Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What are you reading?

I read all the time.It's what writers do.

So when I was asked recently about favorite authors, I was chagrined to completely blank out on names.

After a beat, I was able to recall several of my must-read contributors to The New Yorker: Atul Gawande, Malcolm Gladwell, Jonathan Franzen.

Even as I was explaining that I have no favorite genre or writer, that I read broadly and across cultures, I could not retrieve the author's name of the book I was currently reading.

Then the reason for my lapse hit me.

I have been reading on my Kindle.

If I had been reading a hardcover book, I would see the title and author's name on a boldly designed cover every time I passed it by.

My Kindle is like a TV. When it's off, the screen is blank.

Even when I turn it on, it opens to the page where I left off.

The title of the book appears at the top of the page -- that is, most of the title. With the popular Elizabeth Gilbert book, I just see Eat, Pray, Love: One Woma...

The author's name never appears, except on the Home screen.

So even though I am now deep into Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, I doubt I could instantly recall his name tomorrow.

I still love my Kindle for its convenience when traveling, the ability to download trial chapters before buying, ease of searching for and buying new books. But I also love physical books for a whole bunch of reasons (see a previous post, More books please).

I guess what I really love is the content, not the format, even if I have trouble remembering the author's name.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Modern family nests Philly style

It was one big happy family in spring 2012. Mom and dad. Offspring. Living large in Philadelphia.

Then dad dies in a truck accident, leaving single mom with three small mouths to feed.

Enter new suitor, who immediately begins to feed and raise the offspring as his own.

Fast forward to spring 2013. Mom and new dad have feathered their nest quite comfortably, and now three eggs have appeared and are expected to hatch in about a month.

It’s an unusual tale for Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) with all the pluck of a Philly style rise-to-the-challenge story.

What’s even more unusual is that the story is played out in real time, and watched by avid fans, via live streaming video from The Franklin Institute.  

Today's Inquirer reported the appearance of the third egg on Easter, while filling in the hawk family history over the past four springs. The blog Hawkwatch at the Franklin Institute posts regular updates and photos, with an archive dating back to the first appearance of the nest in 2009.  

I’ve never been much of a birder, but I look forward to checking in with the hawks every spring. It’s like watching Big Brother or other reality TV show, but without all the bombast. This is just day-to-day living in the heart of the city for a growing family, and I find it fascinating.

So I was thrilled recently to have a meeting at The Franklin Institute and find myself in the same room with the infamous nesting ledge. I did see Papa Hawk fly in to drop off some building supplies – twigs and leaves – but it was a little early for much else.

Now I can check in anytime during daylight hours to see domestic life in action. It’s not always exciting, and there’s a lot of sitting around waiting…and waiting...and waiting.

But that’s the reality of life.