• I'm two weeks from No More Papers to Grade. Anyone who teaches knows the final jag of the semester is about responding and grading and paperwork and wrapping things up. They also know it's a self-inflicted time of pleasure-reading famine. There's simply no time for the foolishness of lounging with a delicious book.

    We who teach know all about self-denial. We're masters of the craft. We don't visit anyone, take the night off, dream up exciting recipes for veal, or blog. We eat Lean Cuisines from the microwave and wash it down with cold coffee because both are fast. It's important, though, to dangle a carrot or two to keep us going. Here's where you come in.

    Give me a list of books to look forward to. Dangle the dream of rewarding hours prone on a divan with piles of novels and poetry and anything that doesn't resemble a freshman argumentative essay. I live to teach, but the grading stack is high just now and the work is daunting. I need a tasty book list to help me make it through final papers and final exams.

    Think of it as a public service.

  • It's a good thing The Perfect Grandson is so young, because he doesn't know enough about the Easter Bunny and egg hunting anticipation to be disappointed this morning. Big storms are moving in and it looks like Easter is indoors today. The neighbor lady's wind chimes are swinging fast right now and that's never a good sign. Cross your fingers that it clears up by mid afternoon for at least one muddy hunt.

    Next year, we'll require perfect sunshine, a thousand colored eggs, and an Easter Bunny who hides goodies in the yard at dark-thirty to beat the boy to the hunt. This year, he's sleeping in unaware.

    Oh. And a big thank you to the mysterious E. Bunny who dropped off the touch-and-feel duckling book in our mailbox yesterday. I know who you are...

    NOTE: If you're into Peeps, the boys over at Poor Richard's Almanac left a trail to this plethora of peepness.

  • These Somali pirates aren't the ones from Treasure Island or even from the old swashbucklers I watched on Saturday afternoons. Remember those old films? The Black Swan was my favorite and I wanted so badly to be sassy Maureen O'Hara loving/hating Tyrone Powers.

    These Somali pirates have satellite phones and rocket launchers. They stand to make a fortune hijacking merchant ships. Millions of dollars, in fact. And it doesn't seem to take a whole lot of them to overthrow a big merchant ship, either. Pirates have been taking ships off the coast of Somalia for so long and with such success that they've become cocky about it. Now they have an American captain hostage in what appears to be a toddler's tub toy surrounded by U.S. naval ships. It's a hell of a mess and will certainly get messier as the hours pass. These pirates are accustomed to getting what they ask for.

    These Somali pirates don't always choose the big ships. A recent and tragic story involved a French couple, their three year-old son, and two friends. Florent Tanit, father of the little boy, lost his life during the rescue of their yacht. There's been a little talk here and there about the sailing adventure this family attempted, and the blog they kept that ends just as the Somali pirates took their boat. I found the blog here, although you'll need to remember your old college French to read it. The pictures are enough anyway.

    Pirates aside, I can't event talk about a man who would put his wife and toddler in such danger. I'll leave that alone. He can't fix it now.

    While I hope the U.S. Navy /orange plastic tub-toy standoff turns out well, it looks like it may be the beginning of a much larger problem. Black Hawk Down is a terrible memory, and I don't know how provoked we need to be to go back to Somalia again. This isn't a costume swashbuckler or kid's novel, and no one out there is Tyrone Powers.

    Captain Richard Phillips, I'm rattling the beads for you.

    UPDATE: Captain Phillips has been freed!

  • This is the tornado
    that came through Mena, Arkansas last night, as recorded by a security camera at the Sevier County Jail. Three died, twenty or more injured. It was a terrible, terrible night, although it's even more eerie caught on film this way. Like no one else was looking.

  • You only have two, and it has been my experience recently that while you can get by with one good one for a while, two good knees are preferable. Trust me on this.

    All those foolish things you did when young and vigorous? Well, they're going to come back and haunt you when you're older and less springy. There's no talking to the idiocy of youth, however, and I'm sure I wouldn't have listened two seconds had someone warned me. We're all bullet-proof and immortal until we reach our forties, and little can be done to stop that train.

    I had my knee surgery on Friday, and there's more to such a thing than I'd imagined. On paper, it sounds cut and dried, but I didn't have my scope on paper. I had it in the hospital like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, it seems I tend to wake up once put down. This happened once before during a carpal tunnel surgery, but that's a funny story and involves me - in medias res - illuminating the surgeon on the finer points of correct procedure. I woke up in recovery to a gaggle of laughing nurses and other amused onlookers.

    Luckily, I don't remember much about waking up during Friday's knee surgery. It appears I woke more than once, however, and they really put the anaesthesia to me. The result was a tricky 48 hours of scoline pain. I don't wish that on my worst enemy. It's right up there with labor pain, except everywhere - I couldn't get out of a chair or even hold a pen.

    All that's over now and soon I expect to be better than new. Better than before all that damage I did back in my late teens and early twenties, anyway, when I was limber and bullet-proof.
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