Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (May 2018)

May’s words were: pearl, flower, clasp, pale, mountain, one, never, dog, around

Here’s what I read and listened to:


On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


Asleep! O Sleep A Little While, White Pearl!” by John Keats

Pale Grace and Ashes” by Robin Niendick

The Clasp” by Margaret Cavendish, which the poet wrote, in the 17th century, about my life (“For I did walk, and think, and break my brains.”)


Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ Is a Masterpiece of Racial Metaphor” by Mimi Wong at Electric Literature

One-third of American households have struggled to afford either food, shelter or medical care” on MarketWatch. Survey results add yet more evidence of a grim new reality.

Teenage Vandals Were Sentenced to Read Books. Here’s What One Learned.” – article in the New York Times, about a local museum-and-book-related case in Loudoun County, VA.

Millennials born in 1980s may never recover from the Great Recession” by Tami Luhby on CNN’s website. Ugh. I was born in the 1980s and was hoping to recover maybe in time to retire someday?

Dog Always Brings A Leaf To ‘Buy’ Himself Treats At The Store” – this story from The Dodo is adorable.

No one is an ‘animal’ “ by E.J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post, arguing that it is never appropriate for the president to use dehumanizing language.

We read every one of the 3,517 Facebook ads bought by Russians. Here’s what we found” is a chilling USA Today article.

One French Museum Just Discovered Half Its Paintings Are Fake” in Fortune discusses an unhappy discovery at the Terrus Museum.

Museum Discovers One Of The Largest Eggs Ever Laid Mislabelled As A Model” at regarding the Buffalo Museum of Science is perhaps the flip side of the same coin as the previous article.


Around the world in 15 minutes” – a 1992 broadcast from the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Books that I read start-to-finish in the past, for which I listened to parts of the audio versions in May 2018 (and slept through other parts):

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – plus I watched the movie in May

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard


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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (April 2018)

In April, I received doctor’s orders to listen to podcasts, so this list includes pieces that I read (with my eyes) as well as items I listened to (with my ears).

The key words for April were: clear, rain, lily, basket, out, gather, valley, all, cross


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Young Adult Novels:

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah


Rain in Summer” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the Valley of Cautertz” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘Yes, I loved those nocturnal gatherings – ‘” by Anna Akhmatova

Flower-gathering” by Robert Frost


Check Out the World’s Largest Archive Digitally Preserving At-Risk Heritage Sites” in the Smithsonian Magazine details this digitization project, which features 27 heritage sites so far, including three I have visited (the Lincoln Memorial, Taos Pueblo, and Teotihuacán).

The new Bible museum tells a clear, powerful story. And it could change the museum business.” A review of DC’s new Museum of the Bible in the Washington Post discusses how the museum’s underlying assumption of the Bible being absolute truth would be received differently by believers as opposed to atheists, agnostics, and adherents to other world religions. I am also curious about how the messaging would be interpreted by members of religions whose holy books have some overlap with the Bible, as well as Christians who believe in the Bible as metaphor but not literal history.

We do not all ‘have as many hours as Beyoncé’” by Bobbi Dempsey in Quartz: “You never know what’s going on in people’s lives—and if you come at them with a shaming attitude, you likely won’t ever find out, because nobody is going to open up to someone who treats them in that way.”

Unsellable 196-Foot Picnic Basket Marked Down to $5 Million” on Gizmodo gets a handle on the woes of Longaberger’s giant basket-shaped building as of September 2016. (The building eventually sold in late 2017.)

Not everyone feels welcome camping out in ‘third spaces’ like Starbucks” is an NPR article that I found on The headline should not be surprising to anyone who’s been following Starbucks in the news of late.

Podcasts/audio articles/etc.:

You Cannot Go Out” on UU World

We Have All Been Charged” on UU World

The Audio Book Club Squints at All the Light We Cannot Seefrom the Slate Audio Book Club

Museums at a Crossroads with Rainey Tisdale” at Museum Archipelago (okay, maybe it’s a stretch to count this as having two different words from the challenge)

The Red Cross Task Force” – a 1964 broadcast from the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross

Basket of Deportables” on This American Life; the episode starts out as a tearjerker, then segues into how haphazardly, and with how little coordination with experts and government agencies, the travel pan was put into effect in January 2017.

Scientists Seek To Save Endangered Western Lily” – a short recording from WBUR in Oregon

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (March 2018)

Here are the March keywords in the Monthly Key Word Challenge: green, luck, great, shout, hope, wrong, rope, carry, into

I should preface my March reading update with noting two things related to my reading that happened during the month. First, I experienced the limitations of the monthly keyword reading challenge not only in terms of the selection (the title must contain one of nine specified words) but also in terms of the timeframe. March ended with a couple of books only partly finished, and according to the rules, I can’t finish them in April since I now have a new set of nine words. I ended up finishing only one actual book (and not a long one at that), in addition to reading a slew of shorter pieces.

Second, and somewhat related, I considered the question of quantity, or volume, of my reading. I do not consider myself a fast reader, and the flip side of that coin is feeling that I’m never reading enough.

But was there any amount of news and written pieces that I could have read that would have changed my vote in November 2016? More to the point, is there any single thing out there I could have read that would have overcome the absolute deal-breaker of calling for a ban of all Muslims from the country? Or that would have in any way aligned my values with such gems as “I like people who weren’t captured” or “Grab ‘em by the pussy” or “Lock her up” or keeping the birther conspiracy theories alive?

Nonetheless, I thought I’d get out of my bubble a little bit by reading articles (with the monthly keywords in the headlines!) from right-of-center news sources with some degree of being considered reputable (no Breitbart or Infowars, obviously).

I read Rod Drehrer’s “Finding Hope In Europe’s Most Atheist Country” in The American Conservative which combined food and travel descriptions which some dog-whistle language. What most struck me was the use of the word confusion (as in, the concerns about confusion in the church, confusion in society) where my best approximation would be the word complexity.

Additionally, I read “Citigroup Takes Gun Control Into its Own Hands” in the National Review by Jack Crowe. I am not a regular reader of this publication, but I can only imagine that it takes what is known as a pro-business stance, of which this bank’s exercise of autonomy and values must be a perfect example.

Listed below is everything else I read.


Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin

Short Stories:

“The Wrong Side of the Planet” by Joe Schembrie in the October 2005 issue of Analog

Rope” by Katherine Anne Porter in Women & Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women

“The Greenward Palindrome” by Barry Duncan in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012


“Striving for Greatness” by Andrew Rigefsky in the Spring 2009 issue of Wooden Teeth


“Dip Into Happiness” by Hana Zeric, from The Best Teen Writing of 2013

“Julien Green: The End of a World” by Francis-Noël Thomas in the July/August 2012 issue of Humanities

“Cross My Heart and Hope to Die” by Doug Muder in the Spring 2016 issue of UU World

“Committing to love and hope” by Michele David in the Summer 2016 issue of UU World

Hope for the heartbroken” by the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison in the Winter 2016 issue of UU World

“War Rugs: Woven Documents of Conflict and Hope” by William Charland in the November 2011 issue of Art Education

“Shades of Green: Growing Environmentalism through Art Education” by Hilary Inwood in the November 2010 issue of Art Education

“Potlucky” by Sam Sifton in The Best Food Writing 2010

The New Yorker’s ‘Cat Person’ Story Is Great. Too Bad the Internet Turned It Into a Piping-Hot Thinkpiece.” An article by Laura Miller in Slate, on Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person”.

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.” This Washington Post article from November just recently popped up in my Facebook feed. Spoiler alert: when people feel safe, they give more liberal responses; when they feel threatened, they give more conservative answers. I would be interested to see how these variables interact with demographic data, i.e. to what degree a respondent occupies privileged or marginalized positions in society.

Everything we think about the political correctness debate is wrong,” writes Matthew Yglesias in Vox, discussing how the data counter the notion of free speech being destroyed by political correctness run amok on college campuses.

Making America great again, one ruined family at a time.” A piece in the Boston Globe questioning both the “sense” and the “moral currency” in deporting a tax-paying, law-abiding (aside from one speeding ticket years ago) father who is in the pipeline to be approved for a green card.

New York Museum to Aid Green-card Holders in US Citizenship Quest.” On the subject of green cards, this initiative by the New-York Historical Society sounds so cool: “The program will include free workshops and classes, paired with displays and a scavenger hunt at the museum on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, all linked to questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test — the final hurdle to citizenship.”

Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong” by Gillian B. White in the Atlantic, reviewing the book The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin.

Shout Out: Warren Mueller, a Barrington Hills resident who volunteers at American Red Cross” –  It was a bit of a challenge to find the word “shout” in a title or headline, but I did find it in the context of “Shout Out” in this short Chicago Tribune interview.

At the Prado, Love That Now Dares to Shout Its Name” – And then I found this June 2017 article on an exhibit in Madrid displaying art relating to themes of diverse sexualities and gender identities. The show, according to the museum’s director, “should probably have been done 10 years ago, but it’s never too late.”

A Shade of Green: Ten Practical Steps for Museums” is a 2017 guest post by Joshua Lichty on the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice’s blog.

How Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook ‘likes’ into a lucrative political tool” by Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian, spelling out the creepy and dystopian turns our world has taken of late.

We’re Teaching Grit the Wrong Way” in the Chronicle of Higher Education posits that it is more effective to teach students to harness the power of positive and socially constructive emotions, rather than setting up a vicious cycle of trying to suppress (and thus exacerbating) negative ones.

Baltimore Cops Carried Toy Guns to Plant on People They Shot, Trial Reveals” packs a lot of damning information into a short article.

Roommates made their friend’s room into a poorly researched museum” – what a combination of inspiration and lamination!

Husband Saves Wife by Administering CPR as She Went Into Cardiac Arrest Weeks After Giving Birth” in People is a story with a happy ending.

In aftermath of marathon bombings, two men turn tragedy into triumph”. Amidst the many stories about recent tragedies, this article discusses the aftermath of an attack that happened nearly five years ago.

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Valentine’s Day at the Zoo

Last year, a family member adopted a young cat, and thus the most playful cat in the world became a part of my life. Last month, I searched pet supply stores for a Valentine’s Day-themed cat toy for him, surprised by how difficult it was to find anything. I could have bought something online, but I was worried it wouldn’t arrive on time. Finally, on a tip from a friend, I went to a small store that was selling little red hearts filled with catnip. I picked up two of the hearts, a couple other tiny toys, and a red food bowl.

After the gift was given to the kitty, he found the discarded gift tag I’d put on the wrapped present and played with that (in addition to playing with the toys themselves). Of course, he didn’t care whether his toys were Valentine’s Day-themed, being a cat. This particular cat doesn’t even care whether his toys are toys. The insistence on finding a seasonal gift was all my doing, to keep in the spirit of the holiday.

Similarly, the cats (and other animals) at zoos around the world need enrichment in their lives, but the fact that so many enrichment items took the form of red and pink hearts last month made no difference to the animals. The Valentine’s Day-themed objects are a hook to get humans engaged – and to give visitors a chance to learn about the ways that enrichment keeps the animals physically and mentally active throughout the year.

The Oregon Zoo and Banfield Pet Hospital put together this Cat Enrichment Guide showing examples of stimulation and novelty for zoo felines, and the corresponding version for the housecat. As cat owners know, pet cats like scratching posts, toys that dangle, and window perches that allow them to see outside. Big cats benefit from interesting smells and herbs, elevated perches, and live crickets. Cats of a variety of sizes enjoy boxes and catnip.

Among the recent enrichment given to cat species in zoos were heart-shaped blood popsicles for lions at Potter Park Zoo, a large heart cutout for the clouded leopard at the Nashville Zoo, and a pink and white decorated box for the snow leopard at the Philadelphia Zoo. Enrichment isn’t limited to cats, and a variety of critters took part in activities designed for their species.

I hope you had a happy and enriching Valentine’s Day!

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (February 2018)

February’s words were: pink, snow, heart, arrow, point, right, holiday, walk, and


Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (also The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam)


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Short stories:

Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry

Cupid’s Arrows” by Rudyard Kipling

Articles and essays:

UK museums’ right to charge image fees is called into question” in The Art Newspaper discusses the legal aspects of museums’ charging for images of works of art no longer protected by copyright.

Cop suspended amid rebel flag dispute at civil rights museum” about a recent incident at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Candy Heart messages written by a neural network” by Janelle Shane. I love this stuff, as long as it’s all fun and games.

The Only Good Thing About Winter Is This Story Written in Snow shares Shelley Jackson’s unique work with Electric Literature readers.

Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity.” Besides all the seedy details, my main takeaway from this New Yorker article was the ability of the press (albeit a tabloid, in this case) to suppress rather than report the news. The result is that Karen McDougal now has been silenced from talking about her own life.

From Bellingham To Tallahassee Students ‘Walk Out’ Demanding Gun Reform.” This NPR story highlights a teen from my congregation among the many around the country who marched.

The Slave-State Origins of Modern Gun Rights” is a 2015 Atlantic piece that remains relevant as ever.

“The Pink Sari” by Pooja Chandrashekar, from The Best Teen Writing of 2013.

Why Swedes Take At Least 5 Weeks Of Holidays” from Business Insider. “I’d be hard pressed to count the number of times American friends have expressed hesitation about using what few vacation days they’re allotted. Some of the common fears appear to be fear of seeming less loyal, falling behind career-wise or lowering the productivity of the company. Even with this corporate-centric outlook (which is a sad outlook to have on life), however, it turns out skimping on vacation is actually bad for productivity.”

Fake news sharing in US is a rightwing thing, says study.” This Guardian article discusses a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford.

Dow falls more than 1,000 in biggest daily point-drop ever” reported Sylvan Lane in The Hill in early February.

Yes, and… Comfort and Discomfort in Museum Guide Programs” by Karleen Gardner in Museum Education Roundtable discusses the question of how paid and volunteer museum guides can facilitate interactions on difficult topics while also making visitors feel comfortable in the museum.

Human rights exhibition is first of its kind” – this article discusses a new permanent exhibit at the Sydney Jewish Museum. The exhibit is the “first of its kind” in Australia.

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (January 2018)

As I posted at the end of 2017, this year I am trying out the Monthly Key Word Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block in which I try to read books with certain words in the title each month. Since I am not a fast enough reader to read a tome each month for each of the nine keywords, yet I feel compelled to include all nine words, I am also seeking out articles, short stories, essays, picture books, poems, etc.

When I told my family about the reading challenge, my brother claimed that he could come up with a better set of words for the 12 months, and then he and my parents each gave me their lists of one suggested word per month, so now it looks like I have a ready-made 2019 reading challenge as well.

January’s words were: white, ice, year, baby, hat, dance, top, road, if

I read…


On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A Dry White Season by André Brink


The Ice Wolf by Joanna Halpert Kraus, from Around the World in 21 Plays, edited by Lowell Swortzell

Short Stories:

The Dancer” by Bashir Sakhawarz

Articles, Essays, Speeches:

On the Road with a Feminist” – a review of the movie and book by a member of the Feministing community.

The Top Selfie-Worthy Museum Shows of 2017“by Ellen Gamerman in the Wall Street Journal. Written in January 2017 looking ahead at the year’s most Instagrammable blockbuster art exhibits, including Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn.

The Story Behind TIME’s President Trump ‘Year One’ Cover” by Sarah Begley in Time, writing about artist Edel Rodriguez and his orange-and-yellow Trump caricature that has graced a few Time magazine covers.

Artist creates ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ memes to stop people from whitewashing MLK” in Mic showcases the memes of graphic designer Daniel Rarela, who explains, “I wanted to shatter this false image of a Martin Luther King who everyone loved, never got arrested, was universally popular and made zero privileged people feel uncomfortable or angry enough to want to kill him.” His designs are inspired by Barbara Kruger, whose giant-text work you may have seen on the lower level of the Hirshhorn Museum.

I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” – I made sure to read one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches on Martin Luther King Day.

Thoughts of Home: Blueprint for a baby” is a short, moving essay by Anjali Enjeti published in Atlanta Magazine.

Colleagues rally behind ‘Teacher of the Year’ after she’s cuffed at school board meeting”. There have been a number of news reports Deyshia Hargrove; this particular article includes one of the month’s keywords in the headline and notes that Hargrove was previously named Teacher of the Year. The Louisiana teacher was arrested at a school board meeting after questioning the proposed $38,000 pay raise for the superintendent when the teachers have not had a pay increase in over a decade.

The Healing Power of Dance” from the NEA’s blog in 2011. In January, I wrote about examples of therapy through visual artmaking, with artworks displayed at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. In this post, Sherry Goodill discusses the impact of another form of therapy, this time through the medium of dance.

For a specific example of dance-related museum programming, “Haggerty Art Museum to showcase dance about disability stigma” highlights a 2016 event at a museum in Milwaukee.

Democratizing Branding with the Pussyhat (Our First Annual Brand of the Year)” by Debbie Millman bestows the honor of the School of Visual Arts Masters in Branding program’s Brand of the Year upon the humble pink pussyhat, which was conceived by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman and designed by Kat Coyle. (Is there any possible name more appropriate for the designer of the pussyhat than a homonym of “cat coil”?) Congratulations to the winners!

If the poor must work to earn every dollar, shouldn’t the rich?” – an opinion piece by Elizabeth Bruenig in the Washington Post.

I’m Sorry If You Misinterpreted My Erection as Anything Except Support For You as a Writer” by Lareign Ward, posted at Electric Literature.

The White House asked to borrow a van Gogh. The Guggenheim offered a gold toilet instead.” – some art news in the Washington Post.

Restoring Family Links More Than 70 Years After the Holocaust” discusses some very cool work by the Red Cross – museums helped too in their own way.

Tea if by sea, cha if by land: Why the world only has two words for tea” is an article in Quartz relevant to the interests of this tea drinker.

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Moment of Zen at Forest Glen

The Forest Glen Metro station is, as I recently wrote, about one mile from the new location of the National Museum of Health and Medicine. It is a very special Metro station because it’s so deep underground that it only has elevators and an emergency 20-story stairwell (no escalators), and also because I was born in a hospital nearby. Also located in the vicinity is one of the two new locations of the Meditation Museum, whose old location in downtown Silver Spring was one of my Weekly Museum Visits.

When I visited the Meditation Museum in Forest Glen in 2017, I ended up accidentally attending a workshop on “A New Attitude.” It was a Saturday, and I had learned via a flier the previous evening that maintenance people would be in my apartment during the day, so I was trying to stay out all day and fill the hours with museum visits. I intended simply to visit the museum, as I had not seen the new location yet.

Meditation Museum near the Forest Glen Metro

Meditation Museum near the Forest Glen Metro

Upon entering the space (which, like the Silver Spring location, is a cultivation of tranquility inside a rather nondescript building), I was informed that the program was just getting started and I could join. With time to spare, I made my way over and sat down in a chair and began to listen to a talk from Sister Gita.

At some point in the talk, there were the participatory exercises. We were orally given what was described as a “psychological and spiritual test” in which we had to close our eyes and imagine the scenario described to us, which involved traveling along a road and coming upon obstacles like a bear and a river. Sister Gita told us to silently imagine what we did as we encountered each element in the story.

She had everyone share each part of our imaginings: what did the road look like, what did we do when we got to the river. I answered each question by truthfully stating what I had thought of during each part of the exercise. After the others talked about plunging into the river and swimming or walking, or taking a detour around the river, my smart-aleck honest response was that I got the bear to give me a ride across the river on his back.

So maybe I was the only one there who stumbled upon the workshop by accident; maybe I was the only one primarily there because of the word “Museum” rather than “Meditation” in the name of the venue. I felt a bit awkward and out of place (especially when they made us dance!); in this modern museum run by the Brahma Kumaris, I felt the same way I’ve sometimes felt when touring very old houses of worship, wanting a museum experience rather than a religious experience. To what extent can religious sites offer a museum experience? To what extent could my museum experience interfere with another visitor’s religious experience?

From the old location of the Meditation Museum, near the Silver Spring Metro

From the old location of the Meditation Museum, near the Silver Spring Metro

While I ended up in a participatory workshop at the Meditation Museum’s Forest Glen location in 2017, I had the Silver Spring site almost to myself when I visited in 2010. I recognized in Forest Glen some of the objects I’d seen in Silver Spring, including a small exhibit illuminating the symbolism of light in a variety of world religions. Both locations include a small meditation room. There is another current location, near the Greensboro Metro station in Virginia, that I have not yet visited.

Forest Glen is on the Red Line.

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