Question: What’s your favorite project this fall?

It’s Labor Day weekend in the States and back to work in earnest for many families with children after the summer break in most parts of the world, now or in the next few weeks. Perhaps you’ve got a lot of things on your plate. But if you look at them, which one stands out most?

  • What do you hope to achieve?
  • Where do you expect the challenges to be?
  • How are you going to measure whether the project is a success?

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Question: What’s your summer picture?

The summer break is coming to an end for us. We’re packing up and going home after our very long holiday. This picture summarizes what was nicest about the summer for me. Have you got a summer picture to share?

RIMG0575

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Question: What’s your earliest memory?

Think back to the earliest thing you can remember: Where were you? What were your surroundings like? What do you remember most about the situation? Were you doing anything? Did you see, smell, taste, hear, feel anything? How did you feel about yourself and the world around you? Can you estimate approximately how old you were at the time? Come share your earliest memory with the other readers and me.

Note the difference between state and action verbs:

  • it looked/ seemed; I saw/ heard/ smelled/ felt: state verbs and verbs describing your perceptions are used in the past simple
  • I was looking at/ was listening to/ was trying out/ was holding/ was sitting; the sun was shining: action verbs can be used in the past progressive when you describe what you were doing/ what was going on in a given situation

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Question: What are you conservative about?

I did something for the very first time in my life this past week, and you’re going to laugh at me. “What,” you’ll say, “it was her first time?” You see, I may be relatively radical and I do love to experiment and try things out, but there are some things about modern life that just rub me the wrong way. And so I’m incredibly conservative in some ways.

I’d like to share my conservative side with you in this week’s podcast… and I hope you share yours with me and the other readers, too.

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Question: So what’s your island?

We’re heading over to Drummond Island to my family’s cabin place, but I’m going with very mixed feelings. First of all, my mother is too sick to travel there, and I got us both, Helmut and me, tickets primarily to see her. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see her now. Then there’s the minor issue of the weather, which has been dreadful. But a little more worrisome is that my brother Adam has opted to give the horrible old Toyota a new battery-driven life, to save us all money. When I saw it last year it was already decomposing. Ye gods! Wish us luck.

Drummond Island is as down-home and funky as it gets. It’s a place where the best bar serves beer in jam jars and where an older man once tried to chat me up by showing me his teeth and saying “they’re all mine”. It’s also a place where neighbors hang out together and where people you don’t remember will welcome you just because they know your last name. My father’s family started going there in the late 20s or early 30s, not sure which. Anyhow, in this world of transient relationships, it’s a small miracle, and I love that place. I only hope that Helmut survives the three weeks that we spend there. – I’ll be posting our adventures, naturally.

So: Do you have an island like that, be it an actual island or a down-home place you will always want to return to at some point, for some time? Leave a GPS point in the comments, and say a few words about the place, will you?

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Question: What’s your summer read?

americangods_massmarketpaperback_1185415388I’m strapped for time this week, with lots to do before we take off for Drummond Island. Three weeks with my husband! I can’t remember when we last had a break like that. I think it was ten years ago when we last went to the States together, just before we moved here to Munich.  Anyway, things are pretty busy, so let me cut to the chase: I’d like to know what you’re reading this summer.

The book I’ve started and that is calling out to me is Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”. I’m going tell you about it and read you a short passage from it in this week’s podcast.

American Gods is a combination of Americana, fantasy, and ancient and modern mythology. The central idea is that the gods exist because we believe in them, and they thrive in traditional society. But when immigrants to the United States brought their dwarves and elves and spirits and gods with them, their power was diminished as people stopped believing in them. They were replaced by the New Gods of America, media and technology, celebrity and drugs.

As the story begins, Shadow, who is as moody as his name, is just getting out of prison and looking forward to seeing his beloved wife again. But then he hears that she has died in a car accident, and his dreams are shattered. On the plane to her funeral he has a “dream”… (reading from pages 19 and 20)

This book hooks an adult reader the way books on, say, dragon slayers won’t, because the world of magic is so near, just around the corner, in the next stranger you meet. Thank you very much to Katja for lending it to me.

So what’s your summer read? What genre is it? What do you like about it? Who is the author? Have you read anything else by him or her? How did you find out about the book and the author? Where and when do you plan to read it?

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Question: What’s your New Frontier?

Today is the 40th anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon and I’m up there too today, somehow. Kennedy called space the New Frontier, and that was certainly what it felt like 40 years ago. I’m leaving out the Cold War context here to focus on social change for the moment. The Apollo missions showed us that the moon was a cold, dusty place and how beautiful and inviting Earth looked from outer space. I used to watch Star Trek, and the inside of Starship Enterprise looked cozier and cozier as the crew continued “To boldly go where no man has gone before” – a grammar structure, by the way, that drove grammarians nuts. This was the era of progressivism. No matter what your political leanings were, you believed that the world would become a better place if only people would buy into your mission. And you know, just look at the trailers to the two main Star Trek series and you’ll see what the many real frontiers in that era were.

The first trailer of 1966 is all about Captain Kirk and his two reports, but shows nothing of the men. All you see is empty space and a modern spaceship. When the series restarted everything was different. In the second trailer for the Next Generation series of 1987 with Captain Picard space is magical and beautiful, the man’s voiceover is emotional, and it’s clearly all about the people on board the ship, the men and the women, the ethnic mix, the mix of natives of the known world and assimilated aliens. The issues depicted over the years included war and peace, personal loyalty, getting over authoritarianism and dealing with leadership, class warfare and economics, racism and religion, sexism and human rights and feminism, and the role of technology, which was changing. Have a look:

1966:

1987:

The progressive age may be looking a little dated, but the whole concept of a trek and a mission is still very much alive.  So back to the occasion itself: Those people setting out on the Apollo mission to land a man on the moon didn’t know how they were going to do it, and they frankly didn’t have the big picture. But they did it. This is something that I find very heartening. I really think we are an ingenious race and will always figure out how to make things work. But we do need frontiers to aim for, and the means to do it, and sometimes a visionary to push us.

Do you have a personal frontier? What are you going for?

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