an educator with New York University’s online graduate program where she continues to help students with their theses. She has worked for two Fortune 500 telecom companies, federal government in Washington, D.C. and IT consulting. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tai Shan (culture, travel, China)

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Tai Shan, by Shelly Bryant

BLOG DESCRIPTION: the scoop about China and all things Chinese

MY REVIEW: I enjoyed this blog for the most part. It's fascinating to learn about a country that really is a world away, ie. China. The only drawback with the blog is that, although there are a lot of photos, they have been shrunk, so you can hardly see them. When it comes to viewing photos, therefore, it might be best to visit this blog's URL to see them.

But there's plenty of Chinese culture and life on display.


Sample post:
City of Tomorrow
Walking through the tunnel that interchanges between Lines 1 & 9 in Shanghai’s Metro system at Xujiahui Station is like being in the middle of a sci-fi movie. The smooth reflective white (or maybe yellow) panels that cover the wall and seem to join in an arc overhead bounce back in brilliant form the ever-changing colors of the lights. It is smooth and slick and shiny — all the stereotypes of the City of the Future that is seen in countless science fiction movies. The only thing missing is the typical sci-fi uniform — all slippery white and body-hugging.

Instead, the style of clothing you’ll see in the Xujiahui station is pretty hum-drum, ordinary old stuff. There’s the office wear, basketball shorts and Yao Ming jerseys, spaghetti straps and short skirts, sandals, and pretty much whatever else you’d see worn on a warm day in any other city around the world in 2010. The closest thing I saw to a sci-fi costume was a set of long, flowing, Jedi-like robes, but they were on the back of a man sitting on the floor with a beggar’s bowl in front of him and didn’t really get much attention from any of the thousands of people in the station besides me.

One young lady’s garb particularly caught my eye as she walked in front of me through the tunnel. She looked like she was trying to start her day off right, wearing clothing that was obviously fairly expensive. Her blouse was neat and tidy, and her pants were fashionably rolled up to 3/4 length with neat little straps to keep them in place. That was why I noticed her. One of the straps, though it was buttoned firmly, wasn’t doing a very thorough job. The inner part of her pants leg had come all unrolled and was flapping down somewhere around her ankle, while the outer portion of the pants leg remained firmly in place. The swishing of the dangling pants leg kept time with the flip-flop of her sandals as she rushed on ahead of me.

Something about the young woman and about the tunnel seemed so typically Shanghai. I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her, thinking she’d probably spent a lot of effort getting ready to look good for the day, but ended up looking just a little silly. And I couldn’t help but connect that with what the tunnel seemed to represent — that the city is a City of the Future, and is determined to embrace whatever that might entail. Ready or not.

Shanghai is obsessed with tomorrow — it even has a building right downtown called Tomorrow Square. It seems to me that the city is forever trying to define the future we will face, even as it races ahead to meet that future. The highways and highrises all glow with a neon flair, calling to mind scenes from Blade Runner and other similar future-oriented films. The tunnel that I walked through at the Xujiahui Station prompted my friend to say to her little daughter, “Look, baby, we are walking through the new Tron movie.” Whatever our visions of the future are, Shanghai is ready to take them out of our imaginary spaces and plop them right down in the middle of our present, even if we aren’t quite dressed to meet them yet.

But who knows. Maybe this rush toward tomorrow might just help us escape our shabby todays.

Welcome Kindle Users
7:08 pm, September 21, 2010
--Habitat for Humanity in Shanghai
6:45 am, October 27, 2010
--Open Mic
10:34 pm, October 24, 2010
--Scrabble Night @ Cotton’s in Shanghai
6:39 pm, October 24, 2010
--Taishun County’s Paradise for the Entymologist
7:00 pm, October 21, 2010
--Taishun County’s Memorable Faces
6:44 pm, October 18, 2010
--Taishun County’s Ancient Towns and Structures
6:34 pm, October 15, 2010
--Taishun County’s Covered Bridges (廊桥)
5:59 pm, October 12, 2010
--City of Tomorrow
7:55 pm, October 9, 2010
--The Ins and Outs of Creative Writing
1:14 am, October 6, 2010
--A New Respect for the Game
12:26 am, October 3, 2010

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Check out the following blogs:
Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
Rush Limbaugh Report

Retro Review: The Well-trained Mind





BLOG DESCRIPTION: Reflections on classical education, home schooling, and educational innovation from a college professor, writer and home school parent

MY REVIEW: If you're thinking of home-schooling your kids, this is an excellent blog, and I highly recommend it.

I've been doing some research on home schooling, because I'm writing some non-fiction work which I'd like to get into the home-school market. I hadn't realized that most home schoolers are Christian-based, and do it because they want their kids to be able to pray in school, as opposed to because home-schooled kids don't have to deal with bullies, and can advance at a faster pace if they are so intellecually inclined.

Althought the author of this blog is a Christian, she deals with education, not with religion. (At least, from the entries I've read.) She writes well, she writes informatively, she has had decades of experience at this.l

Here's a sample post:
Third graders, Saxon math, and elitism
by susan on March 3, 2010

I just got back from my first speaking engagement of 2010 (which is why I haven’t posted for a week or so–the first engagement of the year always requires me to pull out all of my notes, organize them, update them, redo my PowerPoint or Keynote slides, make sure I have all my frequent flyer codes, get my clothes from the dry cleaner…you get the idea).

At this conference, a high percentage of the parents had their children in classical schools, and I found myself having the same conversation multiple times–a conversation that follows, in a way, on the gap-year posts of the last few weeks. The conversation had multiple beginnings:

“My second grader is in Saxon 3. So he’s doing OK, right?”

“My third-grade student is really struggling with the five-page book reports he has to write. What kind of remedial work should I do with him?”

“My thirteen-year-old is failing algebra. Should I talk to the principal about the teacher?”

“My daughter’s not reading chapter books yet and she’s seven. What should I do?”

After this, it usually went the same way: I said, “You know, kids develop at different rates…”

It distresses me when classical schools achieve an appearance of rigor by pushing skills into lower and lower grades. Yes, home schooling parents do this too, but when a school does it, there’s an appearance of authority that’s very difficult for parents to challenge. In most cases they’ve got the kids in the school because they think the teachers will do a better job (in some way) than they can, and when those same teachers tell them that the second grader should be able to do third grade math, they believe it.

This pushing skills backwards (Saxon 3 for second graders, the Aeneid for all seventh grade students, algebra at age thirteen without fail) is nothing new. Back in the 1970s, the private Christian schools associated with A Beka in Pensacola, Florida, started teaching cursive writing in kindergarten. There’s one pedagogical advantage to this–it’s harder to reverse letters. But that’s balanced off by a disadvantage: many children need to print because they need the visual likeness between what they’re doing and what’s in the books they read. The A Beka approach to cursive was governed by a more general concern: it appeared more advanced to teach cursive in kindergarten than to wait for the traditional second/third grade window. Private Christian education was relatively new; now, Christian schools could boast that their students, trained in these untested, unfamiliar classrooms, were ahead of their counterparts elsewhere.

The push backwards was for boasting privileges.

Excuse me for quoting myself: you can read the interview (a few years old now) here.

One thing classical homeschoolers really need to guard against is a devastating level of elitism: “We are doing the best homeschooling because our young children are doing such advanced work.” This kind of elitism is non-Christian, it is unloving, and it is unproductive. I was recently asked, “What do you think of third-graders doing Saxon 5/4?” I said, “I can’t think of a single thing you would gain by that. Some of them will be able to do it, but a lot of them aren’t developmentally ready for it. You are going to finish advanced mathematics by the end of high school if you keep them on the normal schedule. What’s the rush?” What do you gain by asking a seventh-grader to read the Iliad if that seventh-grader hasn’t developed the maturity to understand and appreciate what he’s reading? Nothing at all. You gain nothing in the way of emotional and mental development by pushing difficult tasks down to earlier grades.

I am not talking about the lowering of academic standards. I don’t want them lowered; I am just talking about extending the time needed for children to meet those standards. Children move from grammar to logic stage thinking, and from logic to rhetoric stage thinking, at different times in different subjects. We should focus on this, rather than focusing on age or grade level. And I hope that classical schools will also begin to think seriously about what is being gained in the classroom if immature students are being asked to do work that continually frustrates them. Is our goal to educate as many students as possible, or to identify a small, advanced, elite core of classical scholars? I hope it’s the first, and not the second. I think there is a very high level of achievement that all children can reach, given the appropriate amount of time. Keep the standards high, but give each child the appropriate amount of time for those achievements.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend reassuring parents that taking a little extra time to reach a goal is not the same as lowering standards. It may make you feel better if your kid is a year ahead of his cousins in math; it’s pointless if the child is not developmentally ready to do the work.

I should clarify that I’m not here addressing those kids who are ready to do more advanced work. Of course they should be allowed to progress forward as quickly as they want. But that’s much more easily done in a homeschool setting than in a classroom; classroom teachers in particular (and their principals) need to be very, very wary of announcing that all second graders should be doing third grade math.

And yet…too many schools do. And too many parents believe it, rather than carefully and thoughtfully assessing the developmental rate of their own child.

-An invitation (requesting guest posts)
-Third graders, Saxon math, and elitism
-Quick photo update on son's gap year trip
-The gap year, Part IV: resources for gap year projects
-The gap year, Part III: our personal experience so far
-The gap year, Part II: my own thoughts

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Retro Review: Daily Plate of Crazy





BLOG DESCRIPTION: Whatever life dishes out, and whatever we can make of it. . .

MY REVIEW: The author of this blog, Little Big Wolf, is "a freelance writer, journalist, marketer, trainer, single parent, art collector, polyglot, traveler, and devotee of exquisite footwear & French lingerie. She believes we are all brimming with glorious contradictions, and capable of living fully, with whatever life dishes out, and whatever we can make of it.

Morning is her clarity and her audacious dreaming, both of which persist, despite encroaching middle age and dirty socks – everywhere."

LBW, if I may so call her, is an excellent writer, articulate and entertaining. She covers her topics in detail, with an insight that can give her readers - both men and women - food for thought.

Sample paragraphs from a sample post
Tweaking the recipe
I love recipes that I can tweak. A little of this, a little of that. I like what evolves, what surprises me, what turns out differently just a little, each time. Perhaps this is in part because I’m never quite the same from one day to the next. Are any of us, really?

I like to tweak my life, my writing, my look. I love to learn. And I enjoy my element of chameleon; it has served me well. And haven’t we all invented or reinvented ourselves at one time or another?

In adolescence, we may call this emerging from the cocoon. As we mature, we shed old skins, trying on new careers and personal lives. We undertake change in ourselves as we gain experience. We adjust following events that insist upon change, whether we want it or not.

Pygmalion, Narcissism, and Evolution
We are adaptable. Some of us more than others, but all of us, more than we realize. Reinvention may be physical, emotional, behavioral, or any of these. It may come suddenly, or gradually, as we ease into our own patchworked pieces of past, present circumstances, and desire.

But what of the man who would reinvent his woman? What of the woman who restyles her man? Is this narcissism, pure and simple? Is there a fine line between “improving the current model” and interfering – or worse – controlling, to the point of damaging another? Does it make a difference if it is with consent, as opposed to subtly achieved, through undermining words and behaviors?

--Terms of endearment (Let me call you sweetheart?)
--Can we ever “set the record straight?”
--The other side of town
--Frankenstein, or Bride of Frankenstein?
--If I close my eyes so I may dream. . .

Retro Review: Glamourous Life Association



AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Glamorous Life Association


BLOG DESCRIPTION: A humorous look at a not-so-glamorous life of a stay-at-home-mom and wife. Trust me, motherhood is nothing like the brochure. Come on by, just step over the legos and laundry on your way in....

MY REVIEW: An excellent irreverent blog that takes no prisoners. It is well written with witty graphics and photos. This mother has the same take on life I do, "You’ve got to be kidding me?"

She uses this wonderful technique that I can only best describe as alter ego writing. An example is, “Remember my very rude effective front door sign?” Brilliant! She often says she didn’t get the memo, but it doesn’t bother her, because I’m not sure she would have read it or followed it had she gotten it.

Like most us, this is not what we signed up for, but we are going to make the best of it and get even with those who changed the rules – when we find them. In the mean time, we might as well laugh as our way through it, crying will get us no where, besides who has time? Maybe this is just a nightmare dream and when we wake up, prince charming will be there with the household staff. After all, my favorite line from the Sound of Music was when asked what the Countess had planned for the children, her reply, “Darling, haven't you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?”

This is a great entertaining, well written blog that I highly recommend.

--Looking for me?
--Moving day . . . come on over
--Saturday, what a day!
--We’re off to the circus

Ann Currie publishes publishes:
My Life a Bit South of Normal:
and also,
Silver Pieces: The Strange and

Retro Review: Pampering Campers


MY RECOMMENDATION: Yes, with reservations



BLOG DESCRIPTION: Travel, Camping and Work Camping Information and Links to useful camping and outdoor recreation services, many outdoor pictures of campgrounds and animals that we share the outdoors with

MY REVIEW: The Blog itself does not have the camping and useful links – that is found on the related web site. The blog is a folksy travel (camping) log that follows these campers on their travels. They document descriptions of campsites, prices, and availability, as well as their experiences along the way. There are many pictures of the campsites, their camper, and the wildlife they come upon. It is not updated on a regular basis.They tend to post when they are on a trip then it will be dry between expeditions. More of a personal travelogue than a helpful blog.

It is an interesting blog if you wish to follow campers on their personal trip. However, the blog itself does not offer all the information the description says it will. The associated web site does.

--Goose Island State Park, Tx
--Brazos Bend State Park, Tx
--Blue Springs (near DeLand) to Henderson Beach (near Ft Walton Beach), Florida
--Manatee Hunting in Florida

Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of
and also, Silver Pieces: The Strange and Peculiar

It's always something...

Another day of retro reviews, today, I'm afraid.

I've got Bresnan cable internet in this new house, and while it works fine for computers, I can never download anything to my Kindle. So I'll have to go out later tonight to the B&N that has highspeed wireless, and download soome blogs to review there.

(I always subscribe to each blog I review, for a couple of days, to make sure it feeds properly to the Kindle.)

So, following are 3 retro reviews.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

i never thought it would happen (poetry)

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: [i never thought it would happen]

WEB ADDRESS: I don't show the actual URL because it rather raises the eyebrow...

BLOG DESCRIPTION: I capture the ephemeral in poetry formed to mirror the brevity of the moment it tries to hold. Initially providing the reader with a set of images, my poems work to turn the meaning of these images upside down so the reader is left in a different place from where he or she began. While a focus on psychological states predominates, there are no common emotions, only the fleeting prevails. In the same way the Impressionists used different tones and light in their paintings trying to depict the transitory, while still maintaining a consistent palate, each poem stands alone while still functioning as part of a larger collection.

I graduated with a BFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Spring 2009.

MY REVIEW: If this blog were still priced at $1.99, I would have to give it a no, as the author only publishes once a week or so. However, since it, like so many other blogs, has been dropped down to 99 cents (which makes sense as far as this one goes), poetry lovers may find it worth it.

Sample post:
for tyler
forget your fears!
leave them out
like stale beer.

poverty is temporary
as fake tattoos,
mine were butterflies
and yours cartoons.

you're so much more
than your credit score:

money comes,
money goes.

time will fade
hunger's residue
make the raises
meaningless, too.

but our friendship?
that will last.
I know it to be true.

we made it through middle school -
there's nothing we cannot do.
--for tyler
--be a darling, and review my blog on amazon please
--if only we were brothers
--in your garden-level apartment
--do you think we'll meet again

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Check out the following blogs:
Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
Rush Limbaugh Report

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pixel of Ink (book reviews)

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle



BLOG DESCRIPTION: is a blog focused on allowing you to keep your Kindle loaded with books, without breaking your bank!

* Free Kindle Books - both the Limited Time Offers and often forgotten but Popular Classics
* Bargain Bin books that are highly rated (4-stars and up) yet a bargain at under $1
* Kindle accessories that are an absolute steal of a deal (i.e. 50% off or more)

Updated daily, will make sure you always have something to read!

MY REVIEW: Many people balk at the Kindle because of its price -- although it cost a lot less than it did when I bought mine... However, one can download so many free books, not to mention books priced only at 99 cents, that if you look at it that way, the cost of the Kindle is actually paid for after you download a hundred of 'em...

But where to find news of these free books? Well, the Pixel of Ink tells you all about them. Each post is a couple of paragraphs long and gives the plot of the book, just enough to intrigue your interest.

If you're looking for ideas for books to download, Pixel of Ink is the blog that will give them to you.

Sample post:
Her Last Letter - 99 Cent Kindle Book
Her Last Letter is currently only 99 cents for the Kindle Edition!

Nancy C. Johnson (Author)
4.4 out of 5 stars (16 customer reviews)
Kindle Price: $0.99

In the Colorado mountain town of Glenwood Springs, not far from Aspen, artist/photographer Gwyn Sanders discovers a cryptic letter her sister Kelly left behind. The victim of a deadly hit and run, Kelly reveals she was sexually involved with her sister’s boyfriend and is scared for her life. Both Gwyn and her remaining sister Linda have since married their boyfriends, so either of their husbands could be guilty of murder. The sisters received a large inheritance before meeting these men, and know little of either man’s background. Worse, both Gwyn and Linda love their husbands deeply, but steps must be taken to find the truth. And the truth is complicated. Is it one of the two men, or another previous lover? Or none of them? Danger abounds and everyone is a suspect as Gwyn tries with the help of a gifted private detective to track a killer....

Her Last Letter is approximately 96,000 words long.

--Her Last Letter - 99 Cent Kindle Book
--The Lamp in the Desert - Free Kindle Book
--Your Secret Name - Free Kindle Book
--Spiritual Rhythm - Free Kindle Book
--Curious Folks Ask: 162 Real Answers on Amazing Inventions - Free Kindle Book

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Check out the following blogs:
Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
Rush Limbaugh Report

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Retro Review: History of the Whole World



AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION PAGE: History of the (Whole) World


BLOG DESCRIPTION: My progress in writing, revising, sending to my editor, re-revising, fact-checking, galley-reading, and promoting a four-volume history of the world...along with reflections on life as a writer/parent/amateur farmer.

MY REVIEW: You have to admire someone who takes on the world – writing its history up to the Knights Templar. (I assume she thinks we can take it from there!) The author is a professor at William and Mary, a mother, and has a farm outside Williamsburg. Any one of these four occupations is a fulltime job, juggling four is impressive.

She journals about writing her book and the “birthing” process of getting it published. Oh, and did I mention, she also runs a small printing press (publishing business) of her own on the side? And, she does mention sleeping.

One of her children, a son, is spending his gap year in South Africa, so you have a mother’s pride/fear of a child’s travels to add to all else going on. The author is an excellent writer. In one post, she notes that her book is now listed as #1 on the medieval bestseller list on Amazon. I’m impressed, I just got my blog on Amazon and it doesn’t have a rank. She has an interesting feature once a week where she lists her twitter feeds.

A most interesting blog – well done.

Sample paragraphs
I haven’t posted an update on my reading for a while. Actually I haven’t posted anything lengthy for a while. I’ve been submerged in researching, editing, and keeping up with daily life; tax returns had to be done; I have papers to grade; filling out all of the financial aid forms for my rising college freshman killed untold brain cells; my nine-year-old gave herself a concussion and fractured her clavicle; you get the idea.

But I still read books, no matter what else falls off my to-do list.

First up, Michael Ruhlman’s food trilogy: The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef, The Reach of a Chef.

Grades: A- for the first, A for the other two.

I’ve always enjoyed food writing, and if you find that genre dead boring, you probably won’t like these books. But what I appreciate about Ruhlman is his sense of drama. He can take the preparation of a poulet saute, the reaction of a food critic to a single pasta dish, a not-too busy lunch service, and turn each one into a fully developed narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. He sketches out characters with a few strokes and makes them real. I envy his skill.

Of the three, The Making of a Chef spends the most time on kitchen minutia and the least on characters and story, so that drops it a bit on my grading scale. (Also the font in the new Holt paperback version is way annoying.) The Reach of a Chef is my favorite of the three; in it, Ruhlman traces the inevitable trajectory that afflicts professionals in every profession. Get good enough at what you do, and eventually you’ll find that you’re not doing it anymore. Instead you’re administering your own career, and there’s hardly any time to devote to the activity that created that career in the first place.

Going off the grid for a (silent) family day. #
Trying to answer interview questions by email. Making my brain hurt. #
Inside house: half-sick mom trying to nap. Outside: children w/sticks trying to find object on farm which will make most noise when struck. #
Voice half-returned, is gone again. This is getting boring. #
Need to change time of departing flight to New York. Change fee: $150. New one-way ticket: $59. How does this make sense? #
That's it. NOT watching American Idol after this year. Competition can't sing on pitch, judges apparently listening by satlink from Mars. #
YES, I watch American Idol. YOU spend YOUR working hours submerged in classical rhetoric and see what YOU want to do at the end of the day. #
Heading off the grid to write. Today's agenda: the Sultanate of Cairo and topics for middle-grade writers. (Different projects, obviously) #
Cleaning up DD9's room. How is it POSSIBLE to have this many stuffed animals? Wouldn't it give you the creeps, being so vastly outnumbered? #
Just finished Connie Willis's BLACKOUT. Yelling FOUL. Ends mid-story, conclusion in new book not out til fall. BAD DECISION, angry reader. #
At the W&M library reading. "A New Approach to English Grammar, on Semantic Principles." FUN. #
Clouds + cold + drizzle + church over = nap. #

--Twitter weekly updates
--Quick Photo update on the gap year
--Twitter weekly updates
--Medieval World sightings

Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of
and also,
Silver Pieces: The Strange and

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Retro Review: Flyover America





BLOG DESCRIPTION: We are two writers in love with America. Every diner and prairie and highway of it. The places that many people consider flyover territory—Lincoln, Nebraska; Lubbock Texas; Bayonne, New Jersey, and the like—grab hold of us. Flyover America is as much a state of mind as a place. Flyover America is packed with stories, discoveries and soul. And it’s got some great malls, too.

MY REVIEW: This is a fun blog, and a very informative one. The author(s) write well, in an informal, friendly style. In addition to reviews of travel spots, they talk about movies ("Maine Does Not Sound Like Queens" in which the author comments on the movie Welcome to Mooseport.
The premise is that an outgoing United States president (Hackman) moves to small-town Maine and runs for mayor against a local hardware store owner (Romano).

Fine and dandy, it’s a film of no consequence, but I must ask the filmmakers: Why on Earth would you set a film in Maine and cast no one with a New England accent? Maine!–which has an accent as thick and distinctive as Georgia! And yet , in a lead role we get the distinctively Queens, New York honk of Ray Romano. At least Maura Tierney was born in Boston, so her flatter intonations are not glaringly inappropriate. Most disappointing were the bit characters, the quirky old guys and gals who looked like all sorts of flat vowels and dropped R’s would come out of their mouths. But no, they sounded Midwestern, at best. This did not stop bothering me through the entire film.

Just ‘cause there’s moose in the movie doesn’t mean you’ve captured Maine.

(Sounds like the movie makers could have taken a lesson from the Coen brothers, who did Fargo using several local Minneapolis actors in bit-parts. (On the other hand, the movie took place in Minnesota, and Fargo is, y'know, located in North Dakota... And one of the locations they used for the movie, a small diner right near where I lived, never re-opened after the movie finished filming there. I guess they must have paid its owners so much money to use it, that they closed up shop and headed off to retirement land in less-snowier climes!)

But back to the blog under review. I enjoyed the writing, enjoyed the eclectic types of posts - but all travel related in some way, and I think you'll enjoy this blog as well.

Write a blog for long enough and, at some point, your patterns will start to emerge. You’ll notice the themes you return to time and again, the grooves of the record that are worn deep. I have a thing for the abandoned and the dying: American ruins, Rolley-Hole Marbles, Presbyterians. Psychologists, really, hold your tongues. I don’t care what it means.

So, while doing a bit of web wandering the other day, I got lost in It’s a not-necessarily-beautiful-but-pretty-damned-fun travel blog written (and shot) by Daniel and Ligian Ter-Nedden, a couple who live in Zurich, Switzerland. They’ve visited more than 200 ghost towns in nine U.S. states. (Yes, I’m also keen on people who get mildly-to-completely obsessed with…whatever.)

--What’s Left Behind, Again
--Road-trip Rituals
--That’s One Swell Silver Screen
--Cadillac Ranch: You Should Go
--A U.S. Library I Love (or, Sigh, Loved and Lost)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Retro Review: NASA Talk Now





BLOG DESCRIPTION: A look at how commercial human space flight is outpacing NASA.

MY REVIEW: Oh, this is a must-have blog. It should be a companion piece to NASA Watch. In my opinion, if we can't get into space via government-run programs such as NASA, we've got to do it with civilian projects. Hopefully, long-term projects that will set out for the distant stars.

However, the posts here are more concerned with the actual fate of NASA and America's space program than anything else.

This is a must-read blog.

A few sample paragraphs:
Astronautics giant Burt Rutan, whose name entered the household lexicon in the 80’s for designing and building Voyager, the first aircraft to fly around the world without refueling and most recently for the revolutionary SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo, the first, private spacecraft, has made a statement regarding what he feels was a misrepresentation by the Wall Street Journal of comments he made concerning the fate of NASA’s Constellation program. Constellation is the agency’s program to return humans to the moon and go beyond. But the President has proposed in his FY2011 budget to cancel it.

Here is Dr. Rutan’s statement followed by his letter to Congressman Wolf.


Since the WSJ chose to cherry-pick and miss-quote my comments to Cong Wolf and since the blogs have taken that to further mischaracterized my comments, I am forwarding the Wolf memo in its entirety, in the hopes that some of this gets corrected. Some additional clarification of my thoughts follow:

My basic concern is that the real value of NASA’s contributions that America realized in the 60s and early 70s is now being completely discarded. How can we rationalize a surrender of our preeminence in human spaceflight? In my mind, the important NASA accomplishments are twofold: 1) The technical breakthroughs achieved by basic research (not by Development programs like Constellation) and 2) The Forefront Manned Exploration that provided the inspiration for our youth to plan careers in engineering/science and that established the U.S. as the world leader in technology.

In short, it is a good idea indeed for the commercial community to compete to re-supply the ISS and to bring about space access for the public to enjoy. I applaud the efforts of SpaceX, Virgin and Orbital in that regard and feel these activities should have been done at least two decades ago. However, I do not see the commercial companies taking Americans to Mars or to the moons of Saturn within my lifetime and I doubt if they will take the true Research risks (technical and financial) to fly new concepts that have low confidence of return on investment. Even NASA, regarded as our prime Research agency has not recently shown a willingness to fly true Research concepts.

For years I have stated that a NASA return-to-moon effort must include true Research content, i.e. testing new concepts needed to enable forefront Exploration beyond the moon. The current Ares/Orion does not do that. While I have been critical of Constellation for that reason, I do not think that NASA should ‘give up’ on manned spaceflight, just that they should be doing it while meeting the 1) or 2) criteria above.

Some have guessed that my recent comments are based on my overall displeasure with the Obama Administration. they are not; however it does seem that the best technical minds in U.S. industry are still striving to find HOW America can continue to be “exceptional”, while the Administration does not want America to BE “exceptional”.

Burt Rutan


And now in its entirety, here is the letter from Dr. Rutan to Congressman Wolf.

Thomas M. Culligan
Congressional Appropriations Legislative Assistant
The Hon. Frank R. Wolf (VA-10)


I occasionally banter with my friend, Mike Griffin on subjects that include golf, the AGW scare and NASA policy. After sending him my latest tirade, he shared with me his recent letter to you regarding taxpayer-funded space research. I promised him that I would send you my thoughts on the debate, which follow:

From my past comments on NASA’s post-mid-70s manned space efficiencies/accomplishments, an observer might think that I would applaud a decision to turn this important responsibility over to commercial developers. However, he would be wrong.

No question, it would be good to see commercial companies quickly succeed at orbital access and to take that capability beyond low earth orbit. However, I am fearful that the commercial guys will fail; i.e. they will do little more in my remaining lifetime than NASA accomplished in 3.5 years with Gemini in the mid 1960s. That would be a very big
mistake for America to make, as we move into an era of real competition in space exploration as well as risk the loss of our leadership in nearly every other technical discipline.

Mike Griffin’s excellent statement says it best; “I too want, in the strongest possible terms, to have government policies which serve to stimulate private development of space. But at the same time, I too am reluctant — with an analogy to instrument flying — to give up an airport where I know I can get in on the approach, for one where I might”.

What I would like to see is a decade or two of overlap – an initial push in the commercial arena of manned spaceflight (Development programs, not Research programs), while NASA flies risky new ideas (read, true Research programs, giving at least a chance of discovering an important new Breakthrough), and at the same time pushes the forefront of Exploration beyond the earth’s moon.

Imagine how much better America could motivate our youth if we were spending the billions of Stimulus Package money on making real progressin our efforts to someday colonize off the planet.

Two years after Neil and Buzz landed on the moon, America led the world in awarding PhDs in science/engineering/math. Today we are not even on the first or second page and most of our University’s technical graduates take their skills back to their own countries to compete with us. The motivation of our youth is the most important thing we do for our nation’s long-term security and prosperity. NASA’s role in that can be as critical as it was in the 60s if the taxpayers fund true Research and Exploration.

The attachment is a photo I took at the Shuttle STS-130 launch - Caption: “Reaction when told about the President’s NASA directive to abandon manned spaceflight”.

As always, I am ok with the distribution of my thoughts without limitation.

While I usually offer candid remarks at the drop of the hat, I am not interested in Congressional testimony, since under duress I occasionally have been known to blurt out the truth. I have no interest in being in the same room with John Holdren….. Taking a line from a very old play: ”I must turn away, least I soil my hands with the blood of a fool”

Burt Rutan

-Astronautics Giant Speaks Out
-SpaceXFalcon 9 Rocket Preparing for Launch at CApe Canaveral
-First-of-its-kind NASA program will benefit science and education
-Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
Power from space
-Blue Collar Space
Changing horses in mid-stream
Oppose the Cancelltion of Project Constellation
-New Space Policy Cedes Moon to China, Space Station to Russia, and Liberty to the Ages

Retro Review: Fragments from Floyd


MY RECOMMENDATION: Yes, with reservations



BLOG DESCRIPTION: Photoblog of Fred First, essayist-author, naturalist-teacher and photographer, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. The focus of Fred's verbal lens is wide-angle macro--a hyperlocal look at characters, events and issues with a much wider reach and significance. The tone is one of wry reverence for nature, life and the human condition.

MY REVIEW: The good news is that this blog is updated daily – the bad news is that it has a lot of links to podcasts and other articles, which of course can't be seen on the Kindle. I won't call it 'unsuitable' though, because there is a lot of other material there.

Personally, I really like this blog. The photos are wonderful and the writing is enjoyable. The writer covers a great deal of material, some prose, some political, you never what the day will bring. However, due to his use of podcasts and video links, as well as the quality of his art work, this blog loses so much on the Kindle. I do recommend you check it out on the Internet.

  • Small ships on the big ocean: festival of the books
  • Dead fish have no politics

  • li>

  • Dammanimals

  • January thaw: postponed til late February

    Ann Currie publishes
    My Life a Bit South of
    and also,
    Silver Pieces: The Strange and
  • Retro Review: Classic Mysteries

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Podcasts, reviews and conversations about fine mysteries worth reading and re-reading.

    MY REVIEW: I love this blog. A definite must subscribe, if you are any kind of a mystery fan.

    Truth to tell, I was raised on the classic mysteries Les Blatt talks about here, so much so that I return to them again and again, instead of the modern stuff written these days that is too gruesome for my taste, or just so much pap. (How many middle-aged women with cranky mothers or otherwise disfunctional families can operate a catering service or a bed and breakfast or a dog walking business and on and on).

    Okay, inconsistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. I normally discourage subscribing to blogs that make you click on a link to be taken to the complete article... but with this blog, it's worth it. Also, a few of the reviews are podcasts, which you can't hear on the Kindle. But, when you come across a book and Blatt's prose makes you curious to know more, then you can bop on over to his website and take a listen.

    -Book Printing: the way it was
    -Looking back: Vintage Ngaio Marsh
    -"Death of a Peer"
    -Looking back: "Trent" and the Imperfect Detective
    -Agatha Nominees
    -"The Poisoned Chocolates Case"

    Retro Review: How To Get Focused

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: How To Get Focused, by Scott Scheper, is an online book that covers a variety of topics which teach one how to get their life back and get focused in an age of distraction.

    MY REVIEW: This may be one of those times when it is actually more attractive to read a blog on Kindle than at the actual web address for the blog. Each of the blog entries, at the web address, is illustrated by a photo, and so you've got a table of ten squares - two across and five down, each one with an article title, a paragraph, and a photo. Frankly, I'd rather see the list of entry titles, and choose from them which entries I want to read. Of course, that means that the entry titles have to be descriptive - which they are in this particular blog.

    I enjoyed reading this blog, because what the author has to say makes a lot of sense. Life is simply too short to waste even a second of it, or even an "unforgiving minute" of it. By learning how to focus on your goals, you will improve your life, and this blog will help you to do it.

    The secret history of flow
    The concept of flow was recently proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, in which flow was characterized as a state of completely immersible, focused energy. Because of Mihaly’s inspiring work, many fell into the belief that the concept is modern–they think the concept of flow is new. A state that describes the zone athletes enter into. History makes it clear that the concept of flow is not new. It’s been described for thousands of years–and the concept has been explicitly defined over-and-over again. Below, we’ll look into different cultures’ descriptions of flow.

    Taoism’s sacred belief of flow
    Wu Wei is an ancient concept rooted in Chinese Taoism. Wu Wei is the belief that one is at its most natural behavior when he or she doesn’t have to think about acting, or think about creating. By definition, “Wu” translates to not having; “Wei” translates to action. Combined, this translates to not having to act.

    -Interview with Seth Godin on Life and Linchpins
    -The Concept of Flow
    -Leveraging LinkedIn For Results
    -No Joke: How to Get an Ivy League Education For Free
    -The Habits of Focused Entrepreneurs
    -Leveraging Sleep to Become More Focused
    -Interview With Creative Productivity Company, Behance
    -When to Ditch the Keyboard and Start Hand-writing

    I've had a change of heart...

    According to my blog report today, no one has unsubscribed since I said yesterday I was suspending this blog, which I guess is good as today I've decided I will resume it, on its Monday, Wednesday and Friday publishing schedule.

    I"m shutting down my other blogs, but I figured why punish other bloggers. If a review here can get someone one or two or more subs, it's worth it.

    I hate throwing coffers Amazon's way, they don't deserve it after their stupidity, but for the sake of my fellow bloggers out there...I will continue. I do hope a review here will help you out.

    So, only retro reviews today, but starting Monday, three fresh reviews on each day that I do reviews.


    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Management Consulting Case Interviews (business)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Everything related to management consulting, including consulting industry trends, latest news, list of top consulting firms, consulting job search, resume CV and cover letter writing, job applications, job interviews, interview preparations, case studies and a collection of case interview questions used by major consulting firms over the years.

    MY REVIEW: This is an interesting blog, in particular for managers and manager consultants. Indeed - anyone who runs a business will find this blog of interest.

    Only one solution per question is given, but it still gives rise to thinking, to problem solving, to alternate ideas.

    (Here's a more comprehensive description of the purpose of this blog from its website: This blog site was started in summer 2010. Currently it is collaboratively maintained by a group of PhD candidates from various academic disciplines (Math, Econ, Physics, EE, Computer Science, Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Biological Sciences) at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University as well as several MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (formerly Chicago GSB) and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

    The main purpose of this blog is to network with people from different background (undergraduate, MBA, PhD, JD, MD, Master students, working professionals, et al) who are interested in getting into management consulting and to prepare people for consulting case interviews. If you have any good thoughts about the site or want to join our team, feel free to send us an email: consultingcase101-at-gmail-dot-com)


    Sample post
    What is the Sex Ratio in India?
    Case Type: math problem.
    Consulting Firm: Triage Consulting Group first round job interview.
    Industry Coverage: Government & Public Sector.

    Case Interview Question #00141: In one rural state of India, people have strong preference for boys over girls. There is no “one-child” or any other family planning policy. So every family in the state continues to have children until they have a boy. If their first child is a girl, they will just have another child. If they have a boy, they will stop. The Indian Bureau of Census is quite concerned about it. They want you to find out the overall sex ratio (proportion of boys to girls) in the state.

    Possible Answer:
    This case is more like a brain-teaser than probability-based math problem. The interviewee has to realize that because there is no measure to artificially reduce the population of baby girls (sex-selective abortion or infanticide), the sex ratio in the state remains natural, approximately 50:50.

    ■ Imagine you have 100 couples who have 100 babies. 50 will be girls. 50 will be boys. (Total babies made: 100, with 50 boys and 50 girls)
    ■ The 50 couples who had girls will have 50 more babies. Half (25) will be girls. Half (25) will be boys. Add 25 boys to the 50 already born and 25 girls to the 50 already born. (Total babies made: 150, with 75 boys and 75 girls.)
    ■ The 25 couples that had girls will have 25 more babies. Half (12.5) will be boys and half (12.5) will be girls. Add 12.5 boys to the 75 boys already born and 12.5 girls to the 75 already born. (Total babies: 175 with 87.5 boys and 87.5 girls).
    ■ And so on, maintaining a 50/50 population

    --What is the Sex Ratio in India?
    --How Many Golf Balls Can Fit into a School Bus?
    --Oscar Mayer Introduces New Hot Dog
    --How Would You Start a New Business at Kellogg?
    --Goodyear Looks for Ways to Generate More Sales

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
    Rush Limbaugh Report

    Learn to Crochet in Minutes a Day (hobbies)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Learn to Crochet in Minutes a Day, by Christy Parker


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: This blog will have one lesson weekly, starting with the most basic crochet stitch, and will work slowly towards more complex stitches. Each lesson is designed to allow for ample time to practice each stitch, and I will offer crochet patterns frequently which will allow the reader to practice the stitches while making an item.

    I love to crochet; it’s an excellent hobby for keeping your hands busy while watching TV or having a conversation. I would love to pass this love on to as many people as would like to learn.

    MY REVIEW: I was surprised to find how many crochet blogs there were...but this is the only one I saw that started from the very beginning of the craft, so I have to recommend it.

    The author writes well, gives clear directions, and illustrates with photographs. If you want to learn how to crochet or improve your skills, check this out.

    Sample post
    (1/2, and photos not reproduced)
    Lesson 3 - The Single Crochet Stitch
    The single crochet stitch (abbreviated SC) is one of the easiest stitches available and is highly useful. I currently have three patterns prepared for us to practice this stitch. Used alone, it is a simple but tight-knit stitch. Used in conjunction with other stitches, it can be beautiful, yet stable.

    For this stitch and the pattern that follows, you will need the following supplies:

    Sugar 'n Cream Yarn (or other worsted weight cotton yarn) - 1 skein in your choice of color
    Size G Crochet Hook
    Scissors (used only for the finishing)
    Embroidery Needle (used only for the finishing)

    You will learn the single crochet stitch (SC) while making your washcloth.

    Preparing the Foundation:

    To begin, fasten on (see Lesson 2 for instructions on fastening on).

    Chain 40 (see Lesson 2 for instructions on the chain stitch). In future patterns this will be abbreviated as (CH 40). Here is my foundation for the washcloth:

    The chain stitches are the foundation for our washcloth. For the rest of this pattern, you will be using the single crochet stitch exclusively.

    How to make the SC stitch:

    Step One:
    Insert the tip of your needle in the second stitch from your hook. My thumb in the following photo shows the second stitch:

    I have seen different instructions on exactly how to insert the needle in this stitch. Some crocheters insert the needle in the "back loop" of the stitch. In the photo above the "back loop" is the top part of the stitch. If you were looking at the stitch sideways to view it as a "v", the back loop would be the left line of the "v". Some crocheters choose to insert the hook in the "front loop", which would be the bottom part of the stitch, or the right line of the "v" (there are even some advanced patterns that call for making stitches through one loop or the other, to create a cabled effect, but we aren't there yet). I find that my work looks more polished if I insert my hook through both loops. This will be a bit frustrating at first, as each stitch takes a little while insert the hook through, but remember, you are building your foundation. After the foundation is built, the remaining stitches will be made much more easily. Just bear with this first step.

    To insert your hook through both loops of the SECOND stitch from the hook, first poke the hook under the front (bottom) loop:

    --Lesson 3 - The Single Crochet Stitch
    --Happy Anniversary to Me!
    --Lesson 2: Building a Strong Foundation
    --Lesson 1.5 - Some Notes on Tension
    --Lesson One - What to Buy and Why

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
    Rush Limbaugh Report

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    The Quivering Pen (arts and entertainment, writing, Iraq War)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: The Quivering Pen, by David Abrams


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Primarily concerning my work-in-progress ("Fobbit," a serio-comic novel about the Iraq War), but also touching on short stories, reviews and other news from the literary landscape. "Fobbit" in a nutshell: It's as if "The Hurt Locker" and "The Office" got married and had a kid they named "Catch-22."

    MY REVIEW: I liked this blog, but there's no denying it's got an unfortunate title. Indeed, another blog has the same name - but it's a romance writer's blog!

    Those who look past the title (it's a quote from Emile Zola) to the actual content of the blog will also enjoy it. The author shares excerpts from his novel (and the sample post below is one of those) as well as book reviews, info on freebies at Amazon, and so on.

    Highly recommended.

    Sample post
    The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn of Democracy

    When I look back at my year in Baghdad, specifically through the portal of my journal, I'm struck by how different a person I was just five years ago. That David Abrams was wound tight as a clock-spring, swollen with naivete, and hypersensitive to every little thing going on around him. Sometimes, though, he wrote some pretty good shit.

    I've taken a lot of what happened in 2005 and transmogrified it into the fiction of Fobbit. But here are a couple of entries which come to you direct from the journal, unedited except for preserving some individuals' identities. The "Referendum," for those of you who aren't CNN junkies, refers to the effort to ratify the Iraqi constitution. It was one of many historic days I saw that year when thousands of citizens went to the polls, braving terrorist threats and trying to put aside years of Hussein-era brainwashing. You can read more about the referendum at this Wikipedia page.

    October 13, 2005: I was standing in line today waiting to get my flu shot and I struck up a conversation with a master sergeant who works in the Civil Affairs section. He was telling me about a sergeant first class in his unit who had just been killed two weeks ago. “Just a week before it happened, he was hit with an IED and injured his hand. Walked away with nothing but a minor hand injury. And just imagine all that he and his wife went through with that, all the trauma associated with getting hurt over here far away from your loved ones and there’s nothing either one of you can do about it. Then, just a week later, he’s dead. It sucked, man. think of his wife getting both of those messages delivered to her in the space of less than two weeks. It just really sucks, man.”

    * * *

    Lieutenant Colonel W______ came up to me, a bundle of red-inked press releases in his hand. He was shaking his head. He’d just come from the chief of staff’s office. I could tell because he had that “I’ve just been kicked and I’m still numb and tingling with pain” look about him.

    “The chief’s latest twist is that he doesn’t want us to put times in our press releases.”

    I rolled my eyes, clapped a hand to my forehead.

    “I know, I know, but I can kind of understand how it’s a security issue. He feels like we’re giving too much away to the enemy by specifically identifying when events occur. It’s a TTP issue.”

    Pretty soon, there’s not going to be much left of our press releases for him to chop away at. I foresee the sanitation of PRs due to Tactics, Techniques and Procedures dumbing us down to the barest element: “A military unit an IED somewhere in Baghdad did something sometime during the month of October.” And that’s it, that’s the whole press release. Anything more would compromise our security and put our soldiers in jeopardy.

    This follows on the heels of the Iraqi government’s paranoid prohibition of allowing any Iraqi Army or Iraqi Police to talk to the media until after the Referendum. A complete news blackout for the next week. This is going to make it tough for us since Corps PAO is pushing us to “put an Iraqi face” on all releases, whenever possible (which, in turn, reverses the previous command of not writing about the IAs or IPs because that was now the job of the Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Defense [which, of course, is a reversal of the way it was when I first arrived in Baghdad and I was told to play up Iraqi Security Forces successes at every turn]). So, no more credibility-lending quotes from Iraqi military or police in our PRs. And, whatever you do, don’t allow Iraqi Soldiers to talk to anyone in the media.

    “Try telling that to Gen. Jalil (one of the IA Division commanders) who’s setting up a media center right now,” snarled Maj. P_______.

    * * *

    The task force commander has decreed that “Every time a platoon-sized element or larger rolls out the gate, it’s to be a named operation."

    Pretty soon, we’ll have “Operation Go To the Bathroom” or “Operation I Just Need to Gas Up the Humvee.”

    October 14, 2005: We’ve been out of paper towels in the men’s room for the past three days. Rumor has it there’s a nationwide paper shortage because they need all the paper for the ballots in the Referendum tomorrow. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a nice little urban legend that helps us get over our irritation at not being able to dry our hands.

    The chow hall has also run out of ranch dressing and ketchup due to the fact that Iraq has been sealed up—no air traffic, no border crossing, no nothing until after Referendum Day.

    October 15, 2005: Referendum Day dawned with something Baghdad hadn’t heard in more than a year: the sound of silence. No fireballs, no plumes of smoke, no rat-a-tat-tat-tat of machine guns rattling through neighborhoods. Just the thump of our heartbeats in our ears. This was the day, this was the moment, this was the hour of decision.

    I started off the day on the wrong foot. I came back from taking a shower to realize that I’d locked myself out of the room. Damn. I had to traipse all the way over to the KBR Billeting Office in my shorts and T-shirt to get the spare key.

    Before going in to work an hour early, I made sure I had a big breakfast at the chow hall because who knew when I’d have the next chance to eat. Eggs, sausage, hash browns, a pear, a pastry. It all filled my belly and got my blood pumping.

    CNN’s Christiane Amanpour was there on the overhead TVs in the chow hall telling us that Baghdad had just woken up from an overnight power outage when, she said, insurgents sabotaged a power plant on the eve of the Referendum. I knew for a fact that it wasn’t true because our Command Information Center had called me the night before to say that one of the electrical plants had experienced a technical malfunction but that it wasn’t AIF-related. The Anti-Iraqi Forces had other bombs to plot and plant, apparently. Still, I let Christiane and the rest of the news media believe what they wanted. It made for much more dramatic TV to say that a power station had been blown up by infidels, rather than a bad fuse just blew, coincidentally on the night before the nation’s biggest day of the year.

    I get to work around 6:55. Two minutes later, they make an announcement over the speakers: “Marne X-Ray, this is Marne Zulu.”

    “Marne Zulu, this is Marne X-Ray. Go ahead, over.”

    “Uh, roger. Just wanted to let you know that the President is voting now.”

    I look up at the live television coverage and, sure enough, there are the President and the Prime Minister walking into a bare, non-descript room somewhere in the Green Zone. They get their ballots from a girl in a head scarf, then they walk over to two podiums which have been set up on a stage at the front of the room. They vote—a simple checkmark for “Yes” or for “No”—then carefully dip their forefinger into a bottle of ink which will stain them for the next 72 hours as proof that they voted (a low-tech way to prevent ballot-box stuffing). They hold up their fingers for the camera and smile.

    CNN tells me, “The Ministry of Interior says that security is much heavier now than it was in January.”

    I sit down at my computer and…it begins. Within an hour, I start to get the first photos from our brigade journalists. I immediately throw them onto the press release template, format it, proofread and copyedit the text, then send it to the printer and rush it in to LTC W______, who then rushes it in to Colonel G______, who then rushes it back to us and then I send it out to my media e-mail list. From conception to release, most of them take less than an hour. Meanwhile, I continue to get more and more releases and photos from our brigades. Soon, I have to have one of the junior-ranking soldiers from the Media Operations Center come over to be my runner. My butt doesn’t even leave the chair—except maybe twice for a quick jog down the hall to take a choked-short whiz before sprinting back to the keyboard. The whole thing works like clockwork and within 12 hours, I have processed 21 releases and sent 45 photos out to the world (a lieutenant later tells me he saw several of our photos appear on CNN throughout the day). At times, I’ve got three different releases open and my brain is doing its typical split-screen function as I try to keep everything neatly compartmentalized and organized in my head. I barely look up from my screen the whole day, except to bark at my runner, “Grab that off the printer and run it in to LTC W______. Now!” I have no time for courtesy. I am a friggin' press release machine. My arms are levers, my heart is a pulley.

    That evening, after the polls have finally closed and the releases have dwindled to a trickle in my inbox, Captain L_____ looks at me and says, “Go sit down and eat dinner before you have an aneurysm.”

    I don’t leave the office until nearly 11 p.m. But I walk back to my hooch bursting with excitement and pride over the job I’ve done today. For the first time in the 10 months I've been over here, everything went exactly as planned. It was perfect from start to finish. I can still hardly believe it.*

    *I had good reason for my disbelief. As anyone** who has paid attention to the news from Iraq since that day knows, the country is still struggling to stabilize its government. The eel is still greased and elusive.

    **Which is about 30% of Americans.

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