Tuesday, May 24, 2011

[Fiona]...and His Name Shall be Frank

I have an obsession. I fall in love with cute, small, adorable, stuffed animals and then I buy them. Shrek knows I have the heart of a five year-old trapped within my soul. He has given up telling me no and merely shakes his head whenever I move in for the kill. Today we played hookey from life and went to a local mall wherein a Disney Store{sigh}is housed.

Disney Store equals magic cure for my soul. It has the essence of untarnished youth. The grand possibilities of life fill my head. I feel a sense of calm roll over my being. I know silly, right? Well remind me to never tell you how excited I get over going to the local hardware store, OK?

I like to walk through the store and see all the gimmicky cutesy stuff before I carefully move to my goal. The stuffed babies display. I see him from across the stacked tshirts stand. A penguin dressed in a Yeti suit. OMGosh the smile starts to rise on my face. There is only one, he is cute, small, adorable and soon to be mine :)

By the look on Shrek's face I know he will give in to my silly need. I bring my friend to the cashier. I am aglow as I chat with the clerk. "His name is Frank." I say as I place him on the checkout counter. This would be a good time to tell you that ALL of my stuffies are named Frank. I do not know why but it makes me smile.

Friday, April 1, 2011

[Shrek] Turns out the April Fool is Dr. Melinda Boone

For those that don't know who Dr. Melinda Boone is, she is the superintendent of Worcester Public Schools. Part of her job is to cancel school due to inclement weather.

In a statement released to media in late March last year about an incident where an autistic child was allegedly assaulted Boone said “Worcester public schools takes student safety very seriously and has taken immediate and appropriate action.”

It is snowing over an inch per hour, the roads are nearly impassible with accidents being reported all over the city, and several of the colleges in the city have closed for the day. But as of right now the public schools are open.

So much for caring about student safety.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

[Shrek] Busy, Busy, Busy

After a couple of very busy weeks and weekends and not having time to make any posts, I'll make a quick drive-by post just to mention both Fiona and I are working on the second entry in our top five favorite authors list. Hopefully that will be ready some time this week.

Last weekend we went to TotalCon 25, or as Fiona calls it, "Geekfest" or "The Clan of the Unwashed". To me it's more of a reunion of a few friends than a game convention, although i do play a lot of Battletech while I'm there. This week it's three Worcester Sharks games in 48ish hours, and next weekend we're going to see Elton John at the DCU center.

This is one of those stretches of time where going to work is the most relaxing thing we do.

So, just to make sure this post is more than just a handful of lines, here's a few articles I found interesting over the past few weeks.

Sportsscientists.com takes a quick look at critical thinking.

Jeff Pearlman of CNN takes on an online hater in a great story about internet civility.

Slate usually has some good stuff, and if you're a grammar freak you'll love their look at the use of double spaces after periods in sentences. You'll note this blog uses single spaces. Or, maybe you won't.

If you're a Dr Who fan, and I am, this cheat sheet is pretty cool. If you're not into Dr Who, you should be. Just sayin'...

And finally, for those that like pictures of odd subjects, here's a look at some very cool staircases.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

[Shrek] The Shot Heard Round These Parts

When people talk about the greatest shooters in basketball history lots of famous names pop up. Guys like Bill Sharman, Larry Bird, Chris Mullin, Rick Barry, George Gervin, Jerry West, and Michael Jordan litter everyone's list of "best ever". But not one of those guys has the nickname "The Shot". That's reserved for the guy that may be one of the greatest basketball shooters ever, Jack "The Shot" Foley.

Foley got the nickname "The Shot" while in high school at Assumption Prep after hitting several shot in a row, including one that was at such a bad angle he banked it off the side of the backboard and in. The next day the nickname was given in the local paper, and it stuck. In fact, to this day old-timers will still refer to him as "The Shot" or like it's his actual middle name.

"The Shot" went on the College of the Holy Cross, where in 1962 he was a Consensus Second Team All-American and averaged over 33 points per game that season. He was eventually drafted by the Boston Celtics, but after only a handful of game was traded to the New York Knicks. Foley left the NBA after his second season, once recounting "I went from sitting on the bench for the best team in the world to sitting on the bench for the worst. It wasn't hard to figure out I wasn't going to make it playing pro basketball."

Last night Foley had his jersey raised to the rafters of the Hart Center on the campus of Holy Cross, an honor that took far too long to happen.

My first introduction to Foley wasn't on a basketball court, it was in the 11th grade American History class Foley was teaching where I went to high school. Looking back on it the scene was kind of amusing, with most every other teacher wearing a suit and tie while Foley generally wore jeans and a flannel shirt (and work boots that looked to be size 15).

But while compared to the other teachers Foley looked like a Yugo he taught like a Ferrari. That's because Foley didn't teach history--he lived it. He would dart from one side of the classroom to the other, telling the facts as quick stories, only stopping long enough to jot down a thing or two on the chalkboard. And everyone was mesmerized by it.

Foley also wasn't like other teachers in that the first few minutes of every class were devoted to current events. He'd say "history is happening now, too", and many times a whole class would be devoted to what happened the previous few days. The trick was he always connected what was happening at that time to the information he wanted to cover for the day.

I remember clear as day one girl (whose name I remember but won't post, who was very cute but as dumb as they come) mentioning on a Monday early in the school year that the previous week we didn't talk about history at all and focused only on current events. Foley just laughed at her and went around the room pointing at different people and asking the same question, "What's one historical thing you learned here last week". It took 16 people to get 15 different answers, to which Foley said "that averages three new things a day for last week. Seems like a productive week to me."

What a shocking concept: learning by discussion and having fun.

Lots of the female teachers didn't like Foley because he was a chauvinist, and he played it up to comical levels. He was the foil to my English Lit teacher, who was an ardent feminist that really didn't have a sense of humor. Foley once jokingly asked how I could have both of them in consecutive classes and not have my head explode. At least I think he was joking.

I did get to see Foley play basketball once, in a charity game that was teachers against the some of the students. Foley, who was 50-odd years old at the time, was the tallest teacher and as the tallest student playing I got to cover Foley. I made the mistake of stripping him of the ball before he could take his first shot, so Foley decided to teach me a lesson by schooling me on the court for 52 points. There were no three pointers back then, that was 26 baskets. On 29 shots. All from 15 feet or further away from the hoop. In a charity game.

On Monday in class when we talked about the game all he could focus on was the three he missed. That's why he's "The Shot" and those others aren't.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

[Shrek & Fiona] Our Favorite Authors--Number 5

As we count down our top five favorite authors, Fiona fires first.

I love the library where I grew up. The Whitinsville Social Library, a step into the past of golden days gone by. Beautiful structure with marble floors, wooden card catalogues, long wooden tables with oversized antique wooden chairs and stools. Hand carved archways, grandfather clock with spinning sun and moon faces to indicate the time of the day. I loved to watch and listen to that clock. In fact, I often went to this sanctuary to escape my dull life.

I first encountered Robert Cormier's books when I was in the seventh grade. I remember the moment clearly. I had gone to my town's library with some school friends to do research on some project. I got bored and went shopping in the stacks for something interesting to read. Right behind the circulation desk in the stacks somewhere in Dewey Decimal land of the 700s and 800s I found I Am The Cheese.

This book changed my life. I read it in one sitting. It made me rethink the way I looked at the so-called adults I was supposed to have a non-faltering faith in. I returned to the library the very next day.

I have read everything ever published by Robert Cormier. Only after I started reading his columnist work did I find out that he was from Leominster, Massachusetts. I often thought about writing to him and telling him how he changed my views on literature, life, people and how we treat each other. I regret that I never did write him. Robert Cormier died in 2000.

Published novels
Now and At the Hour (1960)
A Little Raw on Monday Mornings (1963)
Take Me Where the Good Times Are (1965)
The Chocolate War (1974) [very interesting take on fund-raising]
I Am the Cheese (1977) [My first read]
After the First Death (1979) [My all time favorite read]
The Bumblebee Flies Away (1983)
Beyond the Chocolate War (1985)
Fade (1988)
Other Bells for Us to Ring (1990)
We All Fall Down (1991)
Tunes for Bears to Dance to (1992)
In the Middle of the Night (1995)
Tenderness (1997)
Heroes (1998)
The Rag and Bone Shop (2001)

Before I started reading Jacqueline Carey's books I generally didn't read books by female authors, although I don't recall any particular reason for not doing so. And I don't even recall why I picked up her first novel, Kushiel's Dart, off the stack of "remainder" mass-market paperbacks that BJ's Wholesale Club used to sell. The cover is one you would see on any run of the mill second tier science fantasy novel, and really isn't that eye catching. But for whatever reason I picked it up, and the blurb on the back sounded interesting. As I was making up my mind if I was going to buy it or not I noticed her second book, Kushiel's Chosen, was sitting atop of another stack of books. I threw caution to the wind and bought them both. Funny thing is I also ended up buying two books from Sara Douglass that day, and almost ten years later they are both still sitting in my ever-growing to read stack. Fiona has read them though, so it wasn't for naught.

Carey has written three connected trilogies set in the Terre D'Ange Universe, each one building on the series before it. The three trilogies focus on different characters, with Phèdre nò Delaunay being the protagonist in the first three books. As her story moves along Imriel de la Courcel, son of the biggest traitor in Terre D'Ange is introduced and his story becomes the basis of the second trilogy. The third trilogy is set in the future of Terre D'Ange, with Moirin of the Maghuinn Dhon, who is a descendant of the Queen of Terre D'Ange featured in the first six books. All the books, especially the first trilogy, have some mature content that may not be suitable for young readers, although nothing is extremely explicit and everything that happens truly plays a role in the story.

Many readers, myself included, were disappointed that Carey chose to jump ahead into the future with the Moirin trilogy.

Between the Phèdre and Imriel trilogies Carey released two book entitled Banewreaker and Godslayer, often refered to as The Sundering series. It's a story loose based on Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, only told from the viewpoint of "the bad guys". It's an interesting series that tells a tale that not everyone fighting for the side of "good" has honorable intentions, nor were all the bad guys truly "evil". Between the Imriel and Moirin series Carey released Santa Olivia, a standard futuresque story about an over oppressive government fighting a war.

Despite some formula in her stories I liked them all, so that gets her into my "top 5".

Published novels
Kushiel Universe series
Kushiel's Legacy series

Phèdre Trilogy series
1 Kushiel's Dart (June 2001)
2 Kushiel's Chosen (April 2002)
3 Kushiel's Avatar (April 2003)

Imriel Trilogy series
1 Kushiel's Scion (June 2006)
2 Kushiel's Justice (June, 2007)
3 Kushiel's Mercy (June, 2008)

Moirin Trilogy series
1 Naamah's Kiss (June, 2009)
2 Naamah’s Curse (June 2010)
3 Naamah’s Blessing (June 2011 release date)

The Sundering
1 Banewreaker (November 2004)
2 Godslayer (August 2005)

Santa Olivia
1 Santa Olivia (May 2009)
2 Saints Astray (October 2011 release date)