2.28.2012

Read More/Blog More - poetry and mountains

I wrote a nice post this morning about mountain top removal mining and some beautiful poems in Jason Howard's We All Live Downstream, a collection of writings on the subject.  I included a film trailer, a poem by a Kentucky fifth-grader, and another by writer Janisse Ray.  I talked about the power of poetry to transcend our natural melodrama and to get to the heart of both problems and solutions.  And then, the power went out as I was proofreading, and though my laptop maintained battery power, the servers were down, so I couldn't post.  And then, tonight, upon returning to my FINISHED post, it was gone.  Entirely.  I know I'm not the first to be disappointed by technology, but I was ready to participate in read more/blog more on time this month.  So, I will read more and blog more about poetry tomorrow.  And tonight, I will watch tv with my husband and go to bed early and try to read more than 2 pages in The Widow of the South before sleeping.

2.24.2012

What I'm Reading and Not-reading These Days

The WMaIDWtPATB Challenge is motoring along, and I am happy to report a few successes.

I read four stories from William Gay's "i hate to see that evening sun go down," a book loaned by a friend who, knowing my affinity for Southern lit, insisted that I read this collection.  I report that I only read four stories not because they are bad (they're not) or boring (also not), but because they are something more or other than I want to handle now.  Short stories are a form I typically respond well to; however, these stories were all similarly dark and (dare I say it?) male in a way that made it less appealing, especially if you wanted to read more than one at a sitting.  What do I mean by that?  Well, there's sex and cursing and guns and death and just general aggression.  Oh, and dialogue with no quotation marks.  I've got no problem with these elements for the most part, but a repetition of those sounds and images in my head does not stretch me in a good way, so I read enough to feel I'd gotten a representative flavor and now feel comfortable returning it to my friend.  The first to fall!

I also read a Newbery Honor Book by William Steig called Abel's Island.  The language in this book is fantastic, and I look forward to sharing it with my daughter and having her work through some of the vocabulary with me.  She's already a word-gatherer, so I think she'll like the combination of a unique use of language and the antics of a comically formal mouse trapped on an island.  I do wonder about what age would be appropriate, though.  It's about a mouse, so younger kids will respond to that; however, it is dense and had some philosophical depths that I appreciated as an adult.  Of course, the same could be said about some kids' movies, like Toy Story.  I particularly appreciated Steig's writing about the frame of mind Abel began to experience as winter lingered, and his loneliness began to overcome him.  Quite powerful stuff.  This one goes to the Newbery Collection shelves until it gets boxed up.  It's a keeper.

Two days ago, I read Jonathan Lethem's essay on plagiarism called "The Ecstasy of Influence" after Greg recommended it at The New Dork Review of Books.  His analysis of the history of literary borrowing is fascinating, and I was especially fond of this passage:
Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.
Beautiful.  Also lovely in its own way was the March edition of Rick Bragg's "Southern Journal" essay in Southern Living.  It's called "Love Song" and reflects on his wife's love of birds and the effects of last spring's tornadoes on her and on the birds.  It was really good, and I tried to find it to link to it, but apparently, Southern Living doesn't put much magazine content on their website.

Finally, on the not-reading front: we watched the last two episodes of Downton Abbey a few nights ago (yup - 3.5 hours of Downton in one sitting).  All I can say is this: Did they fire all their writers?  I hate spoilers, so I won't say anything more for those who might still be catching up.  But seriously.  I was pretty disappointed.  Anyone else?

2.22.2012

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Regular readers have been aware of my recent revisit to Aldo Leopold's classic text on conservation A Sand County Almanac.  My initial post exposed my fangirl status, and my Sand County Saturdays highlighted some of the best bits from my reading. 

I reread because our Awake and Engage(d) Documentary Film Series was screening the new film on Leopold and his life's work: Greenfire.  Local storyteller Jim Pfitzer hosted the screening and did a beautiful and thoughtful recitation of Leopold's famous essay "Thinking Like a Mountain."

This gorgeous essay is where the title of the film originates.  In it, Leopold is reflecting on a life in and of nature, and he does something terribly uncommon in today's society: he admits he was wrong.  Early in his life, he had been a proponent of exterminating big game predators.  His support of this act came from his love of hunting and his belief that "because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise" (130).  As a result, wolves and other large animals were hunted to near-extinction.  In revising his view on the subject, he recounts an instance many years before when he had killed an old wolf and watched her die, watched as "a fierce green fire [died] in her eyes" (130).  Though he did not write about the experience at the time, it clearly took hold in his life and became a touchstone event in his understanding of wildness and the importance of symbiosis in the environment.

The last section of A Sand County Almanac is titled "The Upshot," and in it, Leopold compiles and asserts his most important theses regarding the land ethic, wildlife, and wilderness.  Some of it is repetitive, but for the most part it is a clearly argued demand for little more than a sense of appropriate balance in the world.  To consider humanity merely one of the myriad species inhabiting this place and to see ourselves as the ones most capable of its destruction would mean an unheard of transformation in global health.  I mean that in both possible interpretations: the health of the globe and the health of all those on the globe.  To refuse to seek that balance will mean continued examples of exploitation, destruction, and short-sighted decisions based on economic rather than ecologic profit.  We are all but there now, and the awareness of that fact destroys me on a somewhat daily basis.

I am a political person, and I definitely have a short fuse (thankfully, I also have a short memory) on many of these issues.  Sitting in the same room with me while I read the newspaper is .... well, let's just say it's hard to sustain a real conversation because I'm also going to be hollering at whatever article or letter to the editor has got me going this time.  If you do not have a similar leaning, you might want to exeunt stage left because I'm about to talk politics.

Rick Santorum's latest attacks on President Obama's "phony" theology have got me in a twist.  And yes, I did intentionally use the Fox News version of this story, so no one can think I'm just beating a liberal drum.  My problem with Santorum is not only that I disagree with him on about a hundred different points.  My problem is that, as a Christian, I feel ridiculously misrepresented by his brand of Christianity.  Man isn't here to serve the earth?  What does the Genesis account of Creation say was first on God's priority list?  What about Genesis 2:15?  "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (NIV).  Santorum also said, "The Earth is not the objective.  Man is the objective."  The objective of what?  I would hope that as a Christian, he would say that glorifying God was the objective rather than glorifying man.

Perhaps you see this theological rant as a tangent.  I do not.  I see the view of "man as the objective" as the single biggest threat to a land ethic.  Leopold says we must strive for balance.  In doing so, we must try to think like a mountain, to recognize the interconnectedness of it all, and for the Christian, to see God's work in that interconnectedness and to honor it.

2.21.2012

Because Lu Said So

Though I have spent my life scorning chain letters (well, except for in Middle School, when I did many things I hope never to repeat.  Including this unfortunate ensemble:
That's me on the left in the purple shirt ten sizes too big.  And the dolphin earrings.  And the green and purple plaid shorts.  And if you could see my feet, I think they would be green plaid converse-style low-tops.  And what in the *%#@ is happening in my hair?  Unfortunate is really an understatement.), Lu at Regular Rumination tagged me in a fun post, and since I haven't exactly been Johnny-on-the-spot with my posts of late, I thought I would participate.  The idea is I will answer these 11 questions and then tag 11 people to answer 11 questions of my own.  Not so sure I'll follow through on the latter portion - ever the rebel! - but I will further enlighten you with mostly useless personal information.  What's a blog for if not mostly useless personal information, right?

1. Tell us one thing that we don’t know about you!

Well, I just showed off my fine color-coordination skills.  You didn't know that, did you?  What else....I was a piano major for most of my college career (doubling with English) but dropped it to a minor when my teacher retired. 

2. Is there one book you’re always recommending? Which book is it and why.

I recommend books based on individual needs most of the time.  I have recommended The Book Thief several times (sorry you're not liking it, Lu!) because I loved it so.  I love the narrative voice and the off-beat style.  I think it is one of the most poetically beautiful books, and I love that it was designed for young people.  I hate when people write down to kids.

I would push Marilynne Robinson's Gilead on just about anyone.  It is unreal good.  I recently loaned my mom T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which I do highly recommend.  Relatively accessible Eliot and stunningly thoughtful poetry.  I have given Anita Diamant's The Red Tent as a gift a few times.  Think.  Think.  Think.  Why is this question so hard?   Maybe I need to recommend books more often.

3. Have you convinced anyone to read said book? Did they like it?

Since I couldn't make up my mind above, I'll tell you about my most recent success in recommendation:  I sent my dear friend off to Haiti with three titles, and I think she read all three and liked them all.  They were Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place, Breath Eyes Memory by Edwidge Danticat, and Clyde Edgerton's Walking Across Egypt.  I felt like Dolly Levi with my matchmaking score!

4. What do you do besides read?

Teach, mother, take photographs, work on my money pit/house, drink good beer, make sometimes delicious food, garden, run (my thighs would say otherwise), and hike.

5. Are you crafty?

I like to think so.  I sew a bit, have painted some, like to make cool things myself.  I don't know.  I try, I suppose.

6. Whom do you miss right now?

My friends who live in London.  I often wish I could hug their necks.  I'm also already pre-missing my sister, who is moving out of town in April.

7. What are you going to eat for dinner?

Roast chicken, pinto beans, broccoli, and steamed rice.  I think.  If I can get my act together once I get home, that's what's on the agenda.

8. What is the one book you’ve been dying to read but you haven’t yet?

Dying to read is not something that happens to me often.  I just don't catch the buzz all that much.  Things cross my path, and I read them.  I pick up titles that interest me.  I like books that are a hundred years old.  It just doesn't translate into that kind of anticipation.  However, I do look forward to reading the next in the Ice and Fire series, and since I'm making myself wait until after the move, it is something I'm looking forward to.

9. I need some new music recommendations! What have you been listening to lately?

Like my book selections, I often don't stay up on the new music scene.  Howevah, I did just hear about this great new singer called Adele.  She's supposed to be pretty good.  ;)

No, seriously.  What would I recommend?  How about this: if you don't use Noisetrade, you should.  I have found several really great finds through them, and it's free-ish.  Also, my friends have a great blog where they often share new music.  Check them out at Bottom of the Glass.

10. If you could go back to any time in your life and live through it all again, when would you return to?

OK, so I don't really mean to be a buzzkill, but just ask my husband: I am not a look-backer.  I look forward so ridiculously that he claims I forget to enjoy the present.  I disagree, but his point has merit.

I would like to return to Cambridge, where I studied for a summer session in 1998, but I want to take my family with me.  I can be definitive about one thing: I ain't going back to middle school!

11. What’s one goal you have for this year?

To strike a better balance in my life.  I feel like work is keeping me from pursuing so many of the other amazing things I love to do.  For that matter, it's keeping me from the things I don't love like dusting or cleaning the toilets.  The discontent is not healthy, though, so I'm either going to rectify the situation on a grand scale or find the balance that works.  It's a work in progress.

And speaking of work, I have just ignored the grading I was supposed to be doing for far too long, so I must get back to it.  I'm not going to retag, but thanks for including me, Lu.  This was fun!

2.14.2012

The We're-Moving-and-I-Don't-Want-to-Pack-All-These-Books Challenge

That Challenge has a certain ring to it, don'tcha think?  TBR might be familiar, and something shorter might be more memorable, but seriously, that title gets to the heart of what I'm about these days.  We will move -again- in late spring/early summer, and I have a queer notion that this move will be permanent, and thus, all those things I've been packing and unpacking (town to town, up and down the dial) over the years (fabric**, paper, school supplies, and oh-lord-the-books) must be gotten rid of or made part of the permanent collection once and for all.  This idea makes no sense.  I am aware, people.  But sense-making has not always been my forte, and herewith I am proving it.

So, the WMaIDWtPATB Challenge has begun.  It actually began a few weeks ago when I plucked Susan Sontag's In America off the TBR shelves and gave it a whirl.  Actually, what I did was try desperately to get connected to this book.  The result: I would sleep almost instantly upon opening it. I kid you not.  It induced such comas in me that I could have used it as a sleep aid if insomnia would ever strike the likes of Sleepy Me.  So, for the past several nights it has sat on the night stand (by the way, have you seen this? Hilarious.) while I have read other things (not on The Shelves - CURSE YOU, LIBRARY).  And this morning, I have made the big decision to abandon it.

Abandoning books has never been easy for me.  I'm a once-in, all-in kind of gal, but I've started getting better at it as I've gotten older.  Maybe it's the life's too short argument, but I can walk away from something now and have even returned to books later on and found them to be richly satisfying.  But when I've had a book on the shelves, the irrational part of my brain thinks "What if I give away an amazing book and can never find it again?"  Hello, Crazyland!  I've been here for awhile, but I don't think we've been formally introduced.

The Details of the Challenge: There shall be One Tab to List Them All.  I shall include a picture of The Shelves.  I shall mark through titles as they are read or abandoned.  I shall be encouraged as said marking through occurs. In May, I shall pack those deemed Worthy and discard those deemed Unworthy.  And there shall be much rejoicing.

By the way, Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity has a great post up about lurking and delurking today.  I don't normally urge readers to comment, but I like the way she addresses the issue.  So, lurkers, feel free to keep on alurking.  Or comment away by clicking that little comments thingy down there. 

**To see how the insanity is going with Things That Are Not Books, see my other blog Greenhouse Gas.  Later today, I will post regarding fabrics and crayons.  It's not to be missed, y'all.**

2.12.2012

Sand County Sunday (oops!)

A single silence hangs from horizon to horizon. (Leopold 95)

I fell asleep on the couch last night before getting around to Sand County Saturdays, so Sand County Sunday it is!  This week is the screening of the film that launched my revisit of Aldo Leopold's classic, so I'll look forward to wrapping up the book and posting on the film next weekend.  This weekend, however, I'm just dwelling on the beautiful phrasings (like the sentence under the photo at top) and keen observations this book is so full of.

Leopold, for those that don't know anything about him, is considered one of the first great conservationists in America.  He was an expert on wildlife management and was one of the founders of the Wilderness Society.  His book, A Sand County Almanac, wasn't published until after his untimely death in 1948 (he was fighting a grass fire on a neighbor's property), but it has left a tremendous legacy, especially regarding an ethical view of land.

He writes:
There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it.  Land, like Odysseus' slave-girls, is still property.  The land relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations. ... All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts.  His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate. ...The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. ... In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. (203-204)
 And remembering he is writing in the 40s, I laugh to consider what he would think now:
Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets.  He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow.  Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a 'scenic' area, he is bored stiff.  If crops could be raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would suit him very well.  Synthetic substitutes for wood, leather, wool, and other natural land products suit him better than the originals.  In short, land is something he has 'outgrown.' (223-224)
And yes, I write this post on a laptop, sitting on my couch with artificial heat warming the room and a synthetic blanket over my legs.  I am in part the true modern he describes, but I do so hope I will never outgrow the wonder of the woods or my pleasure in working the soil or my fascination with the creatures that populate both.

2.08.2012

Do You Have a Favorite Poem?

Former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky was on campus yesterday, and I got the chance to sit in on a Q&A session he gave with some of the department's creative writing students.  He was supposedly addressing the topic of "Poetry as Craft," but he skillfully navigated much broader territory and engaged these kids quite successfully.  There were more than seven students in the audience, by the way.

I loved hearing him share about how he is still never quite sure if he's any good, how he has remained completely skeptical of accolades, and how his relationship with music and sound and complicates and drives his poetry.  Though I have not previously been much familiar with his work, I was impressed with his approach and with his passion.  Here are a few bits to inspire you:

The Poetry Foundation page on Pinsky writes,
Elected Poet Laureate of the United States in 1997, his tenure was marked by ambitious efforts to prove the power of poetry—not just as an intellectual pursuit in the ivory tower, but as a meaningful and integral part of American life.
Much of what he said yesterday made this view evident, but his pride in what he considers his greatest accomplishment as Poet Laureate - The Favorite Poem Project - demonstrated it most fully.  On the site, you can select from the 50 videos made of average Americans discussing and reading their favorite poems.  The videos are thoughtful and moving, and the project gives me hope because this idea - poetry as a meaningful and integral part of American life - is something I believe in  and feel we have gotten away from as a society.   I fear that if you walked the sidewalk and stopped people at random, many would have a hard time identifying any poem much less a favorite poem.  But Pinsky had responses in the thousands to the Project's request.  There are (or at least there were in 1999/2000) still people who care about poems.  Of course, thousands doesn't even begin to approach a representative swath of the over 300 million people who live in the United States, and unfortunately, the funding for the Project ran out a few years ago.  But it is a start, and it got me to wondering what I would call my favorite poem. 

There have been many favorites in my life, starting with e.e. cummings in high school and on to Roethke and Plath in college and beyond.  I'm not sure I could ever choose a favorite (I can't with books, movies, or music either), but I might be able to shake down a top 5.  It might include Roethke's "The Waking" or maybe "Dolor." Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" perhaps?  "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden.  Plath - either "Morning Song" or "Child" or both?  Levertov's "Annunciation" or Mary Oliver's "Rain" or Yeats' "He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven"?  Clearly, top 5 is not happening either. 

Those of us who breathe poetry often function like collectors: collecting the great words set down before us to be inspired by and collecting the words and sounds and rhythms of the world around us just waiting to be set down.  Pinsky says the most important assignment he gives students is to be a collector.  He quotes Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium" and urges students to recognize "Nor is there singing school but studying / Monuments of its own magnificence." He requires them to type up (don't just copy and paste, for typing secures the memory differently) those monuments of magnificence (poems, lyrics, and phrases that inspire them), to hunt and gather those words into a living collection and to keep it often before them for reference, reminder, comfort.  Judging from my hastily gathered list (performed in snatches from my office shelves), I need to take this assignment myself.  What about you?  Do you have a favorite poem?  What would be on your list?

2.04.2012

Sand County Saturdays


See how the squirrel is all hunched in one position and eyeing me cautiously?  That's how I've felt for the last three days.  Except I've been on a couch or in the bed, and the thing I've been eyeing so warily is the pain that seems to be out to get me.  I'm pretty sure all I've got is some sort of infection caused by the MASSIVE amount of drainage that has set up camp in my throat, and I do feel much better today - thankyouverymuch -  so perhaps it will head out by tomorrow.  I'm playing it safe and resting a great deal and managing to get a lot of reading done as well.  Most of it has been of the magazines that have been sitting around for 2 weeks variety, but I have also spent some time with Mr. Leopold in Sand County and am happy to report he still has things to say that thrill my soul.  I made it to December just after filling my bird feeders, so as he explained about the habits of the chickadee, I was listening to the insistent chirp of the first cardinal who had discovered my action.  I never can tell for sure if he is announcing it to loved ones or crowing proudly at being the one to find it first.

Here are some of the things I loved in Part One: A Sand County Almanac.

From February:
There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.  One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.  To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.  To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. (6)
April:
The drama of the sky dance is enacted nightly on hundreds of farms, the owners of which sigh for entertainment, but harbor the illusion that it is to be sought in theaters.  They live on the land, but not by the land. (34)
July:
The erasure of human subspecies is largely painless - to us - if we know little enough about it.  A dead Chinaman is of little import to us whose awareness of things Chinese is bounded by the occasional dish of chow mein.  We grieve only for what we know. (48)
September:
...things hoped for have a higher value than things assured. (54)
October:
And when a flock of bluebills, pitching pondward, tears the dark silk of heaven in one long rending nose-dive, you catch your breath at the sound, but there is nothing to see except stars. (61)
November:
 A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land. (68)
December:
This is especially likely to happen on some gloomy evening when the snow has buried all irrelevant detail, and the hush of elemental sadness lies heavy upon every living thing. (87)
I hope these snippets inspire you to pick up a copy of A Sand County Almanac.  And if your weekend allows it (and you aren't confined to the couch as I am), consider taking a walk in the woods somewhere.

2.03.2012

War & Watermelon by Rich Wallace



What is it about being a white, middle (or upper-middle) class kid that means you have to doodle peace signs on everything?  My daughter is 7 and has already learned how to make these little symbols and adds them to many of her drawings.  My 5-year-old son has even started making them, all lopsided though they may be.  I certainly did it; I have the class notes to prove it (Yep.  I've kept my notes.  That's just how nerdy I am.)  Casting our minds back to the 60s and 70s - BEFORE WE WERE EVEN BORN - seems like just part of growing up, like seeking independence in your life means you have to look to those godfathers of rebellion: the hippies.  But for all the ridiculous romanticizing of what was honestly not that great a time period, what with segregation, Vietnam, and all the great leaders getting shot, it was still an important period in history and is worthy of writing about.

In War & Watermelon, Rich Wallace has done a little bit of the romanticizing part and a little bit of the capturing history part.  He tells the story of 13-year-old Brody in the fabled summer of '69.  Brody plays football, hangs out with his buddy Tony, listens to the radio, and worries about his brother, Ryan, who will be 18 soon and will likely be drafted and sent to Vietnam.

This book was recommended (and gifted) to me by Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit (see her review here) as a great book for that hard-to-recommend-for 10-12 year old boy set.  It does a good job of capturing the kind of real-life angst, not melodrama, that middle school boys might honestly experience.  The sports play-by-plays were especially good, I thought, because even my grown husband still feels compelled to provide me with way more detail to my simple question: "How did the game go?"  Recounting plays resonates with a lot of guys, so this relatively insignificant part of the plot goes a long way toward establishing credibility to those young readers.

Too much of the rest of it seems like it might lose the interest of the average teenage boy or even his mother, especially the Top 40 song references and the poems that were scattered in between chapters randomly.  As coincidence would have it, I was sick yesterday and watched the first episode of The Wonder Years on Netflix.  Same time period, same situations for the characters: Kevin and Paul are starting Junior High; Winnie's older brother gets drafted.  They don't make it to Woodstock, but the similarities are otherwise striking.  Equally striking, however, is how much more emotional punch a single 24-minute episode of The Wonder Years can pack as opposed to this novel.

The thing is, this book might be fantastic to a boy reader and it might not.  It's not terribly edgy; in fact, it plays most things downright safe.  There's not a whole lot of action, at least not the kind many middle-school boys are accustomed to in tv and movies.  It seems simultaneously too young (all the playing it safe) and too old for them (It is Woodstock, after all.  Nudity and pot smoking required).  Since I am not a teen boy and haven't worked with them in awhile, I just don't know how to gauge their likely response.  So, I'm going to gift my signed copy to the Middle School library at the all-boys school where my husband works, and I'm going to ask the librarian to give me some feedback on whether or not guys actually like it.

As for what boys this age do like (and girls and all the other ages), The Center for Teaching and Learning keeps a regularly updated list of books recommended by kids on their website.  The kids there (under the expert leadership of one of my heroes, Nancie Atwell) take reading pretty seriously, so you can trust that the stuff on the list has been genuinely enjoyed.

2.02.2012

False Spring Cleaning


  
I am fully aware of The Groundhog's pronouncement, but I am in the mood to do a little spring cleaning, and the 60+ degrees outside are on my side.  Of course, right this minute I'm not talking about cleaning my house, only my blog.  I'm growing tired of the bright blue background, and I wanted a larger post space, so I am officially tinkering with the blog.  Please forgive if it feels a little schizophrenic for a few days.  This happens to my family when they come and find all the furniture has been moved.  If they are any judge, you'll get used to it, too.  PS: I tried the Dynamic View the other day, and I like.like.like the magazine type format, but you lose all your "gadgets" that way.  Or am I missing something?  Admittedly, I have not spent much time looking into all the settings of it.  Feedback is welcomed.