Friday, July 31, 2009

Memo to the White House

TO: Rahm Emanuel
White House Chief of Staff.

FR: Amy S. Dixon,
Taxpayer, Citizen, Voter.

RE: Beer with the President.

Congratulations on the completion of the first Beer with the President event (hereinafter BWTP). Given the success of this evening, I am anticipating that you will want to duplicate it in the future. Accordingly, I respectfully request your consideration as someone to be invited to a similar event.

I hope that you will not make arrest by, or conflict with, law enforcement a precondition to an invitation to BWTP. Frankly, it would generate a lot of paperwork for me. Perhaps the law enforcement aspect of the discussion could be expanded to what the Administration is doing with respect to beefing-up federal regulatory enforcement (i.e. enforcement of environmental regulations, enforcement of regulations protecting working folks, changes at the SEC (if any), etc.). This could be an opportunity to showcase the good stuff that is now happening under this President. Alternatively, I like to discuss First Amendment issues, so perhaps that could be on the agenda.

On the issue of who to else to invite, I want to note that although my husband's father was a police officer, there are also firefighters in the Dixon Family background. Accordingly, could I bring a firefighter to the BWTP instead of a police officer? I hate to generalize because hurtful, wrongful, illegal generalizations are the basis of the inauguration of BWTP, but I have to say that firefighters as a group are typically a lot of fun and great to have at parties.

If invited, I propose to bring some real Wisconsin beer for everyone to enjoy. This will avoid some of the controversy that arose for the first BWTP and promote the products of my home state.

Further, although I understand the President drank Bud Light, I propose we avoid light beer. In Wisconsin, light beer is consumed for one of two reasons: It serves as either the equivalent to asking for a glass of water (refreshing after a round of golf), or it is consumed by people who intend to drink beer continuously for 8 to 12 hours on "game day" (Packers / Brewers / Badgers, etc). Since there will likely be time to have just one beer with the President, let's enjoy some good stuff such as a delicious Spotted Cow. Can the White House provide peanuts in the shell and popcorn? It's traditional.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.






Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Results of the NPR Best Beach Book Poll

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The list of 100 best beach books selected by NPR listeners is now available at npr.org/books. Eight of the ten books I voted for in the survey made the final list.

Do most of the titles on the final list look familiar to you? I've read a significant percentage of these books. It is fun to look at some of those titles and think once more, "oh, that was a good book".


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The WP Reports that the Plastic Logic E-Reader Will Arrive in January

From the Washington Post:

The e-book world will get markedly more interesting in January when Plastic Logic, a Mountain View, Calif. tech company, launches its eReader in the United States.

. . .

What will separate the new device from the Kindle is its touch screen; the Kindle is still button-bound. The Plastic Logic e-reader also will be able to access Wi-Fi hot spots, which the Kindle cannot.

(more)




A Non-Starter: "Losing Mum and Pup" by Christopher Buckley


Losing Mum and Pup, a memoir by Christopher Buckley, may or may not be an excellent book. I don't know because even though the book has been knocking around the house for about two months and I fully intended to read it this July, I just can't do it. I am not interested. So, I guess that is my review.


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Monday, July 27, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"Why should writers wish to be rated -- seeded -- like tennis players? Handicapped like racehorses? What an epitaph for a novelist:
He won all the polls!"

- Saul Below, The Paris Review Interviews, I.

Published July 26, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle), Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover:
Best Friends Forever, Jennifer Weiner.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Unmasked, Ian Halperin.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published July 26, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson.



Fiction Hardcover: The Angel's Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending July 19, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout and Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: The Help, Kathryn Stockett, Amy Einhorn
Nonfiction Paperback: Julie & Julia, Julie Powell.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.


IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending July 19, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle), Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: The Help, Kathryn Stockett, Amy Einhorn
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

Friday, July 24, 2009

T.G.I.F.

It is Friday. It is July. Half of the people you need to talk to about your projects are on vacation and the other half is leaving at noon. You, however, are in the office for the duration of the day. Sounds like it will be the perfect afternoon for you to read this article from Slate called "Fix Your Terrible, Insecure Passwords in Five Minutes" and then proceed to, well, fix your terrible, insecure passwords!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

To the Opponents of the President's Health Care Reform Plan: Why Do You Hate America?

To the Congressional opponents of health care reform, and their pals: So, you like the status quo on health care, eh? But what was that your friend Sarah Palin said? Only dead fish go with the flow.

The facts support implementing health care reform now. For example, according to a report published last June by the White House Council of Economic Advisers:

[H]ealthcare spending, which currently accounts for about 18 percent of the country's economic output, could reach 34 percent by 2040 if the current rate of cost growth continues. The report called that outlook "unsustainable."

Most working Americans with health insurance get it through their employers and the study said rising costs have increased insurance premiums and cut into workers' wages. A reform that reins in costs would improve economic efficiency and boost economic output by more than 2 percent in 2020 and by 8 percent in 2030, the report concluded.

That would translate into $2,600 in higher income for a family of four in 2020, rising to $10,000 by 2030, the report said. Since about half of healthcare costs are paid by federal, state and local governments, their budgets also would benefit greatly by reform, it said.

Providing medical coverage to the uninsured will also help the economy by improving the overall well-being of the work force -- providing a net benefit to the economy of about $100 billion a year, the report said.

Without the overhaul, the number of uninsured Americans would rise to about 72 million in 2040, it said.

(Via Reuters).

The status quo cannot continue. Let's just get the necessary changes done now, folks.

Check out the full video of last night's press conference by President Obama on the topic of health care reform.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Music We Like: Bob Dylan "Together Through Life"

Border Songs, a novel by Jim Lynch, is set in Washington State, along the U.S. - Canadian border. It is a story about order and chaos, with dashes of humor and a gloss of magic.

Newly minted Border Patrol Agent Brandon Vanderkool is a unique character trying to fit into the world of law enforcement. A huge man, 6'8" and 232 pounds, 23-year old Brandon is an artist, a quirky ornithologist, and dyslexic. He is self-conscious, often unsure how to act around other people, yet he is uninhibited in the pursuit of birds, in making art, and in nature. It turns out that Brandon's quirks are what turns him into a star with the Border Patrol.

While Brandon grapples with smugglers and crossers, his father, Norm, continues to run the dairy farm on the international border where Brandon grew up and still lives. Norm has a long list of problems including, but not limited to, sick cows, the EPA, jabs from his Canadian neighbor about American policies, his wife's developing Alzheimer's disease, and the angst of getting old.

In fact, things seem to be going south, so to speak, for many of the characters in Border Songs, as they face illness, addiction, and, for a surprising number, arrest after succumbing to what looks like easy money smuggling bud. Author Lynch restores a bit of order for some folks by the end of the story. Readers know, however, that this is just a respite, that there is no real fix in the immediate future for many of their problems. But there is hope.

Border Songs is a creative work. Lynch sets down a group of interesting characters grappling with contemporary social problems while surrounded by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It's a very nice book.




Sunday, July 19, 2009

Take a Left Turn at July, Then Straight On to Labor Day.




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Best Seller Round-Up

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"
- E.M. Forster
Published July 19, 2009.

Fiction Hardcover: Black Hills, Nora Roberts.



Fiction Paperback (Trade):
The Shack, William P. Young.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published July 19, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson.
Fiction Hardcover: The Angel's Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending July 12, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout.
Fiction Hardcover: The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.


IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending July 12, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle), Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Janet Evanovich.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Horse Soldiers, Doug Stanton.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Vote for Your Favorites in NPR's Search for the Best Beach Books Ever.

Readers nominated around 600 titles in NPR's search for the Best Beach Books Ever. The list has been whittled down to 200, and it is time to vote for your top ten out of this list. Here is the link to vote. Winners will be announced July 29.

The list contains great books and, although it was difficult to choose just ten, below are the books that got my vote:

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett.
I read this wonderful book one hot, humid August. Sitting outside on the deck in a floppy sun hat, I was absorbed in Ms. Patchett's writing, looking up only occasionally to check out the action on the lake or to take a sip of ice tea. Bel Canto is permanently linked in my mind with summer.




Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns.
This is another terrific read - and a blast from the past. Years ago Cold Sassy Tree was recommended to me by two friends and they were right about what a good story it is. One person I subsequently gave my copy of the book to said, "If you have more like this, pass 'em on." And if you haven't read this yet, consider trying it this summer.

Dune, Frank Herbert.
Everyone should read Dune at some time, don't you agree? What an exciting story. And where better to read it than on a sandy beach?




The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling.
You know Harry; good stuff.

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Another great, unforgettable book that you just want everyone to read because it is such an enjoyable experience.

The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux.
I read The Mosquito Coast while I was in college and taking several political science courses. The courses and the book dovetailed perfectly, making this novel particularly memorable. But you don't need a brain fueled with political science theory to enjoy The Mosquito Coast; it is an excellent book.




A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin.
Another novel that I actually did read on a beach. A wonderful book, and one of the few works of fiction that I've read more than once.

Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow.
I distinctly recall, years ago now, sitting down to read a few pages of this book early one Friday evening, and not doing much of anything else - including sleep - until I finished the entire thing. Exciting book.




Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

Both Under the Tuscan Sun and Water for Elephants are delightful stories. These are books that you think about when you are off doing other activities, anticipating your return to a good, good read. Perfect for vacation.








Everybody Loves a Law Suit: Kindles Cracked by Kindle Cover to be Replaced for Free after Customers Sue.

From Information Week:
Following a customer lawsuit, Amazon . . . says it will replace Kindles that have been cracked by the cover the online retailer sells as an accessory to the electronic book reader.

The move marks a change in Amazon's previous position over the apparent flaw, which was to charge customers $200 to replace the device. Amazon had said the damage wasn't covered under the warranty.

Read the full story here.

(Via Gizmodo)

Monday, July 13, 2009

WP's Summer Reading Issue

The Sunday Washington Post magazine contains its summer reading issue. The magazine includes nonfiction works from authors Elizabeth Strout, Ursula Hegi, Ken Kalfus and Aimee Bender.

If you are asking yourself, 'who the heck are those authors', then check below to see one publication from each.











Best Seller Round-Up

Ernest Hemingway: "You go to the races?"

Interviewer: "Yes, occasionally."

Hemingway: "Then you read the Racing Form . . . .
There you have the true art of fiction."

From The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1.

Note: Available this July is a new edition of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. According to the publisher, "This new special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published."


Published July 10, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult.
Fiction Hardcover:
Swimsuit, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Catastrophe, Dick Morris and Eileen McGann.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published July 12, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.
Fiction Hardcover: Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Janet Evanovich.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending July 5, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout.



Fiction Hardcover: The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.


IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending July 5, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle), Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Janet Evanovich.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Peggy Noonan on Sarah Palin

Peggy Noonan's column this week in the Wall Street Journal is about Sarah Palin.

Ms. Noonan, don't hold back; tell us what you really think about Palin:

In television interviews she [Palin] was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.

In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

FiveChapters.com - A Short Story Told Each Week in Five Installments

The Washington Post interviews David Daley, creator of Five Chapters. Five Chapters publishes original fiction on the web. A five-part story appears each week, beginning on Monday and followed by a new installment each weekday.

New works on fiction, presented in manageable chunks, and available on your computer each work day. Genius!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New Book by Pete Dexter

Pete Dexter, author of Deadwood, Paris Trout, The Paperboy and other novels, has a new book out: Spooner. According to The Millions, advance reader copies of Spooner came with an unusual note from the author:
As far as I know, sometime in November of last year, the book you have in your hands was three years late. There are many reasons it was three years late, probably the most conspicuous being that it was once 250 pages or so longer than the version you hold, and it takes maybe half a year to write an extra 250 pages, and at least twice that to subtract them back out. I realize this leaves another year and a half unaccounted for, and all I can say about that, readers, is get in line. Whole decades are missing from my life and I am pretty sure I wouldn't have it any other way. (more)





Monday, July 6, 2009

Drywall Imported from China may be Defective

The Los Angeles Times reports that drywall imported from China is at the center of complaints of foul odors seeping from walls, corrosion to air conditioners, mirrors, electrical outlets and jewelry. The problem may be a radioactive phosphorus substance -- phosphogypsum -- that is banned for construction use in the U.S. but is used by Chinese manufacturers.

Yet another reason to pause before using building materials imported from China, where an entire new 13-story building recently collapsed.

Book Snapshots: "Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is set in the English countryside in 1950. Eleven-year old Flavia de Luce finds a dead body in the garden of her family's home. Clever Flavia, budding chemist with a particular interest in poison, conducts her own investigation. The resolution of the matter becoming all the more urgent after the police arrest her father for the crime.

This book is a fresh combination of the elements I enjoyed in Agatha Christie's work and the Nancy Drew stories. A smart and funny story for adults, with an entertaining young sleuth as the protagonist. A fun book.

Winner of the 2007 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger.



Friday, July 3, 2009

Cool Science Stuff from NASA, Our Space People

A chance to see the International Space Station hurtling through the sky! According to NASA:

The International Space Station (ISS) is about to make a remarkable series of flybys over the United States. Beginning this 4th of July weekend, the station will appear once, twice, and sometimes three times a day for many days in a row. No matter where you live, you should have at least a few opportunities to see the biggest spaceship ever built.
Click here to get to NASA, from which you can then link to the flyby schedule for your area.

WP on the New Book from Dick Morris

Let me first say this: There is absolutely no chance that I will buy, or read, a book by Dick Morris. I did, however, read this entertaining snippet by Steven E. Levingston of the Washington Post on Morris' new book, Catastrophe. "Dick Morris has hyperventilated his way to the top of the Washington Post Bestseller List." (more)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

In Preparation for Your July 4th Celebration

Some of you are starting a long weekend today. Here is some music to launch the holiday.






Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Judge Posner on the Future of Newspapers

In the June 21 post to his blog, Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals writes about the newspaper business and suggests that, to survive, papers may have to end hyperlinks:

Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.
I predict that, at a minimum, there will likely be a transition from free web access to newspaper content to micro payments from readers in the near future.

Round-Up of Books Recommended by Slate in June

From Slate: Books, music, movies and other things Slate liked in June.