Category Archives: Books and Reading

“To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope.”

The Atlantic: The Education of Bill Oliver. “How a letter to Barack Obama tells the story of two strangers who became family, and one lifelong Republican’s journey to a new kind of patriotism.” By Jeanne Marie Laskas.

“Word came that President Barack Obama wanted to see some of the mail just the day after he took office. Mike Kelleher was the director of the Office of Presidential Correspondence (OPC). He got the call from the Oval saying the president wanted to see five letters. Then they called back with a correction. The president wanted to see 15 letters. They called back one more time. He wanted to see 10 that day, and every day.

“It was a small gesture, I thought, at least to resist the bubble,” Obama later told me. “It was a way for me to, every day, remember that what I was doing was not about me. It wasn’t about the Washington calculus. It wasn’t about the political scoreboard. It was about the people who were out there living their lives, who were either looking for some help or angry about how I was screwing something up.”

And why should the president be the only one reading 10 letters a day? What about everyone else in the West Wing? Surely Obama’s advisers and senior staff could benefit from seeing this material.
[…]
Fiona Reeves, an OPC staffer who soon became the office’s director, developed a distribution list, kept adding to it. Letters to the president, dozens of them, just popping into people’s inboxes. Why not? And not just the 10LADs—the president’s 10 letters a day—but also others from the sample piles. “We send out batches of letters we think are striking,” she said. At first she worried about being an annoyance, but then she got bold. “I hope people read them; that’s why I spam them. But I mean, they don’t have to read them.”

They did. Soon people started asking why they weren’t on the distribution list. The people in OPC came to know which people in the West Wing were particularly tuned in to the letters. The OPC staff came to regard these people as special agents, ambassadors, and they had a name for them: Friends of the Mail.”

Candid insights on the often excruciating process of moving through and with loss

New York Times: You May Want to Marry My Husband. By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, March 3, 2017.

“I have been trying to write this for a while, but the morphine and lack of juicy cheeseburgers (what has it been now, five weeks without real food?) have drained my energy and interfered with whatever prose prowess remains. Additionally, the intermittent micronaps that keep whisking me away midsentence are clearly not propelling my work forward as quickly as I would like. But they are, admittedly, a bit of trippy fun.

Still, I have to stick with it, because I’m facing a deadline, in this case, a pressing one. I need to say this (and say it right) while I have a) your attention, and b) a pulse.

I have been married to the most extraordinary man for 26 years. I was planning on at least another 26 together.”

New York Times: Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Children’s Author and Filmmaker, Dies at 51. March 13, 2017.

New York Times: My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me. By Jason B. Rosenthal, June 15, 2018.

I am that guy.

A little over a year ago, my wife, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, published a Modern Love essay called “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” At 51, Amy was dying from ovarian cancer. She wrote her essay in the form of a personal ad. It was more like a love letter to me.

Those words would be the final ones Amy published. She died 10 days later.

Amy couldn’t have known that her essay would afford me an opportunity to fill this same column with words of my own for Father’s Day, telling you what has happened since. I don’t pretend to have Amy’s extraordinary gift with words and wordplay, but here goes.

Ted.com: The Journey through Loss and Grief, by Jason B. Rosenthal.

Links via MetaFilter.

“Are you sure there isn’t something else we could calculate?”

XKCD What if: Earth-Moon Fire Pole. “My son (5y) asked me today: If there were a kind of a fireman’s pole from the Moon down to the Earth, how long would it take to slide all the way from the Moon to the Earth? – Ramon Schönborn, Germany”

I loved this and am tempted to use it in one of my next physics lessons…

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“Weet U waarom de Duitse Weermachtsmeisjes in Nederland zijn?”

Deutsche Welle: Unbekannte Passagen in Anne Franks Tagebuch entdeckt. “Vor Jahrzehnten hat das jüdische Mädchen zwei Seiten ihres Tagebuchs dicht verklebt: Darauf hatte Anne Frank anzügliche Witze und ihre Gedanken über Sexualität notiert. Jetzt konnten Experten die Zeilen entziffern.”

“Am 28. September 1942 schrieb Anne Frank in ihr rotkariertes Tagebuch: “Auf Seite 78 habe ich geschmiert.” Daher nutze sie den Platz jetzt für “derbe Witze”. Ein Beispiel: “Wissen Sie, wozu die deutschen Wehrmachtsmädchen in den Niederlanden sind? Als Matratzen für die Soldaten.”

Waren diese Passagen dem jungen Mädchen peinlich? Immerhin hat sie Seite 78 und 79 des Tagesbuchs mit braunem Packpapier verklebt, um sie vor neugierigen Augen zu verbergen. Mit digitaler Fototechnik hat das Niederländische Institut für Kriegsdokumentation (NIOD) sie jetzt 70 Jahre nach Veröffentlichung des Tagebuchs lesbar gemacht. “Wer die entdeckten Passagen liest, kann ein Lächeln nicht unterdrücken”, sagte NIOD-Direktor Frank van Vree. “Die ‘schmutzigen’ Witze sind Klassiker unter den heranwachsenden Kindern.””

Business Insider: Researchers uncovered 2 pages of ‘dirty jokes’ in Anne Frank’s diary.

“Anne Frank wrote a number of dirty jokes about prostitution and told of her thoughts on sex in hidden pages of her diary, researchers have revealed.

The young Jewish teenager’s diary, written when she was in hiding from the Nazis, became world-famous when it was published after her death and at the end of the war.

Two hidden pages, reportedly covered with gummed brown paper to hide her risqué writing from her family, have now been read by researchers.

The entries, uncovered using new imaging techniques, were written on 28 September 1942, not long after the 13-year-old Anne went into hiding in Amsterdam.”

RTL Nieuws: De moppen van Anne Frank: complete tekst ‘nieuwe’ pagina’s dagboek.

“Twee afgeplakte bladzijden uit het dagboek van Anne Frank zijn ontcijferd door de Anne Frank Stichting. De pagina’s waren al langer bekend, maar tot nu toe was het niet mogelijk om de tekst op de afgeplakte bladzijden 78 en 79 te lezen.

Dankzij nieuwe digitale technieken is daar verandering in gekomen. De pagina’s bevatten drie schuine moppen – zulke anekdotes komen ook elders in het dagboek wel voor – én Annes kijk op seksuele voorlichting. Dit is de letterlijke tekst:”

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“As a queer black woman, I’m among the last people anyone expects to see on a through-hike. But nature is a place I’ve always belonged.”

Outside: Going it alone. By Rahawa Haile, April 11, 2017.

“What happens when an African American woman decides to solo-hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine during a summer of bitter political upheaval? Everything you can imagine, from scary moments of racism to new friendships to soaring epiphanies about the timeless value of America’s most storied trekking route.”

Buzzfeed: How Black Books Lit My Way Along The Appalachian Trail. By Rahawa Haile, February 2, 2017.

“I can confirm that one does not walk 2,000 miles across the face of this country as a black woman without building up an incredible sense of self.”

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