Monthly Archives: October 2011


“In 2010, for instance, the state spent $6 billion on fewer than 30,000 guards and other prison-system employees. A prison guard who started his career at the age of 45 could retire after five years with a pension that very nearly equaled his former salary. The head parole psychiatrist for the California prison system was the state’s highest-paid public employee; in 2010 he’d made $838,706. The same fiscal year that the state spent $6 billion on prisons, it had invested just $4.7 billion in its higher education–that is, 33 campuses with 670,000 students. Over the past 30 years the state’s share of the budget for the University of California has fallen from 30 percent to 11 percent, and it is about to fall a lot more. In 1980 a Cal student paid $776 a year in tuition; in 2011 he pays $13,218. Everywhere you turn, the long-term future of the state is being sacrificed.”

–Michael Lewis. “California and Bust.” Vanity Fair November 2011: 176-183, 222-227. Quote on page 222.


” . . . [Bob Loomis] told an amusing tale he’d heard about the indomitable romance novelist Jackie Collins, who said she became a writer because her husband gave her a typewriter. And then she added, ‘If he’d given me a violin, I’d be performing at Carnegie Hall!'”

–John Heilpern. “An Editor and a Gentleman.” Vanity Fair November 2011: 82.


“For someone as cautious, culturally limited, and socially corner-pocketed as I was (I could relate to the character in Barry Levinson’s Diner who muses, ‘You ever get the feeling there’s something going on we don’t know about?’), Mailer dynamited a way open, revealed a combat mode any writer could emulate if he could pry himself free of all those inhibitions handed down from loving parents and kind teachers to keep you in line.”

–James Wolcott. “Norman Mailer Sent Me.” Vanity Fair November 2011: 122-134. Quote on page 128.


“Despite the belief that most students attend college full time and on their parents’ dime, the study finds 45 percent of those at four-year colleges work more than 20 hours a week, as do 60 percent at community colleges. More than a quarter of community college students work more than 35 hours a week. More than half of those who leave school before getting a degree do so because of work responsibilities.”

–“Why Students Leave College.” AFT On Campus 31.1 (Sept/Oct 2011): 2


“After the importance of vitamins was discovered in 1912, small amounts of produce got the thumbs-up, but healthful meals revolved around milk. The nation’s top nutrition experts also told parents to choose whole milk over skim for kids and to make sure to butter their bread. A government-recommended dinner, other than the one at left [bread, milk, and plain cookies]: milk toast, stewed peaches, and a cupcake.”

–“Eat Your . . . Cookies?” Food Network Magazine. November 2011: 51-54. Quote on page 51.

Fall spiders

Every fall, large brown spiders appear and build big beautiful webs in my garden. Here’s one that built a web right outside my back door.

Brown spider and web

I’m fond of these spiders, even though they catch bees that I’m also fond of. (Later in the day, this spider was busily wrapping up three bees that had landed in her web.)

I think these spiders are Araneus diadematus (“Cross Orbweaver” or “Garden Spider”), but I’m not sure.


“The Keystone XL pipeline wraps up every kind of environmental devastation in one 1,700-mile-long disaster.”

–Bill McKibben. “The Pipeline Revolt.” Rolling Stone. Oct. 13, 2011: 39-42. Quote on page 40.


“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

–C.S. Lewis. “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. New York: Harcourt / Harvest, 1975. 22-34. Quote on page 25.


“As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.

This means that unlike self-esteem, the good feelings of self-compassion do not depend on being special and above average, or on meeting ideal goals. Instead, they come from caring about ourselves—fragile and imperfect yet magnificent as we are. Rather than pitting ourselves against other people in an endless comparison game, we embrace what we share with others and feel more connected and whole in the process. And the good feelings of self-compassion don’t go away when we mess up or things go wrong. In fact, self-compassion steps in precisely where self-esteem lets us down—whenever we fail or feel inadequate.”

–Kristin Neff.”Why Self-Compassion Trumps Self-Esteem.” Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. University of California, Berkeley. 27 May 2011. 14 October 2011.


“I know what I’m after in prose, now anyway, (meaning for the present) and hope to give you a couple of samples of it at the end of six months. If it is no f[…]ing good I’ll know it and praise by Steffens, Mrs. Butler, George Horace Lorimer, Paul Rosenfeld, Bill Bird, Warren G. Harding, H.L. Menken, Pussyfoot Johnson, Dave O’Neil, Eugene O’Neil, Florence O’Neil, Rose O’Neil, Mother MacCree, Rudyard Kipling, Clare Sheridan, Max Eastman, John Quinn, John Drew, John Wanamaker, Malcolm Cowley, or Leticia Parker will cut no bloody ice.”

–Ernest Hemingway, Letter to Ezra Pound (November 8, 1922), quoted on page 295 of A. Scott Berg. “The Hunt for Hemingway.” Vanity Fair October 2011: 282-295.