Mr. Wendal

My husband, being of the Beatles generation, always wins the who-had-the-best-high-school-music fight hands down. But recently we came across this song from my generation in an episode of In Living Color and I knew I finally had him challenged.


Science Diet 2

This weekend I turned on C-SPAN for a little holiday viewing and found an awesome program of lady science writers. (Merry Christmas to me!)

Molly Caldwell Crosby (Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries) and Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) were on a panel at the
Texas Book Festival discussing their books and writing habits. (Skloot's book is on Ars Hermeneutica's 2010 list of top-rated reads, as well as most of this year's bestsellers lists.)

Sadly, I don't think I read one science book all year, which not only prompted me to interview Jeff but to also deem 2011 my year of math & science.

If you'd like to suggest some titles, please do! I'm already building my list.

WMNF Evening News Special

The extended versions of the author interviews I've been working so diligently on all year are finally airing tonight on the WMNF Evening News between 6 - 7 p.m. (or in the archives at

The program includes Big Citizen Alan Khazei, Factory Girls' Leslie T. Chang, and young adult author Walter Dean Myers.

I also did a round up of Eckerd College's Plight & Promise of Africa, their 2010 initiative on the continent's struggles and successes, which includes the work of fellow WMNF reporters Joshua Holton, who covered a photo exhibit of the suffering in Congo, and Tom Baur, who spoke with humanitarians John Prendergast and Elie Wiesel. My bit on Dave Eggers and Gabriel Bol Deng is in the mix as well.

Late last week I realized that I failed (big) to interview any science writers. So I googled around trying to find someone science-y willing chat with during Christmas week, and I stumbled across Dr. Jeff Shaumeyer.

A former physicist, Jeff started Ars Hermeneutica to encourage science literacy. And part of his effort to increase Americans knowledge (and love) of science is the Science Reading Challenge, now in its fourth year.

The Science Book Challenge 2011 requires only three (or 3.14) books throughout the entire year. I figure that's the least I can do, so I'll keep you posted on my progress.


Counting Your Blessings (and Christmas Cards)

Among the many grown-up tasks I've been unsuccessful at getting a jumpstart on in my ever-increasing years is sending out holiday cards. As one of the few remaining letter writers left in this country, it's not a total stretch for me so I'm not sure why it's such a challenge.

I sure love getting them (even if I feel guilty and undeserving). They come from new friends, old friends, my husband's colleagues, my own mother, and unexpected and far away places.

But I guess that's the spirit of Christmas - giving love without expectation.

As the clock ticks closer, I found myself at the Hallmark store downtown this afternoon poring over pretty cards and imagining what I'd write in them. Despite my anti-consumer bent, I purchased a few and sent them right off.

'Tis the season to not hide your love away.


Big Citizenship

Today while waiting in line at my local non-governmental shipping store, I eavesdropped on customers inquiring on the price of sending numerous 150 lb. packages to Haiti.

I got a little misty-eyed (Who knew I had so much in common with John Boehner?!) when they said they were working with college kids to send toiletries to the cholera-ravaged country.

Now those are some big citizens.

("And the kicker," chimed in the lone employee behind the counter, "is that I'm from Haiti!")

I've always been at a loss as to how I can be of help in the world (specifically in my new hometown of Tampa), which was why I was drawn to Alan Khazei's book
Big Citizenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America.

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Alan for the WMNF News. The 3-minute segment will most likely air tonight, and an extended version will air next Monday evening as part of my author interview special.

Alan, a huge believer in national service, co-founded City Year in the late 80's, which became the model for AmeriCorps. He later helped save AmeriCorps when it was threatened by political shenanigans. Again, another teary-eyed moment for me since I served in AmeriCorps during the 2005-2006 school year as a second grade reading tutor as part of Hillsborough Reads.

But not to worry, I didn't cry over the air. Not that there's
anything wrong with that.


It's Not a Small World After All

Less than 20 years ago just a few (relatively speaking) people thought about where the stuff they bought came from, mostly because of political reasons. I was introduced to the Boycott Made in China movement in the early '00's when I lived in protest-ready Seattle.

Still, I was on the fence with this issue. The Chinese people, like anyone, were happy to have jobs to bring them out of poverty. But I'd also heard about terrible working conditions and 12 year-olds making iPods.

However I was becoming more and more annoyed by American's belief that cheaper is better. Until recently it seemed that the majority of Americans didn't care about who made what, that is, until our own country started doing badly.

But the main reason I couldn't take a stance was because it was hard for me to see a real face on the issue. (Though my own personal solution was to shop less and almost exclusively at thrift stores.)

A few more details were filled in for me when I came across Leslie T. Chang's Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. The author chronicles the lives of two young Chinese women who traded in their rural youths for the excitement of the unknown in huge, anonymous factory cities on the southern coast of China. The book weaves the migrants' stories together with Chang's own Chinese family background.

I interviewed Leslie last week as part of my author interview special that will air on the WMNF Evening News on Monday, December 27th from 6-7 p.m. You can listen to an excerpt of the interview that played on last night's newscast.

My conclusion is that globalization is tricky, especially when it seems as if the success of one country is based on the downfall of another. But this is where education is key, and learning as much as possible makes the clean up of whatever mess we're in easier on us all.


WWNKD? (or Blame It on My Bleeding Heart)

I remember not liking to eat alone in my 20's, but taking myself out to lunch on a work day has become one of my favorite things about being alive (and employed).

I like the feeling of being a regular, counting the servers & owners among my friends. I also cherish the break from work that I spend noshing, scribbling, or just plain being.

After months of my weekly joyful lunching, Saturday was the first time I completely broke down upon returning to work to see a man who obviously was going without the basic necessities on a regular basis.

This was not a completely unanticipated event. I frequently walk around downtown and pass by plenty of people who panhandle; on every corner of every major (and minor) thoroughfare in this town, there stands a sad-eyed soul in a neon vest asking for help or money.

At the library, my coworkers and I know the names of many of these folks, we know their taste in movies, books, and music. We know which shelters they stay at, we know their names and faces when we see them out on the streets after the sun goes down and the library closes, when we get to go home.

During lunch on that particular Saturday, I had been thinking about a book I'm reading, Not on Our Watch. Lots of the photos in the book were taken by Nick Kristof, who writes about poverty, globalization and human rights for the NYT. I wondered how really hard core do-gooders can see this stuff (and much worse) day after day and still get through their days/lives without drugs/drink/breaking down.

Also fueling my tear ducts was an earlier conversation with co-worker/friend Emi, about how much we want to use our skills and ambition and energy to do good, but just can't seem to come up with exactly how or what we should do.

I don't think it's naive to care about others, but I'm getting increasingly frustrated because this is a case where action, not thoughts, counts most.


Things to Do in Tampa When You're Not Dead

Tampa lost one of its finest do-gooders this week, and Ronny & I one of our closest friends. This post is for Tommy, who came late to loving live music in Tampa. But better late than never?

Music abounds in Tampa in December so it's easy to celebrate the season or just being alive. Hope to see you out there.

On Friday, Diana Jones is playing 88.5's Live Music Showcase. You can catch Diana on Sunday, December 5th at 3 p.m at the UU Dome, with Linda Fackeldey opening.

Austin-based musician Andrew Hardin will play a live set on WMNF at 9 a.m on Saturday morning. Get up close to Andrew & his music (and 20-30 or so of your new best friends) the following day at a Lunazoot house concert at 3 p.m. in north Tampa.

On Saturday evening join Tasmanian-turned-Nashville, Tennessean songwriter Audrey Auld at Gram's Place. Another intimate venue not to be missed. (It'll also be my 32nd birthday party. Thanks in advance to my mom for bringing a pineapple upside down cake.)

Also happening Saturday night is Jobsite Theater's annual fundraiser,
Jobsite Rocks! VII at New World Brewery in Ybor. Music by The Vodkanauts, Pale Orchestra, and ex-Famous Monsters of Filmland. The show starts at 9 p.m.

And these are just the handful of shows that came to my email inbox, so I know there's a ton more out there that you can find via the traditional routes: TBO, TBT, Reax, CL, WMNF. (What else did I miss?)

Get out there and find something to do!

P.S. If you love (or hate) the Deep South and Molly Ringwald, go read Ernessa T. Carter's 32 Candles. It's a classic dysfunctional family drama with a twisted love story and lots of humor.

Photo above of Ronny, me and Tommy after Tommy married us on 3/28/09


Third Annual Yart Sale

Yart Sale = art/yard sale to raise funds for Tampa's Artists and Writers Group.

Browse, buy, and eat this Saturday from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Grown Man Studios in Seminole Heights. (6412 Central Ave., Tampa).