More Than Casual Interests

My future house. Not this specific house, but a house like it. Maybe. If Rory is on board. “Harriet Phillips Bungalow” by Daniel Case – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

I’ve been examining my interests lately. I have plenty of things that I really love. My family and friends, writing, travel, various nerdy things, etc. But there are other categories that don’t consume my daily life, don’t get their due attention, but are more than passing fancies. Topics that I wish I had more time to spend on. Here are a few.

  • Photography
  • Architecture, especially residential
  • Mid-century fashion and graphic design
  • Maps

I’d love to cover more of these things on this blog. Stay tuned. Maybe I’ll find the time.

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What the Heck Is the Southern Ocean?

The history of the Southern Ocean area. CC BY-SA 3.0 by Cruickshanks on Wikipedia

When I was in school, I learned that there were four oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian, and the Arctic. Now some geography sources talk about the Southern Ocean.

Um, what?

Most sources I find still say there are only four oceans. But I’m starting to feel like I’m in The Twilight Zone when I see maps refer to the Southern Ocean. (For the curious, it’s apparently located around Antarctica. So why didn’t they call it the Antarctic Ocean?)

Apparently the powers that be decided to re-carve out a fifth ocean from the southern parts of the Atlantic and Pacific to very little fanfare. This kind of thing interests me greatly, and I had to stumble across it in newer resource materials. I wish they’d made the announcement a little more widely.

So yeah. I guess there are five oceans now.

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Almost Time for School

Image: Public Domain

It’s almost time to start up homeschooling again for the fall. We’ve organized the kids’ desk areas, I’m working on cleaning off my desk, and I’m catching up with my work so I can switch back to a school year schedule. We’ll be starting around mid-August, as we usually do. I grew up starting school on the day after Labor Day, but that has us ending in June, and we much prefer to finish in May.

I’m horribly excited to begin school this year. We’ve all enjoyed a change of pace this summer, but my son begins middle school and my daughter begins high school this fall. This means more advanced material, which I get excited about, and it means a slightly different set of subjects, which is always great for the kids. Variety always keeps things interesting.

The beginning of school doesn’t mean fall weather around here, though, unfortunately. August is still hot, September is still warm, and we don’t get to “cool” until October. Much to my chagrin. But this is the price we pay for having glorious winter weather. Cold/cool with occasional snow, but nothing too intense. Usually. There was that time we were snowed in at a friend’s house for three days.

Excuse me while I dream of jackets and hot mugs of tea.

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Tiny Houses

Designed by Rohleder Borges Architecture. This guest house is in Glen Ellen, California. It’s my favorite small house in recent months. Image: Rohleder Borges Architecture.

I’m digging this Tiny House movement. Giving up 3/4 of your stuff and living in a smaller space sounds really appealing to me. Less room to clean, fewer belongings to take care of, fewer places to lose things.

Those tiny places that are about 100+ square feet definitely don’t appeal to me, however. Mostly they are that small (along with itty bitty loft bedrooms that aren’t tall enough to even sit up in) because they are built on trailer beds to be portable, to skirt around building laws, or both.

But I like to be grounded in place. At least when I’m staying in one place. While I love to travel (and rarely get enough of it), when I’m home I want to be home. I want to have one place that I go. One mailbox to check. One house that doesn’t move around. And one more thing, especially:

I don’t want a composting toilet.

I also want a shower that is big enough to shave my legs in. I want a bedroom with a door that closes. I want a dishwasher and a washer/dryer. I want enough room to have a few friends over. I want some storage to store a few things that are really important to me. And, of course, we’ll need some room for our craft materials.

So our future Tiny House will be more than 100 square feet. It may be more than 400 square feet. I don’t know. But it won’t be some sprawling 3000 square foot thing that’s unnecessary for families of my size, especially once the kids are sufficiently grown.

That doesn’t stop me from ogling the houses I see on my Facebook feed on the Tiny House pages. Most are pretty much the same layout, but I’m always on the lookout for ingenious ways to use space efficiently. Occasionally one will catch my eye.

For now we have enough stuff to fill a house for a family of four. But once I actually get the guts to purge some of my things, living in a smaller place will be quite nice. Perhaps something from the Not So Big House movement instead.

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Daylight Saving Time: Know Your Facts!

This is a clock. (Photo: Public Domain)

This isn’t about Daylight Saving Time in general, though I think it has outlived its usefulness. This is about people’s misuse of terms surrounding it. We’re adults. Can’t we agree to educate ourselves to the point where our communication is clear? Huh? Can we? Please?

I don’t want to get off on a rant here (see what I did there?), but it really irks me when otherwise-intelligent people don’t understand the difference between Standard Time and Daylight Time and the abbreviations surrounding them. I will totally give you a pass if you don’t live in the U.S. of A., but if you live here and have lived here your entire life, please, educate yourself. Stop making this simple mistake. You’re confusing people.

1. Most of the United States participates in Daylight Saving Time. This means that somewhere in the spring (the exact date keeps moving around), people are supposed to move their clocks forward an hour. Then, at some also-fluid date in the autumn, you move your clocks an hour back.

2. Some parts of the United States don’t participate in this shenanigans, such as Hawaii, and my home state of Arizona. This means that during Daylight Saving Time for the rest of you folk, our time stays the same. So it appears that we are in another time zone even though we aren’t. We didn’t move, you did.

3. I live in the Mountain Time Zone. Arizona is in MST (Mountain Standard Time) all year ’round. We never go to MDT (Mountain Daylight Time). There are similar acronyms for the other four main time zones in the United States: PST/PDT, CST/CDT, and EST/EDT. Know these. Love these. Use these, correctly. Please.

Working online as I do, I encounter people in other time zones all the time. Sometimes we have to coordinate with each other. Sometimes we have to meet online at a certain time, or join a Skype call. When someone in, say, New York State uses “EST” during the summer months, it injects quite a lot of confusion. At least, to me. I assume they meant “EDT”, but maybe they meant something different? Maybe they forgot to change their clocks?

Please, people. Know your time zones. Know your Daylight Saving Time vocabulary. And use it correctly.

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Happy 800th Birthday, Magna Carta!

The Magna Carta. Image is in the public domain because its copyright expired.

Happy 800th Birthday to the Magna Carta!

Yes, it’s that old.

Most of us have heard of the Magna Carta, of course, but how many actually know what it is? Since I was an American Studies major and not a general history major, I didn’t actually learn the story behind this important document until I was an adult, homeschooling my own kids. But rather than rehash what I’ve learned in my own words (lest I get something wrong), head over to the National Archives, and also (especially?) the British Library, to learn from the carefully assembled online exhibits on the document.

Today at 7pm (Eastern?), the National Archives and friends are presenting a special program on YouTube, of all places. Check it out:

The National Archives and the Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) present a discussion on the influence of Magna Carta on American constitutionalism, from the nation’s earliest days to the present. Moderated by Judge Royce Lamberth, Senior United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, panelists include: Jennifer Paxton, historian and medieval specialist, Catholic University of America; Louis Fisher, Constitutional Scholar, author of “Magna Carta and Executive Power” in the American Bar Association’s recently published book Magna Carta and the Rule of Law; and Bruce O’Brien, Magna Carta expert from the University of Mary Washington.


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Be Kind

As I do every spring/summer, I’ve been up to my elbows planning next year’s homeschooling. It’s great fun, and I always put a lot of work into it. The more planning I can do during the summer, the smoother our experience during the school year. And since my daughter is beginning 9th grade next year, I’m also looking ahead to the entirety of high school for her.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on planning Literature. You know, novels, plays, poetry. I know plenty about what novels and plays to have us work on, but I had to read a lot of poetry to get a feel for what kind of poems certain poets have written. I stumbled across some real gems (and some that are pretty hard to read and understand), but this is my favorite one, completely applicable to today.

Charles Bukowski’s “Be Kind”:

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
no matter how
foolish or

one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
especially if they are

but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to

not their fault?

whose fault?

I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their

age is no crime

but the shame
of a deliberately

among so many


I can’t figure out what year it was written, but it’s so applicable to the internet today, and he died in 1994, so it’s an interesting perspective.

Go out and discover some poetry that speaks to you, too. Normally, poetry isn’t something I get into, so this was a real find.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: The Rest of It

Image: Grand Central Publishing

I had a few days there where I didn’t have any time to read, let alone to write it up. So the other night I made the executive decision to take some time out for myself (wow, what a concept) and read To Kill a Mockingbird all evening. I managed to read the entire second half of the book. It took me several hours, but reading books in one sitting is so much more enjoyable than breaking it up. It’s like binge watching a show on Netflix. But better. Because it’s a book.

So, I’ve finished it all. Did I like it? An unqualified yes. Did I think it was transformative piece of literature? Not by today’s standards, but, of course, it was published in 1960. Was it transformative then? With the awards it has received, I’d say yes. It dealt with some extremely important issues, such as race and class. And that the perspective of the book was that of a young girl was wonderful to me. A girl, for one, and a young girl, for two. We were only privy to what Scout was privy to.

On to some specific comments.

Dill… I feel like Harper Lee didn’t do enough with Dill. I suppose that we got what Dill we did because it was all from Scout’s perspective and she didn’t have the perspective of a thoughtful adult. Though we did witness her point of view evolving over the book, as we did for Jem.

The second half of the book, pretty much, was consumed with the trial. One reason why it was so easy to read that part all in one go is because it was dramatic, without too many major story breaks between chapters. You kept going to find out what happened next. There was danger, anticipation, conspiracy, hope, joy, sorrow… It ran the gamut of emotions and situations.

In the end, you knew who the good guys were and who the not-so-good guys were, and those who were downright horrid. You knew who you wanted to know and who you didn’t want to know. And you understood to what, specifically, the title refers. It was a good ending, without much build up but it really worked. I still loved Miss Maudie. I still loved Atticus. I still loved Calpurnia. I still loved Scout and Jem. Dill was a neutral party, but definitely on the side of good. That boy has seen a lot. And Boo Radley… What’s to say about him? I wish I could read the whole book again from his point of view. I knew he was a good person, at least as early as when he started putting things in the tree for the kids. I was really glad to get to “see” him at the end, and I wished I could just sit with him myself.

I loved how much Scout and Jem had paid attention to Atticus in regard to the law. They knew exactly what was going on in court, and how trials seemed to work. And they could read their father like a book.

When I began reading, I had no idea that it was a book for kids or youth. I thought it was a novel more in line with A Tale of Two Cities or The Scarlet Letter in terms of difficulty. Maybe it was because I ended up with the large print edition, but while I was reading, it felt more like a book for middle schoolers. And it turned out that the daughter of a friend was reading it in middle school, so that seems to hold true.

I am interested in seeing the movie version, but probably not for a little while yet. I need the book to sink in sufficiently, so I never mistake what’s in the movie for a book thing.

And now, I get to read another book. Not sure which one yet, and I won’t be blogging it. But I’m excited to jump into another world.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen

Image: Grand Central Publishing

I’m trying to get through To Kill a Mockingbird faster since I’ve got some new work/projects going on. So here are my thoughts on the next three chapters.

Chapter Twelve seemed to bring on Jem’s adolescence. He was no longer a child, like Scout, but getting on to be a teenager. This changed his mood, much to Scout’s dislike. He couldn’t be bothered with her some of the time, but it was still obvious that he still cared. Atticus’s court case was heating up, and it was starting to affect the kids. And Atticus was gone longer. Good thing they had Calpurnia, who decided to take them to church with her one Sunday when Atticus was away, instead of sending them to their church on their own.

I think they enjoyed their experience there. It was different for them, but other than the one rude lady, I think they felt at home. They were among people who appreciated their father’s efforts. I thought it was weird, though, how the congregation was guilted into giving more into the collection. Forced into taking care of one of their own. Of course it was a good cause, but that just seemed odd to me.

Chapter Thirteen brought the kids’ Aunt Alexandra, whom I don’t care for. Not one bit. She keeps saying what girls are “supposed” to do, and her opinions don’t often match Atticus’s. She’s “proper,” whatever that means. I think she just doesn’t allow for differences and individuality. She doesn’t listen to children. She doesn’t seem to think their opinions matter for anything. This whole chapter established Alexandra as a member of their household. I am not pleased. She can leave now, thank you very much.

Chapter Fourteen showed more of Alexandra’s interference. Atticus told the children to mind their aunt, just like they mind him and Calpurnia. But when opinions differ, who are they supposed to mind? Their own father’s opinion should matter more than their aunt’s. I hope Calpurnia doesn’t go anywhere. She’s a fixture in those kids’ lives. She’s a family member. Like Atticus said, she’s like a mother to them.

And then Dill… What will become of him? He’s obviously unhappy and not appreciated in his own home. Will Atticus take him in? Not likely, with the annoying Alexandra in residence. We shall see. For now, he’s got a safe house and a full belly.

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