Monday, December 31, 2007

Suggestion For a New Year's Resolution

You know you have moments here and there when your hands are idle—riding in the car, watching TV, sitting in meetings, or chatting with friends. Why not use that time to produce some warm mittens, socks, hats, simple baby quilts, or sweaters for someone in need? If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know that I make hand-knit sweaters for Knit for Kids. I’m on sweater number 32 right now, and all of them have been created with time that would otherwise have been wasted. It warms my heart to think that some little kids might be more comfortable this winter because I put my spare minutes to work.

Here are some links to web sites that will get you started, no matter what your craft or level of expertise. Why not pass on this information to other people who might help out? You might even organize a group at your club or church to work on projects together.

Charity Connection:
Search by craft or organization, and by zip code to find a local charity that needs what you make.

Crafting for a Cause:
Many crafts are represented here, including quilted sleeping bags for the homeless. Patterns are included.

Handmade for Charity:
Baby blankets, sweaters for adopted kids, blankets to make animals in shelters more comfortable, afghans for Afghans, socks for soldiers—here are all kinds of crafts: Knitting, crocheting, quilting, etc.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Lights in Clovis

I've been experimenting with nighttime photography without a tripod. The pictures of our house and neighborhood so far are very out of focus, so I'll have to try again. However, these shots taken down at Jimenez Custom Harvesting came out much better. Apparently, the guys down at Jimenez spend several days setting up this display and have done an incredible job. You can enjoy the animation if you drive by 1000 W. Brady Ave..

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Around New Mexico

For those of you, like Towanda in Kansas, who may be far away but still thinking about Christmas in New Mexico, here are some links to videos that will give you a tiny bit of the flavor of the season here.

Farolitos on Canyon Road in Santa Fe: (has some odd audio)

Lights on the Plaza in Santa Fe:

Las Posadas, Taos, NM:
Learn about some Northern New Mexico beliefs: The miracle at El Santuario de Chimayo y Santa Niño de Atocha, Santa Niño’s empty basket, and the Ceremonia de Compadrismo.

Christmas on the Pecos Parade, Carlsbad, NM:

Clayton, NM Christmas Light Parade:

Living Christmas Tree, Las Cruces:

Christmas Lights of Clovis:

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Mall in Clovis

I'm not much of a shopper. I know that's practically un-American to say, but there it is. When faced with absolutely having to buy something I'd much rather do it online that to have to trudge from store to store looking for a particular item. I do my best to support local industries when I can, but you will rarely, if ever, find me out shopping just for fun.

However, Harry O from the City-Data New Mexico Forum asked if I could get some exterior and interior photos of our local shopping mall, so I headed on over there this morning. It was fairly early for shoppers, I guess, because at 10:30 AM there were lots of parking places available. I wandered around the parking lot, getting shots of the bigger stores, then went inside. I was hoping to get some pictures of everything all decorated for Christmas, but was soon stopped by a nice mall employee who told me that for "legal reasons"
interior photos of the North Plains Mall are not allowed. I was pretty embarrassed and kind of worried that he would want to confiscate my beloved new camera (purchased online, of course), but instead we chatted a while about malls in general. I found out that GGP (General Growth Properties, Inc.), the company that owns the Clovis mall, owns over 200 regional malls in 44 states; and that Habitat for Humanity is their corporate charity of choice. We parted in good spirits with holiday smiles and I scampered out to the car, glad to have escaped a run-in with mall security.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Dangerous Childhood

The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden. Collins, 2007. 270 pages.

When I was a child in the 1940s and 1950s, our neighborhood in San Francisco was noisy with the shouts and cries of the children who lived there. We rode our bikes, we roller-skated, we played dodgeball, and we played jump rope. We raced on foot, on bikes, on scooters, and on skates. We took our skates apart and used the wheels on various invented riding vehicles. In quieter moments, we sat on stoops and played jacks and pickup sticks. We collected rocks and cracked them open on the sidewalk, always searching for that elusive geode. We played every sort of game of “pretend” that we could dream up, most memorably something called Covered Wagon, where we used a sturdy wooden gate as a wagon seat for the lucky wagon-driver-of-the-day, while the rest of us hunched down behind him in the “wagon” bed as we traveled west. We took turns playing good guys and bad guys, riding pretend horses and shooting at each other with our cap guns. We ran, we skipped, we hopped, we jumped, and we turned cartwheels. We fell off our bikes, my sister’s foot got caught in the spokes of my bike when I gave her a highly illegal ride on the back fender, my friend Skippy broke his arm roller-skating, and Trudy’s little brother broke several things when he discovered that he couldn’t fly off a second story porch. It was an exuberant, vigorous, and yes, somewhat dangerous life, at least by today’s standards. In those days it was just what kids did all day until called in for supper.

The Igguldens remember that kind of childhood, one where every day was spent outside playing. It’s the kind of childhood that doesn’t exist any more, for whatever reason. They have written a book that might inspire some of today’s kids to have some adventures, covering every subject that kids—boys especially—get excited about. Keep this book on your bedside table and grab it up when you wonder how to make a tripwire, or a paper airplane, or a bow and arrow; or if you’re wondering about the stars, or the clouds, or the tides, or famous battles; or if you want to read extraordinarily inspiring stories about courage and bravery. It’s all here, from tying knots to Shakespeare, from skipping stones or cooking a rabbit to the Ten Commandments.

The Igguldens are unapologetic about providing instructions for potentially dangerous activities which they note “…should be carried out under adult supervision,” although they obviously realize that children have secret lives that adults know nothing about; and they aren’t afraid to inspire and instruct: “Stories of courage and determination are sometimes underrated for their ability to inspire.

This is the second book I have read on my personal challenge list. I didn’t actually read it from cover to cover, as it is a kind of reference book, to be picked up and perused before going off on another adventure. I think that it is the perfect book for my grandson, an inspiration for bringing back a healthy kind of childhood, full of exploration and excitement.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dear Bradley

Dear Bradley,

I’d like to tell you something about the retirement gift you left on my desk last year on my very last day of being a school librarian. I was just about to walk out the door when I saw it lying there. I knew that by then you were back in class, and I knew if I said good-bye to one more person I would start to cry. I also knew that, once started, I would have a hard time stopping. I was leaving so much behind—my career, my school, my library, my friends, and my wonderful students. So, I tucked your present into my pocket and continued on my way. When we got to our new home in a new state where I didn’t know anyone, I put your gift on my bedside table, with its little note still attached.

I don’t even know what to call the little gadget you gave me. I guess it’s a desk toy, shaped like a little hourglass. It reminds me of a tiny lava lamp, and when it is turned over the bubbles shift into a new design. Every time I see it, I turn it over and think about you. It brings back all my old school memories. When I turn the little “fidget gadget” over--

-I remember when you first came to school, a brand new first grader and a good reader already.
-I picture your cute little-boy "skater" haircut.
-I think about how kind you were to your classmates in 2nd grade, even when they weren’t being lovable.
-I remember your first disagreement with your best friend, and how hurt you were.
-I think about the tragedy that struck your family. It was way too much sadness for a little boy. Even the adults at school were worried about what to say when you came back, but you put us all at ease with your matter-of-fact approach and frank words.
-I picture your kind smile.

You are almost a whole year older now, a big third grader. Even though I mailed you a thank you note for the gift long ago, you have probably forgotten all about it. Perhaps the gifts we give that we hardly notice can turn out to be the most important ones.

Bradley, I just wanted you to know how much you gave in a moment you might not even remember. Funny, it’s just a little gift for which I have no name, but it means all the world to me.

Mrs. Z

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tony Hillerman: The Man and His Books

Every time we travel through the Four Corners area my eyes follow those little dusty roads that disappear off over the horizon. I find myself thinking about Tony Hillerman’s characters Jim Chee, Bernie Manuelito, and Joe Leaphorn, driving alone to some far-off hogan to investigate a mysterious death. The books of Tony Hillerman are set in this part of the country, and although I started reading them long before I came to New Mexico I could already see those lonely little roads in my mind’s eye.

Hillerman writes with respect and knowledge about both the Navajos (as exemplified by Leaphorn and Chee) and the Hopis (the wonderfully named Cowboy Dashee, for example). In reading his books, you learn about this part of the country and its peoples--their beliefs, their ceremonies, their prayers, their homes, and their customs and traditions.

While I've been a fan for many years, here is what I’ve always wondered about Tony Hillerman: How accurately does he portray Native Americans and what do they think about his writing?

In searching for the answer to this question, the most helpful and complete biographical information that I have found so far online is from the Public Broadcasting System’s Mystery! web site. Here is a quote I found there: Although the tribe has named him a Special Friend of the Dineh [Navajo people] for his accurate portrayals of Navajo life, Hillerman still worries about getting it wrong. He reads copiously and runs his manuscripts by Navajo friends to check not only for accuracy, but for believability as well. He even had a Navajo English class in Shiprock consider a subplot he was planning to see if it would work. When the students said no, he junked it. "For me, studying the [Navajo] has been absolutely fascinating," Hillerman told Publishers Weekly, "and I think it's important to show [my readers that] aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane."

It's also interesting to note that Hillerman has also received the Center for the American Indian's Ambassador Award, and the Silver Spur Award for the best novel set in the West, in addition to a great many other awards.

For a chronology of Hillerman’s books and reviews of each one:

For information about the films that have been made from Hillerman’s books:

To get some insight into Hillerman’s character, his writing process, and how he
feels about the Navajo people, read the PBS Interview with Tony Hillerman:

See a video interview of Hillerman at

Tony Hillerman’s web site:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Feeling Uncomfortable in This World"*

Born on a Blue Day; Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant. A Memoir, by Daniel Tammet. New York: Free Press, 2007.

This is the first book that I’ve read from my personal challenge list and reading it has made me very glad to have embarked on this project. This is an amazing book, both because of the author’s “extraordinary mind,” and because he is able to describe what is going on inside his head in such a clear way. Reading his descriptions made me realize that understanding the thought processes of anyone to such a degree would make incredibly fascinating reading; being given this chance to look inside the mind of an autistic savant is like traveling to another planet. Daniel’s mind works in ways that are so unique—well, let me give you a few examples.

Before reading these quotes, you need to know that Daniel has a rare condition known as savant syndrome—think Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man. He experiences numbers in a visual and emotional way that is called synesthesia, and his synesthesia is an unusual and complex type, through which he sees “numbers as shapes, colors, textures, and motions.” Daniel is able to perform incredibly complex computations in his head, and he is able to give us an inkling of how that process works and what it feels like. Here are a few quotes from the first chapter:

“The number 1, for example, is a brilliant and bright white, like someone shining a flashlight into my eyes."

"Five is a clap of thunder or the sound of waves crashing against rocks. Thirty-seven is lumpy like porridge, while 89 reminds me of falling snow."

"When I divide one number by another, in my head I see a spiral rotating downwards in larger and larger loops, which seem to warp and curve. Different divisions produce different sizes of spirals with varying curves. From my mental imagery I'm able to calculate a sum like 13 [divided by] almost a hundred decimal places."

As a child, Daniel hardly noticed his peers, and kept to the edges of any social gathering. He is able to describe in great detail what exactly was going on in his head during these childhood years—what he was thinking at times when he appeared to others to be merely staring at a spot on the floor for hours at a time, or rocking, or walking around and around trees in the schoolyard.

Daniel brings us along on his journey from being an isolated loner to growing into a young adult within a loving relationship--"from profound isolation and sadness to achievement and happiness," as Daniel says in his NPR interview . I have known children with autism, and I wanted to find them all and give them this book to read so that they would know that someone else had experienced life in a way that was similar to their internal experiences.


To read an excerpt from the book, listen to a powerful interview with Daniel and with autism experts, and to hear callers with questions about autism, go to the National Public Radio program Talk of the Nation at It was extremely touching to me to hear Daniel describe his experiences in his beautifully quiet voice, and there was a heartbreaking moment when a caller named Ethan, who was apparently autistic, said that for him the "candle wasn't worth the game."

While you're on the Talk of the Nation page, be sure to scroll down and check out the links for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel featuring a math whiz who has Asperger's, and the interview with Temple Grandin, a livestock facility designer who is autistic.

Daniel's web site, Optimnem, can be seen at

Find out about the documentary Brainman, which follows some of Daniel's experiences: For other excerpts and information about this documentary, Google "Brainman."

Daniel Tammet Meets Kim Peek (who was the original inspiration for Rain Main):

To see other videos about Daniel, search "Daniel Tammet" or "Brainman" on YouTube:

*The title of this post is a quote from Daniel in the NPR interview

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A "Few" Good Books; Our Mass Collaboration

I admit it--I'm compulsive, or I wouldn't be a librarian. I couldn't leave well enough alone and just had to go through your comments on the Looking for a Few Good Books post and put everything in alphabetical order. Here they are--all 68 titles (so far) that we recommended to each other. If you want to read the original comment, I have included the name of the person who recommended the book. Just go to Looking for a Few Good Books and scroll down to the comments section.

-Baker: Mezzanine (Benjamin)
-Barry: History of the Millennium (So Far) (brassring)
-Beyond Brokeback; the Impact of a Film (j)
-The Bible (j)
-Bin Laden: Inside the Kingdom (photokeeper)
-Blight: A Slave No More; Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation (Anonymous/JL)
-Boonshaft: Teaching Music with Passion (brassring)
-Box: Books featuring the character Joe Pickett [Savage Run, Trophy Hunt, for example] (photokeeper)
-Brashares: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (jacksonrnnr)
-Brown: I'm Just Here for the Food (Benjamin)
-Colbert: I am America (and So Can You) (clairz)
-Counselor: Wild, Woolly, and Wonderful (lin)--This book is out of print. Ask your librarian for a copy. Note: Lin originally posted the title for this book over on La Casa de Towanda. Because she is living off the grid and has electricity for just a short time each day, I was glad to copy and paste it here for her.
-Crystal: Seven Hundred Sundays (ameriaussie)
-Dante: The Divine Comedy (brassring)
-Denton (editor) : Plays and Playwrights 2006 (Benjamin)
-Diaz: Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (clairz)
-Dyer: Real Magic (brassring)
-Enright: The Gathering (clairz)
-Esquith: Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire (This title was recommended twice--by Anonymous/jl and clairz)
-Feinstein: Winter Games (b)
-Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love (Anonymous/JL)
-Greenlaw: Slipknot (brassring)
-Gruen: Water for Elephants (ameriaussie)
-Horgan: Rational Mysticism, Spirituality Meets Science in the Search for Enlightenment (j)
-Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns (clairz)
-Iggulden: Dangerous Book for Boys (clairz)
-IIibagiza: Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan (Anonymous/jl )
-Joyce: Ulysses (b)
-Junge: Until the Final Hour (jacksonrnnr)
-Kakalios: Physics of Superheroes (Benjamin)
-King: Cell (brassring)
-King: Lisey's Story (brassring)
-Kitchell: Coyote Speaks (j)
-Kitchell: Get a God (j)
-Kitchell: God's (j)
-Kline: Shock Doctrine (S)
-The Koran (j)
-Kuo: Tempting Faith, An Inside Story of Political Seduction (j)
-Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching [available online] (brassring)
-Mabry: Twice as Good: Condoleeza Rice and Her Path to Power (b)
-Mahoney: Down the Nile; Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff (Anonymous/jl)
-McCarthy: No Country for Old Men (b)
-McKay: Saffy's Angel (brassring)
-Miller: The Crucible (j)
-Montgomery: The Good, Good Pig (photokeeper)
-Moore: Lamb (S)
-Obeidi: The Bomb in My Garden (photokeeper)
-Ohler: What Next (ridin' geeky)
-Oliver: Why I Wake Early (j)
-Pica: Jump into Literacy (ameriaussie)
-Pratt: Radical Hospitality; Benedict's Way of Love (j)
-Preston: The Wild Trees; a Story of Passion and Daring (Anonymous/jl)
-Pullman: Golden Compass (jacksonrnnr)
-Saunders: The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (jacksonrnnr)
-Schultz: 1000 Places to See Before You Die (jacksonrnnr)
-Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty Some Day (Benjamin)
-Sedaris: Naked (Benjamin)
-Taleb: Black Swan;Impact of the Highly Improbable (clairz)
-Tapscott: Wikinomics; How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (clairz)
-Tolstoy: War and Peace (brassring)
-Toole: Confederacy of Dunces (ridin' geeky)
-Tracy: Eat That Frog (Anonymous/jl)
-Troost: The Sex Lives of Cannibals (jacksonrnnr)
-Tsukiyama: The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (ameriaussie)
-Twitchell: Shopping for God; How Christianity Went from in Your Heart to in Your Face (b)
-Ung: First They Killed My Father (jacksonrnnr)
-Walter: The Zero (ridin' geeky)
-Weiner: Legacy of Ashes; the History of the CIA (b)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hubbell Trading Post

The Hubbell Trading Post, now a National Historic Site, is located on the Navajo Reservation. It's in Ganado, Arizona near the intersection of Highways 264 and 191, on the site of the original Hubbell family 160-acre homestead. It is the oldest continuously operated trading post on the Navajo Reservation, and was purchased from earlier traders by John Lorenzo Hubbell (1853-1930) in 1878.

After the Navajos had been exiled by the U.S. government in 1864 to Bosque Redondo at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, they were finally allowed back in 1868 onto their ancestral homelands where today’s Navajo Reservation lies. Early on, the Navajos traded wool and sheep at the trading post for Anglo products like coffee, sugar, flour, etc. Later they began to trade rugs, jewelry, baskets, and pottery. You can read a more complete history in the Wikipedia article about the post.

Today the Hubbell Trading Post site consists of:
  • The Visitor Center, where you can watch demonstrations of Navajo rug weaving, see a small museum display, and purchase books.

  • The Hubbell family home, which you can tour during the summer months.

  • The fully active trading post, which still trades with members of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and other tribes. There are rugs, baskets, jewelry, and other arts and crafts, such as kachinas, drums, and pots offered for sale.

There are two Native American arts and crafts auctions at the trading post each year; the next will be on Saturday, May 10, 2008.

Here’s an interesting fact. The trading post is on the Navajo Reservation, which recognizes Daylight Savings Time; the state of Arizona does not, and continues on Mountain Standard Time year round. Remember that during the months April-October, the reservation is thus one hour ahead of the rest of the state.

If you would like to look at some truly unique documents, see the drawings, photographs, newspaper articles about the Hubbell Trading Post in the Library of Congress American Memory Collection. Go to and search “Hubbell Trading Post.” You will be directed to 13 pages of lists of primary source and archival materials. The site is slow, but worth the wait.


Friends of Hubbell:

Hubbell Trading Post on DesertUSA:

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Favorite Blogs

My favorite bone

You may have noticed my list of favorite blogs on the left side of this page. Here is a little additional information about each one. Go ahead, check them out--but beware of blog addiction!


-Bonobo Handshake: Vanessa is a writer and researcher with the Hominoid Psychology Research Group. Her blog is about her 2007 research trip to study endangered bonobos in the Congo.

-A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: Liz B. writes about books, movies, and TV shows, with an emphasis on books for children and teens.

-Incurable Logophilia; reflections on a love of words, of literature, of language: A wonderful resource when you’re looking for books to read next.

-A Patchwork of Books: Amanda is a bookworm and children’s library assistant who is working toward her Master’s in Library Science. She writes about children’s and young adult literature.

Fiber Arts
-Knit Lit: Kate says “I write. I knit. I write about knitting. And I like you. I really, really like you.” Great writing, terrific ideas and photographs, and a list of links that includes I May Be Knitting a Ranchhouse, Skein Cocaine, and Fondle My Sweaters . What else do you need to know?

-Yarn Harlot; Stephanie Pearl-McPhee goes on (and on) about knitting.

Food and Recipes
-Desert Candy: Mercedes does some wonderful Middle Eastern cooking, then photographs and writes about it in this beautifully designed blog.

Life in the Southwest
-greenchilesandroses: Night Lightning Woman is a retired social worker who has lived her entire life in New Mexico and Texas.

-If the Creek Don't Rise: Lin (“I figure that fantasies should be game plans”) writes about living off the grid in the remote desert Southwest.

-La Casa de Towanda: Sharon is doing some New Mexico dreaming while planning her move from Kansas to Santa Fe. She writes lovely posts on northern New Mexico, with gorgeous photographs and a stylish layout.

-Picturing New Mexico: Lots of intriguing photos.

-Santa Fe Journal: “New Mexico, past and present, with photos and text.”

Sites That Appeal to My Librarian Self
-Love the Liberry : Amy and Marian write about the weird stuff that happens in libraries; librarians won’t be surprised, but you may be!

-Planet Esme: Children’s author (Sahara Special, etc.) Esme Raji Codell writes about children’s literature.

Impossible to Classify
-Overheard Lines: I love those snippets of conversation you hear when passing through a crowd. This eavesdropping playwright captures odd bits in that most fertile of listening posts, the San Francisco Bay Area.

-Philip Greenspun's Weblog: A posting every day, an interesting idea every three months. I’ve always loved Philip G’s photographs, now we can find out what he has to say.

-PostSecret: Anonymous handmade postcards each tell a secret never before revealed about their maker; an ongoing community art project that is now featured in several books. People slip even more postcards into the books on the shelves of bookshops and libraries.

-to-do list : A collection of lists and what they reveal (“quirks, compulsions, and habits”) about the people who make them.