Dixie Darr

Archive for March, 2017|Monthly archive page

The Case for Kindle, Part I

In Books, Lent - Season of Change on March 31, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 27

I know what you’re going to say. “I like REAL books. I like holding them, and I like the way they smell.” Don’t even. I don’t really care if you prefer “real” books. Just don’t go acting like they are somehow superior to ebooks. Different, si. Better? No.

I resisted the lure of the Kindle for several years for one reason – I preferred using the library instead of buying books. When I learned that the library was starting to offer ebooks, that argument disappeared. I received my Kindle Paperwhite as a Christmas gift in 2010 and it immediately became my all-time favorite toy, a position it continues to hold today.

Here are a few reasons in favor of using a Kindle:

It’s lightweight, which makes it easy to carry in my bag or hold if I want to read lying down.

The lighted screen and adjustable font mean I can read it anywhere and don’t have to use my glasses. These features can also help those with dyslexia.

It holds hundreds of books so I always have a library with me (currently 577 books), not just one book.

Just touch the screen to highlight or bookmark favorite passages.

The built in dictionary provides a definition with a simple touch.

Want to read the book right now? Both the library and the online bookstore offer instant downloads.

You don’t even have to buy a Kindle. You can use the free app on any electronic device.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow a Kindle book for free every month. Or enjoy unlimited reading of over a thousand books, magazines, audio books, comics, and articles through Prime Reading.

Join Kindle Unlimited for $9.99 a month, and you have access to as many books as you like.

Many books are available free or for $.99 – $2.99 through special promotions.

Remember, this isn’t an either/or choice. I read “real” books as well as Kindle books, and I listen to audio books. I want to have access to books in any and all formats. After all, not all books are available in all formats. Not yet.

More on this tomorrow.


A Prayer for Heartless Meanies

In Lent - Season of Change on March 30, 2017 at 7:41 am

Lent – Season of Change, Day 26

It is possible that I don’t have the most honorable instincts about prayer. I’m honestly astonished when people raise hateful people, say racists or murderers in prayer. My favorite character in Fiddler on the Roof was the rabbi who, when Tevye asked him if there was a proper blessing for the czar, replied, “May God bless and keep the czar – far away from us!”

So you won’t be surprised to learn that I dearly love this short poem by Danish scientist, inventor, and poet Piet Hein. He was also a resistance leader during the Nazi occupation.

An Ethical Grook

I see
and I hear
and I speak no evil;
I carry
no malice
within my breast;
yet quite without
a man to the Devil
one may be
to hope for the best.

No, I’m not thinking of anyone in particular. Why do you ask?

A Change Is Gonna Come

In Lent - Season of Change on March 29, 2017 at 10:52 am

Lent – Season of Change, Day 25

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964, Sam Cooke released A Change Is Gonna Come, which has been voted one of the best songs ever written by several publications.

Change did come although not without some backsliding into ignorance and cruelty. Egged on by nastiness from the White House, we are living again through one of those regressive periods. It’s time to raise this anthem again.

My Life Story in Ten Objects

In Auntie Flat, Home, Lent - Season of Change on March 28, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 24

Do your possessions tell your history? Here’s a fun exercise given to me several years ago by an art journaling teacher and my answers. List ten objects that tell your history.

  1. Baby shoes – They’re brown, ankle high and ugly. The right one is more of a left shoe than the left shoe is because my right foot turned inward. I had to wear them day and night and reportedly hated them.
  2. Toy cupboard – Made for me by my Grandpa Darr when I was just a baby and my most prized possession.
  3. Tiny Terri Lee – My last doll. My mom made most of her clothes, plus she has a crocheted dress made by my Grandma Wood.
  4. Five Little Peppers – Written in the 1880s, it’s the only book I remember my mom reading to me, although there were surely others. I still have my copy, tattered and much loved.
  5. Beatles pictures – 8 x 10 glossies that came inside the White Album. The Fab Four still define my teenage years. I saw them live at Red Rocks and try to work that into the conversation as often as possible.
  6. Diploma – It took me three colleges, six majors, and twelve years to earn my bachelor’s degree, and it changed my life.
  7. Buffet – My space-aged looking buffet came from the old May D&F at Zeckendorf Plaza in 1969 and still looks way more modern than anything you own. I also have a valet and double dresser, my only designer furniture. If my nieces don’t want them, they’ll go to the Kirkland Museum when I die.
  8. Fiesta Pitchers – I started collecting Fiestaware about 25 years ago when they introduced their deep purple color. I now have eight of their iconic full-sized pitchers in different colors and a cupboard full of other dishes, too. Purple is still my favorite.
  9. Purple computer – I was a relatively early adopter of computers and the internet. This one came about twenty years later and, although dead for several years, remains the only computer I ever loved. Last year I tried to get the guy at PC City to use it as an empty case to build me a new computer, but he convinced me to buy a new one instead. 😦
  10. Dishwasher – The dishwasher is not my favorite thing about my condo; that would be its location in Olde Town Arvada and its layout, but those aren’t things. When I moved here, I had done without a dishwasher for over thirty years.

So there you have it. Not a very impressive list, and if I were doing this assignment today, I wouldn’t pick all the same objects, although most of them would remain the same. What would you choose?

The Circle Game

In creativity, Lent - Season of Change on March 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 23

When I moved to Highland neighborhood in North Denver in 1978, my friends were afraid to visit me. “Is it safe to park on the street?” they’d ask. When I left 33 years later, they said they wished they could afford to live there. Things change.

Back in 2002, Richard Florida introduced us to the creative class, declaring that “Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource.” His book, The Rise of the Creative Class, described a group made up of artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers and knowledge-based workers that made up nearly a third of the workforce and drives regional economic growth. People and companies want to go where the creative class grows.

That creates problems in cities across the country when people such as artists are priced out of areas that they pioneered. It happened my neighborhood and in downtown Denver when a group of artists in the mid-1980s founded the Lawrence Street Artists in a vacant warehouse at 2006 Lawrence Street. In 2013, the space was taken over by a fast-growing start-up and the artists scattered to the suburbs to find cheapter rent.

The state countered by establishing a fund for the Colorado Creative Districts for the purpose of

Attracting artists and creative entrepreneurs to a community, infusing new energy and innovation, which in turn will enhance the economic and civic capital of the community.” Several cities, including Denver, Crested Butte, Trinidad, Salida, and Pueblo have taken advantage of these funds.

But it doesn’t always, or even usually, take government intervention to attract artists to a community.When a flat bike tire led Ed Marquand to a little eastern Washington hamlet called Tieton back in 2005, he noticed a number of empty and abandoned buildings and recognized potential. He hatched a plan to relocate his publishing company from expensive Seattle real estate. He would buy deserted buildings and convince other artists and creative creative entrepreneurs in Seattle to move while also, hopefully, injecting new life into the town. Listen to the story on the Placemakers podcast.

And the cycle continues. The creative class takes over depressed areas in cities or small towns, attracting economic growth and pricing out the artists. Eventually the area falls out of favor and into disrepair again. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “so it goes.”

Out With the Old

In Lent - Season of Change on March 25, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 22

My father was a carpenter as was his father before him. My brother, an architect by profession, makes beautiful wood pieces in his spare time. I have things each of them made me, and they are my most prized possessions. The most treasured is a toy cupboard Grandpa Darr made me when I was a baby. It’s now a genuine antique.

Some things, though, are not made to last forever or even for a lifetime. Case in point: a toybox my dad made when I was little and that I use to this day to hold sweaters at the foot of my bed. Well, really I use it as a place to pile laundry. It’s ugly. I’ve kept it because Dad made it, and I couldn’t bear to throw it away. Always frugal, like many people raised during the Depression, he used scrap wood for most of his projects. Then to dress it up, I suppose, he bought an “antiquing” kit, which covered it in a think coat of paint and then stain to make it look like wood. I never understood this because it was already wood. Anyway. It’s ugly and now it’s falling apart.

I found a storage bench to replace it that’supholstered in purple microfiber that looks fabulous in my bedroom. I’m taking the toybox to the dumpster, a poignant move because today is the anniversary of Dad’s death. Nine years ago, we said goodbye for the last time. I love you, Dad, and I think of you every day, but I’m still going to dump this piece. It wasn’t your best work, and I have plenty of other things you made me that I really love—my worktable and dry sink and Grandma Darr’s sewing desk and others.

I’m crying as I write this, but my memories of you aren’t captured in these things. It’s time to let go.

Road to Nowhere

In Books, Lent - Season of Change on March 24, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 21

We’ve all seen the stories about people who followed their GPS directions on a road to nowhere, getting stranded and coming close to losing their lives.

I’ve never used a GPS and have no plans to acquire one. I know. Sometimes I’m shockingly old fashioned. Or maybe I’m just old. The thing is, I really love maps. When I first started driving (over 50 years ago!) my dad would sit me down with one of those intricately folded maps that gas stations used to hand out for free and show me how to get wherever I was going. I still do that except now I use Google maps—not their frequently weird directions, just the map—to plot out my path.

Google maps are amazing. I especially like focusing in from the map to the earth view to the street view. That sure wasn’t available on the old gas station maps. See? I’m not anti-technology. If those people who got lost by blindly (and I don’t use that word lightly) following the disembodied voice on their phone had just looked at a map, they might have noticed they were being led astray.

Some of my favorite maps are of cities, like New York or San Francisco, which show how the parts of the city fit together. I also love books, like Jan Karon’s Mitford series, that provide maps of their fictional towns.

In her book, A Field Guide To Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit, prefers paper maps. She says, “Maps are ubiquitous in one sense, and completely missing in another. A lot of younger people don’t own maps and atlases and don’t have the knowledge a map gives you. We call things like MapQuest and Google Maps on your phone interactive… but are they? Are they interactive? It’s a system that largely gives you instructions to obey. Certainly, obedience is a form of interaction. (Maybe not my favorite one.) But a paper map you take control of — use it as you will, mark it up — and while you figure out the way from here to there yourself, instead of having a corporation tell you, you might pick up peripheral knowledge: the system of street names, the parallel streets and alternate routes. Pretty soon, you’ve learned the map, or rather, you have — via map — learned your way around a city. The map is now within you. You are yourself a map.”

And there you have it. The real reason I don’t like GPS: I don’t like anybody telling me what to do.

Casting Spells

In Books, Lent - Season of Change on March 23, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 20

I hate the word retired. It makes me feel useless and irrelevant, which is probably why it took me so long (four years!) to settle in to my nonworking status. The first year, I went to a museum or some other cultural experience at least once a month and out to eat 5-6 times a week. Boredom with my life without work made me a little frantic to find things to do.

Finally, though, I have embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of retirement, settling into my quiet life of reading, writing, going to church and the gym. My restaurant visits have decreased to 2-3 times a week and may dwindle even more. Museums and plays don’t really interest me anymore. Every once in a while, I decide to shake things up and add something unexpected to my schedule.

That’s why I decided to participate in an Over 60 Spelling Bee today. I’ve always been a good speller, maybe because I read so much, although I haven’t competed in a spelling bee since I was about twelve. As the day came closer, I did a little studying, looked up lists of most misspelled words (misspell is one of them) and scanned a book of spelling rules which just confused me. I gave up and reminded myself I was doing this for fun, not to win some tacky little trophy.

That didn’t prevent nervousness or knots in my shoulders. It wasn’t too bad. I came in 7th of about 30 people, so I didn’t embarrass myself. The word that took me down was reveille. In the end, I’m glad I did it although I don’t know if I’ll do it again next year.

I have about 30 library books checked out right now, not one of them about war or I might have known how to spell that word, and another ten or so to pick up on Saturday. I need to stay home now. Those books aren’t going to read themselves.

Some Books

In Auntie Flat, Books, Lent - Season of Change, small houses on March 22, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 19

Since I’m known as a reader before anything else, people frequently ask me what kind of books I like. I prefer books by and about women, especially women artists, and I especially like books in which a house figures prominently. I can easily explain the first—I am a woman with artistic or artsy leanings, if not exactly an artist. The second is probably a little more complex. Home is very important to me, dating back to when I was three and my grandparents made their garden shed into a playhouse for me and my brother when we visited them in the summers. Imagine—I had my own private little house at age three. I think I’ve been trying to recreate that ever since.

Today, my condo is intensely personal, which is to say odd. It makes me happy and that is all I care about as I don’t have guests.

So, women, art, and a house. That describes three of my all-time favorite books, Violet Clay by Gail Godwin, Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer (yes a male author managed to sneak in), and Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. I’ve read each of them at least three times. This is about the last one.

Broken for You features two compelling protagonists, one young and heartbroken, the other old and dying. Septuagenarian Margaret Hughes lives alone in a Seattle mansion filled with valuable antiques. Wanda Schultz came west to search for the boyfriend who dumped her. When Margaret rents a room in her house to Wanda, both of their lives change as they form a surrogate family and discover ways to right some very dark wrongs.

I mention it because the Kindle version is currently on sale for $1.99. You might want to snap it up. The other two, sadly, are not available in Kindle, but I’m thinking I may have to head over to Abe Books and buy used copies, so the next time I want to read them, I won’t have to wait to pick them up at the library. Some books you just need to have on hand.

How to Annoy Your Way to the Top

In Books, creativity, Learning, Lent - Season of Change, work on March 21, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 18

James Altucher is a very annoying guy. He constantly interrupts the guests on his weekly podcast, The James Altucher Show although to his credit he warns them that he’s an interrupter. His insatiable curiosity redeems him and accounts for all those interruptions. “My podcast is about how people in many fields achieved peak performance,” he explains in a blog post. He’s “listening for those moments that need to be unwrapped. ‘I was a real estate developer with a drug problem first’ and you interrupt and say ‘how did you get over the drugs?’ Because they won’t tell you unless you interrupt and ask.”

His technique works. After 600 or so episodes, he has one of the best podcasts out there. The podcast seeks out peak performance and how people in a wide variety of fields achieve it. Ultimately, he interviews people because he wants to learn from them. “When you realize that everyone has something incredibly valuable to offer and you learn to dig for that value, life becomes a lot better.”

His own background encompasses many different professions, from web designer to hedge fund owner. He admits to having made and lost millions of dollars several times over. He has also written several books, one of which, Choose Yourself, consistently appears on lists of best business books. His latest, Reinvent Yourself, is one of my favorite books so far this year. Always controversial, he doesn’t believe in going to college, although he graduated from Cornell and briefly enrolled in a doctoral program at Carnegie Mellon University, and has tried to convince his teenaged daughters to skip both high school and college. So far, they’ve resisted, but he put his ideas into a book, 40 Alternatives to College, that makes some compelling arguments.

By interviewing 200 of his heroes, he learned that “100% of my guests started in one career, and changed at least three times minimum.” Read his blog post to discover what else he learned.

What I’ve learned as a fan of his podcast, blog, and books, is that a consummately annoying guy can also be one of the most interesting people on the planet.