Now working on our second 100 postings!

Give Blood, Save Life. Be Mad!

2015-07-15donationselfieThe very first time I donated blood (right after my 18th birthday), one of the other donors arrived wearing a sweatshirt with “Dracula” emblazoned on the front.  (I think it was the logo from the 1979 movie starring Frank Langella, but thirty years on, I can’t be certain.)  I shared my amusement and admiration with him, and he told me he always wore that particular shirt when he came to donate.

I’ve been a pretty regular blood donor for my entire adult life, and I have always wanted to have a special shirt to wear when I go in, like that young man from so long ago.  Now, at long last, I have one, and here it is. I’m off to the Red Cross Bloodmobile later this afternoon.

And if you don’t recognize the reference, Mad Max: Fury Road is still in theaters.  Get out and go see it.  Seriously.  Go now.

And then, if you are able, get yourself down to the blood bank.

Book Review: The Girls of Atomic City

bookreadSo I’ve actually started reading books again … and I thought it might be fun to share thoughts on what I’ve read, for anyone who might be reading this blog.  There will be a pretty wide variety of books reviewed here, from history to horror to graphic novels to maybe even the occasional cookbook.  Enjoy!

The Girls of Atomic CityI am very fond of history, particularly of the last 150 years or so.  In grade school, I was always fascinated by the stuff at the back of the history book which we almost never got to. (Maybe it was because that if we ever did, it was in June, when the school year was almost over. Or maybe not.)  In any case, when I happened to see Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City  in the supermarket, it was something that appealed to me at once.  I bought it and started reading almost immediately.

The book is about the development of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the “Atomic City” of the title; it was here that the uranium-235 for the first atom bombs was enriched to make it usable in the bomb, or “the Gadget,” as the author refers to it.  Throughout the story, the secrecy of the project is constantly emphasized, and the author uses the euphemisms and code words that were used at the time (offering a glossary at the front for reference).

The story focuses on a small number of women, whose jobs varied from chemist to secretary to statistician to janitor, weaving together their lives before, during and after the war years.  In a series of asides (marked not only as separate chapters but in a different typeface than the main narrative), aspects of the development of the atom bomb are discussed, focusing on several women whose contributions were often under-appreciated if not ignored in the day, and largely forgotten until now.

Kiernan writes in a very engaging, narrative style, relying on extensive interviews with her subjects to get into the heads of the women whose story she tells.  We get to learn on a very personal level how each of them thought and felt about the many challenges of life as part of the biggest secret project the world has ever seen — challenges as mundane as the ever-present mud of Oak Ridge, psychological as being asked to spy on fellow workers, social as the segregation and racism which was as present in Oak Ridge as anywhere else in the America of 1943.

My only complaint is that in a number of instances, Kiernan builds up a story, leaves the reader hanging at a climactic moment, and then resolves the story in an offhand and incomplete fashion several chapters on.  It’s a small disappointment in an otherwise excellent book.

If you have an interest in World War II, Americana, or women’s history, The Girls of Atomic City  is well worth your time.

My rating: turqpaw turqpaw turqpaw turqpaw   out of 5.

Buy The Girls of Atomic City from Powell’s Books by clicking this link!


Word of the Day

A little something to get me in the habit of posting more often.  Enjoy!

Today’s word for the day is


From Wikipedia:

[Cuauhtémoc] Blanco remains remembered for the Cuauhtemiña (also spelled Cuauhteminha), or Blanco Trick, which he performed notably at the 1998 World Cup. In the trick, when two or more opposition players are trying to take the ball from him, he traps the ball between his feet and jumps through the defenders- releasing the ball in the air and landing with it under control as he leaves the opposition players behind. The trick is easy to perform but is eye-catching and has been incorporated as a special skill into the FIFA series of football video games.

“The trick is easy to perform …”  Yeah, maybe if you’re Cuauhtemoc Blanco it is.  :-)

First World Trade Center Bombing — an “It Was 20 Years Ago Today” text post

[Posted at the “It Was 20 Years Ago Today” site (, the Starlight Teahouse message board (, and my Facebook page (]

Twenty years ago today, a truck bomb exploded in the underground garage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.  It destroyed several levels of the garage, killed six people, and injured over a thousand.  The bombing attack was planned and carried out by a group of conspirators led by Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti-born terrorist who trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

On that Friday morning (the bomb exploded at 12:17 pm local time, which was 9:17 am on the West Coast), I was at work.  I had just completed my probationary period as an employee of Intel, and was still settling into my new office on the fifth floor of the recently-completed Robert Noyce Building in Santa Clara, California, Intel’s headquarters.

I liked to listen to FM radio on headphones while I was working — the structure of the building was such that AM broadcasts were almost impossible to hear.  Portable CD players were still expensive and skipped if you so much as sneezed on them, the algorithms that would give rise to MP3 sound files were just being defined, and streaming audio on the Internet was, at best, somebody’s pipe dream.

Immediately after I learned of the bombing, I became painfully aware that I was working on the fifth floor of the five-story building, I became painfully aware that I was working on the fifth floor of the five-story building, by far the tallest I had ever worked in.  Having visited taller buildings only a few times, it was challenging — and quite frightening — to imagine what it must be like to be in one of the upper floors of the World Trade Center buildings.  I tried to get as much news as I could that day.

On the wider scale, I think it was that first World Trade Center bombing that really crystallized the image of the Middle Eastern terrorist as a figure to be feared more than any other in the culture of the United States.  It was not, of course, the first time a Middle Eastern terrorist had struck at Americans.  But it very quickly gained the title of worst terrorist incident on United States soil, and in so doing, gave the American people something to be afraid of, which we had largely lost in the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of global Communism.

Indeed, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up two years and two months after the World Trade Center bombing, everyone’s assumption was that a Middle Eastern terrorist had done it.  There are people who believe to this day that some Middle Eastern group — most often Iraqi — was responsible and that Timothy McVeigh was just a patsy.  The fact that McVeigh became known as a “domestic” or “homegrown” terrorist just underscores how pervasive the image of the Middle Eastern terrorist had become.  It is a strange distinction to draw; a distinction akin to “racism” and “reverse racism,” a distinction that should not need to be made.  But we make it anyway.

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