Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Thanksgiving Survey 2021: Letter - Responses

The family’s responses.

Question 1

What is a piece of mail (a letter, not a package) you received in the mail (physical letter delivery) for which you are thankful?

A.  I am very grateful for the poems I received, they lifted my spirits during a stressful time.

B.   Can't think of any.  I don't normally look at mail. Last time I did, I think was a jury-duty summons during a pandemic in 2020, for which I was not thankful.

C.  Nice letters from car companies who have been trying to reach me about my car warranty. So thoughtful!

D.  My mail ballot.

E. The letter confirming the transfer of funds from my old 401K into my new 401K

F. I recently came across a hand-painted birthday card from my friend.  I particularly like the painting on the card.

G. When I was living in [foreign country], I was always desperate to get packages, but their tariff rates were arbitrary and unreasonable.   One time I objected to the charge for my package, and the postal woman then proceeded to raise the rate, because I was being "upstart"!    I then put the original lower amount on the counter, grabbed the package, and left.  Unfortunately for me, the police station was right next to the post office.

H.  I am thankful for the unemployment checks I received by mail while I was briefly unemployed during the pandemic.

I.  I’ve been in touch with my first grade teacher over the past year …. I am thankful that…..  she instilled in me the love of reading.

J. My college acceptance letter. 

K. The Jewish Chronicle.

Question 2 

Name a famous letter, and why it is significant.

A.  Can we include fictional letters? The Color Purple is written as a letter to God, and that’s a very important letter. It details the main character’s story when nobody else would listen to it. The power of which is diluted a bit when I can’t remember the main character’s name.

B.    The Greek letter pi, because pi are round.

Unicode code point 03C0 π GREEK SMALL LETTER PI.

Not to be confused with Unicode code point 01F967 “🥧” PIE EMOJI.

That displays as mojibake (文字化け) in Emacs, but you can see what it

looks like here:


C.  Open Letter to Kansas School Board in 2005, by Bobby Henderson. The letter satirized the school board's recent decision to allow Intelligent Design to be taught as an alternative to evolution in public schools and claimed the right for equal time to be given to teaching about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pastafarianism was born. 


a. George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport, Rhode Island in August of 1790.  G.W. expresses his  support for religious freedom in the nascent US. But reading the letters today, it just stands out blatantly how hypocritical he was. 

b. Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr.  He wrote it in 1963 to moderate white religious leaders, while he was imprisoned in the city jail in Birmingham, AL for demonstrating for civil rights and desegregation.

E.The letter from Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard to FDR warning that Germany could develop atomic bombs, and urging that the US start its own nuclear research.

F. The series of letters sent by John Adams to his wife Abigail.  They are significant because they express his deep love of country and deep love of her, and did so eloquently.

G. The Zimmerman Telegram is famous.  [family joke redacted]

H. The letter written by Jimmy Carter placed aboard the Voyager spacecraft, along with the Golden Record, is significant because it may be the first human letter to one day reach alien civilizations.

I. The letter of Paul to the Corinthians, thirteenth chapter of the first epistle. Without love, we are nothing.


a. The letters from “The Phantom of The Opera” in the hit musical The Phantom of The Opera

b. The letter carried by the snail in Frog and Toad.

K.  There are letters from Jews that were living outside of Jerusalem that were sent to relatives living in Jerusalem that were sent over 2000 years ago. I think they are important.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

First Lines: Sep-Oct 2021 edition

A little fall reading (2011)

In September, I only finished reading one book.  Chalk that up to Jewish holidays, political activity, and a lack of concentration.    In October, I picked up the pace, and finished 6 books. Here are the first lines:



Book 1

A Conversation about Rain

Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.  She sat at a low table staring at a chess board.


Book 2

September 1953

Turtle Mountain Jewel Bearing Plant

Thomas Wazhashk removed his thermos from his armpit and set it on the steel desk alongside his scuffed briefcase.


Book 3

Growing up with parents who’d fled Europe as refugees, I was raised with stories of the heroic nation that helped defeat Hitler’s armies and usher in an unprecedented era of liberal democracy in the West.


Book 4

Chapter One: Enlarged Pores

Ulf Varg, of the Department of Sensitive Crimes, drove his silver-grey Saab through a landscape of short distances.

Book 5

Chapter 1: Blue Nines and Red Words

I was born on January 31, 1979 – a Wednesday.  I know it was a Wednesday, because the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number 9 or the sound of loud voices arguing.


Book 6

Eugenia Lincoln was a practical person, a sensible person.  She did not have time for poetry, geegaws, whoop-de-whoops, or frivolity.

Book 7

The accused, Chelsea Liew, was in court.  She sat on a wooden bench in a wooden box, handcuffed to a police woman.


The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig.  Published 2020. 299 pages.  

About a despondent woman who finds her purpose.  It took me a while to get into this book.  The plot is rather predictable, but I liked the main character. The names of the characters make it nearly an allegory.  This was for book club.


Book 2

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.  464 pages.  Published  2020.  (Pulitzer prize winner)

It took me a while to get into this book, but I think this was me, because the same thing happened with the previous book.  I seem to have lost my powers of concentration in Sep-Oct.

The characters in this book are just what one wants in a novel – flawed but likable.  And this book reveals a part of our nation’s history that I never learned about – the termination of treaties between the US Government (i.e. the colonial power) and Native American tribes (i.e. the people who were here first).  The story shows how the government pushed around and pushed again on Native Americans, destroying their livelihoods and denigrating their personhood.


Book 3

How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, by Jason Stanley.  Published 2018.  240 pages.

This book seems to include great descriptions and examples of the current politics which are dangers to our (US) democracy.  But I am not sure every one of those dangers qualifies as fascist politics.  


Book 4

The Talented Mr. Varg, by Alexander McCall Smith.   Published 2020.  241 pages.

Short, light, and enjoyable for me.


Book 5

Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, by Daniel Tammet.  Published 2007.  208 pages.

An interesting memoir. for book club. 


Book 6

Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package, by Kate DiCamillo.   Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.  Published 2017.  112 pages.

A practical person learns joy.

Book 7

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, by Shamini Flint.  © 2008.    293 pages.  This is the first book I have ever read that takes place in Malaysia.   A gripping murder mystery.

Three books I started in Sep-Oct, but haven’t finished.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, by Balli Kaur Jaswal.  Published 2017.  299 pages.  I hope to return to this book some day.

Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell.  © 2020.  384 pages.

The writing is exquisite.  Wonderful characters.  I could not finish due to my own quirks and emotional state at the time I was reading it.  


Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy, by Greg Pahl.  Published 2008 (Second Edition).  320 pages.

I’m supposed to be learning about this topic, but I’m having trouble concentrating.  And it’s a problem that the book is 13 years old - it does not address the rise of natural gas fracking, nor the upcoming increase in renewable diesel production. I’ll have to find a more recent book on the subject.  This one was practically free, which should tell me something.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Thanksgiving Survey 2021: Letter

 For the tenth year in a row, It's time for the Common Household time-honored tradition of the

Thanksgiving survey:  


1. What is a piece of mail (a letter, not a package) you received in the mail (physical letter delivery) for which you are thankful?

2.  Name a famous letter, and why it is significant.

Please participate by giving your answers in the comments.  Happy Thanksgiving Preparation Week!

I read half of this book,
and found it to be charming.
I do not like Tolkien's other books.

Greek letters
Chi, Rho, Alpha, Omega

Uncle Sam loves postal workers!

Monday, November 1, 2021

History of These United States, the month of November

Selections from the Equal Justice Initiative History of Racial Injustice calendar.  I’ve chosen historical items from after 1900.

Nov 2, 2004

Alabama voters reject constitutional amendment that would remove from state constitution a provision requiring separate schools for “white and colored children".

Yes, you read that year correctly. In the 21st Century, voters could not and would not remove that provision. Read here about the ongoing attempt to change the Alabama Constitution.  

Nov 5, 2010

Police officer Johannes Mehserle is sentenced to two years for fatally shooting Black 22-year-old Oscar Grant III in the back while he was facedown on a train platform in Oakland, California.

Nov 7, 1931

Fisk University dean and student die from injuries sustained in a car accident after segregated Georgia hospital refuses to treat them.

Nov 12, 1935

A mob of at least 700 white men and women lynches two Black boys, 15-year-old Ernest Collins and 16-year-old Benny Mitchell, in Colorado County, Texas.

And you can read at this link about the dog-whistle statement about lynching expressed in 2021 by a US Congressman from Texas.  

Nov 16, 2015

Despite public outrage over a Texas history textbook that depicted enslaved people as “workers from Africa,” state lawmakers this week reject proposal to require that textbooks be fact-checked.

Nov 18, 1983

Chicago police beat, electrocute, and threaten to castrate James Cody, one of more than 100 Black men the department systematically tortured over three decades.