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Road trip coming up

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on Wednesday, 16 March 2011
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I'll be heading out next Monday, the 21st, for a 6-city tour (Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Mpls/St. Paul, and Detroit/Ann Arbor).  Schedule of events available on my website: http://www.loislowry.com/tour.php  Book tours are always exhausting. But to my pleasure I will see a number of friends this trip: Eric Rohmann (illustrator of "Bless This Mouse") in Chicago (he'll be at the bookstore with me); my daughter and several friends in SF; Sean Astin, who is making the movie of "Number the Stars," in LA; my friend Alan in Denver; my friend Margaret (to whom "Bless This Mouse" is dedicated), in St. Paul...so there will be some fun times.

Lamstein poster

In tiny print (lower right corner) on this poster it says "Phto by Nadine Lowry"...she took this when I was in Germany just before Christmas. And here is the beauitful granddaughter/photographer Nadine:

Nadine 3-11

This morning I spent some time sitting and observing a second grade classroom in a public school nearby, making notes about the things on the walls, observing the kids—a wonderfully diverse group, this being Cambridge, MA—watching the teacher teach math (I would FLUNK second grade math), all on behalf of the Gooney Bird books. And I watched the teacher, later, privately, hug a little girl who had been distessed at getting an answer wrong.  How sad that some schools don't allow teachers to touch students. That little girl so needed that hug.

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Letters! I get letters!

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on Wednesday, 09 March 2011
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Reading each day's email that arrives through my website is always interesting, sometimes heartening, occasionally (sorry) annoying, often surprising.

Here is an excerpt from one that came today:

Respected Mam,

I am a teacher and administrator in Dr. Tobgyel School, situated in Thimphu, Bhutan, in this country for our Class X board exams we teach one of your master creation novel THE GIVER, it is in our syllabus and I am so happy to inform you that the students not only enjoy the novel written by you but they cherish each and every moment of the novel class reading your novel. As a teacher I am so thankful to you for giving me an opportunity to teach your creation, it is an life time opportunity to teach a novel like this.

It is a reminder of the role that a book takes on long after it is out of the hands of the writer. Recently, in anticipation of moving, I have been sorting and packing, and in some cases donating, foreign editions of books, and so I have been looking at copies of The Giver in Estonian and Hungarian and Hebrew and a zillion other languages (I don't even know what language they would be reading in Bhutan; Chinese, perhaps?)  and thinking about all those young poeple out there, all of them pondering the same questions, worrying about the future they will all share.  

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MICE. Eeeek.

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on Sunday, 06 March 2011
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Scan 1

I will be leaving March 21st to visit Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Ann Arbor (schedule of events will appear when I have final details, on my blog  www.loislowry.com) in order to introduce poeple to what I think of as "the mouse book."  Since the main cast of characters appears on the cover, I'll introduce them, left to right:

Harvey, an adolescent,well-meaning but often obnoxious

Roderick, a somewhat bumbling but good-hearted companion (he would like to be more than that) to...

Hildegarde, the elected Mouse Mistress, leader of the community: lots to do, lots to worry about. And she must fend off:

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Son

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on Wednesday, 02 March 2011
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Tomorrow, March 3rd, would be my son Grey's birthday and it is hard to believe that he would be 52 if he had lived. Where does time go???!!  He was born in 1959, (I was about to turn 22) when my Naval officer husband was stationed in Key West, Florida. But...typical of a submarine officer...he was at sea when I went into labor. So I took the 12-month old first child to a neighbor and drove myself to the Naval hospital, stopping to pay my rent at the housing office en route. The baby was born a few hours later and two days after that I brought him home wearing nothing but a diaper and wrapped in a thin blanket. Let's hear it for Key West weather! The earlier child has been born in New London, Connecticut (another USN base) the previous winter and came home from the hospital through a snowstorm, bundled in blankets.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of them, taken at the time they turned two and one.

Alix:Grey 1960

By then we lived in South Carolina...again, a Naval assignment.

For the life of me I can't remember how I managed that incessant packing up and moving. (We moved again, to Massachusetts, when they were 3 and 2).

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Stars, movie and otherwise

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 24 February 2011
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Poster1

This handsome poster has been created for the not-yet-made film of NUMBER THE STARS. Producer/director Sean Astin is still in the process of raising the necssary financing but he has a fine screenplay which adheres very closely to the book, and plans (if $$$ is forthcoming) to film in Denmark next spring.

Sean told me this recently:  during leadership speeches that I give at universities...when the students ask what I'm doing next and I tell them we are adapting Number the Stars... without fail, a very specific audible gasp, filled with strong memories and a pulse of excitement, bursts forth... followed invariably by a round of applause...

I hope his production company can pull the necessary pieces together because he is very commited to the project and has worked terribly hard to bring it this far. As I know, though, from watching The Giver movie start and stop and start and stop for years now, these things are never certain.

In the meantime: I love the poster.

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and by the way, it is snowing again....

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on Sunday, 20 February 2011
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...but who's counting; right?

It is Monday morning, Presidents' Day, and I have just recently corrected the galleys of a new Gooney Bird bok, set in February, when GB herself points out that it is unfair for Abe and George to get all the credit—and the holiday—when there were OTHER presidents born in February. (She, of course, knows who they are)

That book, called GOONEY BIRD ON THE MAP, will be out in the fall.

As for me, even though it is snowing one more time, I am delighted to be up and sitting at my desk after three days with a nasty virus.

Day #1, Friday, I spent in bed wishing for a hasty and merciful death.

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February

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on Monday, 14 February 2011
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Recently I finished a new Gooney Bird book which takes place in February, just before the children go off on thier school vacation ("Gooney Bird on the Map"..the second-graders are studying geogaphy); it will be published next fall. So I have been thinking about February, and what a crummy month is usually is...weatherwise, at least.

But yesterday was my February child's (my oldest child)'s birthday...she is FIFTY THREE!  How did that happen?!...and I was remembering how excited I was (I was TWENTY!) to be driven to the hosptal in New London, Connecticut, that cold morning. It was a Thursday. She was born that evening, and in those days new moms stayed in the hospital for a few days...unlike now.  So there I was, thrilled to have my pink-cheeked, reddish-blond-haired baby girl (and I also had a good book, I remember: I was reading Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" (see, I was scholarly even when I was a college drop-out and a too-young mother); and that weekend a big snowstorm hit Connecticut. Much of the hospital staff couldn't get to work. So it was very bare-bones and quiet in the corridors. Quite a nice little vacation, actually, with a book, a baby, and food on a tray.

Here she is six week later:

Max baptism

wearing her grandmother's christening gown.

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Happy Easter!

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on Monday, 03 January 2011
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I am leaving tomorrow, with an adventurous woman friend, for first Santiago, Chile, and from there to Easter Island.  For some reason I have always been fascinated with Easter Island...or Rapa Nui, as it is called by Polynesians...but never thought I'd actually get there, since it is the most remote place on earth. That means, I guess, the farthest from any other land. But one day some months ago when I was talking about my fascination with it, my frined Kay said, "Hey, I'd do that!" And so we are.

Just for the record, here's where it is:

Images-4

...and of course everyone knows about the mysterious structures there, which date back (the earliest ones) to the 12th century:

Images-3

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Sky and Sea

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on Friday, 31 December 2010
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I was just reading the January/February issue of The Horn Book, and came across, in the list of Best Books of 2010 the title THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson.  I don't know the author and haven't read the book. But something about the title triggered a memory, one of those fleeting things that doesnt go away, but also doesn't step forward and identify itself.

The-sky-is-everywhere-jandy-nelson

I googled the book and read about it, and nothing was familiar (except that the author and I went to the same college, apparently...far apart in time, though)

Then I had a brief AHA! moment, tracked this one down, and found a very favorite book from my own childhood:

N317965

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Winter Wonderland

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on Sunday, 26 December 2010
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Headline copy

Here in Maine—and rumor has it, in Cambridge as well—the wind is howlng and the snow is flying. Reading in the paper about all the travelers stranded in airports in Europe and the USA, I think we were amazingly lucky to make our way out of Zurich on 12/22 and eventually home by a circuitous route. 

The blizzard began last night, as predicted. But Ben and Lori and the boys were able to be here for the day (Funny Rhys, who had a birthday in early December, said to me on arriving: "I believe when you last saw me, i was only nine") to exchange gifts, have lunch, (and champagne, to celebrate Christmas and aslo Lori's having been named a partner in her law firm), and to watch the Patriots trounce Buffalo (while the boys, 12 and 10, went down to the Magic Lantern movie theater on Main Street to see "Tron: Legacy")  All in all a small-town holiday. Anticpating the snowstorm, I had stocked up on food and flashlight batteries (haven't lost power, though; not yet at least); and Martin and his son Andrew, who is with us, schlepped firewood in from the barn so we were/are all set for the long haul.  Still hoping to get home tomorrow, though, if the weather lets up.

I finished Anita Shreve's new book, "Rescue," on my KIndle, and have started "The Hare with the Golden Eyes" by Edmund DeWaal

At the heart of Edmund de Waal's strange and graceful family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, is a one-of-a-kind inherited collection of ornamental Japanese carvings known as netsuke. The netsuke are tiny and tactile--they sit in the palm of your hand--and de Waal is drawn to them as "small, tough explosions of exactitude." He's also drawn to the story behind them, and for years he put aside his own work as a world-renowned potter and curator to uncover the rich and tragic family history of which the carvings are one of the few concrete legacies.

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

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on Friday, 24 December 2010
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It is Friday. Christmas Eve. On Tuesday we were in the Zurich Airport, which was thronged with stranded travelers unable to get to their destinations because of weather that caused cancelled fligths and airport closings all over Europe.  Tuesday night, when we should hve been home in Cambridge, we were in a Zurich Airport hotel, using toothbrushes provided by Swiss International Airlines. We had been told that they could get us to Boston on Christmas Eve, 3 days later. Sigh. New toothbrushes are great but 4-day-old underwear sucks, to put it bluntly.

But by Wednesday night, magically and fortuitously, Swiss International had gotten us to Chicago. Not where we had been heading, but still: USA.

And Thursday morning we woke up in Cambridge, MA, able to complete all our errands here and hit the road today for Maine.

No idea where our luggage is. But we are safe and sound and ready for Christmas. The dog is retrieved from his kennel, where luckily they don't charge double for overtime. The car is loaded wiht food and gifts. Step-grandson Bailey is here overnight en route from college in NY to his parents on Marthas Vineyard this morning. We're picking up stepson Andy soon, and then going to New Hampshire to exchange Christmas gifts with daughter Kristin.  Then to Maine, where December 26th Ben, Lori, and grandsons Grey and Rhys will join us and we'll watch the Pats game together.  Anyone who doesn't want to watch will have to sit outside in a snowbank.

Snow predicted, both Maine and Massachusetts, Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday we'll head back here and sometime during that week I think we'll have to go to Logan Airport and try to find a human to talk to about our lost luggage, since only a recording answers the phone. The recording (Swiss International Baggage) has a very nice voice, a wanting-to-be-helpful voice, asking me to leave my number and a short message. But I have left many short messages now, along wiht my number, and I think the person with the nice voice is probably sick of the whole luggage mess and has gone off to ski in the Alps.

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Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht

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on Sunday, 19 December 2010
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I am writing this from Germany, where I am visiting my granddaughter and her mom and stepdad, and where it has been snowing now for several days. We were delayed getting here from Zurich because of a snowstorm...and it hasn't stopped. Airports all over Europe are now closed though it appears that the snow will have ended by the time we leave here, flying out of Luxembourg, day after tomorrow.

Last night, despite the weather, we went to the town of Gorelstein, about 38 kilometers from here, for a chamber music concert in which Nadine's violin teacher was the lead violinist. There was something quite magical about being in a goregous old German church, listening to Bach, with snow falling outside. Driving home...with difficulty (twice we failed to make it up a snowy hill and had to take a different route)...on twisty narrow roads through woods and occasional villages, in the swirling snow, you could almost picture the brothers Grimm creating their tales. Wolves lurking in the snowy darkness didn't seem beyond the realm of possibility.

My granddaughter is a typical teenager who plays violin, and dances, and rides horseback and goes to parties and is working on getting a driver's license (much more difficult in this country!) and who is at this moment working on her calculus homework.  But she is also an imaginative and gifted photographer who recently got a fine camera for her 17th birthday and has been creating some dramatic photos of herself:

Nadine glamour

This morning I had her do some photos of me for book-promotion purposes but they are the standard author-trying-to-look-scholarly photos, no fishnet or eye makeup!

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Happy Holidays

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on Tuesday, 14 December 2010
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I finally finished the afghan I've been knitting for 2 months. it's wasn't hard, just large...and because it is large, I couldn't  take it on trips. Somtimes I knit on planes, but not this time.

Afghan 2

Day after tomorrow I head to Germany, flying to Luxembourg through Zurich...long trip, always, but a treat to see my granddaughter and her family there.  I'll be carrying a suitcase full of Christmas gifts.  No homemade afghans!  Too bulky!

I was impressed this weeknd by Gail Godwin's essay in the NY Times Book Review: "Working on the Ending"..  She is, it appears, just my age—73—and begins paragraphs in this essay with statements like, "Inevitable for the old writer is the slowdown of word retrieval.".....to which I can relate (and so can anyone who has heard me tell an anecdote dotted with pauses and: "What's the word I'm looking for?") ...but she follows it with the reassuring "...a consolation prize of word delay has been an increased intolerance for the threadbare phrase."  It's true. When you work more slowly, looking for words, you no longer toss off the easy overworn phrases.

She also says—and this made me chuckle—"Now I do a lot of lying around."  I can relate to that, too, and to her observation that the lying-around time is not simple sloth but is actually productive  (as is a long shower, incdentally) ...a period when the brain is actually at work, though the legs and hands and mouth may be taking some time off.

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Nyah Nyah

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on Monday, 06 December 2010
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This as the poem that was on the NPR "Writer's Almanac" this morning:

Sins of the Father

by W.D. Ehrhart

Today my child came home from school in tears.
A classmate taunted her about her clothes,
and the other kids joined in, enough of them
to make her feel as if the fault was hers,
as if she can't fit in no matter what.
A decent child, lovely, bright, considerate.
It breaks my heart. It makes me want someone
to pay. It makes me think—O Christ, it makes
me think of things I haven't thought about
in years. How we nicknamed Barbara Hoffman
"Barn," walked behind her through the halls and mooed
like cows. We kept this up for years, and not
for any reason I could tell you now
or even then except that it was fun.
Or seemed like fun. The nights that Barbara
must have cried herself to sleep, the days
she must have dreaded getting up for school.
Or Suzanne Heider. We called her "Spider."
And we were certain Gareth Schultz was queer
and let him know it. Now there's nothing I
can do but stand outside my daughter's door
listening to her cry herself to sleep.

 

It brings back a lot of memories of childhood cruelty: my own to other children, and that inflicted on me by others.  (I was a nice, good-hearted little girl. Why, then, did I write such a nasty note once to a 4th grade classmate named Ruthie? )

And is it just my imagination, or is it mostly girls who do this? Sure, boys go out and scuffle and punch each other. but it is little girls who are devious and often cruel. I wonder why.

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Gaudeamus Igitur

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on Friday, 18 June 2010
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I've just received photos from the Commencement ceremony at St, Mary's College in Sooth Bend, Indiana, where I was given an honorary degree last month.

LL-St Mary's

 It as an outdoor event on a beautiful day and I am glad to be reminded of it by the photos they sent.

I dropped out of my own graduate studies just short, actually, of getting my Master's. I had completed my course work and done the research for a master's thesis  on New England writer Sarah Orne Jewett but before the thesis itself had been written, my first book was published, and I found myself working on a second. Somehow that seemed to take over, and  I found myself less and less interested in my academic career.

Some years later, I got a phone message asking me to call the president of the university where I had done my graduate work (University of Southern Maine. The only thing I could think of (though it seemed odd that the president himself would call) was that they were calling  to tell me that the time limit on completing my MA was running out. So I prepared my lame apologies and excuses, and called back. And he was calling to tell me that they were giving me an honorary degree.

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To-do list

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on Thursday, 17 June 2010
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Every evening, before I go to bed, I make a little list of things to do the next day.  Here in Maine, where I am alone and using the solitary time to work, those things are almost entirely work-related. (Okay, occasionally a DUMP RUN notation)  Back home, in Cambridge, there will more often be notes like "Call Nancy about movie time" or "lunch with Susan" or "Dentist"

Today's list had only three things. One, I was to write an short article about Paul Harding, author of the book TINKERS, which recently won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It's a gorgeous book (with a gorgeous jacket; see below) and a well-deserved award.  (And darn; I just inserted the book jacket, which is predominantly (and beautifully) WHITE---and of course it is hard for it to show up against this white background. I'm going to outline it in black—

  And maybe you can get a tiny hint of its stark beauty:

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Hi Ho Hi Ho! it's off to work....

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on Monday, 14 June 2010
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Well.  Company has gone, weekend has ended, and now it is time to begin working. I have had a daunting project on hold since last summer and presumably the wait has been good for it---and me---because surely my subconscious has been at work trying to solve the problems I was encountering with it.

In my very first book, A Summer to Die, written way back in 1976 (published a year later), the protaganist's father, an English professor on sabbatical, was writing, and encountering difficulties with, a very academic book called "The Dialectic Synthesis of Irony." I can still remember dreaming up that pretentious, professorial, and unwieldy title. Late in the book, he emerges from the room where he's been working (on a typewriter---it was that long ago) and announces happily that he has solved the problem of the book's structure, and he has done so because his subconscious had been grappling with it and a solution had revealed itself.

I do believe that that happens. I can only hope it will happen to me with this manuscript.  Last summer I had approached it though two different characters, and ended up with two different (and lengthy) starts. Both characters are intriguing (to me, at least) and they are related, but my quandary in part was the question of which one to follow and focus on. I finally had decided that they could be different parts of the same (probably lengthy) book, but the prospect was intimidating and I set the whole thing aside for a while and concentrated on other, easier things.

Now, today, after some necessary errands to bank and post office, I am going to open up those two manuscripts and decide which to attend to first, and how (eventually) to weave them together.

Here's a picture I took last weekend when we were over on the coast.

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Rx Take two aspirin and call me in the morning

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on Thursday, 10 June 2010
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 Funny little email interchange with my brother, a doctor, yesterday. He sent me an excerpt from an article from  the New England Journal of Medicine---he so hates opacity and pedantry, and this (rightly) seemed an example of that to him:


Inflammation is risky. Leukocytes recruited to fight microbes cause collateral damage that is often more severe than that originally triggered by the pathogen. Moreover, inflammation takes place even in patients with sterile tissue injuries such as trauma and ischemia–reperfusion.

The immune system recognizes mitochondria released from dying tissues as the bacteria they (the mitochondria) once were, and it mobilizes its destructive potential to limit their proliferation and arrest a mistaken invasion. This tragic "misunderstanding" could have a role in several human diseases, leading to inflammation in conditions as clinically diverse as post-traumatic systemic inflammatory response syndrome, myocardial infarction, cerebral ischemia, and systemic and organ autoimmunity.

Mitochondria are membrane-bound organelles that produce energy in virtually all eukaryotic cells. They have evolved from an endosymbiont alpha-proteobacterium (a relative of brucella and rickettsia). Mitochondria have their own DNA, enriched in hypomethylated CpG-containing sequences, which is duplicated when mitochondria divide. The origin of the eukaryotic cell is still controversial, and transitional forms between prokaryotes and eukaryotes have not been persuasively documented.3  The amalgamation of two prokaryotes or the amalgamation of a prokaryote with an eukaryotic precursor cell are possible scenarios. Regardless, the merger would have occurred long before the existence of an immune system, which by definition is a feature that is unique to multicellular organisms.

Zhang et al. detected mitochondrial DNA in the blood of patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome after major trauma. Intravenous injection of mitochondrial proteins into mice resulted in activation of circulating neutrophils, with random extravasation in peripheral organs such as the liver and lung. Acute lung injury developed in these mice. Mitochondrial constituents also selectively activate an inflammasome, suggesting a possible link with other sterile inflammatory conditions such autoinflammatory diseases

Zhang et al. reason that, by virtue of their evolutionary origin, mitochondria might be recognized by pattern-recognition receptors and thus might initiate inflammation. This event seems unlikely to occur in healthy tissues, in which membrane-bound mitochondria are contained within cells

Mitochondrial structures released by injured cells possibly prompt inflammation during heart, kidney, or brain ischemia–reperfusion injuries, in which local neutrophil activation and further tissue damage occur when the blood flow is restored. Finally, mitochondria are probably released in patients with infectious disease — in whom substantial cell death takes place — possibly contributing to the molecular pathology of sepsis.

I gulped when I read it,  and then replied to him with this:

I feel I owe you an apology
For my molecular pathology.
I thought I might have hypochondria
Turned out it’s just my mitochondria!
I felt so ill, weak and sedated…
But my CPG was hypomethylated!
Wouldn’t a good strong antibiotic
Keep my cells eukaryotic?
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Garden in the Rain

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on Thursday, 03 June 2010
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T'was just a garden in the rain
Close to a little leafy lane
A touch of color 'neath skies of gray
The raindrops kissed the flowerbeds
The blossoms raised their thirsty heads
A perfumed thank you
They seemed to say

                                                                                                                                                                 

I wonder if anyone else in the English-speaking world remembers that old song from the 1950's. Pretty hokey lyrics. I only thought of it today because I am in Maine now—arrived yesterday—and after storms during the night, today it is misty and all the flowers are heavy with drops of water. But it is so beautiful.

Peonies:lupine

Iris

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Memorial Day weekend

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on Monday, 31 May 2010
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This is always a bittersweet time for me because it is the anniversary of my son Grey's death 15 years ago. Martin and I had just returned from a trip to Japan, were recovering from jet lag, when very  early---still dark---on that morning, we got the phone call from Germany  telling us of the F-15 crash that had taken his life. Within hours we were packing for Germany, getting emergency expedited passports for a daughter and grandson who had none, plane tickets (Northwest Airlines: Bereavement fare? No ma'am, never heard of such a thing. That'll be $4000)

It is all a bit of a blur. But the memory of him and his too-short life is not. 

This was taken about a year before he died.

Lois:Grey 1993

But at the same time, Martin and I are celebrating an anniversary---our 30th---and last night had dinner with the friends who introduced us to each other.

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