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To New Jersey’s GOP Representatives

10/06/2013

Liberty and Prosperity

Sick of the shutdown? Fed up with our government? Did you know that six New Jersey Representatives are supporting Speaker Boehner over the government shutdown. I’ve linked to their contact forms on their names. If you’re in their district, you can submit a form there. Or why not post something to them on Facebook? I’ve listed those links too.

I sent the below to all six of them via Facebook.

Republicans voted 42 times to defund the ACA and lost. You fought the ACA all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. Now you’ve shut down the government.

This is not democracy. That is not how our government is supposed to work.

As a resident of New Jersey, I am ashamed that any of our representatives would stand behind this. You’ve put people out of work, affected New Jersey’s economy, shut down social services for millions of women and children, and made the country a laughingstock in the whole world’s eyes.

Please reconsider your stance in this debacle, and urge Speaker Boehner to bring a clean bill up for a vote.

Won’t you do the same and speak your mind to them?

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Elizabeth Warren is My Hero

10/02/2013

“The ACA [Affordable Care Act] is the law of the land. Millions of people are counting on it. People who need healthcare coverage.People who need insurance policies that don’t disappear just when they are at their sickest. Like my friend, Guy.

(via Upworthy)

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My Friend, Guy

09/24/2013

I “met” Guy (or Protoguy)  a couple of years ago, when Dustin Rowles, editor of Pajiba, mentioned that there was a Pajiban struggling with cancer in need of some help. I headed over to Guy’s blog, Work in Progress, and found out that he was a pretty awesome artist in Chandler, Arizona who was getting screwed by Arizona’s laws about healthcare. Take a look at some of his work:

Sturm

Sturm

River

River

Srsly

Srsly

Running Through The Fields

Running Through The Fields

Last Greenseer

Last Greenseer from Game of Thrones

But Guy has cancer, and in 2011, his “I am the 99%” photo about his healthcare situation went a little viral on Facebook right in the middle of the Obamacare debates and was spotted on multiple Facebook pages about the debate.

What percentage is he now, when two years later, after being in remission, Guy was diagnosed with Autoimmune Dermatomyositis, a muscle disorder related to his cancer. The symptoms include muscle wasting, muscle and joint pain and, if untreated will lead to life in a wheelchair or bed. A week later, he was laid off. Two days later, he found out that Arizona has zero Medicaid coverage for adults without dependents. Even though Guy is a father, his daughter doesn’t count as a dependent in this case.

So here’s a talented person, who WAS working, but due to no fault of his own is now stuck. If you think this can’t happen to you, think again. You could get cancer. You could get laid off. And it doesn’t even have to be YOU. It could be your father, mother, sister, best friend, your son.

What can you do?  You can:

Or make your voice heard about healthcare in the United States.

I hope this never happens to you.

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The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier: CBR5 #1

02/06/2013

runawy15705011As the coordinator of Cannonball Read 5, I just don’t have a lot of time to sit down and blog my reviews these days. I might post something on Goodreads, or exclaim! on! Facebook! that THIS BOOK is just the best. But it’s really got to be special to make me write a post.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier is just that.

I’ve been a fan of Chevalier since I read Girl with a Pearl Earring, but some of her later works I found uneven or couldn’t finish. The Chevalier name was enough, however, to make me pick this book up and skim the premise at the library. The fact that it was from the library made me take it home. (That’s one library asset that I think is so unappreciated – the ability to check something out with no financial risk, the “What the heck” factor, if you will.)

The Last Runaway is the story of Honor Bright, an English Quaker who accompanies her sister Grace to  Ohio in 1850. Honor had been jilted and impulsively fled across the Atlantic with her sister who was engaged to marry a former neighbor, now an American. Honor’s circumstances turn tragic in the first few pages, and she’s forced to rely on people who are essentially strangers in an unfamiliar land.

Honor is also a skilled seamstress and quilter, and the details about her sewing rang true and added significantly to the story. Chevalier uses Honor’s thoughts on  the difference between English and Ohioan customs in clothing, sewing, hats, quilting as a segue into comparisons of the  English Friend versus American Friend communities and an examination of the strange American people.

But it’s not just the details of fabric and needles, the book is also set near Oberlin, Ohio, a major conduit of the Underground Railroad. The Fugitive Slave Act had just been passed, and a main character in The Last Runaway, a slave hunter, uses his new rights with impunity. The Quaker role in the abolition movement is not as clear cut as one would suspect, though, and it causes strife between Honor and her family as they struggle with the growing pains of a newly extended family.

The author skillfully weaves the various storylines together through Honor’s eyes, interspersing her story with the letters she has written to and received from England. Minor characters are also vividly drawn, and offset Honor’s quiet ways.  Chevalier deftly concludes the narrative, tying up the ends with “a double back stitch instead of making a knot in the thread.” Honor could only approve.

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DDP Yoga: Beginning

11/12/2012

I saw the video of Arthur Boorman (on reddit, I think…), and it’s pretty damned impressive.

Arthur’s transformation was because of DDP Yoga. I checked into it to see how much it was. Ouch $70.00? That seemed a bit much, so I held off.

Since the end of the summer I have been riding my bicycle in the mornings for aerobic exercise. It’s fairly clear that  the denatured alcohol shots I had for the Morton’s Neuroma in my foot didn’t really work, I know that running in a 5k is not going to happen any time soon. Foot surgery is probably in my future, but that will have to happen in the new year for various reasons.

With Hurricane Sandy having made a mess of the roads in the neighborhoods nearby, riding my bicycle before the sun comes up is probably not the best option for me. I was always a little nervous riding in the dark, and roads strewn with branches and other debris seem even more dangerous.

I looked again at DDPYoga and compared it to buying a stationary bike. Certainly it’s cheaper to get the yoga DVDs, and they are portable.  So I bit the bullet on payday last week.

As soon as my purchase went through, I received login information for Team DDP Yoga. Their section for beginners has a lot of information so you can get started even before the DVDs arrive. Very cool – and certainly motivating. There’s a welcome video from DDP thanking me for purchasing the DVDs (!), access to the program guide, and directions on how to start monitoring your progress (via photos and measurements). I’m reading through that now.

My overall impression so far is favorable. Stay tuned.

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Mswas’ CBR-IV Review #3 – The Boys Of Summer by Ciarán West

08/11/2012

The Boys of Summer by Ciarán West

I know Ciarán West through a friend of an online friend. That is to say, not at all, really.

When I saw that he had written a book, I bought it – to help a budding writer – but I didn’t hold out much hope.  As someone who’s known to friends and family as a big reader, and hobby-ish writer, I’ve been given  writing of a LOT of different qualities over the years. Most are people’s first stabs at writing anything at all, and most, honestly, are not very good. Even as the moderator of Cannonball Read IV, authors who’ve approached us with offers of their self-published novels have had skills that, shall we say, vary greatly.

But then, I read the book.

Wow.

West has created such a real world in his novel. Told from the viewpoint of Richie, The Boys Of Summer is the story of one summer week in 1989 Ireland.

It’d been boiling for weeks. Mam said last time we’d a summer like this was in 1977, when she was pregnant with me. I used to wonder what she’s looked like; twelve years younger, with a big belly on her. I seen pictures of her from before that, when she was young; people used to say she was beautiful. She just looked like Mam to me.

We view the events of that week through Richie’s 11-year-old eyes as he deals with the dynamics in the neighborhood, his home, his burgeoning love life, his parents, his friends.

Dermot, Shane, Joe, Dara, Seán, and Richie  hang around together that boring summer, and they pounce on the news that a violent crime against a younger child had been committed in the Quarry. Based on some personal information from one of their own, they decide who they think the culprit is and decide to to investigate.

But this is no Scooby Doo mystery. This is a real story with hard truths that takes a turn into the sinister, and I raced through it all along with the protagonist, Richie. Richie’s interactions with each of his friends, his mother, his father, Marian – the new girl next door, and others in the neighborhood.

Richie is like  little Jack in  Emma Donaghue’s Room. We read the words of his naive view of the world, but we know they are not completely accurate.   In seeing Jack or Richie’s skewed perspectives,  the reader sees the real truth of the matter. Jack, of course, had a completely distorted take on reality, but Richie’s viewpoint rang in that true/false way too at times.

..Mam would get cross if you took too long. ‘It’s just common sense,’ she’d say. She said that about a lot of things I was no good at.

Though the kids’ slang was not in my wheelhouse, I found myself sighing with recognition and approval many times at West’s prose. Richie’s comment over whether to tell Shane about his interactions with Marian.

I felt like telling him straight out what me and her had done. I didn’t though, cos you’re not supposed to tell. I wasn’t a gentleman, but I knew that. 

I also loved his interactions with his Mam.

‘You know I love the bones of you, don’t you?’ She turned off the gas under the kettle, cos it had started whistling.

‘Yeh-huh,’ I could feel a blush coming all over me, and I didn’t want her to see it. I loved her too, but you couldn’t really say it.

And the moment, the moment where the novel turns on a dime, West offers us a fervent hope that can only be dashed. We ride it out to the end, as he ends the novel with a quieter hope, a true hope for the future, for Richie.

I highly recommend this novel, and I am really looking forward to more from Ciarán West.

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Mswas’ CBR-IV Review #2 – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

01/17/2012

Ready Player One cover.If you are in your forties and did anything with gaming or technology as a kid, go grab Ready Player One by Ernest Cline right now. This is a tremendous debut novel. I am not kidding. Go. Now. I don’t even have to check to see that Cline is pretty much exactly my age (four years younger, drat!). Apologies to both Susan and Libby to whom this book was dedicated, this book was written for mswas.

It’s  over thirty years in the future, and the founder of OASIS, a virtual reality, James Halliday , has died. His will enables a Wonka-esque contest of the digital kind. The tasks? Based in 1980′s computer, movie, and television trivia. Essentially the building blocks of my middle school years. Now I didn’t have as much of a gaming background a some, but I do have a passing knowledge of the essential trivia, and the movies and music I lived through. The mentions of War Games, Atari, Star Wars,  and much much more are more than token nods, they are integral parts of the story.

The fact that Wade and the other gunners are  obsessed with Halliday, and trying to find clues that he embedded in OASIS allows them to constantly assess and show off bits of trivia of the time. Some of the bigger tasks allowed Wade to participate in games or movies of the time; and it was a unique way to experience the movie. Take War Games, for example:

… a young boy walked into the arcade and came over to me.

“Hi David!” he said, his eyes on my game.

I recognized this kid from the movie. His name was Howie. In the film, Matthew Broderick’s character hands his Galaga game off to Howie when he rushes off to school.

“Hi David!” the boy repeated, in the exact same tone. As he spoke this time, his words also appeared as text, superimposed across the bottom of my disp-lay, like subtitles. Below this, flashing red, were the words FINAL DIALOGUE WARNING!

I began to understand. The simulation was warning me this was my final chance to deliver the next line of dialogue from the movie. If I didn’t say the line, I could guess what would probably happen.

Wade and his friends have an immense store of trivia about the time, and Cline works it all together brilliantly. The quest is intriguing and the trivia of the time was right up my alley, but Cline draws his characters vividly as well. He puts us clearly on Wade’s side, an underdog; and we root for him and the others as sympathetic characters. The scenes when they finally all meet each other in person were excellent, and Cline makes a strong point about the democracy of anonymity.

I don’t know how Cline can follow this up. To me it was just perfect. 5 stars for sure.

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