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!

NON-FICTION
  • 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.
FICTION
  • 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.