Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vertically Challenged

This is the euphemism I use to describe my 5'1" height. Just to indulge myself in my favorite rant, most of our man-made environment is generally designed for the "average" adult, which is usually described to be 5'8". That's wonderful if that is your height, which I'm not. I know tall people have special challenges too, but short people go through life feeling like a child, or as though they never quite made it to adulthood and must adjust like children.

Most chairs (doctor's offices, airports, park benches,office furniture,etc.) are too tall and my feet don't touch the floor which cuts off my leg circulation. On planes I have to be cautious about DVT. The American Institute of Architects produces the "Architectural Standards" manual on which furniture sizes are based and that is an average of 5'8", unless it is children's furniture which feels far more comfortable to me. Naturally, that reinforces the self-image of perpetual childhood. If that weren't already enough bad news, as we age, height diminishes even more. I used to be 5'2". Clothes, even petites, are too long for me so I sew a lot to hem skirts,and slacks. Whine, whine.

Supermarket shelves have two rows too tall for me to reach so they miss a sale if I can't reach their products. I need a stepstool to reach the top shelf in my kitchen cabinets. If I go to a movie or a theater event, people sitting in front of me block my view.

Want to be a model? Get over it, the world doesn't see short people as attractive. Studies also show that short people aren't taken seriously and generally earn less than taller people. Leadership positions seldom go to short people.

Naturally, the negativity police would say, "Stop complaining, already." At least I know why my aura is so "negative". I know why I am irritated when I feel irritated. I don't need the songs about short people, the jokes about short people, and the teasing about being a shortie. I am "in touch with my true self" so I don't need psychobabble. How do we fix a problem, if we can't identify the problem? My sympathies to all the tall people who must also compensate because they aren't 5'8" either. I feel your pain.

It is comforting to see that we shorties aren't alone. So how did that "average" of 5'8" get so high? Maybe there are a lot more tall people than short people, certainly feels like it. Short Support is a good site to read about issues important to the vertically challenged.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


This word "Whatever" has to be my favorite word. It appeals to my quirky sense of humor and my appreciation of the unique, or even the absurd. When I found the clock, naturally, I had to buy it. I placed it just inside my front door so that the minute people enter the front door, they see it and it brings a smile to their faces.

I laughed when I found a t-shirt with "Whatever" written on the front. What a conversation piece it is when I wear it! It always gets a giggle from people when they see it and they have to comment. "Great t-shirt," they say and they tell me about all of their favorite t-shirts.

The definitions submitted by readers for their perceptions of the word "Whatever" and posted in The Urban Dictionary are fun and revealing about their personalities. My favorite expression would have to be "Whatever floats your boat." It very succinctly sums up my philosophy combining: do whatever you like; think whatever you like; we should all tolerate our differences and maybe even celebrate them. A good synonym would be apathy. I'm definitely not a fanatic looking for a cause. I fear the negativity police would find "Whatever" to be insulting and dismissive. I think it is the new substitute for "have a good one" especially if one doesn't feel like saying "have a good day."

The word "Whatever" now appears not only on t-shirts, and clocks, but on throw pillows, mugs, stickers, posters, and calendars, etc. Perhaps people overuse the word, but I enjoy the humor in the products available to say "Whatever".

Cafe Press has 121,000 products that feature "Whatever". It's a very popular word.

I am fascinated to see how flexible and useful the word can be in the English language. It can be used to encompass whatever a person wishes to wrap into the word.

"Whatever you do, it will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." --Mahatma Gandhi

"Whatever you are, be a good one." --Abraham Lincoln

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Whatever you say, say it with conviction." --Mark Twain

Monday, June 22, 2009


This fascinating creature is such a magnet for my attention. I maintain four hummingbird feeders around my house and one is within my peripheral vision near my computer screen where my computer sits at large windows overlooking the woods. As much as I enjoy my computer, when Tinkerbell arrives at the feeder, nothing else matters. I love watching them hover over the feeders.

It is easy to see the proboscis in this picture and it seems to be as long as the beak. Naturally, I can't resist trying to take pictures of them, but my camera isn't up to the task. Far more sophisticated equipment is needed for the spectacular photos available at or in the book Hummingbirds by Crawford H. Greenewalt. Birds and Blooms magazine also publishes some spectacular pictures taken around the country by readers. I was amazed to learn that we are very privileged to be able to watch hummers since they are native only to the Western Hemisphere.

When I see a hummingbird, I call it Tinkerbell, because it reminds me of Peter Pan's pixie friend. I have watched them long enough to be able to recognize several individual birds by size and color or shape. The male is very distinctive with a ruby throat, hence the name ruby-throated hummingbird. Some of them seem to have more iridescent green on the body. This is the only species we see in the northeastern U.S.

Every year they arrive in April and migrate in October. When they arrive, I notice because they dance in front of my windows until I put out feeders. They put on a guilt trip as well as anyone. I am amused to see them zoom up to the feeder and hover before feeding which reminds me of the posture of a sea horse. If ants discover the feeder, the hummingbirds can behave very annoyed so they dart around the feeder, then hover in front of the windows. I've tried lots of solutions to keep ants away from the base of the shepherd's hook where the feeder hangs. Any preventative methods work briefly, but the ants are persistent. All summer, we struggle to keep the little guys fed. They are worth the effort for they entertain, amuse and amaze.

They sometimes engage in mid-air combat and swoop down to prevent each other from reaching the feeder. That explains the four feeders. I started with one feeder and took pity on them to try to prevent too much armed combat. I expanded to two, then to four which seems to keep them adequately supplied.

I've seen pictures of people hand feeding hummers by holding tiny feeders in their hands, which is tempting. They are so cute; I want to pet them or communicate with them. They are only interested in feeding, so there's no need to get too fanciful. They are astounding marvels of nature.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Plagiarism and Copyright

I once posted an article I had written on the internet and later found that the entire article had been re-posted on another person's blog, word for word without giving any credit to me, the original author. I was more than a little angry. I wrote the person a "comment" and thanked him for reprinting my article and included the original site where it was posted which naturally showed the date when I had written and posted my article first. At least, he then included my comment with my site listed.

Today's copyright laws indicate that the minute something is created, the producer owns its copyright and they do not have to get official copyright ownership from governmental entities. That includes materials created and produced first on the Internet.

Posting materials on the Internet can become a sticky wicket of legal issues involving plagiarism and copyrights. As a retired educator, I am highly sensitive to both after spending many years instructing students about giving credit where it is due for intellectual property. Finding something on the Internet does not necessarily make it in the "public domain" and automatically free to use.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


--to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source.

--to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source."


--the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work)."

Copyright Infringement: According to the U.S. Copyright Office at

"Section 501 of the copyright law states that “anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner an infringer of the copyright or right of the author.”

Generally, under the law, one who engages in any of these activities without obtaining the copyright owner's permission may be liable for infringement."

Therefore, in summary, to display copyrighted work publicly, one must seek the copyright owner's permission. They may say yes, or no, or charge for the use of their intellectual property. One can be guilty of copyright infringement without being guilty of plagiarism. Giving credit where credit is due may not be enough if someone owns a copyright and doesn't agree to let others use their work either for free or for payment.

After having my original work freely used without giving me credit, makes me think twice about my blogs and web sites. It takes time and effort to get permission to use pictures or information from other sources, but I like to know that whatever I post is original content or that I have permission to reprint the works of others. I mention all of the above due to the previous posting that I wrote about the article I enjoyed in The New Yorker magazine about Nora Roberts. There was a striking illustration that I really liked in the magazine, so I contacted them to ask if I could use it in my blog because I thought it was probably copyright protected. They confirmed this and said it was "under embargo for 60 days" and I could not post it. I am more than happy to comply because I respect all copyrights.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How Nora Roberts became America’s most popular novelist:

How Nora Roberts became America’s most popular novelist:

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For those who like to put words to paper, or today's word processors, Nora Roberts is such an inspiration with a work ethic that many would find hard to match. She sums up her writing philosophy as "ass in the chair", which according to this article makes it possible for her to produce a book every 45 work days. Writing a hundred eighty-two novels since the early 1980's is pretty impressive as is this article in The New Yorker magazine. I had read bits and pieces of her story over the years in various places, but The New Yorker does the best job I've seen in this ten-page article by Lauren Collins in the June 22, 2009 issue. For a magazine of this quality to pay such a lengthy homage to the queen of romance is a great tribute. Even Stephen King salutes her works.
The art work in The New Yorker is very unique in style and Robert Risko is credited with a great illustration in the article.

The voracious reader that I've always been alternates between murder/mystery/spies/adventure genres and the romance genre; I've been a lover of romance novels since I discovered Gone With the Wind and the Flame and the Flower. Nora Roberts is one of my favorite authors after I discovered her MacGregor family series. One thing I love about her writing is that she throws rules out the window and writes whatever appeals to her with strong characters who seem as real as anyone I've ever known. She has never been a slave to what others think a novel should be. I know what appeals to me and her writing entertains me so I don't care about snobby rules either. I love a good story which she delivers without fail while she laughs all the way to the bank. I just finished her Vision in White so I am eager to read her next book in the series about four friends which she calls The Bride Quartet.

Her no nonsense lifestyle is appealing because how many of us would admit to not leaving the house for three weeks. I don't have a cook either. Her fans can look at their own daily grind and cheer up thinking that in Maryland, Nora is slaving away doing her research on Google rather than traveling to Italy to gather facts. The life of a writer is an unglamorous daily grind which few could tolerate. She seems to thrive and succeed, and she does it to perfection. Reminds me of Frank Sinatra's song "My Way". Nora is kool--you go girl!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lighthouses and Granddaughters

"Grandma, put down my baby brother and come play with me," said my granddaughter of the beautiful ringlets of hair. It had not occurred to me that I have such a passion for the beauty of lighthouses until my charming three-year-old granddaughter started guiding me around my house pointing out all the prints of lighthouses hanging on the walls and gathering all of the figurines of lighthouses that I have collected over the years. She didn't even spot all of the coffee table books in my collection of this obsession. I didn't realize I had gone off the deep end until she innocently began grouping them. Kids at that age do a lot of exercises in grouping similar items and observing patterns. I was thrilled to see that she was so keen about details, but anything my granddaughter does thrills me.

I have always loved the proud, regal appearance of a lighthouse--a beacon in a storm, a proclamation of safety, and a resilience as old as mankind. Any film about lighthouses will have my attention and PBS has some of the best. The architectural variety in designs of lighthouses is a constant wonder. The pictures of the ones I like most are those photographed with dramatic surf and crashing waves challenging their power to point the way. I took this picture of a very picturesque beacon called Peggy's Point Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is no surprise that it is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. Established in 1868, its history is not unlike other beautiful lighthouses in Nova Scotia. I like the interesting live view from this web cam of Peggy's Point.

I visited and photographed another favorite of mine at Barnagut Lighthouse, put into commission in 1835, in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

As much as I am obsessed with lighthouses, it can't begin to compare with my other obsession. This little lady is my greatest obsession. What's not to love, with the pink sneakers, the pink baseball cap, the pink sunglasses, the pink Dora stroller, and the golden ringlets. Little granddaughters are even more beautiful than lighthouses. She is a treasure.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Comfort Food for the Mind

My family used to be servants to this beautiful black Labrador Retriever, who was the sweetest lady you could ever meet. One of her most endearing qualities was her affinity for creating habits, routines, "comfort food" of any event that we initiated. We had to be careful in choosing what we did with her because we knew it would become an expectation for her. Once, we tossed sticks on the driveway for her to retrieve on a Saturday morning after her walk. Thereafter, Saturday morning was stick day and she had great powers of communicating what she wanted. She expected that playtime every Saturday morning. Once we gave her the last bite of a banana and thereafter, she expected the last bite of any banana being consumed. It didn't take a dozen times for us to introduce a routine to her for her to consider the routine to be a habit and a requirement. Once was enough. Maybe she had OCD, but she was extraordinarily trainable.

Sometimes, I think people are similar to my favorite Labrador Retriever. When we find something we like, we immediately attach our minds to it, and incooperate it into our daily routine. I try to avoid thinking of food in a routine like that, because it spells disaster for my diet. I think of those comforting habits of the day as the way we center our universe--that morning cup of coffee, the newspaper, and the favorite morning show; the exercise routine, e-mail with our friends. Some TV shows can become a routine that tells us all is well with our world and comforts us in times of depression, sickness and grief. Note the disappointment expressed when some favorite TV shows ended--Sopranos, Jerry Seinfeld, Star Trek. We had to find new comfort foods for the mind.

Our pet Labrador has been gone for eleven years, but she provided great enrichment, entertainment and comfort to us for sixteen years. Like Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars said, "I will be with you always". In her absence, books have been and will always be my comfort food for the mind. A book in hand can be the best friend a person could ever want. Books are the only addiction I need.