Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poetry for the Holidays: When Giving Is All We Have

When Giving Is All We Have

Alberto Ríos, 1952
                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.
— by Alberto Ríos

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Built-In Distraction: 'Hang Up and Drive' Gets More Difficult

It's easy to "hang up and drive" when you don't have the tools to tempt you — but when you do, it's easy to justify using them.

Let's take a look at how ubiquitous phones have become to driving. You may no longer use them to talk, but they still tells you where to go, and how. Pandora, iTunes, Amazon Music? Check. GPS and maps? Check.

Not only are phones tempting to use when we're on the road, but the technology and convenience they provide drivers as technology creeps further into vehicles makes putting them away that much harder.

When my husband purchased a new car this year, the first amenity the salesperson showed us was how to pair the smartphone with the car. It it was the cornerstone of the interactive stereo technology, and even the phone's GPS program was available via Bluetooth. Guess where that put my smartphone? Not in my purse.

When I drove the new car, I paired the phone before putting the car into traffic. Inevitably, however, I heard a song I wanted to skip. Back when changing the radio station or skipping a CD track was a single button on the dashboard, I could keep my eyes on the road and still filter my music easily and relatively safely. Now, however, that same act may involve multiple touches of the smartphone, which itself can be anywhere: on your lap, in the cup-holder, accidentally on the floor...

Auto makers may try to improve safety by installing phone and stereo function buttons on steering wheels, but drivers must have newer cars with that technology — and many of my family members, myself included, do not have new-enough cars for that.

In my 10-year-old car, I have an after-market device: an arm that holds the phone in place below the dashboard. It has no interface, no convenient buttons. If I want to listen to music, or change the music playing, I have to access the program on the phone. That requires me to take my eyes off the road.

I can rationalize that it's a quick fix, or it won't be dangerous to accomplish. Maybe I don't see other vehicles on the road so I think no one else will be affected. Perhaps I'm stopped at a red light, so that means I'm not moving so that makes it safe. Juicy justifications, all: multiple taps and swipes of the phone are anything but quick, I'm never completely alone on the road, and I must remain alert for drivers at stoplights.

Smartphones may offer hands-free GPS service, but that may not even be a reasonable option, considering that multi-tasking while operating a multi-ton vehicle is ill-advised under the best of circumstances, even with a skilled driver.

More importantly, when a text or call comes in and the phone is perched next to my hand, it's difficult to resist the impulse to read the screen or answer the phone (which, again, involves multiple keystrokes or swipes).

I am not alone. When I'm behind the wheel, I see many drivers, including professionals, operating their smartphones. If I see a car swerve into another lane, inexplicably slow down or stay stopped at a light after it turns green, I see the driver's head jerk up from her or his hand or lap in surprise.

How do we make our roads as safe as possible while using modern technology — or is that even possible?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Summer Reading: It May Last into Winter!

So, did you read a lot this summer? I know of a few readers who did, and it will earn them a book of their own!

One of the most enjoyable parts of the summer reading club is coming up with new books to read. I invited my buds to join the club for summer reading, and two readers took me up on it.

Both Karen and Stacy  tantalized me with their amazing reading lists. I think I found a few more tomes to add to my (growing) "to be read" list and was pleased to see an unexpected name among the authors. (Oh, there were more than a few favorites in there, too. I know how to pick them — friends and books.)

Karen read the following, for a total of 20 tomes:
  1. The Bone Chamber, Robin Burcell
  2. Misery, Stephen King
  3. Coming Home, Mariah Stewart
  4. Desperation, Stephen King
  5. Feels Like Family, Sherryl Woods
  6. The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Spear
  7. Escape from Andersonville, Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan
  8. The MacGregors-Alan Grant, Nora Roberts
  9. The Walking Dead:Rise of the Governor, Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
  10. The Hazards of Hunting a Duke, Julia London
  11. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  12. The Help, Kathryn Stockett 
  13. Stoker's Manuscript, Royce Prouty
  14. Sixth Sense, Ramona Stewart
  15. The Eye of the Tiger, Wilbur Smith
  16. True Believer, Nicholas Sparks
  17. The Trap, Tabitha King
  18. Soldier Dogs, Maria Goodavage
  19. Global Warning: Are we on the Brink of World War III? Tim Lahay and Ed Hindson
  20. Supervolcano:Eruption, Harry Turtledove

Stacy is "claiming a total of 40," which include:
  • Frozen, The Kraken King part 1, novellas by Meljean Brook
  • Magic Breaks by Illona Andrews
  • Warlord, Warprize, Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan
  • From the Dark Hunter series by Sherrlyn Kenyon: Fantasy Lover, Night Pleasures, Night Embrace, Dance with the Devil, Kiss of the Night, Night Play, Seize the Night, Sins of the Night, Unleash the Night, Devil May Cry, Upon the Midnight Clear, Acheron, One Silent Night, Bad Moon Rising, Time Untime and Styxx.
  • Once Burned by Jeanine Frost
  • Demon Bound by Meljean Brook
  • The King, Lover at Last, Lover Avhenged and Lover Reborn by JR Ward
  • The Winter King by CL Wilson
  • Body Guard by Jenifer Ashley
  • Archangel's Legion by Nalini Singh
  • Bound by the Vampire Queen by Joey W Hill
  • The Little Prince
  • Le Petit Prince
  • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War by Naomi Novik
  • Macrieve by Kresley Cole
  • Thankful in Death, Concealed in Death and Festive in Death by JD Robb
  • Hiawatha by Longfellow 
Stacy also donated 40 used books to the public library in honor of her summer read.

Both readers will receive a copy of the book of their choice.

Speaking of books, who's in for a winter reading club? Let's choose a book to read it during the chilly winter months. (Just one because I know you're busy, and you'll have a few months to fit it in!)

Do you have any particular titles in mind? Do tell!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: November


This is the treacherous month when autumn days
With summer’s voice come bearing summer’s gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts
Her head and blooms again. The soft, warm haze
Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways,
And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts,
The violet returns. Snow noiseless sifts
Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning’s rays
Will idly shine upon and slowly melt,
Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt?
What profit from the violet’s day of pain?

- Helen Hunt Jackson

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Hallow's Poem: Requiescat

On All Hallow's Read, I gave this poem to every trick-or-treater who came to my door, as well as every one who walked within bounding distance of me.


        Tread lightly, she is near
        Under the snow,
        Speak gently, she can hear
        The daisies grow.
        All her bright golden hair
        Tarnished with rust,
        She that was young and fair
        Fallen to dust.
        Lily-like, white as snow,
        She hardly knew
        She was a woman, so
        Sweetly she grew.
        Coffin-board, heavy stone,
        Lie on her breast,
        I vex my heart alone,
        She is at rest.
        Peace, peace, she cannot hear
        Lyre or sonnet,
        All my life’s buried here,
        Heap earth upon it.

        — Oscar Wilde