Dixie Darr


In Books, Learning on February 16, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Today’s light shines on books.
What I’m currently reading:
I just finished Mirror, Mirror by Kate Wilhelm in audio. I’ve read all 14 of Wilhelm’s Barbara Holloway books, starting in 1991. She’s an intriguing character, a work-obsessed do-good lawyer who dotes on her aging father.
Origin by Dan Brown is a longish slog but keeps pulling me through. I’m finally under 100 pages to go, which is a good thing since it’s due tomorrow. I still don’t know the answer to the book’s two questions: Where do we come from and where are we going?
My next audiobook is You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by popular Native American author Sherman Alexie who also narrates the book.
I’ve already read How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson a couple of times and watched the PBS series now available on YouTube. As one reviewer said, “I’m a sucker for books that incorporate interdisciplinary thinking and then weave them into a narrative about history.” Me, too.
My new Kindle book is C is for Corpse. This is my fourth trip through Sue Grafton’s alphabet series, always a pleasure.
Need a break from reading? (Never!) How about a documentary about the New York Public Library? Ex Libris will be available soon on Amazon Prime.
I’ve hit the wall on library books with 26 currently checked out, most of which I will have to return before I get a chance to read them. Four or five are due tomorrow with only one to pick up—A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros, just one more in a long list of books about walking that I never seem to actually read. Instead, I’m out walking, and that’s a very good thing.
What are you reading?


Pencil Me In

In creativity, Learning Tools on February 15, 2018 at 8:16 pm

In a previous post, I quoted someone who implied that the case for teaching cursive in schools was driven by Big Pencil, that is, those who manufacture pencils and foresee their demise in the digital era. It’s hard to imagine those innocent #2 Ticonderoga pencils used by school children across the world as leading a conspiracy, but that’s the world we live in.
It might surprise you to learn that the pencil wasn’t invented until 100 years after the printing press.
A large deposit of graphite discovered in England in the early 1500s and it was found to be useful for pencils among other uses. The news of these early pencils spread far and wide, attracting the attention of artists all over the known world. Graphite sticks were first wrapped in string or sheepskin to protect the soft mineral. Around 1560, an Italian couple invented the modern, wood-encased pencil. It took 300 more years before the attached eraser appeared.
In The Promise of a Pencil, author Adam Braun asked “What can a pencil do for all of us? Amazing things. It can write transcendent poetry, uplifting music, or life-changing equations; it can sketch the future, give life to untold beauty, and communicate the full-force of our love and aspirations.”
Still, the major advantage of pencils over pens is that things written in pencil can be erased. They are temporary, tentative. Pencils are also portable and don’t leak.
Fanatics can buy a pencil for a dime or you can spend $10,000. Really. Graf von Faber-Castell makes the “perfect pencil” featuring diamonds in white gold with a built-in sharpener.
Less zealous pencil lovers can still indulge themselves by paying $12 a pop for professional pencil sharpening.
I plan to stick with the mechanical pencils sold by every discount and office supply store five for a dollar in their back-to-school sales. As long as they continue to appear on school supply lists, pencils aren’t going anywhere.
And even if newer innovations wipe them out, with a 500-year history, they’ve had a good long run. Not many technologies can say that.

Ambient Light

In Friends, Lent, solitude, spirituality on February 14, 2018 at 4:18 pm

When you reach my advanced years, chances are good that you will need to get up at least once in the middle of every night. I try to avoid turning on a light, and usually, my condo is plenty light enough to keep me from bumping into furniture, stubbing my toe or stepping on my cat. Yeouw! I have many tiny lights on various appliances that indicate that the power is off or on plus a Beatles nightlight, and these provide a bit of light, but most of it comes from street lamps outside that leak in through my closed blinds.
I’m thinking about light because our Lenten theme this year is “Sharing the Light Within: Reclaiming and Restoring Our Beauty in the Darkness.” Sharing our light with others may be the most important thing we do in this life and I’ll get back to that in future posts. Right now, however, I want to herald the light others emit that helps to light our way.
I’ve pretty much always been a loner and I’ve written several times celebrating the art and science of being your own best friend. That never meant being without friends, only that I enjoy and need time with myself.
Today, I want to celebrate you, my friends and family, who add joy and comfort, encouragement and support to my life. You walk with me and laugh with me and sometimes cry with me, too. You make it possible for me to live in a perpetual glow. You are the ambient light that rescues me from despair and keeps me from stumbling around in the darkness, and I thank you for that.
I can only hope I brighten your days as you do mine. Shine on.