Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Blogging is So Haaaarrrdddd!

I talk a LOT.

(Ask CPA Boy, who has even been known to FALL ASLEEP WHILE I'M TALKING TO HIM.)

And thus have MANY interesting things to say.

Or not. (Again, ask CPA Boy. Oh wait, he's sleeping.)

Yet coming up with topics to blog about is not easy. I don't necessarily like to share my political beliefs because enough people already do this on the Internet. I don't watch tons of zeitgeist-y TV shows or movies so have very little overall to contribute in this area. And so I tend to write about what I know most about: BOOKS.

I would not enjoy writing about my opinions on the candidates running for president but I will be glad to tell you what I think of a book! Or sometimes a movie or TV show.

Thus I'm trying to decide how to go forward with my blog. Should I just keep plugging away as I have, posting oh-so-occasionally or just make it a straightforward book blog? Or???

I post about books in large batches (another post about the last 15 or 16 read in 2015 is a-coming!) so perhaps I should switch to individual entries as each book is finished.

For 2015 this would amount to ALMOST 130 ENTRIES. I have actually only managed 25 entries this year! That's a pathetic average of 2 per month! If I posted about books as I finished reading them it would amount to closer to 2 or 3 times per WEEK!

My biggest blogging year was 2012 when I wrote a bunch of extra posts centered on my turning 50 years old. Even that year only comprised 83 entries.

So maybe individual book entries is the way to go for more regular posting. And then if I have anything non-book related to discuss I can do that too.

Plus, it takes FOREVER to write up those jumbo book posts. Writing a quickie review every few days seems more doable and I can go in-depth on the books I love or the ones that just irritate me to no end.

Anyway, I'm undecided but definitely leaning towards more book blogging. Any thoughts, Faithful Readers?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Yep, Already Saw the New Star Wars Movie

My son Thor works at our local movie theater. Almost every week they have an employee screening at midnight Thursday of the biggest film of the week. I have been asking begging Thor to remember to take me to the employee screening for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and he said he would.

Movies are digital now and are downloaded at the theater. The films are then accessed with a digital key.

Even though "Star Wars" opened on Friday, December 18 there were "preview" screenings starting at 7 p.m. Thursday night. (It's unclear why they didn't just say the movie opened on the 17th...)

Disney, the studio responsible, sent out explicit instructions that the theaters could not access the films with the key except for a quality control screening attended by 1 or 2 people, specifically the projectionist and a manager. If they violate this rule they would lose the rights to all future Disney films. Or something along those lines.

The employee screening WAS after midnight on Thursday: it started at 1:30 a.m.

Well, midnight is one thing but watching a movie from 1:30 to about 4 a.m.? (Thor, who is young and sleeps odd hours already, went to it.) And I had a doctor's appointment on Friday morning so my only option was to see a showing at some other time.

Thor said it would be no problem getting a ticket as it was showing on at least 6 screens. So he got me a ticket for Thursday at 8:30 p.m. This meant standing in line by myself starting at 6:30 as ticket holders wrapped around the outside of the theater, something I don't think I'd done since my college years. (CPA Boy was at his company's Christmas dinner.)

It's funny how things change with the passing of years. As high school and college students we thought nothing of crowds or standing in long lines for movies on opening night. But then you just don't have the patience for that anymore. You go to the movie whne the crowds have died down or you just wait for it to come out on DVD.

But this was "Star Wars", something that really goes back to my high school and college years. I saw the first movie in 1978 because that's when it got to our theater in the small town I then lived in.

In fact, there's a famous family story about seeing "Star Wars". We all went and my parents, as was there preference, sat in the back rows while Everest and I --- who had already seen the movie once already --- sat down towards the middle of the theater. I think K2, who was only 7 or 8 at the time, sat with my parents. The movie began and then a voice yelled, "SHUT THE HELL UP OR GET THE HELL OUT!"

Ev and I hunched lower in our seats because we recognized Pops' voice. A couple of young teen girls were sitting in front of my parents and the girls kept talking once the movie started. They got up and moved to different seats after Pops' comment.

I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" about half a dozen times during the summer of 1980 and a bunch of us cut college classes to see "Return of the Jedi" when it opened. So I have loved these movies since the 1970s! (I skipped the prequel movies though I know the general plots.)

You'll notice my ticket is for a senior. Um, thanks Thor? It was definitely cheaper as movies cost $10 now. (Since Thor is an employee we can get into movies for free but not on opening weekends. But "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is an exception and can't be seen for free for a whole month.)

I definitely got misty-eyed when the "Star Wars" logo and music started. I knew no spoilers going in besides the names of most of the new characters and the actors portraying them. I am very glad to have seen it early as there are major spoilers EVERYWHERE on entertainment-related web sites.

So to avoid spoilers I had to see the new one as soon as possible because I read things on several entertainment-related sites! I really loved it and will probably see it again at some point, assuming CPA Boy wants to go. (Or I'll see it for free in a month!) He's more into Jennifer Lawrence films and we still need to see the final "Hunger Games" film. "Star Wars" or JLaw? I think I know which one he wants to see first!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

More Books, #97 to #113

November has been a slow month for reading but as usual I still managed a respectable total since September. My goal this year was 100 books. I am already 13 past that total.

  • Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick
    • I have actually been reading Moby-Dick and finding it fascinating but I own a copy of it so my library books have mostly taken precedence and I haven't gotten back to it yet. 
    • So far I love it though. And I haven't even gotten to any of the "details of whaling" chapters yet. I anticipate enjoying them too.
    • This book details the history of the book and why it's an important novel.
  • The Bloom County Library, Volume 5: 1987-1989 by Berkeley Breathed
    • The final volume compiling all "Bloom County" comic strips from the 1980s. I am so very glad Berkeley Breathed is back to cartooning again.
  • Furiously Happy: A funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
    • Jenny is known as The Bloggess and she is very funny and profane. She also has a mental illness centered on depression and social anxiety. This book details how she copes with it.
  • Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever
    • This was a fun read but riddled with errors and opinion.
    • It starts with the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts when they were supposed to go to Virginia. Their supplies low, the captain wished to preserve enough beer for the crew's return trip to England. (water was the source of much disease and beer was safer to drink). And she thinks the Pilgrims were morons.
    • It covers the Civil War and the alcoholism of many generals. Another topic is the Secret Service and how their late night drinking into the morning of November 22, 1963 might have helped cause President Kennedy's death. And how the witch hunt of Joseph McCarthy may have been exacerbated by his alcoholism.
    • I'm not sure I'd blame the Secret Service for the death of Kennedy. Here are some of the other errors and odd opinions:
      • President James McKinley instead of WILLIAM McKinley.
      • Talking about Ambrose Bierce and his doings in 1950 when he died in 1914.
      • Equating George W. Bush with Joseph McCarthy. I mean, I'm not a huge Bush fan but McCarthy?
      • There were more but I only started taking notes about 3/4 of the way through.
    • An interesting book that could have been much better.
  • Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
    • A collection of essays commenting on various areas of her life. It was a quick read but I think it's more a love letter to her daughters that she's sharing with the public. As such it's not the most exciting read but Drew seems like a very nice woman and I am glad she has such a happy life now.
  • The Outlandish Companion, Volume 2: The Compnaion to The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone and Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
    • Diana Gabaldon has written a series of 8 novels (so far) about Jamie and Claire. Jamie is an man in 18th Century Scotland, Claire is a combat nurse in World War II. She tumbles back in time and the story move from 1743 to 1778 (so far).
    • I love the first four novels best. I haven't loved the last four as much so a book like this is invaluable when a new novel comes out. All I need to do is read the detailed synopses and I am ready to start reading Book 9 when it comes out in a few years.
  • When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
    • This book was fascinating. During World War II there was a book drive early on to supply the men with books to read. This was in reply to the book burnings by the Nazis. In America, ideas are free! (Until they aren't.)
    • But the hardcover books of the day were too heavy to carry in packs and there were too few with millions of men in uniform. Even with 20 million donated books, there weren't enough for various reasons. Ultimately a series of  small paperbacks were issued called Armed Services Editions (ASEs).
    • Hundreds of titles were released as ASEs and millions were printed. The U.S. Congress passed a law at some point prohibiting political references and other things, thus causing brief censorship of the books printed for the soldiers, marines and seamen. Cooler heads prevailed, explaining that censorship of books was what Germany was trying to do and Congress retracted the law!
    • Highly recommended!
  • The Immortal Circus: Act Two by A. R. Kahler
  • The Immortal Circus: Final Act by A. R. Kahler
    • The final two books in a series. I totally enjoyed them as I read them but I remember nothing specific about the plot ending.
  • Another Day by David Levithan
    • This book is a sequel to a book I didn't know was going to have a sequel! (Or rather, not a true sequel because the events in each book are concurrent.) The original book is called Every Day. In it a person named "A" changes bodies every day --- male and female --- and has since birth. While in the new body A has control of the body and the person inhabited remembers everything vaguely.He meets a girl named Rhiannon and falls in love with her while in her awful boyfriend's body. This new book is told from Rhiannon's point of view.
    • And apparently there is another book/sequel to come in the series which is irritating. If I had known that from the start I might have waited until the final book is published in the next year or two. But I really like David Levithan's books and this one is good too. But the plot is no further along than than the last book's!
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
    • Sometime in September I happened to see a TV ad for a movie called "The Martian". It looked interesting so I looked up the book it's based on at the library and it was available immediately. I read it and then CPA Boy read it and then we used Thor's family discount at th e theater and saw the movie.
    • Now there is a huge waiting list at the library so I lucked out!
    • Here's the gist: A manned mission to Mars. Big dust storm causes emergency evacuation. They think a fellow crewman is dead when he gets hit by the communication satellite dish so they leave and head back to Earth. But he's alive! But he has no way to communicate with Earth and not enough food to last until the next scheduled Mars mission. And thus begins the tale.
    • You'd think it'd get boring but it really doesn't, cutting between the stranded astronaut and the people at NASA. The book is basically one crisis after another for the astronaut, very "Perils of Pauline". If something can go wrong it will. Will he survive until a rescue attempt?
  • The Marvels by Brian Selznick
    • Selznick also wrote the children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, made into the movie "Hugo" by Martin Scorsese.
    • This book is told in two parts: the first is all drawings and the second an illustrated narrative about a famous family of actors from the 1760s through the year 1990.
    • There's a mystery involved and the story is interesting and quick to read.
  • Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
    • The final book in the series about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The author uses old found photos to illustrate the story which is about children with various powers and their protectors. A movie will be coming out next year at Christmastime.
    • The series ended satisfyingly enough. Glad it's done.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Lowell
    • A college freshman named Cath (and her twin sister Wren) write fan fiction about the Simon Snow book series, a fictional character who lives in a Harry Potter-type world. Wren has left Simon behind but Cath has not.
    • Everyone else seems to LOVE Rainbow Rowell and I kept reading and waiting to see when that love would kick in for me. It has not, based on this book.
    • Cath is a complete moron, living off the snacks she brought from home because she HAS NO IDEA WHERE THE DINING HALL IS and is too afraid to try to find it. Um, seriously? 
    • There is a new Rainbow Rowell book out that is actually the Simon Snow story told from the perspective of Baz, Simon's nemesis and roommate. I will pass on that one, sorry RR fans. Maybe I am just too old for this. I honestly have NO interest in fanfic. I may try one of her other books and see what happens.
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
  • A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani
  • The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani
    • A trilogy about two girls from a small village where two children are abducted every 4 years and no one knows what happens to them. This time two girls get taken. One is Sophie who dresses as a perfect fairy tale princess and the other is Agatha who lives in a cemetery and dresses in black sack dresses. They are best friends.
    • They are taken to the School for Good and Evil. Our assumptions are overturned when Sophie goes to the School of Evil and Agatha enters the School for Good. And so the tales spins out. Are they wrongly placed or are they in the right schools after all?
    • Real fairy tale characters and their descendants, both good and evil, exist in this world too. It was cute and subversive at the same time. Both girls are well written but I think the ending was a bit abrupt. Some story threads were just dropped or unresolved. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Domo Arigato, Dr. Roboto!

[Note to my squeamish brother K2: There will be no in-depth (heh) discussion of my lady parts so feel free to read on...]

Sorry for another long absence. I had surgery on Veteran's Day for a complete and total removal of my hysteria-related lady parts. I was trying to get things done beforehand, including writing some blog posts, but I ran out of time. Things like grocery shopping, sheet changing and laundry took precedence.

I was a bit nervous about the surgery --- always a scary thing to succumb to anesthesia --- and I remember only three things from after the surgery until I woke up in the middle of the night during my hospital stay:
  1. Waking up in the recovery room briefly, knowing surgery was done.
  2. Someone's voice saying, "Here's your husband." I could not stay awake long enough to talk to him.
  3. CPA Boy kissing me goodbye for the night and saying, "There's a letter from Lady Chardonnay in your purse."
Lady C and I write each other long letters as birthday gifts and lately have done this for when we each have medical procedures. Egad, we are getting old. This was NOT A THING in our 20s and 30s!

Her letter was awesome! (Will answer soon, Sweets!) My other bestie Shell visited and brought me dinner. Pops came and babysat me while CPA Boy went to pick up a prescription for me. (And before surgery my dear in-laws came to keep CPA Boy company but my surgery, originally scheduled for 11 a.m., didn't happen until after 1 p.m. so they stayed and visited with me too before they all went to lunch.)

We are still waiting on the pathology report. My biopsy in May showed "suspicious cells", not cancer but destined to become cancer within the next 10 years, hence the hysterectomy now. My doctor doesn't think there will be any problem because uterine cancer is very slow growing. Having all the reproductive lady parts out should mean I can never get uterine, ovarian or cervical cancer.

Best part of surgery experience: I didn't barf once thanks to huge amounts of anti-emetics. Drugs are awesome. Barfing after surgery is a real problem for me. I did it after Thor was born, after my gall bladder was removed and after an ovarian cyst removal in 2010. I try to stress this to the anesthetist in the strongest possible terms. This time it worked!

The other cool part of surgery? I was operated on by a ROBOT!

In today's paper was an article about the new robot they use during surgery at Sutter Hospital, the exact one that was used on me! (FYI, it's the da Vinci robot, not the Mako robot.) Without my glasses on, I thought it looked like a giant white spider.

Many surgeries are done laparoscopically. This means three incisions about 1 inch long. One is for the camera, one is for the light and the last is for the surgical tools.

With the robot surgery I got 5 small incisions across my waistline, each 1/2 inch or smaller. Then they can use a few more cameras so my (real) doctor can see three-dimensionally and "around corners" and she is in control of the robotic arms the whole time.

Recovery is easier because they don't need to cut through muscles. This was always my mom's bugaboo. She had several surgeries in her life that left large scars down her abdomen, cutting through the abdominal muscles each time. My otherwise super skinny mom was always self-conscious about her not-flat belly because she had no muscle tone there.

Speaking of my mom, it's too bad she still isn't here. She LOVED talking about the gory surgical stuff. Most people don't want to hear any details but Mom enjoyed it along with rehashing her own surgeries too. Sigh.

In any case my innards still need to recuperate the full six weeks no matter how quickly I heal on the outside. I can't carry or lift more than 10 pounds until the end of December. (This impacts things like laundry, unloading groceries from the car and trips to Costco.)

I was able to get into our bed but it was too hard to get out so I slept in my recliner for about a week. I did that last time I had surgery in 2010 too. Now, 10 days later I can sleep on my side again so I am back in our bed.

The only uncomfortable part is that the incisions are at my waistline. Wearing undies AND pants make too much pressure for too long so at home I spend all my time in nightgowns. This is so totally comfortable that I think I could live in nighties all the time! If only...

I have a whole bunch of books to write about so that will be next in the blog queue.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Things I'm Currently Obsessed With

Hmm, maybe that title should be "Things With Which I am Currently Obsessed"?

I keep listening to the newest song by Adele called "Hello" (even though she sometimes pronounces it "hallo"). The song and its video were released last week and broke records. The video was okay but the song is just beautiful. (Note to CPA Boy: I downloaded it so you can too!)

Since I am having major surgery in a couple of weeks I am trying to stock the freezer with some prepared meals. So far I have chicken enchiladas and navy bean soup. Then I will plan some easy things (BLTs, French dip sandwiches and the like) to get past the first week. At that point I will be up and able to manage again.

I found a good jigsaw puzzle app for my iPad so I am puzzle-solving fool. I am liking it because when I do a puzzle I don't think of anything else. It's a nice breather from my constantly-churning thoughts.

I was able to purchase a new program for my computer called Scrivener. It's a specialty program for writing and is much more functional than trying to use Microsoft Word. I have a handful of projects in process. One involves copying over all my blog entries into book form (in case Blogger ever goes away somewhere down the line). A second involves writing down the details of our family stories. I have many lists of things to write about that we compiled several years ago and I would really like to get it written. Another project is autobiographical, you know, because my life is SO fascinating! Ha! But I would like to write down memories of long gone family members so they aren't forgotten. And then I haven't even delved into fiction yet! So many possibilities!

I don't watch as much TV as I used to but I love these programs right now: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Jeopardy!, Last Man on Earth, and Once Upon a Time. I quit watching Dancing with the Stars (no one interesting enough to follow) and American Horror Story (one can only take so much visceral violence before it all becomes sound and fury signifying nothing).

The book series I am currently reading is a young adult fantasy tale called The School for Good and Evil. I have all three books from the library and I'm just starting the second.

One of my favorite things is the products of Vera Bradley. They make purses, travel bags and accessories in fancy fabric patterns. The newest one is SO PRETTY! It's called Alpine Floral (the floral goes on the outside and the check goes on the inside). Vera Bradley releases two or three new patterns every season. Lately there have been several I love. And once they sell out of a pattern (it sometimes takes a year or two) it's gone for good.
Alpine Floral

My obsessions call! Until next time!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Completely Flummoxed by This Thing Called Time

If you had asked me earlier today, "When was the last time you blogged?", I would have said, "Oh, maybe a couple of weeks ago." Pfff. A WHOLE MONTH! Sheesh, sorry about that.

A month ago is when we began the installation of a new heater and air conditioner. Most of the work got done in two to three days but they are still not finished. The attic vents are installed and the heater works fine. The new AC unit works too but the wiring from the AC to the furnace is apparently badly rodent-chewed and spliced in several places so they can't promise it will last if we turn it on. But now they need to fit us in as their scheduled is backed up.

Trouble is, my schedule has filled up too. I am going to physical therapy twice a week for my left shoulder which has stiffened up considerably and is painful/achy even when I am not moving my arm. The orthopedist wants to see how 4 weeks of PT help before he even considers surgery.

And then on November 11 I have surgery scheduled for something else entirely. I really hate that the procedure is still called a hysterectomy!


But it's time to get this done. My biopsy cells are "suspicious" and my doctor says I will likely develop uterine cancer if I don't have the surgery in the next 10 years. We are almost at our maximum deductible/out-of-pocket costs for 2015 so this won't cost us anything more. Surgery is a go! (If the orthopedist decides to do shoulder surgery then it will also be this calendar year too.)

I will do my best to post more often in the future!

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Library's Online Catalog Thinks I'm an Idiot. Apparently.

I read various websites and several magazines. Whenever I see a book title that looks interesting I search my library's online catalog to see if I can request it. This is the main reason why my library queue never shrinks; I constantly add new books to the list.

Anyway, I read about a book on the A.V. Club website by a woman named Kate Harding called Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture---And What We Can Do About It. There is a lot of talk about rape culture these days and I think it sounds like a good overview of the subject.

I checked my library catalog by searching for "Kate Harding". Easy enough. Unfortunately, the book is not yet available in our library system. BUT. The three search results it came up with?

The catalog is JUDGING me! See?

Library Catalog:
Option #1: Did you mean "Nate Hawking" instead of "Kate Harding", IDIOT? Haha, fooled you! This book is in our system but NO COPIES EXIST FOR YOU TO CHECK OUT. Mwahahaha!

It takes THREE steps to master dirty talk?! But I'll never know what they are because you are taunting me with a book you don't even have! (Sorry, CPA Boy!)

Library Catalog:
Option #2: Harding? Hodding? What's the diff? Vikings probably had a rape culture too so read this book instead. You're an idiot so you probably won't notice the difference anyway.

Sounds interesting as Vikings do but I'm more concerned that the call number is "910.9163 KAYE". Where does THAT come from? Shouldn't it be "910.9163 CARTER"? Now who's the idiot?!

Library Catalog:
Option #3: Matched on "By The LATE Charles WAREING Bardsley". Late Wareing, Kate Harding. You know this is what you MEANT to type. Pretty impressive that Mr. Bardsley wrote a book AFTER he died. (No doubt you believe me because you're an IDIOT!)

This also sounds like an interesting book --- I married into an English surname --- but I already own a copy of People Named Smith which covers the history of the name so I feel I have that topic covered. Mr. Bardsley died in 1898 so his book was published posthumously in 1901 (researching all those Smiths and Joneses probably killed him). As a 53-year-old myself I am more concerned with the fact that he died when he was about 54 or 55! Yikes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Random Crap: Getting Older Edition

Items from the Get-off-my-lawn-I'm-getting-old file:
  • I have been subscribing to Entertainment Weekly since 1990. In fact I am a charter subscriber. Lately I've noticed that they have decreased the font size on many of their feature articles. Now I'm a hip chick: I mainly read EW on my iPad (we pass on the paper copy to Pops) but the print is noticeably smaller there too.
    • In 1990 I was 28 years old. Now I am on the wrong side of 50. Methinks EW is still written for people in their 20s and 30s, not for fuddy-duddies in their 40s and 50s.
      • Spell-check wants me to change "fuddy-duddies" to "faddy-duddies". Or "ruddy-duddies", "muddy-duddies" or "buddy-duddies". What the hell, spell-check? THOSE AREN'T EVEN REAL WORDS!
  • Also related to EW is the fact that the music section is the most useless part of the magazine for elderly me. I have little to no patience for rap music as I didn't grow up with it. This makes sense as every generation has its own musical taste. Mine were set in the 1970s and 1980s. The Bee Gees! Disco! Punk rock! Madonna! Prince! Casey Kasem!
    • My pet peeve is this: so many songs of today, even if they aren't actually rap music, still have a rap section in the middle somewhere. Bleah. But this is the music Thor grew up with so he and his generation love it. 
    • The sentence that proves I'm old: All rap sounds alike to me.
    • I'm sure all disco songs sound alike to Thor and his brethren but to me they are a burst of nostalgia!
  • I haven't subscribed to a daily newspaper since 2009 when the San Francisco Chronicle changed their rates from $240 a year to $400 a year. So I read my news online. 
    • What I hate is this: you click on a headline to read an article and it's a video link instead. If I wanted to watch video I would watch the news on TV. I just want to read!
    • Entertainment sites are probably the worst for this.  They have headlines like "Scoop on your favorite show" so you click in and it's a video.
    • The other annoying things are lists where, if you actually want to see what's on a list, you need to click through a slide show of pictures and captions. If you are using your tablet or smart phone it takes forever to click through 10 slides. Or 32. Or 57. Guh. Just put them all on one page or make a written list so I can scan it quickly! 
    • I do watch the occasional video. Like today I watched because the headline was this: "Miss Piggy and Kermit Team Up with Joel McHale, Viola Davis and Julie Bowen to Promote the Emmy Awards." It is very cute and funny, especially the outtakes at the end. But it is ALSO an ad for Audi which was not mentioned in the headline. Sneaky, sneaky advertisers!
  • The physical stuff that seems to happen when you get to my age: I had a suspicious mole removed yesterday. The pathology report should be back later this week. The thing is, it was right on my face! Of course it was. I have a bandage on my right cheek that will need to remain for over a week (I will change it every day, of course).
    • I don't really mind the bandage. I did a few errands yesterday with it and not a single person mentioned it. I will be glad to have that brown spot gone. I was more concerned that it would grow and grow and become one of those big old lady moles. ::shudder::  
  • I watched PBS's "American Experience" the last two nights because the subject was Walt Disney. What's interesting is this: to my 2015 eyes he always looked older than his chronological age. He died from lung cancer at age 65 but he looked like he was elderly and in his 80s. Even when he was in his late 20s he looked more comparable to someone like George Clooney now (he's currently 54). This is all true for relatives in those days too.
    • Walt died almost 50 years ago and most people under age 50 probably have no memory of him. I was only 4 when he died but I remember seeing him for many years after on TV in episodes of "The Wonderful World of Disney". He was always part of my childhood. I guess Walt is somewhat forgotten but Disney is forever.
  • I'm all out of faddy-duddies. Gotta go.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

21 Books, or My God, Does She Ever Stop Reading?!

It's summer and I read a LOT in the summer.Are you keeping count? I am. (I am pretty sure I have a very mild form of obsessive compulsive disorder!) I am up to 96 books read this year. All my library books have been swarming in and I've been reading like a maniac.

Once the current library pile tapers off I think I will change my reading habits a bit. I have so many unread books on my Kindle to tackle and I would really like to work my way through a mystery series that I like (there are 12 books in the series and I have read two of them).

  • A Reading Guide to Island of the Blue Dolphins by Patricia McHugh
    • I am still trying to get through unread books on my shelves so I can get rid of them. This is one of those. I used to read The Island of the Blue Dolphins often in my grade school days.
    • A teenage girl named Karana is left behind on one of the islands off the coast of Southern California in the 1800s. She lives alone on the island for years. She is ultimately rescued years later and taken to the mission at Santa Barbara.
    • The story is based on a true story of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. She was moved to the mainland, where no one recognized her native language. She died several weeks after that. Apparently they know where her island cave is but the native tribes have halted any more archeological research at the site.
  • Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing by Stephen King
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
    • These are interesting books about writing, also in the "read and get rid of" pile. I have probably read more novels by Stephen King than by any other author. Doing a quick count it seems I have made it through 30 of them, not including short story collections and other non-fiction books besides these two.
    • I would say the only flaw is that many of the essays are from the 1970s and 1980s and so much has changed in publishing that I think they aren't really helpful information at this point. But it is interesting to read about King's journey as a writer from childhood on.
  • I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short
    • One thing comes shining through this book: Martin Short is a very nice man. The story of his career is overshadowed by his heartbreak over the loss of his wife Nancy to ovarian cancer 5 years ago.
    • He has many friends who are also famous but he makes them sound just like regular folks, which I would guess they are behind closed doors with their friends and family, right?
  • The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America's Deadliest Natural Disaster: The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900 by Al Roker
    • I have already read Erik Larson's book, called Isaac's Storm, about the hurricane that hit Galveston in September 1900, the deadliest natural disaster to ever hit the United States. About 8,000 people died, perhaps even as many as 12,000.
    • In those days, before radar or air flights into the eye of the storms, everyone assumed that hurricanes that came through Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico continued on a curve back into Florida and the Atlantic Ocean. They NEVER crossed the Gulf to the rest of the coast. They were tragically wrong, of course.
    • The other factor, based on the counter-clockwise spin of hurricanes, is that the first winds seem to come from the north, not the more logical southeast direction. This matters because at the start of a hurricane the northerly winds are keeping the surf artificially lower despite large swells coming in from the sea. When the hurricane nears the coast the winds change from northerly to southeasterly and bring a huge storm surge onto the coast.
    • Galveston Island was basically at sea level with only a little high ground. The highest point was approximately 8 to 9 feet. The storm surge was over 15 feet.
    • If a hurricane is expected to hit the Gulf coast one hopes the eye crosses somewhere to the east. On the east side of the eye the winds are directed inward, increasing storm surge. If you are on the west of the eye, it will still be bad but the storm surge is fighting offshore winds. 
    • Visually, imagine a clock face. The winds are counter-clockwise. The eye is right in the center. As the clock moves onto the coast from the south the worst area is located from noon to 3. The area from 9 to noon will have the same wind speed but less storm surge.
    • This book was fascinating.
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
    • Speaking of the author of Isaac's Storm, he has a new book this year. I am obsessed with certain topics. Hurricanes, earthquakes, shipwrecks, serial killers, Nazis, the Holocaust, and so many others. This one is a shipwreck tale.
    • The Lusitania, a luxury liner, was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915. It was one of the events which helped lead the United States into World War I. The U.S. population was anti-war but this sinking, which claimed the lives of many Americans, started to change the sentiments to pro-war even though it took 2 more years for the country to go to war.
    • We learn about life on a submarine (awful) and life on a luxury liner (not awful). The lifeboat situation had improved since the sinking of the Titanic 3 years before but it took over 2 hours to sink. The Lusitania went down in 18 minutes. The list of the ship was so severe that most of the lifeboats were unusable. (And in those days they did not perform evacuation drills of the passengers so as not to bother or scare them.)
    • Like all of Erik Larson's books, and I've read them all, I enjoyed this one a lot.
  • Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow
    • When Judd Apatow was 15 he somehow got to interview a few comedians. He kept the interviews and made some new ones asking comedians about their influences and how they got into comedy.
    • If you like the interviewed comedian you'll like their interview. 
    • A quick read, entertaining. My favorite interview was probably the one with Steve Allen from years ago.
  • The Anatomy of Evil by Michael H. Stone
    • I read a series of mystery books about Cyrus Barker and his sidekick Thomas Llewelyn. The next book in the series is called The Anatomy of Evil and our library doesn't have it yet. I keep looking it up and one day I noticed this book. Same title, different premise. It fits into my personal fascination with evildoers.
    • The author, a forensic psychiatrist, has created a scale of evil. That is, how do you compare and contrast acts of murder. Murder is "evil" but are some more evil than others. The answer is yes.
    • He created a 22-level hierarchy of evil. He also tried to see what commonalities some of these acts have.
    • A battered wife who plans how to kill her husband: it's premeditated murder, yes, but not as evil as a father who locks his daughter away and fathers several children while she's his prisoner. Or a serial killer who tortures his victims before murdering them. Some murderers are psychopaths or just have a few elements of psychopathy.
    • Anyway, it was interesting to me but it is quite heavy going. There are a lot of horrible people out there.
  • Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals by Dinty W. Moore
    • I had never heard of this guy but saw a review of the book on the A.V. Club website. Our library had it so I read it. It's cute and a quick read but ultimately kind of annoying. I'm too annoyed to relate any more about it though, sorry.
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
    • The best part of this book was reading some of the reviews on Good Reads!
      • George says, "Do you like talking to furniture? Do you believe shirts have souls? Are you insane? This might be the book for you."
      • DY says, "To begin, you have to touch each and every possession and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If it doesn't, it needs to be discarded. Do you know how hard it is to summon joy for beige underwear or Neosporin? Yet summon you must. I like my carrot peeler but is joy too strong a word?"
      • Maggie says, "The book is short and sweet, and the author is bat-shit crazy."
      • Sheri says, "I'm taking Marie Kondo's advice and getting rid of this book. It most definitely does not spark joy."
    • This book was a huge hit in Japan and is now a crossover hit in America where we like to organize our stuff so we can go out and buy more stuff (thanks, George Carlin!).
    • I have been, entirely independent of this book, going through our stuff and purging what I can. I have picked up a couple of tips from the book that I think I will try but I think a lot of this book is more appropriate for Japanese culture than American culture. One thing our cultures have in common is materialism. But Japan is a small island with small amounts of storage space. America is huge and we have more storage unit facilities than all other nations put together.
    • So yes, in a Marie Kondo sanctioned order, go through piles of your things and ask if they give you joy when you touch them. If not thank them and let them go. If they do then fold them properly and store them properly. Do it all in as short a time as possible. 
    • She says if you do things like empty your purse completely every night, fold your socks (NEVER ball your socks; it makes them unhappy), get rid of all your books and most of your photos and so on, you will finally be able to feel happy. 
      • Seriously, this probably isn't going to fly in America.
    • And this tip: "My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away."
      • Since my desk is basically covered with papers AT THIS VERY MOMENT I would like nothing more than to sweep them into the garbage but alas, I can't! I need to enter medical bills into the spreadsheet and I need to actually PAY the medical bills (as you can see, medical bills are huge in my world) but I would rather do it in big batches than as they show up. It's my way. Doing a little every day or doing them once a month? Procrastination Girl says, ONCE A MONTH! 
        • I do laundry on the same principle: every two weeks so we each need to have two weeks worth of underwear. I will NEVER, EVER do laundry a little each day! That's crazy talk. My mother did about 4 loads every damn day when I was growing up --- there were 5 of us --- and it never ended!
    • I am proud to say I had already discovered some of her better tips years ago: you don't need to save the extra buttons when you buy a new shirt or nightgown. You don't need to save greeting cards or letters (Marie says they completed their task the minute you read them the first time you received it). I get rid of almost all of these things, saving a few choice samples at most.
    • I will continue on with my slow, methodical purging of extra stuff --- bye bye blender! --- but I will use the Kelly Way to do it!
  • The Bloom County Library, Volume 2, 1982-1984 by Berkeley Breathed
  • The Bloom County Library, Volume 3, 1984-1986 by Berkeley Breathed
  • The Bloom County Library, Volume 4, 1986-1987 by Berkeley Breathed
    • More comic strips lampooning life and politics in the 1980s. I was debating whether these books are fiction or non-fiction but since Opus and the gang are fictional I decided that fiction was the place for them.
    • One more volume to go!
  • Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
    • The final book in a young adult fantasy trilogy. The ending was satisfying, which is not something every series can do. I was disappointed that a main character from the second book was killed off early in this book. I guess the character was too good a person to be useful in the plot of vengeance-minded motivations.
  • The Six by Mark Alpert
    • The premise of this young adult book intrigued me. A teenager has Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, a fatal genetic disease (usually by age 25 or earlier). (We have a different type of MD in our family but it's not Duchenne's.)
    • Adam, the teen with the DMD, is only a few months from dying when an artificial intelligence takes control and plans to destroy humans. Adam's dad has created the Pioneer project, where Adam and teens with other terminal conditions have their minds transferred into robots. The robots train to defeat the AI, who calls itself Sigma.
    • I really liked the story (the DMD was really just the catalyst and plays no more part in the story once Adam moves to the robot form) and apparently this is only the first in a series of books (of COURSE it is). It would make a great film. I will definitely read future books in the series.
  • Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
    • This book, another young adult novel, was a little odd, not what I expected. The premise is this: 6 friends at Oxford University create a game of dares. Each puts up about $1,000 (or pounds, probably, I forget) and the winner gets the pot. The dares start out silly (raise your hand in class for permission to go to the bathroom, say) and progress to more and more humiliating pranks.
    • But the narrative is split into two commingled parts: the beginning at Oxford and 14 years later in New York City. The final players must meet and complete a final dare to determine the winner. The story is filled with twists and turns. One of the characters has a mental illness which the game exacerbates.
    • I'm a sucker for boarding school/college stories. This one was disappointing from that standpoint as it was more about the game than the camaraderie. Or rather, the camaraderie faded fast once the pranks and dares began.
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
    • This book, basically Lee's first novel that was ultimately rewritten and turned into To Kill a Mockingbird, was published to terrible reviews this summer. 
    • I think it's likely that this was published by Lee's caretakers purely for the sake of the money it would make. If you look it up on the Internet you will find conflicting reports: Harper Lee is horrified at its publication or she is thrilled with its publication. She may be too addled to really know one way or the other.
    • That said, I actually liked the book a lot. It made complete sense to me. Young Scout idealized and idolized her father, which comes through in Mockingbird. In Watchman the 26-year-old Jean Louise sees her father with different eyes. 
    • There are only a couple of flashbacks to her childhood. It does not seem to me (not having read Mockingbird for at least 10 years so I could be wrong) that this book was reworked so much as it was completely rewritten from the point of view of young Scout during her childhood.
    • It's not much of a story as it reads more as a character study of Jean Louise. She comes home from New York City for a visit and sees things differently than she has before, most especially her father. Yes, he has racist views, not unusual for his generation in the 1950s in Alabama. But he believes in justice for ALL, and that includes the black population. That is the gist of the book.
    • Based on the timing in the books Atticus would have been born in the 1880s and come of age during the height of the Jim Crow era. It makes sense to me that he would have developed some racist views towards blacks while still believing in upholding the law to his utmost, no matter one's color. It also makes sense that 10-year-old Scout would have missed a lot of the tension inherent in a racist society. She did not attend school with black children (they would have had their own schools in segregated Alabama). Her family had a black housekeeper named Calpurnia, but she was a paid servant, not a family equal in the truest sense. And so on. Jean Louise the adult would have had a wider experience in New York City and perhaps seen with clearer eyes the racism she could ignore because her father kept most of it from her as she grew up.
    • I tend to loathe books others adore. This is an instance where I liked a book other people loathe. Oh well.
  • The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
    • A couple marries in the 1950s and end up having 4 children: Robert, Rebecca, Ryan and James. The mom only wanted 3 children. Uh oh. The youngest feels alienated. (Mom doesn't exactly smother the other 3 with love either.) Therein lies the tale which covers when the parents meet until about 2012.
    • In some ways, this is another tale of a dissatisfied mother in the 1950s and 1960s. A woman in those days basically moved from her father's house to her husband's. She might have had a college education but most likely wouldn't. She would take her husband's name and be expected to turn her energies to child-rearing and housework. Those things are important, especially the child-rearing, but they aren't always fulfilling to every woman. And that is where women are luckier today: they have more opportunity with every passing year.
    • My mother was raised to be a wife and mother. She raised me to be a wife and mother (I rebelled for the most part). I am sorry that I never had a daughter because I would have liked to be able to raise her to be anything she wanted to be!
    • Oh, back to the book! It was interesting but I didn't like the character of James much more than his mother did. The crusade refers to the kids' plan to find something their mother would enjoy doing with them. Spoiler alert: they never figure out anything that she would enjoy and mom runs off to be an artist. (Pediatrician dad is more interested in his patients than his children or his wife.)
  • Con Academy by Joe Schreiber
    • Two students, both con artists, meet at a boarding school which isn't big enough for them both. So they make a bet wherein the one who can con a fellow student first gets to stay. 
    • Are there that many con artists who would actually end up at the same boarding school, recognize each other for what they are and plot against each other? I guess so or this wouldn't be a book.
    • Meh. But it was short and sweet, easily finished in a couple of hours, like many young adult books. Otherwise it might be a DNF: did not finish!
  • Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss
  • Color Song by Victoria Strauss
    • Interesting that this young adult series was a duology, meaning only two books. Trilogies are common. Famous heptalogies are the Harry Potter books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and maybe the Game of Thrones series.
    • Anyway, the main character Guilia is the illegitimate daughter of a noble and his seamstress in 1487 Italy. He dies (her mother is long dead) and his wife packs her off to a convent to become a nun against Guilia's will. There her drawing talent recommends her to the nun running the painting workshop, the only place a woman can paint in those times. But Guilia wants to get married and have children! And even in a convent there are bullies.
    • In the second book Guilia runs away and, dressed as a boy, apprentices in a paint master's workshop. Will she get sent back to the convent or will she become a painting master herself? What about that husband?
    • I really liked these. I'm not only a sucker for books about boarding schools and colleges but I like nun stories as well. Maybe it has something to do with being raised as a Catholic. I think every little Catholic girl used to want to be a nun at some point. This is also why the beginning of the Audrey Hepburn movie "The Nun's Story" is my favorite part of the whole thing. Cutting off your hair, no unnecessary talking, obedience, chastity, poverty, the habit (outfit), no mirrors, no personal possessions, etc... Little Catholic girls usually outgrew wanting to be a nun pretty quickly! Obviously you need to have a true vocation for that life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It Took Thirty-five Years to Check It Off the To-Do List

In September 1980 I was getting ready to start college at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The dorms opened on September 21 with classes starting a few days later.

In early September I was wrapping up my summer job at a day care center in San Mateo. I helped take care of the younger children who ranged in age from  5 months to 2. (The 3-and-up group were in a different room with different caretakers.)

The hours were pretty good for a teenager who usually liked to sleep until noon: I worked from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week while living at my grandmother's home about a mile and a half away. She still lived in the house where Pop grew up. We called her Yia-Yia, the Greek word for grandmother.

Yia-Yia was 82 in 1980 and my aunt and uncle (Pop's sister and brother-in-law) had recently moved in with her. I'm not sure why except that maybe it was decided she was too old to live alone? Meanwhile my aunt was still working in San Francisco and my uncle was long retired.

My aunt was 56, only a few years older than I am now, and my uncle was 67. He was one of those people who always seemed old, even in his 40s and 50s, so at 67 he seemed positively elderly to me. He was completely set in his ways and not to be crossed. He was mostly kind to me but unfortunately he was not always kind to Yia-Yia and my aunt.

He had extremely good hearing and kept the television at the lowest possible volume. HE could hear it fine (as could I) but my grandmother and my aunt were hard of hearing. My uncle refused to turn up the volume. (In hindsight I realize I should have told my Pop, who may have been able to do something even though he lived in Louisiana at the time, but I was so young that I never realized I could have tried to make a difference.)

So with my first paycheck from the daycare center I bought myself a television! It was a 13" set in black & white as I couldn't afford a color TV! It also had a single earphone jack so I could watch at whatever volume I wanted in my bedroom. Without the earphone I would not have been able to use it because of my uncle's supersonic hearing.

I don't think I watched much TV overall --- it was summer rerun time --- but I did start watching a "Masterpiece Theatre" series called "Lillie".

LILLIE (REISSUE) The show had originally aired in 1978. It was a 13-part series about Lillie Langtry, famous in the late 1800s for her beauty and her role as the Prince of Wales' first official mistress (he later became King Edward VII). Lillie was played by Francesca Annis from age 15 in 1868 to her death in 1929.

The poet, playwright and writer Oscar Wilde was a featured character and this series introduced me to him. I read almost all of his works in the next few years thanks to this TV show.

The final episode was to air on September 21, my first day at college. I figured I would get to watch it that night on my little black & white TV in my dorm room.

It turned out I had no roommate. I had a double room and over the summer I had received a letter naming my future dorm mate. Her name was Kim and she got a letter stating I would be her roommate. For whatever reason she was placed on a different hall with a different roommate and I had the room to myself for the first several days.

Meanwhile, Lady Chardonnay was in the room next door to mine (we would become best friends within the next couple of weeks). She made friends that first week with a girl who wanted to change rooms --- I can't remember why. Didn't like her roommate? --- and she ended up as my roommate for the rest of the year.

But that first night I was alone. I turned on my TV at 9 p.m. so I could watch the final episode of "Lillie" and discovered that the PBS station did not come in on my TV (there was no cable TV at college in the 1980s!). So I never got to see the final episode.

I have actually had the DVD set of "Lillie" for several years but have never made time to watch it. Lately, as part of one of my many projects, I have been going over my old calendars and noticed that I had written the episode numbers each Sunday on the 1980 calendar. I only got to episode 12!

So this week I made the time and binge-watched the whole series including, finally, the final episode. In it Lillie moves through the last 30 years of her life and it actually ends with her dying. Cheery!

I told CPA Boy that maybe it was a good thing I didn't see it on the first night of college, all alone in my dorm room, because I would have been too depressed to get up the next day!

There are two other programs where I never saw the final episodes. The original "Poldark" on "Masterpiece Theatre" from the mid-1970s and a 1980s show called "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd". My younger brother K2 needed to record an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" so the final episode of "Poldark" didn't get recorded because they overlapped. (I think I was recording at my parents' house because it was available on their cable lineup but not mine.) And, as we all know, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" faded into obscurity and was never heard of again. Guh.

As for the final episode of "Molly" we moved during the weekend it aired in 1991. In those days you cancelled the cable at your old place on Friday and reconnected at the new place on Monday or Tuesday. "Molly" aired on Saturdays. C'est la vie. 

I have the "Poldark" DVDs and they are next on my list. But Molly will probably never come to DVD or streaming. It featured quite a bit of music, especially Motown, and I think the rights are cost prohibitive. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad!

Monday, August 24, 2015

This 'n That

I have been busy GETTING THINGS DONE and there are still so many more things left to do!

In my office closet were small boxes containing calendars, letters, newspapers, ticket stubs, school records and many other things I've saved over the years, nay, decades.

I had the collection of stories my friends and I wrote in high school during freshmen year. My friends --- we called ourselves "the Group" --- consisted of six other girls and most of us were boyfriend-free for those early years of high school. The stories involved matching each girl to her crush du jour and getting the pairs together on the page if not in real life. I have no memory of the boy I was paired off with in these stories! I can only assume this is because we wrote them before I got my big crush on one of the football players (who also happened to be my biology class lab partner in 10th grade) and I had to be paired with someone. None of the boys we paired up with in stories ever paired up with us in real life. I'm not sure any of us ever even talked to any of them or danced with them at the dances after football or basketball games.

For the record, even though my football/biology crush had a girlfriend, I did get to dance with him at a dance or two! And hang out with him at the one high school party I attended. He gave me a sip of his beer which was the sum of my entire drinking life in high school!

In any case, the stories were full of inside jokes that have long since been relegated to the mists of time. I was not the author of most of them so it's not like it was a treasure trove of my early writing. So what to do with the pile of stories?

I tossed every single page! FREEDOM!

Anyway, I went through each box and made piles. Each pile got a page protector and a label: high school, San Francisco State University, U.C. Santa Cruz, notes from CPA Boy, things from Thor, cards, tickets, travel, Everest, K2, and so on. Now I am going through each page protector and determining if any of this stuff is worth keeping and if so, worth putting into a scrapbook. I have culled quite a bit and it feels great.

Then once this stage is done I will put everything into scrapbooks. Instead of loose pieces of memorabilia I will have actual books of memories on a shelf. FREEDOM!

I currently have a pile of 11 library books and have only read 4 of them so far. It never fails that the books I put on hold at the library seem to descend all at once. (I don't often bother to put my library list on hold when this happens so it's my own fault.) Luckily there is almost nothing on TV so I am busy reading most nights in the summer.

Various household projects are getting done too. One of the best feelings is checking off an item on the old to-do list! Still many things left to do, alas.

Our neighborhood streets are in the process of being resealed (our homeowners' association owns the streets and our HOA dues pay for the upkeep of them) and our section is scheduled to get done this Thursday. This means no driving on our section from 7 a.m. Thursday to after 1 p.m. on Friday. So if you need to go out you need to park your car outside the perimeter before Thursday. CPA Boy is working from home on those days and Thor will park elsewhere (the equivalent of parking two or three blocks away) because he needs to get to work (can't work from home when you work at a movie theater!).

So that's what's going on around here. GETTING THINGS DONE! Hallelujah!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Another 25 Books!

Reading is my favorite thing (that and naps). If I could have only one hobby, this would be it! Despite the craziness of the last year I still manage to fit in a bunch of books. I am now up to 75 for the year, on pace for over 100 for 2015. Not that it matters. I prefer quality over quantity but you need to start a lot of awful books to find the cream of the crop.

If only I could nap AND read...nirvana!

  • Hitler, Volume 1: 1889-1936 Hubris by Ian Kershaw
    • For a little light reading...
    • This took me a few months to get through as I read the early chapters before setting it down for a couple of months. It is a very detailed biography of Hitler and probably the best I've ever read. But holy moley, it is VERY detailed. 
    • It traces his background and youth before spending quite a bit of time with Hitler as a young man shaped (disastrously for the world) by World War I and Germany's post-war period. The author offers plausible explanations for some of Hitler's growing beliefs but he doesn't psychoanalyze him.  Hitler obviously had some sort of extreme personality disorder but that excuses nothing nor does it help by speculating on which one it might be and I appreciate the author's restraint.
    • There are many examples of Hitler's unstable personality and the rising "cult of the Fuehrer". He was a ditherer in decision-making but once decided he NEVER turned back, no matter what. Obviously, good leaders know when to reverse course. Hitler was not a good leader, despite the worship and adulation he received from his inner circle and the general populace.
    • The book makes clear that Hitler's rise to power was not foreordained. As one small example, he went to jail for the Beer Hall putsch for a 5-year sentence. If he had served the full term he never would have come to power. Instead he was released after one year.
    • I thought this was a great book. I have Volume 2 which covers 1936 to 1945. It will take a few months to get through that one too. 
  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
    • This was a scary book. Focusing on the college town of Missoula, Montana, it covers several cases of rape and how the perpetrators escaped justice and the women were vilified, especially when the men were football players.
    • As we have seen in the recent Bill Cosby case, women are generally not believed when they report to have been sexually assaulted. As a result, many women don't report it when it happens. So many rapists are not stopped. "He's a football player; they won't believe me. He's a famous man and I'm not famous; no one will believe me." 
    • Apparently over 90% of rapists get away with it. And a few college men are serial rapists.
    • The scariest thing I read was a psychologist who interviewed some men as part of a study and they admitted to having sex with drunk girls (whom they had plied with alcohol at parties). The guys didn't think that taking advantage of incapacitated women is rape!
  • From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood by Nancy McCabe
    • Like the author I have read the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House books), Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables books), Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) and Maud Hart Lovelace (Betsy-Tacy books), among others. 
      • Apparently, authors with three names are de rigueur for girls' childhood books?
    • As an adult she and her adopted daughter take road trips to the places the authors lived or wrote about.
    • I really wanted to love this book but I was put off by the tone. Some of the spots they encounter on the various trips are little more than tourist traps, which is depressing. Through it all the author remembers the death of a beloved aunt and it's a darker tale than the light and sunny memoir about books I expected. (This is my fault for having different expectations as a reader, not the author's.)
    • It is true that when one re-reads childhood books with adult sensibilities one finds different things. You discover that books you loved as a youth were poorly written or had implausible plot holes. They have elements of the racism and misogyny of their times, things we shlepped right over as children because the times of our own youth were also filled with casual racism and misogyny. (Not all of the books but definitely some of them.)
    • None of this makes those classic books bad, just not as comfy and cozy to us as they were in our childhood.
  • So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
    • Given the current public shellacking of the lion-hunting dentist recently in the news, one wonders if he will ever be able to move past his infamy. 
    • The book concentrates on Internet cases of public shaming. Someone does something like making a joke in poor taste on Twitter or plagiarizing an article. Then it becomes public fodder, taking the person into a downward spiral from which it may be impossible to ever fight free. The Internet is FOREVER.
    • Interesting, especially the first part of the book.
  • Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew
    • Kate Mulgrew is most famous as an actress for roles in "Ryan's Hope", "Star Trek: Voyager", and "Orange is the New Black".
    • Her memoir recounts her youth growing up in Iowa with several siblings and her early years in acting. She covers her relationship history, including giving up a baby for adoption when Kate was a 22-year-old. The end of the book documents the two finding each other again after almost 20 years.
    • Kate's mother is a fascinating character in her own right and by the end of the book she is showing signs of dementia. The story ends suddenly without delving into what happens next. I hope this is because another volume is coming but perhaps it's too painful for Kate to recount.
    • She is straightforward and unapologetic for pursuing an acting career, as well she should be.
  • People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann
    • A blogger I discovered recently, this is a book of her essays on life as a suburban wife and mother. I kept reading parts of it to CPA Boy, especially where Jen Mann's husband likes to earn points on the credit card. (CPA Boy is also referred to as a "point ho" in certain circles. Okay, only by me.)
    • Anyway, she's a hoot. Her blog, also called "People I Want to Punch in the Throat", is also funny.
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
    • In 1922 London a widow and her daughter need to take in boarders to help financially. A young couple moves in and naturally the daughter and the young wife start an affair. And then there's a murder.
    • I was looking to read a cozy novel about people boarding in an English home. It did not live up to my expectations though it was certainly entertaining. I didn't think the characters were terribly sympathetic.
  • Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas
    • Book 6 of the Barker & Llewelyn mystery series.
    • I read the first 5 books in this series years ago and then they stopped. I thought the author was done but then I discovered that there were books 6 and 7. My library has 6 but not yet 7.
    • These books take place in London during the late1880s. Cyrus Barker is the private detective ("private enquiry agent" according to Barker) and Thomas Llewelyn is his trusty sidekick. They are sort of modern takes on a Sherlock Holmes story.
    • One of the few mystery series I really enjoy.
  • We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
    •  The book follows Eileen from her youth to middle age. She has Irish immigrant parents who disappoint her and cause her to aspire to a better life.
    • She marries Ed but he doesn't have the same need to advance in his career (he's a college professor) thus bettering their financial situation. Then comes (spoiler alert!) Ed's early-onset dementia.
    • It's more of a character study over the course of this one woman's life and it is very sad. I didn't LOVE it but I liked it very much.
  • Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
    • Buddy Bolden was a jazz musician (before it was known as jazz) at the turn of the century in New Orleans. 
    • I had never heard of him even though I grew up in and around New Orleans.
    • I bought Hugh Laurie's CDs of jazz standards a few years ago and one of the song's is called "Buddy Bolden's Blues". As is my wont I looked up Buddy Bolden and found out that he suffered from schizophrenia from about the age of 30 and was committed to an institution for the rest of his life.
    • Despite the fact that numerous musicians credited him and his band as the creators of jazz virtually nothing is known about him. No recordings exist and only one photograph exists.
    • This is a fictional, mystical novel (the author is most famous for having written The English Patient) imagines Buddy Bolden's life.
    • It was not that enjoyable --- not a fan of the lyrical fiction I guess --- but it was short so I finished it anyway.
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
    • The Inheritance series.
    • Yeine Darr is called to the capital of the kingdom in order to fight for the crown of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I liked the story and the characters were interesting.
    • I decided against reading the next books because the story shifted to new characters and I just didn't want to delve into what was practically a new book set in the same world.
    • This book features one of my reading pet peeves: character names that are not necessarily obvious to pronounce. Is it Yeen? Yine? Yayne? Yay-nee? Yee-ine? I wish authors would either pick more obvious spellings so I know what they prefer their characters names to sound like.
  • Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
  • Demelza by Winston Graham
  • Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham
  • Warleggan by Winston Graham
    • The Poldark series.
    • Masterpiece Theater recently aired the new version of "Poldark" so I decided to re-read the first 4 books in the series.
    • These are my all-time favorite series of books but I hadn't read them in a few years. I used to read them all once a year starting when I was 17. I have read them a LOT.
    • A wonderful historical series, taking place in Cornwall, England in the late 1700s.
  • Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
    • The Shattered Sea series.
    • This is book two and I am in line at the library for the recently published final volume.
    • A war is coming against the High King (this will be book three) and the characters are basically getting into place for it in this middle volume.
    • I am enjoying the series and characters as I read it and I look forward to the last book.
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  • The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
  • The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson
    • The Shades of London series.
    • Louisiana teenager goes to boarding school in London, England, and finds a supernatural mystery. As a Louisiana girl myself, one who loves books about boarding schools, and enjoys the occasional supernatural novel, what's not to love about this series?
      • I thought it was only three books long but it will be at least four books long (or more?). It wasn't obvious until the end of book three. So the story that I thought would be complete is sort of incomplete. And book 4 is not yet scheduled for publication. Aarrgghh.
    • I really enjoyed the books though. It is always nice to see that the usual boarding school tropes are avoided (e.g. all the students are reasonably supportive of each other and the main character's roommate is an instant friend instead of an instant antagonist).
    • Now I am in the middle of another unfinished series...
  • The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
    • The Paper Magician series. The final book of the series, yay!
    • I enjoyed the first two books in the series which I read a while back. My library only has the first two books and I didn't want to buy the third to be able to read it so I was happy to see it available for free rental on Kindle.
    • One of the issues I have with books series is this: they assume you remember every little detail from the earlier books even if you might have read them 1, 2 or more years ago. In this book the main character Ceony Twill kept referring to people I didn't remember even though I only read these books earlier this year. So it was a little confusing why the villain was out to kill her. 
    • The book is pretty short and I think it might have been good to see the world fleshed out a little more. Ceony is training to be a paper magician, able to create magic through the folding of paper. But she is also able to switch magic types (metal, blood, plastic, etc...) which makes her an anomaly in her world where all other magicians can only do one kind of magic. It would be interesting to see more about the ramifications of this. On the other hand, the series is finished for now.
  • The Immortal Circus: Act One by A.R. Kahler
    • The Cirque des Immortels series.
    • I have been wanting to read this series which is only available on Kindle but I didn't want to buy it. Then I discovered that it was available to borrow for free via Kindle Prime. Yay! You can only borrow one book per calendar month unless you cough up another $120 a year (we already pay $99 for Prime). Boo!
    • So in September I will read book 2 and October will be for book 3. The sufferings of the cheap... (Although I could do a 30-day free trial and read them later this month. Hmm...)
    • Anyway, circus, fairies, magical warfare. What's not to like?
  • My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
    • A collection of short stories, four of which are about the perfect gentleman's gentleman named Jeeves and his charge Bertie Wooster and four are about Reggie Pepper (a proto-Bertie character).
    • Unfortunately, Jeeves isn't even part of the Reggie stories. Anyway, in the 4 Jeeves stories one of Bertie's friends gets into trouble and Jeeves ingeniously solves the problem. It's very funny and witty. The later Jeeves and Wooster stories are even better.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    • A re-read of a favorite book. I was just in the mood for a sweet, fast read and this fit the bill nicely. Damaged children, forlorn garden. The garden grows and the children transform. The end. Lovely. (The movie with Margaret O'Brien and Dean Stockwell is pretty good too.)
  • Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams
    • A 17-year-old named Ruth is kidnapped by a serial murdered. She works to get free and turn the tables on her captor. Very suspenseful young adult novel and a quick read.
  • The Bloom County Library, Volume 1: 1980-1982 by Berkeley Breathed
    • Berkeley Breathed has recently brought back "Bloom County 2015" on Facebook which is wonderful. This comic strip originally ran from 1980 to 1989 and was my favorite in those years. 
      • "Calvin and Hobbes" ran from 1985 to 1995 and was also a fave. And "The Far Side" too which ran from 1980 to 1995. The last heyday of newspaper comic strips I think.
    • The old strips lampoon current politics of the time and are still so timely even today. I have all 5 volumes and am currently halfway through. The strips, especially those in the mid-1980s really take me back.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

They Were United States Presidents and No One Remembers Them Anymore!

Did everyone have fun listing all the U.S. presidents? (Read this if you need the background of this question.)

I listed them in chronological order and got all but 3 and reversed the order of two. My missing presidents were Millard Fillmore (13), Franklin Pierce (14) and Chester Arthur (21). I reversed Madison (4) and Monroe (5). (In hindsight this seems obvious: one never says "Monroe and Madison", it's always "Madison and Monroe", right?)

CPA Boy missed a mere 7: James Monroe (4) (me: But he had his own doctrine!), Benjamin Harrison (23), James Garfield (20), William McKinley (25), William Taft (27), Woodrow Wilson (28) and Warren Harding (29). Obscure assassinated presidents and the early 20th century were NOT his bailiwick. And, of course, he remembered "President" Alexander Hamilton.

Thor got 34 so he did pretty well although it was funny to see him try to come up with presidents of the 1970s! He missed 10: Zachary Taylor (12), Millard Fillmore (13), Franklin Pierce (14), James Buchanan (15), James Garfield (20), Chester Arthur (21), Benjamin Harrison (23), William McKinley (25), Warren Harding (29), and Calvin Coolidge (30).

All of us knew that Grover Cleveland was 22 AND 24. And with the exception of the Harrison family (Benjamin was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison), we got all the other related pairs: Adams, Roosevelt and Bush. And the two (unrelated) Johnsons.

So these are the more obscure presidents based on our lists: Fillmore, Pierce, Arthur, B. Harrison, Garfield, McKinley, and Harding. We could not think of a single thing any of these men had done while in office (excluding assassinations for 2 of them).

Who are your "forgotten" presidents?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Name Those Presidents!

On a Thanksgiving episode of "Friends" (specifically from Season 7) a challenge to list all 50 states leads to Ross forgetting one state and Joey naming 56.

This got me to thinking. I can list all the states with no problem. My favorite puzzle as a child was a map of the United States. When I could solve it easily I turned the pieces over and solved it upside down too. States, no problem. But what about the presidents?

So I started listing them. There have been 44 presidencies so far. I got 41, Thor got 34 and CPA Boy got 37.

I will explain in detail who missed which presidents in a later entry this week. But first everyone give it a try! (We are betting that Mr. Professor Lady Chardonnay and his missus will get all of them!)

Thor and I put them in chronological order because then we could tell who was missing more easily but CPA Boy just made a list as he thought of them and he did pretty well.

So just list the 44 official presidents in any order and let me know how you do! Good luck!
Here's a starting clue for you!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Where in the World is Kelly?

Don't get too excited, people. I'm still here, I'm still alive, despite the two month drought of entries.

Things going on over the last couple of months left no room for blogging. I hope to get back into my slightly more regular routine in the next couple of weeks. I have loads of books to discourse on and several other little things to share.

So. What "things", you ask?

Pops had some health issues that were fairly serious, involving a couple of short hospital stays at three different hospitals. He's mostly fine now as he is in excellent shape for an Old Fart but he's still not quite 100%.

Because of all the various care-taking for family members with medical issues over the last 9 months I was seriously behind on every form of house maintenance. Let's see, we had family members with cancer, melanoma, pacemakers or a heart attack. And NONE of these were CPA Boy, he of the muscular dystrophy issues! He is doing well and has had stable health for well over a year now.

We are getting a new heater and air conditioner so that means estimates and decisions.

I am trying very hard to minimize our "stuff". This means culling unused items from every nook of the house. It is a slow process. Sure, decide to get rid of a table. But then the real work begins. Do you try to sell it? If so, take pictures, make measurements, write an ad on the neighborhood exchange, deal with the callers, pocket the money. If not, is it worth donating? Will it fit in the car so you can take it to Goodwill? Can it fit in the garbage can? Should I add it to the junk pile (our garbage company picks up large items for free twice a year)?

In the meantime all this type of stuff sits in the house, unused and in the way, making the house look even more cluttered than when I began the purge. Bit by bit I am getting it done.

The Boy, who is now 22 and henceforth will be known as Thor, still lives at home. He will never leave us, I fear. Here is a panel from today's "Zits" comic strip:

This is EXACTLY how I feel about Thor on most days. He's at the age where he questions and criticizes everything I say.

Example: I noticed that one of the beater heads for my hand mixer was in the dish drainer. This was odd because I hadn't used it for anything and CPA Boy is not allowed to use the hand mixer (he burned out the motors of the last two I had so now he has to use the stand mixer instead). I asked Thor about it and he said he had used it to whip some eggs to scramble. I asked him not to use it anymore and he about had a conniption. "WHY can't I use it?" Because I don't want you to. Use a whisk instead. "The whisk is too BIG." Um, then use a fork like the rest of us do!

By the way, here's where the name Thor comes from: when I was pregnant we used to refer to the extra pillow between us --- generally known as the "breathing pillow" because I didn't like being breathed on by sleeping CPA Boy --- as Petunia or Thor because we were testing to see if we would roll over an actual baby should we ever bring him or her into bed with us. Yes, we rolled over the pillow and no, the baby never slept in our bed. Anyway, it was a boy so Thor it is!

Okay, this is a start. I hope to have more written soon.