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February 2010

Beautiful Rice Fields of Japan

I know, I know. You really want to hear more about my illness, and there is so much to tell. But instead I will spare you and share these beautiful photos of rice fields in Japan. The farmers create this crop art with no inks or dye - they just use different color rice plants and place them strategically. Keep scrolling down....it's amazing. Thanks to my friend Sally for sharing these with me.

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Amazing, right? Here are a few more creations:

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Netflix Recommendations

BABE  Some time ago, Netflix ran a contest offering $1 million to74230-large   whoever could come up with the best algorithm to recommend movies to customers. 

Well I'd like to know who won. Since I've been sick, I've been watching movies and logged onto Neflix yesterday to order some more. Under the little icon that says "Movies You'll Love" it suggests that "since you enjoyed 'Prime Suspect Season Seven' we recommend 'Babe.'"

Now "Prime Suspect" was a great series, starring Helen Mirren as a police inspector. But it was pretty grizzly and there were some scenes where I really had to avert my eyes because it was so gruesome. I am longing to know how they made the connection  to the sweet little children's movie about the winsome pig who could herd sheep. 

But you know the funny thing? They were right. I loved "Babe" too.


My Husband Bought Me A Snuggie

Snuggie2.JPG  Like most people, I've made fun of Snuggies since I first saw them advertised on TV. What is that thing? Are you kidding me?

Yesterday, The Weatherman, who rarely goes into stores unaccompanied, came home with one for me. Like the one in the photo, it is bright blue. Trust me, they are one-size-fits-all. It seems to be a cross between a blanket and a robe, except as a robe you put it on backwards, there is no tie, and if you get up and try to walk, the whole thing falls down and is extremely easy to trip over.

But it's the thought that counts, and The Weatherman's thought was that he doesn't like me to feel cold, and wants to think of me as cozy when he's not around. And that's pretty sweet. And you know what? I had it on last night while I was watching the Olympics and it kept me pretty toasty.

It also gave me an idea for a new kind of Snuggie Olympics - athletic challenges while wearing the Snuggie. But it could be too high-risk - there's huge potential for injury.


Too Little/Too Much

Grocery Bag  Food is a hot topic now and in somewhat oddly contrasting ways.

Because I serve on a Food Pantry Board, I have recently gotten several calls from people involved in making movies about hunger in America. HBO is working on a project, another independent film maker just got funding from Sundance, and I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg. Recently, when we were interviewing candidates for the executive director position at the Food Pantry, one of our finalists, when we were talking about budgeting, warned us that funders' interest in different causes was cyclical, and while hunger was "hot" right now, we had to remember that interest could soon move on to a disease or different cause.

Of course, hunger in America is "hot" in large part to the recession. These film makers all want to find middle class families lining up for free groceries who would never have dreamed of finding themselves at food pantries. (I'm setting aside here the obvious problem that hunger in this country seems to become more interesting if those affected are formerly middle class, and less interesting if they have always been poor.)Obese_boy_450x300  

Anyway, the other side of the food issue is the new fascination with childhood obesity, from the White House initiative to the dozens of institutes all over the country grappling with this program. Too hungry or too stuffed. Of course this isn't a simple equation - childhood obesity is much more of a problem in low-income families, where more fat and calorie laden foods are served, less fruit and vegetables, etc.

I don't pretend to be any kind of expert. But I did make pork roast for 30 homeless men last night and today I'm distributing groceries at our local food pantry. This much I know - the need is very real.


The Senora

Senora  When The Boy went to study in Spain, he had four different options for living arrangements. He might be assigned a dorm with other American students, a room in a young Spanish couple's apartment, a Spanish family, or a "Senora" - usually an empty nester or widow.

The Boy requested a family, but was placed with a senora, which was his second choice anyway. She not only  provides him a room but also cooks all his meals for him. While I thoroughly enjoy hearing about The Boy's classes in Spain, the cathedrals and mosques and different cities he has been visiting, I get a particular bang out of hearing about the meals the Senora makes him. They sound enormous - especially the main meal, served around 2:30 p.m. They often seem to include a couple of eggs and homemade french fries on the side of the main course! 

The Boy is a tall, skinny guy and the idea of a Mama across the ocean (she has 4 grown kids) feeding him well does my heart good. Given that she's 63 years old and it's the year 2010, she probably doesn't look a whole lot like this picture. But as long as she takes good care of The Boy, she'll always be beautiful to me. 

To follow The Boy's adventures in Spain, visit his blog here


Death Without Tenure

51+-2SrRwlL._SS500_  OK, ok, you can now stop hating me for that irritating tropical photo I had running all last week. If it's any comfort, it was cold down in Florida, and when the Weatherman and I went to the beach we were in long pants, sweaters and fleeces. I am NOT complaining - it was wonderful to get away from the book, cooking, etc. and have a change of scene. But now I'm back in the saddle, and we are expecting 4-6 inches of snow tonight.

Anyway, I saw my friend Joanne yesterday and couldn't help but comment on the uncanny connection between her newly released book, "Death Without Tenure" and the headlines about the professor in Alabama who murdered her departmental colleagues, allegedly because she was distraught about not getting tenure. Joanne's book, one of her Karen Pelletier mystery series, which are always set in academia - deals with tenure and murder as well. Of course because it's a Joanne Dobson book, there are many twists and turns, a couple of red herrings, along with some good-natured pokes at political correctness.

The real-life case too has it's bizarre twists, as the professor's past begins to be revealed. Today we learned that in addition to fatally shooting her brother, Dr. Bishop was also questioned in a case in which a pipe bomb was mailed to colleague.

By contrast,  the professor in "Death Without Tenure," is our heroine. And of course, it is a novel, and no one's life has really been destroyed.  


The Sublime and The Ridiculous

I don't know about you, but the two machines I rely on the most in my day-to-day life are my computer and my car. My computer, I was told yesterday, is in Texas, at an Apple repair center. My car is at an autobody shop in Northern Westchester, where such items as the fender, the bumper, the grill cover, the fog light, the spoiler and the exhaust fan are being repaired after yesterday's unfortunate incident. This morning the insurance adjuster asked me, "How big was the raccoon?" Big.

So that's the ridiculous. The sublime is great news for The Weatherman, who will be starting an exciting new job soon. And I'll take happy humans over broken machines any day! Stay tuned for more details... 



Mea Culpa

Maybe it's just as well that I have to use The Weatherman's computer to blog this morning (mine is still hospitalized) because on this computer, I haven't figured out how to illustrate the blogs. And sad to say the only appropriate picture would be that of a cute - and incredibly large - raccoon.

Last night, driving home from a meeting, I hit a raccoon. I was on a highway, and he had made it half way across, and was darting from the highway divider. I only saw him at the last minute, heard a sickening thud, and that was that.

I felt terrible. Just awful. Things only got worse when I got home and saw the car. That was one big raccoon. There is a panel on the side of the car that is peeled back like a sardine can.  The headlight is demolished. Something from the floor of the car is hanging down, along with one ominous wire. Of course I know it was  far worse for the raccoon. An unfortunate incident for all concerned.


Technical Difficulties

Oh, me. So many computer problems. My lap top is an inpatient at the Apple Store. It has been mysteriously shutting down and after various rounds with tech support, the Apple genius bar decided this afternoon that the machine needed to be hospitalized.

Meanwhile I am attempting to work/blog/etc. on my OLD computer, which the Apple tech support guy described as "vintage." This vintage computer is probably between 7 and 8 years old, which evidently is about 110 in computer years.

It doesn't like the blog software and won't work with it. It doesn't like Facebook. I can only hope it likes the back up files on my book.

I'm attempting to post this by email. Heaven knows if it will work. I'm feeling pretty vintage myself these days!

What Men Love in Women

21701733_sess11  Carrying on with yesterday's theme, today I bring you what my book "Safe Counsel" (originally published in 1893) has to say about what attracts men to women. I think you'll enjoy it.

"Female Beauty - Men love beautiful women, for woman's beauty is the highest type of all beauty. A handsome woman needs no diamonds, no silks nor satins; her face outshines diamonds and her form is beautiful in calico.

False Beautifiers - Man's love of female beauty surpasses all other love, and whatever artificial means are used to beautify, to a certain extent our falsehoods which lead to distrust or dislike. Artificial beauty is always an imitation, and never can come into competition with the genuine. No art can successfully imitate nature.

A Good Female Body - No weakly, poor-bodied woman can draw a man's love like a strong, well developed body. A round, plump figure with an overflow of animal life is the woman most commonly sought, for nature in man craves for the strong qualities in women, as the health and life of offspring depend upon the physical qualities of wife and mother. A good body and vigorous health, therefore, becomes indispensable to female beauty. 

Broad Hips - A woman with a large pelvis has a superior and significant appearance, while a narrow pelvis always indicates weak sexuality. The other portions of the body however must be in harmony with the size and breadth of the hips."

Clearly, I was born in the wrong era.



What Do Women Want?

1910boardwalk.JPG  As part of my research for the book, I've been checking out old parenting books. I came across "Safe Counsel," which is really more of a "facts of life" book and was originally published in 1893. Here are some highlights from a chapter on "What Women Love in Men":

"Large Men - Women naturally love men of strength, size and fine physique, a tall, large and strong man rather than a short, small and weak man. A women always pities a weakly man, but rarely ever has any love for him.

Small and Weakly Men - All men would be of good size in frame and flesh, were it not for the infirmities visited upon them by the indiscretion of parents and ancestors of generations before.

Soft Men - All women despise soft and silly men more than all other defects in their character. Women never can love a man whose conversation is flat and insipid. Every man seeking woman's appreciation or love should always endeavor to show his intelligence and manifest an interest in the various topics of the day."

Stay tuned, and tomorrow I"ll tell you what men want in women.