Reading Dangerously

wp-1490237333254.jpgRecently, for my birthday, my friend Bex sent me a book for my birthday. Actually, she sent me three books. The last one has something to do with fifty books that changed the life the author, Andrew Miller. Even though I have read the lengthy introduction and the first chapter, I can’t remember the title except the part about Reading Dangerously. I only remember the author’s name because the author has the same name as a former Red Sox pitcher, which was mentioned in the lengthy introduction as well as the many other people who share the author’s common names. I wonder what fifty books Andrew MIller the baseball player would have suggested. I don’t remember any of the other Andrew Millers that were mentioned.

So far, I haven’t been given a clear picture on how the books he read in a year’s time saved his life except that the mere privilege of dedicating a year to reading is powerful and gave him an opportunity to move beyond the mundane and ritualistic life.

I like the notion of writing about books that I am reading, though Miller does make a distinction between blogging and writing a book as if blogging doesn’t count. Perhaps he’s right as I have attempted to write about books in the past, but those are the blogs that go unnoticed, and my motivation stops midstream. Maybe this is the book that will encourage me to blog to the end of the book and the other books that follow. I might even follow Miller’s path and see if those fifty books can alter my life. Don’t we all need a little bit of saving?

I know from experience that determining a Great book creates endless possibilities. As an English Major at the University, most of the Great books that fit into the Literary Canon were mostly if not all, Dead White Guys, I used up my electives quickly if I wanted to read women or authors of color or authors still alive.

One summer I had to bribe myself with a Bear Claw if I managed to get to Chaucer class. I barely passed the class. I wonder if Chaucer made it on Andrew’s list.

In Andrew Miller’s lengthy introduction, he describes the Western Canon as “‘Great books’ of this kind may be important but they are not always straightforward or entertaining. Some, such as Under the Volcano or Ulysses, may require other great books to help make sense of them…”

I have a hard time reading books that I don’t understand or are not entertaining, which is why Dan Brown books are not included in the fifty great books. Too easy and too entertaining.

Because the definition of what constitutes a Great Book, I am asking for reader participation. What book or books would you suggest for my list of fifty books I’ll read in a year? There’s also the list of books can I read in the next thirty-three years, my optimistic number of years left on this earth. Living to ninety is not out of the question, though I have a slight fear that my mind and body are going to age drastically differently, but I can only hope to keep my faculties until the end.

glenny68The first book I’ll slowly examine will be the first book that Andrew Miller started with, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Stay tuned for the next segment, and please let me know what other books you think will make an impact on my life.



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Does Happy Community Make Happy Residents?

Or do happy residents make a happy Community?

According to Gallup and Healthways, “Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida, residents had the highest well-being of the 189 communities  in 2015-2016, claiming the top spot for the second year in a row.”

Now who wouldn’t want to live in a reduced stress environment. Today goes on to say, “Residents there have the lowest levels of stress in the country, report little depression and eat healthy on a daily basis, the report found. Many of them like their daily activities and enjoy an intellectually lively culture, telling interviewers they learn or do something interesting every day.”

So, I say to myself, “I wonder what the percentage of retired folks live in this area? What’s the average income? How many people live there?

Now if I were to compare Eugene, Oregon to Napa, Florida, Napa already has a leg up with the weather. Eugene had amazing summers, but “Naples has 11.3% less rainy days and 52.0% more Sunny Days than Eugene.” It’s possible that only Washington and Alaska top Eugene suicide rates

I would think that the population of a community effects a citizen’s well-being and Naples population is quite a bit smaller than Eugene.

The 2016 Naples, Florida, population is 21,512. There are 1,746 people per square mile (population density). Eugene’s 163,460 population towers over Naples. Eugene’s population density is 3,736 people per square mile. I would think that it would be harder to feel part of a community in Eugene than in Naples.

Naples is probably the best place to retire to. I’m thinking about doing this myself if I get a chance to retire. “The median age is 64.6. (in Naples). The US median is 37.4. 63.37% of people in Naples, Florida, are married. 13.79% are divorced.”

Eugene is close to the US median. “The median age is 34. 39.95% of people in Eugene, Oregon, are married. 12.55% are divorced.” Maybe marriage, especially among the older crowd plays a part in whether someone tells a pollster whether they are thriving or not. We’ve got a heck of a lot of single people in Eugene. Of course, the only thing that this proves is my bias. I’m sure that there are plenty of happy and content single people.

Being a productive part of society is part of the survey in what makes a great community to live in, and Eugene’s 5.60% unemployment versus 4% makes a difference. But what really puts the icing on the cake is the income. For Naples, “the income per capita is $84,721, which includes all adults and children. The median household income is $80,571.” Now granted that the Naples is made up of older people, and experience can increase salary, but Eugene’s “income per capita is $26,313, which includes all adults and children. The median household income is $42,715.”

I just discovered that will compare Naples and Eugene for me and I don’t have to flip around to different web sites to get information.

Naples is 11.6% more expensive than Eugene.
Naples housing costs are 27.8% more than Eugene housing costs.
Health related expenses are 15.0% less in Naples.

Crime is higher in Eugene, but that might have to do with unemployment and the  rat race of “city” living. Naples spends less money per student for education, but has smaller classes and higher graduation rates than Eugene.


Eugene, Oregon Taxes
Eugene, Oregon,sales tax rate is 0.00%. Income tax is 9.00%.



Another night of not sleeping

It doesn’t help that my body is ganging up against my brain in an attempted coup of my brain. Even my clavicle is screaming in pain. Every so often a different part will vehemently yell at the disparity of how my body is used or abused.

I thought I was over my bowling obsession. After more than five years of mostly once-a-week bowling, the sleeping giant has awoken. A mere month and some of bowling three to five times a week could be merely the giant coughing and that the giant will resume its docile ways.

But maybe not. My first time snake-bit by bowling, I built my addiction slowly. My first tournament was at the Gay Games in Vancouver, B.C. I practiced so much that my right thumb looked like hamburger. I had built calluses, but blisters were a problem.

I surprised myself to make the first cut, though my bleeding thumb was making it very difficult. Searing pain on every ball.

And then I met Skeeter Lee from Washington. Even though we were bowling against each other, she patched my thumb. No one at Firs Bowl, my main place to bowl, bothered to introduce me to new skin. I wasn’t shy about showing off my big fat thumb as a demonstration of my hard work. I had already become a bowling alley rat. 

I was like that person with the reputation of costing all you can eat joints money.  In return for volunteering my Saturday to coach junior bowlers, I was given free bowling. My eyes must have grown rather large when I was told it was unlimited. 

I was still rather young. My right knee was shot, but the left knee was ready to take the brunt of big knee bends and planting all my weight. Good thing it wasn’t much then. Ray Anderson, one of the best drillers I have worked with, insisted that I only use a twelve pound ball. Gradually I worked my way up to fifteen pounds.

My mind running away with this blog has been a good thing, but the mention of my working my way up in bowling just got my right shoulder screaming about my lack of ergonomics. Writing on my back in bed on my phone using swype will always get the ire of my shoulder. 

It is time for me to attempt a trip to snooze land. I have a bowling clinic in the morning.

Tom Brady and Dustin Pedroia are two of my favorite present-day athletes. Is it a coincidence that they are neighbors. I don’t know if Tom’s mansion in Brookline is a new residence or an old one.

What I most admire of these two New England athletes is their tenacity and gumption. Being told that they can’t do something, inspires them to work as hard and then some to prove that person wrong.

The making of amazing athletes. Most of the time, an athlete comes to the sport as a complete package. They have the skills, and they have the perfect body type. But sometimes their ego is what trips them up. They start to believe that can walk on water because that is all they heard. These are the athletes that often reach for the steroids and the quick fixes rather than do the work that it takes to either recover or better yet prevent career-injuries. I am sure that after I  tore my knee to shreds while playing lacrosse, I would have done any drug to come back from that career-ender if given the chance.

And then there are those who don’t measure up physically. Too short, not strong enough, not fast enough. They are told that they could never make it. For some people that’s enough to make them quit, but for others, these words are the spark to light the fire. For some, the chip on their shoulder inspires them to prove those naysayers wrong. Seventeen years ago, twenty-two-year-old Tom Brady began his NFL career on shaky ground. Scouts declared that he didn’t have the right build; he wasn’t quick; his arm lacked strength. “Gets knocked down easily.”

Say what you want about Tom Brady and the deflate gate garbage, but no one can say he’s not one of the best quarterbacks to ever play football. What they didn’t see from this skinny young man was that yes, he did get knocked down easily, but he also got back up easily. What they didn’t see was the size of his heart and his ability to work hard.

Determination and psychological makeup are not as quantifiable as height, weight, and speed. Add some experience, and Tom Brady demonstrated that someone drafted in the sixth round and the 199th pick can become a Super Bowl MVP champion multiple times.

What I admire most about Tom Brady is the way he has resisted resting on his laurels. He has done what no other quarterback has done. Five Super Bowl championships. Multiple Most Valuable Player awards. He’s done it all. Instead of quitting after all goals have been achieved, he’s determined to keep going. I’m not sure that the thirty-nine-year-old imagined he’d be still playing football at this age, but most importantly that he would keep getting better.

Ibio_mini-bios_0_tom-brady_0_sf_hd_768x432-16x9 don’t know Tom Brady, though meeting him would be an exhilarating experience; I don’t know whether his ego interferes with interacting with other people. I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that he doesn’t think that he’s better than anyone else because he’s still working on being better than himself. Perhaps his humble beginning has kept him humble.  He has, after all, kept his NFL Combine shirt that will forever remind him of the number 199.

pedroiaDustin Pedroia is another athlete that was told over and over that he was too small, and that he would never be a professional baseball player. I didn’t realize before starting this blog that Dustin, aka Pedey, was a quarterback his freshman year in high school. I can only imagine that he hadn’t reached his five foot seven inches and really was too small to play football, especially when he was playing against guys that would in fact go on to play in the National Football League. He had baseball to fall back on. pedroiaflies

Pedroia demonstrated his prowess in high school, earning the Most Valuable Player; the coaches at Arizona State University noticed his ability and gave him a scholarship. In his junior year, Pedroia gave up his scholarship in order to recruit pitchers onto the team. I don’t know too many people who would have sacrificed that much money even for the good of the team.

It’s impossible to compare baseball to football. Pedroia’s amazing statistics in high school and college helped his stock in the draft rise; the Red Sox drafted him in the second round, 65th overall. His collegiate teammate, Ian Kinsler, a four-time All-Star, wasn’t drafted until the 17th round, though this was his third time being drafted. The first time he was drafted right out of high school in the 29th round. He could have taken the contract and the signing bonus, but instead he opted to go the collegiate route. He knew he wasn’t ready. He knew he had a better chance of getting more playing time and in turn stand a chance to be an even better ball player if he went to college.

After playing for Central Arizona College, the Arizona Diamondbacks came calling again and drafted him in the 26th round, but again he turned them down for more collegiate experience. A degree in his pocket would at least give him something to fall back on. Such a wise man. By staying in school and working on his game, he was drafted in the 17th round the third time around. Since the MLB has an incredible farm system, it’s possible that Kinsler would have become the great player that he is today without the work he did in college.iankinsler

The bottom line is that in order to be at the top of any game, which encompasses so many facets of life, I am reminded that satisfaction only comes along only after investing time and energy in working hard.


I am blogging in the bathtub. I have to be prepared when an idea strikes. This is why I have so many gadgets and various computers.

Sometimes ideas strike and there’s an immediacy, a surge of adrenalin. I know that if I don’t put a cover on that idea, it may not return again. Double di while landing on Go. Kaching. 

Other ideas waltz into my mind. Most of the time, they weren’t detected until they spilled out into the paper. Most of what I write constitutes that Idea Specie. Specicum. Some days, like today, I don’t allow edited except for the things that will interfere with the fluidity of my thoughts.

I used to play a game where if I paused to think, I had to start the next sentence with the last letter of that sentences. Good thing I never write the word suq inbetween .

I utilize the who -nows-what-it-means word in Words With Friends as often as I can. 

Sometimes I pick words to use in my writing for their sound. Soft brush strokes of percussion or a crash of a symbol. 

I know I don’t spend nearly enough time writing. Ideas aren’t like fleas, though if they jump on and off quickly, I won’t notice. Ideas are not always around. Some are shy and have to be enticed to come out of the shadows. Characters are even worse, but that is for another blog. 

Today’s idea. Since I hardly ever have the opportunity to plan lessons, maybe I could put on a writing workshop.

Now that more and more computers and tablets are in the hands of students, mostly Macs, nothing else is required but imagination.

At first I was thinking that two to four students would have their picture taken. Then that picture will be cartoonized. The class would develop characterization. Kid gloves will be worn the entire time to prevent deliberate and accidental bullying. I might characterize myself as a little slow sometimes. It’s a fact not a good or bad judgment. But if someone else said that, my feelings may be crushed. I can’t help it since I am also super soft.

And then I thought, why not have everyone do a self characterization. I would suggest exaggerated characteristics. Maybe people who ride horses, walk kind of bow-legged. No one has ever classified my walk as graceful or lady-like. I lumber. Now how can I show my particular walk? Women who wear high hills take little bird or poodle steps. The clickety clicks would awaken my ADHD and that is all I would be paying attention to. Of course, if I were wearing high heels, all my thoughts would be focused on not falling. Reminds me of my gymnastics days. Forced via collegiate physical education courses. I am afraid of heights. Even just the height of a balance beam sent my brain swirling and so much adrenalin surged as I panicked. That is what caused the wobbling. My brain screamed for me to take flight. I am very athletic, but getting on to the beam, hopping up and down on a piece of board almost the width of my foot. Never did make it to the cartwheel on the beam. I couldn’t even do cartwheels on the floor.

Where was I? The downside of stream of consciousness writing, I have a hard time staying on target. Mental wobbling.

My bath time expired about a half an hour ago. Work looms. This is one of those days where I wish I could continue writing. I have so much left to write about bringing my writing workshop to a achool. Kids, especially younger kiddos, would or could get crazy.

Yesterday’s fifth graders did a doodle drawing: a squiggle was given to them on a piece of paper. They had to turn it into something or someone and then in their Diary of a Wimpy Class, they had to write about it. I let kids share using the doc camera. One boy’s story of the Google’s was so funny, he kept cracking up laughing.

At least I have cornered some ideas in this blog and have the opportunity to revisit and see what else they have to say.