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February 15 Writer Birthdays

February 15 Writer Birthdays

  • 1564 - Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, mathematician, and science writer who played a major role in the Renaissance's scientific revolution; he has been called the "father of observational astronomy," the "father of modern physics," and the "father of science," and is known for confirming the phases of Venus, discovering the four largest satellites of Jupiter (the Galilean moons), and observing and analyzing sunspots; his insistence that the earth revolved around the sun was controversial in his day and, along with his views on science and the church, led to his conviction for heresy and his house arrest for the rest of his life. The Catholic Church pardoned him in 1992.

  • 1883 - Sax Rohmer, English novelist, best known for his Fu Manchu series.

  • 1896 - James Phinney Baxter III, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian.

  • 1898 - Masuji Ibuse, Japanese novelist and short-story writer.

  • 1909 - Miep Gies, (born Hermine Santruschitz), Austrian/Dutch activist who hid Anne Frank, Anne's family, and four other Jews from the Nazis in an annex above Anne's father's business premises during World War II; she later wrote a book, Anne Frank Remembered, but her biggest contribution to literature was her gathering of the pages of Anne's diary after the Nazis ransacked the hiding place and arrested the people hiding there, and saving the diary until after the war to give to Anne's father, the only survivor among the eight Jews who hid there; she died in 2010 at the age of 100.

  • 1928 - Norman Bridwell, American's children's book author and illustrator, known for the "Clifford The Big Red Dog" books.

  • 1937 - Gregory Mcdonald, American mystery writer, author of the Fletch books.

  • 1945 - Jack Dann, American science fiction and fantasy writer and anthologist.

  • 1945 - Douglas Hofstadter, Pulitzer Prize-winning American professor of cognitive science.

  • 1948 - Art Spiegelman, Swedish-born American cartoonist, best known for his graphic novel Maus.

  • 1954 - Matthew Abram "Matt" Groening,  American cartoonist, writer, producer, animator, and voice actor, best known as creator of the animated television series, The Simpsons.

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What Would Jane Read? Episode 32: LFL#2589

What Would Jane Read?
Episode 32

...in Which Action Figure Jane Austen Imagines Herself as a Detective and Learns of Modern Cookery and Scandalous Hikes

My family and I were in the Richmond area, where my son was to receive a 1st-Place Award for Music Composition from the Virginia state PTA. Despite the drizzly weather, we were in a celebratory mood. Not only had my son won 1st Place in the state, but just before we'd left my mom's place that morning (we'd stayed with her in Williamsburg the night before) we'd received word that the PTA's National awards list had been released. In addition to the state award he was about to receive, Jon Morgan had won at the National level as well! Because they were in a good mood, and because we were running a little early on our way to the state ceremony, my husband and son allowed me to indulge Action Figure Jane Austen's desire to visit a Little Free Library along the route.

The Little Free Library was in a residential neighborhood with lovely houses and large, wooded lots. Because of the rain, we had to jump over a puddle to reach the Little Free Library; Jane laughed at our dismay over the dampness. Being English, she can certainly tolerate a little rain. While the day was not fine enough for making use of the sturdy wooden bench beside the book box, Jane approved of its presence; she always did enjoy reading outside among the joys of nature.

Jane and I brought along a book to leave in the Little Free Library, a mystery novel that casts Jane Austen herself in the role of sleuth. The book is Jane & the Wandering Eye, being the Third Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron. Jane has never actually solved a murder mystery, but is amused at the thought of a novelist thinking she might. And she loves the fact that the book cover art shows Detective Jane wearing a pink and white dress remarkably like the one she wears as Action-Figure Jane.

While my family waited in the car, Jane and I explored Little Free Library #2589, which has  a sign beneath it that says the box was crafted by SFC Wood Works. It's rustic and sturdy, with the sides covered in decorative beadboard, and fits in well with its wooded setting.

Inside were two well-stocked shelves, with adult books above and books for children and teens below. She added the Jane Austen detective novel to the selections, which included work by bestselling authors including Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, and John Grisham.

Jane had trouble choosing just one book from this LFL. She was intrigued by a book in the juvenile section, Paula Deen's cookbook for children, My First Cookbook. The Austen family, while not wealthy, were members of the gentry and would have had a servant to do the cooking, so Jane herself did not have much experience in this area. Cookbooks were known in Jane's day, but the idea of a cookbook specifically aimed at children was a new one for Jane. Even more surprising: one of the student cooks shown on the cover is a boy! In addition to the novelty of the cookbook, Jane was interested in reading it because she has noticed that we eat very different meals in modern American than what she became accustomed to in Regency England, where plum pudding was popular and pizza unknown.

But in the end, Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild, was the book Jane chose. Jane's affinity for walking amidst nature is well known. And she once did write, “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” Still, she was shocked (and, she later admitted, a bit impressed) to learn that Strayed, an unmarried woman in her 20s, chose to walk a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Unchaperoned.

She can't wait to see how it turned out, though she wonders if Strayed was ever again accepted in polite company, after such a scandalous undertaking.

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#31 - Alexandria, VA - #8084
#30 - Orlando, FL - #38094
#29 - Anchorage, AK - #3010

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February 11 Writer Birthdays

February 11 Writer Birthdays

  • 1783 - Jarena Lee – first female African-American autobiographer and first female African-American ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

  • 1802 - Lydia Maria Child, political-rights activist for the cause of women, slaves, and American Indians; also a novelist and poet; she is best known for the poem used as the lyrics to the song, "Over the River and Through the Wood."

  • 1898 - Leo Szilard, Hungarian-born physicist, biologist, inventor, and professor who played key parts in the invention of the nuclear reactor, linear accelerator, and electron microscope, and was involved in the first cloning of a human cell.

  • 1900 - Hans-Georg Gadamer, German philosopher and writer.

  • 1909 - Joseph Leo Mankiewicz, American film director, screenwriter, and producer

  • 1916 - Florynce Kennedy, American attorney, civil-rights activist, feminist, and autobiographer.

  • 1917 - Sidney Sheldon, American writer who started out writing for TV, but then moved to his best-selling fiction work.

  • 1931 - Larry Merchant, American sportswriter, television commentator, and boxing analyst.

  • 1939 - Jane Yolen, American author of sci-fi, fantasy, and children's books.

  • 1946 - Jeffrey Gitomer, American author, professional speaker, and business trainer who writes and lectures internationally on sales, customer loyalty, and personal development.

  • 1957 - Pico Iyer, British-born essayist and novelist, many of whose works deal with the crossings of cultures.

  • 1959 - Celeste O. Norfleet, American author of romance novels and young-adult books.

  • 1962 - Sandra Tsing Loh, American writer, actress, and radio personality.

  • 1968 - Mo Willems, American children's book author and illustrator.

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February 7 Writer Birthdays

February 7 Writer Birthdays

  • 1478 - Thomas More, English Renaissance writer and humanist who coined the term "utopia."

  • 1812 - Charles Dickens, English writer and social critic, one of the major novelists of the Victorian age

  • 1837 - James Murray, Scottish lexicographer, philologist, and primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • 1867 - Laura Ingalls Wilder, writer whose Little House book series for children was based on her childhood as a pioneer on the American frontier.

  • 1885 - Sinclair Lewis, American novelist, playwright, and magazine writer who was awarded the 1930 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters"; he was offered the Pulitzer Prize for his book Arrowsmith, but he turned it down.

  • 1908 - Fred Gipson, American author best known for his 1956 novel Old Yeller.

  • 1922 - Marion Cunningham, American food writer best known for her work on editions of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

  • 1932 - Gay Talese, American author, memoirist, and literary journalist.

  • 1943 - Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian.

  • 1950 - Karen Joy Fowler, American author of science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction, best known for The Jane Austen Book Club.

  • 1974 - Emma McLaughlin, American novelist who wrote The Nanny Diaries with Nicola Krau.

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February 6 Writer Birthdays

February 6 Writer Birthdays

  • 1564 - Christopher Marlowe, English playwright, poet, translator, and (probably) government spy of the Elizabethan era; he is sometimes credited with authorship of plays attributed to Shakespeare, but most scholars refute this.

  • 1753 - Évariste Desiré de Forges, vicomte de Parny, French poet who was extremely popular during his lifetime; Pushkin once called him, "My master."

  • 1778 - Ugo Foscolo (born Niccolò Foscolo), Italian writer, revolutionary, and poet.

  • 1833 - José María de Pereda, Spanish journalist and novelist of the native realism school.

  • 1860 - Johan (Eliza) de Meester, Dutch writer, publicist, and editor.

  • 1864 - John Henry Mackay, Scottish-born writer and philosopher, known for his anarchist views.

  • 1879 - Carl Wilhelm Ramsauer, internationally known German physicist, professor, writer, and editor; he pioneered the field of electron and proton collisions with gas molecules and is best known for discovery of the Ramsauer–Townsend effect.

  • 1882 - Anne Spencer, African-American poet, teacher, civil rights activist, librarian, and gardener who was an important member of the Harlem Renaissance group of intellectuals.

  • 1888 - Ljudmil Stojanow, Bulgarian poet, short-story writer, and novelist.

  • 1898 - Melvin Beaunorus Tolson, American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician whose work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical poems; he spent most of his career in Texas and Oklahoma, but was named Poet Laureate of Liberia.

  • 1900 - Rudolf Värnlund, proletarian Swedish novelist, playwright, critic, and social commentator.

  • 1903 - Peter G. Buckinx, Flemish poet, essayist, playwright, and magazine editor.

  • 1905 - Irmgard Keun, German author noted for her portrayals of life in both the Weimar Republic and the early years of Nazi Germany.

  • 1913 - Mary Leakey, British paleoanthropologist and writer who made several important discovers that advanced understanding of human evolution; she is best known for her discovery of the first fossilised Proconsul skull, an extinct ape believed to be ancestral to humans.

  • 1919 - Louis Philip Heren, British journalist and author of political theory and autobiography; he is considered one of the great foreign correspondents of the 20th century.

  • 1921 - Carl Neumann Degler, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and author.

  • 1924 - Paolo Volponi, Italian writer, poet, and politician.

  • 1925 - Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesian novelist, journalist, and human rights activist.

  • 1929 - Keith Spencer Waterhouse, British novelist, newspaper columnist, and television writer

  • 1940 - Tom Brokaw, American television journalist and nonfiction author.

  • 1947 - Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and economic researcher.

  • 1955 - Michael Pollan, American author and professor whose work centers on food and culture; he is best known for his book The Omnivore's Dilemma.

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February 2 Writer Birthdays

February 2 Writer Birthdays

  • 1882 - James Joyce, acclaimed Irish modernist author, known for his command of the English language and his provocatively complex works of fiction.

  • 1895 - Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr., U.S. poet and playwright.

  • 1905 - Ayn Rand, Russian-American novelist, philosopher, and Conservative/Libertarian political activist.

  • 1916 - Ngô Xuân Diệu, prominent Vietnamese poet more commonly known by the pen name Xuân Diệu.

  • 1920 - Isaac Asimov, Russian-born American author, known for his science fiction but also prolific in mystery, fantasy, and non-fiction.

  • 1940 - Susan Wittig Albert, American mystery writer, author of the China Bayles series.

  • 1921 - Jan Slepian, American author of books for children and young adults.

  • 1931 - Judith Viorst, American journalist, psychoanalysis researcher, and author of popular children's books, including the beloved picture book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.

  • 1948 - Ina Rosenberg Garten, American cookbook author, food columnist, host of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa, and a former staff member of the White House Office of Management & Budget.

  • 1970 - Santa Montefiore (Santa Palmer-Tomkinson), British novelist and socialite of Argentinian background; her father, Charles Anthony Palmer-Tomkinson, represented Britain on the Olympic ski team and is a close friend of Prince Charles.

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Punxatawney Phil Predicts More Winter. Bummer.

February 2nd, 2017 (12:59 pm)

Chief Groundhog Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, as he always seems to on Groundhog Day. I suspect that the lights from the television cameras make it almost inevitable. That means six more weeks of winter, On the other hand, my yard was filled with robins this morning, and they're supposed to mean spring. So nature is giving us mixed signals this year.

A few years back, I compiled some Groundhog Day History for this blog. In the spirit of the day, I'm reprinting part of that post here:

A Little History of Groundhog Day
Every year on February 2, the groundhog -- let's say, specifically, Punxsutawney Phil -- emerges from his winter hidey hole, bleary eyed from his long winter's sleep. According to legend, if the groundhog steps outside and sees his shadow on this morning, he will be frightened back into his burrow, and there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If the day is cloudy so that he does not see his shadow, spring will come early.

The Groundhog Day tradition grew out of beliefs associated with Candlemas Day in Medieval Europe. It marked a milestone in the winter, and the weather that day was important. According to an old Scottish poem:

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

Roman soldiers spread the Candelmas tradition to the Teutons, or Germans. They expanded on it by concluding that if the sun shone on Candlemas Day, an animal -- the hedgehog -- would cast a shadow, predicting six more weeks of bad weather. Eventually, descendants of those Germans emigrated to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania, arguably the hub of all modern Groundhog Day activity. European hedgehogs were in short supply in the settler's new home, but Pennsylvania was home to a large population of groundhogs. Soon, the settlers realized that the groundhog possessed the wisdom and good sense to know that it should scurry back into its burrow, hedgehog-like, if its shadow appeared on Candelmas Day. And a new holiday tradition was born.

Phil Becomes Famous
Groundhog Day is celebrated throughout the United States and Canada, but the holiday's biggest fans know that the real party is at Gobbler's Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the home of Punxsutawney Phil. In fact, The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper is credited with printing the news of the first Groundhog Day observance in 1886. Phil's handlers claim that today's Phil is the same groundhog that prognosticated an early spring that year, and that he is now more than 120 years old. They attribute his longevity to the magical Elixir of Life, a secret recipe that Phil sips every summer at the Groundhog Picnic. Standard-issue teetotaling groundhogs live up to 6 years.

Phil has met presidents and governors. He starred with Bill Murray in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day and has appeared on Oprah. During Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn't allowed a drink.

Fun Facts About Groundhogs

  • The average groundhog is 20 inches long and weighs 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil is indeed a giant among groundhogs, measuring 22 inches long and weighing in at 20 pounds.

  • A groundhog's diet consists of lots of greens, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their liquids come from dewy leaves.

  • A groundhog can whistle when it is alarmed. Groundhogs also whistle in the spring when they want to attract groundhogs of the opposite sex. For that reason, they are sometimes called whistlepigs. Other names for the groundhog include woodchuck and land beaver.

  • Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is a deep coma. During hibernation, the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops.

  • Despite their cute, cuddly appearance, groundhogs can be quite aggressive and will defend themselves if threatened. They are much faster than they look, and they have exceptionally strong jaws.

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January 30 Writer Birthdays

January 30 Writer Birthdays

  • 1590 - Lady Anne Clifford, English diarist, patron of the arts, women's rights activist, and High Sheriff

  • 1866 - Frank Gelett Burgess, artist, art critic, poet, author, and humorist; coined the term "blurb" for a quote about a book, printed on the cover to spur sales.

  • 1878 - A.H. Tammsaare, writer whose work is among the most important in Estonian literature.

  • 1912 - Barbara Tuchman, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author.

  • 1924 - Lloyd Alexander, Newbery-winning American author of children's and young-adult fantasy.

  • 1925 - Jack Spicer, Beat poet of the San Francisco Renaissance movement.

  • 1931 - Allan W. Eckert, Newbery-winning American naturalist and writer.

  • 1931 - Shirley Hazzard, Australian/British/American novelist; National Book Award winner.

  • 1935 - Richard Brautigan, author of parody and black comedy.

  • 1941 - Gregory Benford, astrophysicist and science-fiction author.

  • 1945 - Michael Dorris, author of Native American-themed literature.

  • 1955 - Judith Tarr, fantasy author who also writes as Caitlin Brennen and Kathleen Bryan.

  • 1974 - Jemima Khan, writer, editor, heiress, and human-rights activist.

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January 29 Writer Birthdays

Wells - Bunny Cakes
January 29 Writer Birthdays

  • 1737 - Thomas Paine, influential English-American political activist, writer, philosopher, and revolutionary, best known for his pamphlets, "Common Sense," which demanded the American colonies' independence from Britain, and "The Age of Reason," which argued in favor of free thought and against organized religion, and which got him arrested in Paris.

  • 1860 - Anton Chekhov, Russian dramatist, author, and doctor, widely considered one of the greatest short-story writers who ever lived.

  • 1866 - Romain Rolland, Nobel Prize-winning French novelist, playwright, art historian, and mystic.

  • 1867 - Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Spanish politician, journalist, and bestselling novelist.

  • 1895 - Muna Lee, American/Puerto Rican poet, author, translator, and activist, best known for her writings promoting Pan-Americanism and feminism.

  • 1915 - Bill Peet, American children's book author and illustrator who also wrote for Disney.

  • 1923 - Paddy Chayefsky, American screenwriter, playwright, and novelist; he is the only person to win three solo Oscars for Best Screenplay.

  • 1927 - Edward Abbey, American novelist, nonfiction author, essayist, and anarchist who wrote on environmental issues.

  • 1930 - Christopher Collier, Pulitzer Prize-nominated American historian who is also a Newbery Honor-winning author of history-based novels for children and teens.

  • 1939 - Germaine Greer, Australian journalist, professor, social commentator, and bestselling author of books on feminist issues.

  • 1943 - Rosemary Wells, National Book Award-nominated American author and illustrator of children's books; creator of the "Max & Ruby" series.

  • 1954 - Oprah Winfrey, American media magnate, television personality, philanthropist, author, magazine publisher, actress, and inspiration for book clubs all over the country; she is North America's only black billionaire.

  • 1957 - Grazyna Miller, Polish/Italian poet and translator.

  • Collier - My Brother Sam Is DeadPaine - Common SenseChayefsky - Altered States

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January 28 Writer Birthdays

Williams - Music, Music for Everyone

January 28 Writer Birthdays

  • 1927 - Vera Williams, American author and illustrator of children's books; peace activist.

  • 1928 - Philip Levine, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet.

  • 1929 - Richard Clement Charles "Clem" Thomas, Welsh rugby player who became a rugby journalist and author.

  • 1936 - Ismail Kadare, bestselling Albanian novelist and poet.

  • 1945 - John Perkins, controversial American author and conspiracy theorist who also wrote about mysticism in indigenous cultures.

  • 1954 - Rick Warren, evangelical pastor and self-help book author.

  • 1959 - Megan McDonald, American author of children's books, best known for the "Judy Moody" series.

  • 1582 - John Barclay, French-born Scottish writer, satirist, and neo-Latin poet.

  • 1608 - Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, Italian physiologist, physicist, mathematician, and author; Father of Biomechanics; and first person to design a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus; he became head of Mathematics at the University of Pisa, though Galileo recommended against hiring him.

  • 1841 - Sir Henry Morton Stanley, journalist and explorer who found missing missionary David Livingstone and said, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

  • 1853 - José Martí y Perez, poet, essayist, journalist, revolutionary philosopher, and Cuban national hero.

  • 1873 - Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, known as simply, "Colette," French author best known for "Gigi."

  • 1915 - Nien Cheng, Chinese author whose memoir recounts her experiences during the Cultural Revolution.

  • 1935 - Manuel dos Santos Lima, Angolan poet, dramatist, novelist and revolutionary.

  • 1935 - David John Lodge, English literature professor and satirical novelist.

  • 1961 - Arnaldur Indriðason, Icelandic author of crime fiction.

  • 1973 - Carrie Vaughn, American short-story writer and novelist who is known for urban fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal romance.

Cheng - Life & Death in ShanghaiKadare - The Pyramid
McDonald - Judy Moody Gets FamousIndridason - Arctic Chill
Vaughn - Kitty & the Midnight Hour

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January 25 Writer Birthdays

January 25 Writer Birthdays

  • 1627 - Robert Boyle, Irish author, natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor; considered the first modern chemist, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method, he is best known for Boyle's law, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas.

  • 1728 - Antoine Court de Gébelin, French vicar, writer, scholar, and Tarot card reader.

  • 1759 - Robert Burns, Scottish poet and lyricist, considered the national poet of Scotland; his most famous work is Auld Lang Syne.

  • 1851 - Arne Garborg, Norwegian author, playwright, and social reformer.

  • 1874 - William Somerset Maugham, British novelist, short-story writer, biographer, and playwright.

  • 1881 - Emil Ludwig, German-Swiss biographer.

  • 1882 - Virginia Woolf, English novelist and essayist who was one of the central figures in the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals and is considered one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century.

  • 1887 - Diego Valeri, Italian poet and literary critic.

  • 1900 - Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ukrainian/American geneticist and writer whose work had a major influence on 20th-century thought and research on genetics and evolutionary theory.

  • 1902 - Gerard P M Knuvelder, Dutch literary historian.

  • 1904 - Frans Johannes Goedhart, Dutch journalist, politician, and WW2 resistance worker.

  • 1905 - Margery Sharp, English author of novels, plays, short stories, and children's books, best known for her children's story The Rescuers, which was later adapted into two Disney movies.

  • 1919 - Edwin Newman, American newscaster, journalist, and author.

  • 1935 - J.G. Farrell, Irish novelist who is a two-time winner of the Booker Prize.

  • 1950 - Gloria Naylor, African-American novelist, most well known for her debut novel, The Women of Brewster Place.

  • 1970 - Stephen Chbosky, bestselling American novelist, screenwriter, and film director.

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Women's March on Washington, 1-21-17

Saturday's March on Washington drew three times the crowds of the Presidential Inauguration the day before. Bob, Jon Morgan, and I took the Metro into D.C. for it, and had never seen so many people crammed into each train and station. What a wonderful experience. People cheered and clapped and hugged, all of us feeling we were part of something special. And so many of us were wearing knitted pink hats!

Here are a few of my many photos of the day.

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