Category Archives: Musings & Ponderings

Work: Past, Present, Future


I’ve been looking a lot at the Job Voyager, a nifty interactive chart of the U.S. labor force from 1850 through 2000. On it, you can see the number of farmers and farm workers decreasing fairly steadily and the number of clerical workers rising. You can see the percentage of women in workforce increasing, with an impressive leap between 1950 and 1960. A fascinating fact: until 1950, one could claim “inmate” as an occupation on one’s census form. Likewise “retired.” Some professions, like blacksmith, have basically disappeared, while others, like electrician, have emerged. Aside from a spike in 1990, the percent of public officials has been fairly constant.

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Our Favorite Punctuation

Today is National Punctuation Day. Today, a day for celebrating the marks that make our writing readable, is a good day for grammar nerds. Because we are, in fact, grammar nerds, we bring you our two favorite punctuation marks.

The Semicolon
by Miriam

I love the semicolon.

It is a beautiful grammatical device, neatly linking two parts of one thought. Though a high school English teacher once accused me of using more semicolons in a single paper than he had used in his entire life, I am not a semicolon addict; I have never once given in to the urge to use a semicolon twice in a single sentence. This forbearance has not always come easily; it would be so easy to give in to the semicolon’s flow, its gentle leadership from one clause to another. The semicolon is a good dancer, leading its partner through the steps of an at times complicated dance. It is an energetic schoolchild, at the front of the line for follow the leader. It is a scout, not selling Thin Mints but looking ahead to warn us that the path does not end as soon as we think; rather, the path continues on.

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My lunch, myself?

Earlier this week we posted our lunch poll because, well, at LEE & LOW we like food a lot. It Dedication spotplays a central part in many of our books, and here’s why. Think about the phrase, “You are what you eat.” That goes beyond guiltily scarfing down a bar of chocolate. What we choose to eat on a regular basis says a lot about the culture(s) we belong to. Vegetables or meat? Spicy or bland? What you like to eat is more than just biology; it’s the way you were raised, how your grandmother’s kitchen smelled, the kind of supermarket your parents shopped in.

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Is the term Indian Summer racist?

It’s been an odd summer, weather-wise: roasting in April, cool in June and July, and just a few blazing weeks in August before the current chill September. So yesterday I mused, are we going to get an Indian summer?

And then I stopped thinking about the weather itself and started thinking about the term “Indian summer.” I had no idea where the term came from. The surface meaning—an unusually warm period between the leaves changing and the first snow—is harmless, but I had a sneaking suspicion that the origin of the term was racist.

Wikipedia gives three theories of the term’s etymology:

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What Is “Normal” Reading?

I was recently skimming the New York Times, as I am wont to do, and stumbled across this post: “What Is ‘Normal’ Eating?” The poster rightly points out that eating normal means different things to different people. Whenever our office goes out for a company lunch, a certain subset of the office gets large portions of red meat with a starchy accompaniment; others of us order whatever has no meat but lots of cheese; others go in for the simple, healthy options. Each of us is getting a dressed-up version of our normal.

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When good books go bad

A few nights ago I was having dinner with a friend who doesn’t work in publishing, and I was talking about how I think librarians are really great and I’m always impressed by the thoughtful ways in which they grapple with some truly tough issues.

“Er…like what?” he asked.

So I gave him this example from the NY Times about the Brooklyn Public Library’s recent decision to basically quarantine Tintin au Congo, a 70-year-old picture book with some pretty racist cartoons:

Tintin teaches the natives about the Belgian colonizers
Tintin teaches the "natives" about the Belgian colonizers

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Whose class are you in?

It’s Back to School week on the blog and we’re talking about W. Nikola-Lisa’s My Teacher Can Teach…Anyone!, which is giving me all sorts of flashbacks to that last day of school when you got your report card and on the bottom, all hidden away by the signature lines and stuff, were a few words that would pretty much define your quality of life for the next year: the name of your next teacher.

My Teacher Can Teach...Anyone!

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New Beginnings with Augusta Savage

We’re starting up a new feature on the blog: A Book a Day. The third week of every month, we’ll pick a theme, and each day (Monday-Friday) one of us will talk about one of our books that fits into the theme.

So, to inaugurate the feature, I bring you the first book of our Back to School theme: In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage.

It seems fitting that we should start a brand-new feature on a brand-new blog by talking about the beginning of the school year. Each new year, new school, new class is a new beginning, building on where you’ve been but taking you someplace different. Take, for instance, Augusta Savage. Ceramics and sculpture were always a part of her life; from a very young age, she made little clay figures out of the clay she found in her back yard. Her father didn’t approve and money was tight, so she practiced her art quietly as she grew up, got married, had a daughter, and was widowed. It wasn’t until she was twenty-seven that she went to art school and became a professional artist.

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