Name that emperor!

This Byzantine emperor during the Fourth Crusade was nicknamed for his unibrow or sullen countenance.

Who was Mourtzouphlos?

This 1953 gold record about a city name change brought a  Canadian quartet its first big success.

What is "Istanbul (not Constantinople)?"

His audiobook narration of The House at the Edge of Night received AudioFile Best of 2016 Fiction notice,
 but his readings of Beautiful Ruins, Last Painting of Sara De Vos, and two Andrew Gross historical thrillers are all outstanding.

Who is Edoard Ballerini?

Two subjects personally revealed as almost completely forgotten by Thomas Madden's history of the city at the center of the world.

What are history and geography?

This goofy puppet variety show helped my dad in the worst of his grief after Mom died in 2005.

What is "The Muppet Show?"

Pierce Brosnan wears a giant shrimp costume spoofing his James Bond movie roles but can't quite match an audiobook narrator for these qualities.

What are suave and debonair?

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


STEAM kit fever

If you have been living under a rock, which doesn't seem like such a bad choice some days, you might suppose STEAM kits are the carpet shampooers you used to rent at Hinky Dinky that left the rug all soggy. Spots would show back up day after next, more prominent, entrenched, and meaner than before.

My oldest called to ask the best way to deal with a spaghetti sauce stain on carpet. "Welcome to parenthood," I said. "Area rug," said my walking buddy.  Resolve not to be flip.

Apparently libraries need STEAM kits with an assembly of books, activities, DVDs, puzzles, games, and junior science equipment all on a basic science theme for patrons to check out. My views are somewhat tinged by many years of work with young children, and sleepless nights when one of the plastic chickens for the Fisher Price farm  flew the coop. None of that matters, and my current job is just to describe the contents of the kits by material types, subjects, sizes, media, vendor, price, and Dewey classification. And to pray that the pieces are all returned intact and on time!

My parents never did get the Nehi orange soda stain out of the ugly brown carpet, but they were STEAM parents. Howie and Fritz were engineers and children of the Thirties. They chose toys for us that were open-ended, extremely inexpensive, and encouraged creative use of materials. Dad would frequent the deep-discount table at the Toy Castle shop around the corner from his office, as a service to Santa.  Mom was all about open-ended creative constructions. They respected our solitary explorations, but were ready to share and support our curiosities and enthusiasms. They taught us creative reuse of materials, and solid construction techniques by example. Tonight I'm a bit teary and very grateful for my parents and their philosophy of child's play. They did not mistake entertainment for play.

Science: Prisms, rock collections, rock tumbler, gyroscopes, ant farm, butterfly nets, constellation projector, telescope, bug box, magnets, magnifying glass.
Technology: Dry cell battery, switch, and bulb, simple machines like pulleys, crystal radio, Mattel Vac-u-form with a Thingmaker converter, water rockets, hammers, screwdrivers, c-clamps, pliers, saw.
Engineering: Geodesic domes, Pinewood Derby race cars and track, Legos, basic wooden blocks, erector sets, straw connectors, tinker toys, a tree house.
Art: Graph paper, Prang watercolors, plenty of paper of all types and sizes, Eames House of Cards, original geometric Colorforms, fabric scraps, glow-in-the dark ink and paints, felt pens, mechanical pencils, kaleidoscopes, carbon paper, scissors that really cut.
Math: A five-dollar bill to purchase fireworks (nothing better for teaching mental math), Yahtzee, chalkboard, simple loom, another five-dollar bill to purchase four Christmas gifts, measuring cups and spoons, thermometers, tasks requiring folding.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Goodbye to a pineapple

Christmas 2017
The Pineapple is dead. Long live The Pineapple.

Today we salute a Pineapple plant of humble origin that aspired to total apartment domination. Banished to the balcony, it turned disgustingly gooey following prolonged freezing temps.

Will there be a BBC mini-series?

As recently as New Years Day The Pineapple ruled the balcony and commanded a view of the swimming pool, belying its status as an exile from the living room. When The Pineapple was welcomed inside for protection during a Halloween cold snap, offenses were noted. The plant tried taking over the whole living room and was revealed to host unwelcome insects.

Pride and the fall : a special report

In happier times The Pineapple had served in the capacity of Christmas tree in the apartment. Tensions began sometime after a Calloways garden store cashier hinted that the plant had never borne fruit due to under-fertilization on the part of the actual apartment tenant in late November of this year. The tenant flatly denied the accusation.

Halloween 2017
Cashier recants insinuation of negligence.

Christmas 2016
During it final year The Pineapple became increasingly unstable, and required stakes and bungee cords to remain upright even while continuing to grow. Media depicted The Pineapple through rose-colored glasses, but those close told of a prickly disposition.

World leaders remember The Pineapple

Early December 2016
Modeling career

In adolescence The Pineapple traveled to the office, flirted with daffodils, waved to fans from the apartment front door, and scandalously cohabitated with hen and chick. Spin changed this to a tale of sheltering underprivileged sedum.

Little Pineapple on the Windowsill
Beginnings in a coffee mug

Originally proud of its mission as a teaching example of kitchen scrap gardening, The Pineapple later strove to erase records of its humble beginnings and even botanical records of a decapitation-transplantation operation.

Summer 2015

Family ancestor

Tonight we celebrate the continuation of The Pineapple legacy. A new plant was found under the soggy, gooey leaves at the base of the legendary lion. This new plant sits tonight on the same window sill where its famous parent took root.

The Pineapple : The final podcast

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder