Tuesday, December 29, 2015

R. I. P. Turtle

Our hearts are breaking yet again.  Saying goodbye to seven beloved pets in ten years is too much.  We said goodbye to Turtle, the last of our pets, yesterday to spare her suffering.  Doing the right thing is sometimes the hardest thing to do.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Hopkins Manuscript - R. C. Sherriff

I knew a little about The Hopkins Manuscript before I borrowed it from my library.  I recently read Greengates by the same author, but this is a very different book.  I knew from reading a post by Thomas a couple of years ago that it was a science fiction work, a genre I'm not crazy about.  But I thought I might like this one because it takes place on Earth, not in outer space, with real people, not aliens.  I was also curious to read more by R. C. Sherriff since I liked Greengates so much.

The Hopkins Manuscript is presented as a document found in the far future, written by a survivor of a terrible natural disaster.

Edgar Hopkins is a former teacher of arithmetic at a grammar school in England.  He's inherited some money, which allows him to purchase a country house and small holding, where he happily raises prize-winning Bantam chickens, and, generally, deigns to mix with the villagers.  He's very class conscious, although he likes to think he can bridge the gap between classes.  But he expects the lower classes to notice and appreciate it when he does.  Late in the book he says:

'Distinctions of class were gone for ever and I sat with Mrs. Smithson, the wife of a plumber, and Miss Bingham of the drapery store, talking to them almost as if they were my equals.'  He doesn't realize how ridiculously prejudiced he is.

He's a member of the British Lunar Society, a small group of amateur astronomers who meet in London.  When it's discovered that the moon has changed its course and is nearing Earth, he is one of the privileged first to know.  And boy is he frustrated!  He's dying to tell everyone that he's in an elite group of knowledgeable people.  After the news is broken to the general public, he makes sure everyone knows that he's known for months.

It's not known whether the moon will crash into Earth and obliterate it, or if it will just 'graze' it, causing much less damage.  I'm not going to tell you what happens because I found it quite suspenseful.  I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure that things would happen very differently if the moon got too close to Earth.

When the news that Earth might be destroyed gets out, people react in different ways.  Some drink and riot and loot.  Others try to make up for the things they did and shouldn't have done.  The government keeps people busy by requiring that all the towns and villages construct dugouts to shelter the people from the expected atmospheric and geological disruption.  Storms and floods are anticipated.

When the people of his village enter the dugout on the night the cataclysm is to occur, Hopkins and his neighbors, Colonel Parker and his niece, Pat, and nephew, Robin, both in their late teens or early twenties, decide to brave the event and take what may come.  They stay in their separate houses, though.  

There is a catastrophe and Earth is battered by a couple of storms and a massive flood.  Many people are dead.  The people in the dugout mysteriously disappear.  Hopkins eventually finds out what happened to them, but he doesn't share this with Pat and Robin.  Colonel Parker is killed by a falling beam during the storm.  Hopkins asks Pat and Robin to come live with him, since his house is less damaged than the manor house.

Like Robinson Crusoe or Swiss Family Robinson, they start over with what they have.  They rebuild their lives with things they can salvage or grow, and Hopkins, for one, appreciates it.  'The destruction of the big combines and chain stores had brought individuality back to English life:  the return of the craftsman and the master-man.'  (I wonder if the text is wrong here and if it should read 'the big companies'.)  He appreciates the security of self-sufficiency.

As the world slowly recovers, governments are re-formed and all work together to rebuild.  They form a United States of Europe to work together.  They face a common disaster, and, later, a common enemy.  But as things return to normal, countries, or, as Hopkins points out, the people who run them, battle over their shares of resources and access to those resources.  The common man only wants to live his life peacefully.

Apart from being an exciting and suspenseful story, it's a study of how people and governments react during and after an international disaster.  The Hopkins Manuscript was published in 1939.  But I drew some parallels to what could happen in our near future, and the future doesn't look promising.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Do Unto Animals - Tracey Stewart

This is a lovely book, both the contents and the illustrations.  Tracey Stewart has been an animal lover since she was a child.  She eventually became a veterinary technician.  She's also the wife of Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.  They made headlines a few months ago when Jon retired from the Daily Show and they announced that they were buying a farm in NJ and setting up a farm animal sanctuary.

In November, my niece Amy and I attended the Farm Sanctuary Gala in NYC, which honored Tracey and Jon for their commitment to animal welfare.  At the party, Tracey announced that they and Farm Sanctuary were 'getting married'.  Their farm in NJ will be an official Farm Sanctuary farm animal sanctuary.

Tracey's book is beautifully and copiously illustrated by Lisel Ashlock.  The text is comprised of short pieces about Tracey's experiences with animals and pieces about animal behavior.  It's simply and clearly written and is easy to read.  I think it's suitable for teaching children how to respect animals and how to effectively and appropriately interact with them.

She writes about the personalities of individual animals and the general nature of different species.  Pigs are smart, cows are extremely maternal, turkeys are curious, goats are playful and adventurous.  Most animals are very social.  They grieve, they feel the same emotions humans do, they feel pain.  There is no such thing as a 'dumb animal', not even in the vocal sense.  She makes strong arguments, in a very nice way, for treating animals much better than we now treat them.  Farm animals are the most routinely and commonly abused animals on Earth.  It's wrong to accept torture and suffering as 'normal'.  It's only 'normal' because humans have decided it is.

Tracey writes about cats and dogs and horses and about what their body language tells us.  We need to learn to listen and watch animals.  They may not speak English, but they are definitely communicating.  She also writes about wild animals and birds.  Their family takes part in the annual Audubon bird count each year.  

My husband and I have been supporters of Farm Sanctuary since the mid-1990s.  We've had two adopted cows there:  the late, great Rhonda and our current dairy steer, an anomaly, Lawrence.  We met Lawrence when he was less than a year old.  He was such a baby that he sucked on the ties of my hoodie.  Now he's huge, but sweet.  Most male dairy cattle are slaughtered for cheap veal at a few weeks old or left to die (I've seen photos of them stacked up like fire wood) since they can't produce milk and haven't been bred to bulk up for beef.

You don't have to steel yourself to read this book.  It's not graphic and does not go into details of the abuses of animals.  It's approach is positive and hopeful.  This is a book to read, to share, and to admire.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Apple - Raspberry Pie

I recently read a recipe for Raspberry-Apple pie and cut it out of the magazine.  But I love my late mother's pie crust recipe, which is, and has always been, vegan.  I suspect that it might have come from the Crisco can.  But it's easy to make and it's lovely and flaky and I don't like any other pie crust.  So I ended up using her apple pie recipe and adding a cup of frozen raspberries, as the new recipe said to do.

The frozen raspberries made the filling too wet.  I noticed that before I dumped the filling into the crust, so I drained most of the liquid first.  That worked just fine.  I'm not sure I liked the recipe, though.  The pie looked a little gory to me.  Maybe I watch too many crime shows.  I've just started watching Fargo, which is rife with gore.  But funny.

Anyway, the pie tasted good and looked pretty good.  I would have liked it just a tad more golden, but I'm blaming that on my stupid, awful Wolf range that I hate.  The oven heats unevenly and does a bunch of other things I didn't expect in such a top of the line appliance.  I'd never buy another one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tarzan of the Apes - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Did I ever think I'd read Tarzan of the Apes?  No.  Not until the last book I read, Browsings, convinced me I was missing a cracking good yarn.  It's free to download on a Kindle, so I did.

We all know the story, don't we?  John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, and his lovely pregnant wife, Alice, are on their way to a job in Africa when the crew of their ship mutinies.  The crew puts them off on the shore, leaving them with some supplies.  Clayton builds a cabin and manages pretty well.  But his wife is more delicate and dies shortly after their baby is born.  Clayton is killed by an ape right after his wife's death.

Kala, one of the ape's wives, has just lost her baby.  When she hears the human baby crying, she takes him and leaves her dead baby in the crib.  She raises Tarzan as an ape.  I'm going to leave out all the fights that Tarzan has with lions and other apes.  Let's just say he grows up to be a badass, King of the Apes.  The apes may be stronger, but Tarzan is a man and has better powers of reasoning.  He can outfight anything.

Then one day, another Clayton shows up.  This one is, if I understood correctly, Tarzan's cousin.  No one knows this, of course.  Tarzan thinks his mother was an ape and doesn't know who his father was.  Clayton, Professor Porter, his daughter Jane Porter, and his secretary Samuel T. Philander have a similar experience to the previous Clayton.  Crew mutiny, pirates, treasure, marooned on the shore, etc., etc.

The pirates leave them on the beach, but come back when a French ship follows them.  The pirates bury the treasure so they won't be caught with it.  The French arrive on the beach just after Jane has been kidnapped by one of the apes.  Tarzan takes off to rescue her but isn't sure he wants to give her back.  Meanwhile, the French are searching for the missing Jane and are ambushed by a tribe of cannibals.  The cannibals take the captain of the French party and Tarzan has to rescue him, too.

Tarzan nurses D'Arnot back to health, but by the time he's well enough to move back to the beach, everyone is gone.  Jane has left a note for Tarzan, who she doesn't realize is the man who rescued her.  By the way, Tarzan taught himself to read and write English from the books his father left in the cabin.  But he doesn't know how to pronounce the words, so he can't speak English, only Ape.

D'Arnot teaches Tarzan how to speak French, and some English.  They work their way back to civilization.  Tarzan wants to go to America to find Jane.  He loves her.  D'Arnot is intrigued by Tarzan and wants to know who he is.  He has fingerprints of the Clayton infant, found in John Clayton's diary, compared to Tarzan's fingerprints.  They're a match.  Tarzan is Lord Greystoke.

Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, well, meanwhile back in Baltimore, Jane is being forced to marry a man she doesn't love.  He funded her father's expedition to Africa to find a treasure and now he's calling in his chips.  Jane, her father, Philander, and the other Clayton, who also loves Jane and wants to marry her, go to an old family farm in Wisconsin.  Tarzan finds them there and rescues her from the bad man who is essentially buying Jane for his wife.  There's a forest fire, that's pretty exciting, and Tarzan rescues Jane again.

HOWEVER, the book ends with a cliffhanger.  I think there are twenty-five Tarzan books and I do not want to read them all.  But in the best Saturday afternoon serial movie style, stay tuned for the next book to find out what happens next!  Damn!!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Browsings - Michael Dirda

Hey, I didn't take this photo and it's still out of focus!  Maybe it's not me after all.

I was sure I'd read other books by Michael Dirda, but he doesn't appear in my Books Read list.  I know I have one unread one in my possession.  But I hadn't heard about this one until I read Stefanie's blog about it.

This book is a year's worth of his 'Browsings' columns, on books, reading, writing, and assorted other subjects, written for The American Scholar.  I've added far too many books to my TBR list, based on Dirda's columns.

As I read this book, I decided that Mr. Dirda and I must be twins separated at birth.  We don't look alike and he's a few years older than I am, but we sure agree on lots of things.  It's almost eerie.  We gravitated toward the same books and authors when we were kids, I agree entirely with his rants about his ill-fated trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and his local electric company, and his feelings about his aging mother in an assisted living facility mirror mine when my late mother was in an assisted living facility.  

'Mr. Zinsser, I Presume' and 'Style is the Man' are about writing well.  'Bookish Pets' is about animals in books and stories.  Dirda loves adventure stories, especially those written in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Jules Verne, A. Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, H. G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling.  I love them, too.  I'm currently reading Tarzan of the Apes because, well, because I've never read it and it's on Dirda's list of the best adventure tales.  I made a list of them and plan to read the ones I haven't.  And maybe re-read the ones I have.
He is more fond of fantasy and science fiction than I am.  But I'm willing to dip into both genres if he suggests them.  And he does.  I don't like outer space science fiction, but I do like the kind where ants grow really big and eat all the people.  That's my idea of good fun.

He likes paper and notebooks, and so do I.  I'm guessing you might also have cupboards and boxes full of unused notebooks, tablets, and paper, right?  There is an essay on whether authors should continue to write in old age, one about book sales, and lots about book stores, especially used book stores.

Dirda says that as he gets older, he appreciates older books more than contemporary books.  I used to have a 'dead authors' rule of thumb:  an author had to have been dead for at least 50 years before I'd read him or her.  But I've read more contemporary fiction in the past few years than I ever have before.  That's mostly due to reading fellow book blogger's posts.

I think I've given you a taste of Mr. Dirda.  I enjoyed each essay and I look forward to reading more of his books.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Greengates - R. C. Sherriff

I love this book.  I read about another of the author's books on one of the book blogs I follow, but I can't remember which blog.  As I researched his novels further, I believe I also read about The Hopkins Manuscript on Thomas's blog a long time ago.  The two books, from reading one and reading about the other, couldn't be more different.  The Hopkins Manuscript is science fiction, about the Earth after a collision with the moon.  I've just put it on hold at my library, which has, amazingly, several of Sherriff's books.

Greengates, however, is a quiet book.  But it enchanted me.  Maybe partly because my husband and I are easing into retirement and are facing a lot of the problems and issues that Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin face.  Also because it's about a quieter time in the throes of change.  Very much like today, although I'm not sure I can really say we live in a quiet time by anyone's definition, except maybe the future's.

Mr. Thomas Baldwin is retiring from a career in business.  He's certain he won't be like the newly retired man found hanging in his garage.  He plans to 'do things'.  He will take better care of his health.  He will garden, of course (this in an English book).  Astronomy?  Geology?  Maybe he will be an historian, although he often falls asleep over his book.  His wife, Edith, suggests he write history for the common person, about the things ordinary people are interested in, not all dates and names.  Publishers reject his articles.  Mr. Baldwin is depressed.

Having Mr. Baldwin around all day every day is driving Edith and their old servant crazy.  He's disrupting their longstanding schedules and routines.  He has a fight with the servant when he takes her house broom to sweep up leaves.  Edith can't take her nap in the afternoon because he sits in her chair.  He reads her newspaper instead of his.  She asks herself how he would feel if he had come back from lunch at his job and found her sitting in his chair!  "It was funny how Tom seemed to think that because he had retired, she had retired, too."  This cannot go on.  Adjusting to retirement is not easy and is not what many people expect it to be.  She feels bitter and resents him.

Tom feels old and finds himself preoccupied with his health.  He's gone from a hearty, healthy man in his late fifties, to an old, useless man who has nothing important to do.  He dogs his wife, waiting for her to return from shopping, asking her where she's been and when she'll be back.  They haven't made a lot of friends.  He has no one to talk to, to teach him about his imagined new interests.  (We should be thankful for the Internet!)  He's lonely and depressed, and she's unhappy.

Mrs. Baldwin tries to cheer him up by suggesting they go out to the country and take a walk that they used to take years ago.  Reluctantly, he agrees.  They find some of the path the same and enjoy the peace of the countryside, but as they top a crest overlooking the old village of Welden, they're horrified to see a new housing estate under construction in the lovely meadow.

They look around some of the built and partially built houses, grumbling that the houses would be falling to bits in five years because of what must be shoddy construction.  A salesman appears and asks them if they'd like to see the show house.  They're there, so why not.  They fall in love with all the conveniences that their old house doesn't have.  Everything is new and clean and modern.  There's central heating.  Their old house is damp and dark and old  -  like they are.  Certainly they'd feel rejuvenated in a new house.  It would keep them young.

They sell their house and auction off all their furniture.  They buy one of the new houses, to be constructed in a far corner lot under a magnificent elm tree.  There are many ups and downs before they move into the new house.  They're excited, they're devastated.  It's a hard process.  Even when they close the door of their old house for the final time, they wonder if they've made a mistake.  Will the new house and new neighborhood be all they hope?

It turns out that it is everything they had hoped it would be.  Their lives become easier and more comfortable, they make new friends, Edith takes over the gardening and makes new friends, and Tom becomes president of the Welden Close Club, a country club for the estate.  They again have purpose and are enjoying life.

I love his writing style, too.  "The room was at its best in the winter warmth, for the sun had a way of pointing out things that the standard lamp forgave."  "It was a doleful clock at the best of times, but it looked at its worst at twenty-five past six, when its hands gave it a dreary, drooping mustache."  "...a high wind one night that unraveled Mr. Baldwin's leaf heap and restacked it against the kitchen door."  "There's nothing in our garden that's got enough spirit to catch hold of your trouser legs and tear them."  There's a funny part when Tom can't get to sleep in the new house.  "What did one do with one's arms upon a normal night in bed?  Wherever he put them they either slipped down or tugged his pyjamas.  One arm was a yard too long - the other a yard too short."

I had no idea what this book was about when I started reading it.  Is it a sign?  Should Jack and I uproot ourselves and try to find a more satisfying life?  Or does that only work in fiction?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Playing With Fire - Tess Gerritsen

I don't usually read stand alone books by authors whose series I read.  The characters in the series are what keep me coming back.  I love Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles series (not the TV series, which couldn't be farther from the books).  I thought, however, I'd try this one.

Julia Ansdell is a professional violinist.  While on tour in Rome, she buys a piece of old, handwritten  sheet music in an antiques shop.  The proprietor can't tell her anything about the composer:  L. Todesco.

Back home, Julia is practicing the piece, called Incendio, when her 3-year-old daughter, Lily suddenly stabs their old cat to death.  The next time she's playing Incendio, Lily stabs her in the thigh.  A nicely placed toy truck on the stairs causes her to fall.  She's certain there's something evil in Lily and that Lily is trying to kill her.  Julia's mother died in an insane asylum after she dropped her newborn and he died.  Is this propensity for evil hereditary?  Or does Incendio cause people to do evil things?

Julia and a friend go to Venice to try to find out more about the composer.  While there, someone tries to kill Julia.

Playing With Fire alternates Julia's story and the story of Lorenzo Todesco, a young violinist in Venice during World War II.  Lorenzo's story is more interesting than Julia's.

Tess Gerritsen, herself a musician (and physician), wrote the piece of music called Incendio.  You can listen to it at a website she provides.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Information Received - E. R. Punshon

I read this book on my Kindle, hence the blurry photo of my Kindle.  I love my Kindle case.  Stefanie at So Many Books suggested it several years ago.  It has a neat little light tucked into the side and it can also stand up for reading while eating.

A very rich, very mean man is found shot to death in his billiards room.  Seems like the beginning of a rousing game of Clue.  Sir Clarke in the billiards room with the revolver.  His daughter and his step-daughter are in the house, as are some servants.  A mysterious man is seen outside the window of the music room, where his step-daughter is playing the piano.  Another man is seen leaping over the neighbor's garden fence.  The safe at the other end of the house has been burgled.  Talk about a quiet evening at home!

Bobby Owen is a constable patrolling near the house.  He's first on the scene when the alarm is sounded.  Bobby's trying to make a name for himself, climbing the police ladder.  His boss, Superintendent Mitchell, has his eye on him after he discovers several leads in the murder and often appears in the middle of the action.  I like Mitchell's rule that you should always have at least two sandwiches with you, because you never know how long you might have to wait.  I'm all for sandwiches.

Sir Christopher Clarke, the dead man, is hated by lots of people.  His daughter has married against his will, although we're not sure he knows that.  He dislikes the man she's in love with.  He's eager to get his step-daughter married off because she knows something that makes him uncomfortable.  Fortunately, she and the man she's to marry actually love each other.

Who killed Sir Christopher?  To tell you the truth, there were just too many prospective killers, too many motives.  All of the possible people were acting dramatically, looking horror stricken, being silent, rushing around in fast little cars, and all swearing that they won't tell what they know.   There were mysterious people seen and then not seen, unable to be found.  This is a spider web of a mystery with so many red herrings that I lost interest about 3/4 of the way through.  It didn't help that the last three or so chapters were a letter left by the killer  -  who is in turn killed.  The killer explains in great and mind numbing detail why Sir Christopher was killed.  I HATE mysteries that end with pages and pages of explanations.

I have a couple more of Punshon's mysteries on my Kindle.  They've recently been available for a few dollars each.  He apparently wrote about 35 mysteries with Bobby Owen as the protagonist.  I'll try another one or two to see if they're any different, but the reviews I've read on line mostly say that the books are slow moving and the plots are complicated.  I'll take a break before I read another.


My wonderful niece gave me these hand warmers for my birthday in August.  Until the weather turned colder recently, I hadn't worn them.  I don't know where she got them, but are't they adorable?

I'm so dense, though, that it took me a while to figure out what they said.  If I held my hands up to a mirror, the letters were backwards.  If I turned my hands around, the letters were out of order. (unless I crossed my hands).  I finally put them down on the table in the proper position and voila!  MEOW!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Suspect - Robert Crais

There was a time when I thought it would be cool to be a photographer.  I think that was because I was a teenager during the 1960s, very influenced by the movie Blowup, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton.  If I couldn't look like the latter two, maybe I could just photograph them.  The 1960s were a very stylish decade.  I was thinking about this as I continue to take terrible photos of the books I've read.  Why don't point and shoot cameras do just that?  I can't figure out how to avoid the glare of the flash and maintain the clarity of the focus.  And I can't be bothered to learn how to work my old Pentax.

Anyway, off subject.  In my last post, I lamented the lack of Joe Pike in The Promise, by Robert Crais.  I noted that the characters I liked best were Maggie, the military / police dog, and her handler Scott James.  I mentioned that they should have their own book.  Well, duh, they do.  I skipped Suspect because it wasn't an Elvis Cole / Joe Pike book, so I missed Maggie and Scott's stand alone book.

Scott James is recovering from being shot and losing his partner.  They had stopped, at his request, to enjoy the quiet of an LA night when they witnessed a vehicular ambush.  Two men in a Bentley were gunned down, his partner Stephanie was killed, and he was badly wounded and left for dead.

Scott is now assigned to the K-9 unit, although he's not really a dog person.  He meets Maggie, an ex-Marine explosives sniffing dog, also recovering from being shot and losing her handler in Afghanistan.  They connect, they bond.  They've both survived the same trauma.

The case of who shot him and killed his partner has never been solved.  Scott is determined to find the perpetrators.  He gets a lead on a witness, and then the witness is killed.  Scott's clearly on to something.  He doesn't know who he can trust in the police force because he starts to suspect that someone in the unit is involved.

But he can trust Maggie with his life.

I liked Suspect.  I love dogs (and all animals).  My heart was in my mouth when Maggie was in danger and I teared up when she showed the bad guys how far she would go to protect Scott.  These professional, working dogs are amazing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November Reading Catch Up

I was beginning to think that November would pass and I wouldn't have finished any books.  But I surged forward recently, finishing these three books.  I've been reading mostly library books lately.  You know how it goes:  you read about a book that sounds interesting, you put it on hold at the library, you wait and wait, and then all six books you put on hold are available at the same time.

My Brilliant Friend and the other three books in this series are enjoying a recent boom.  MBF was published in the US in 2012 and, apparently, went pretty much unnoticed.  I was excited about this book, the story of two girls growing up in Naples, and although I enjoyed it, I don't think I'll bother to read the others.  The characters didn't come alive for me.  There wasn't a whole lot happening, just the progression of life.  Not that that can't be interesting.  It just wasn't for me.

Undermajordomo Minor was a delight!  I heard it discussed on a video podcast about books that is one of my favorites.  The Book Club (which used to be The First Tuesday Book Club) from Australia read it.  I love quirky books and that's the best word I can find to describe it.  It reminded me of Titus Groan, Alice in Wonderland, the film The Grand Budapest Hotel, and some campy 1960s things.  A young man, Lucien, a.k.a. Lucy, is ill and is visited by a man who may be God, or may be a local beggar.  Lucy is cured and goes off to find a new life, since his girlfriend dumped him.  He gets more than he bargained for when he takes a job as an 'under majordomo' in the castle of a mad baron.  It's a madcap adventure and I loved it.

I was looking forward to the next Elvis Cole / Joe Pike mystery, so I was excited when I sat down with The Promise.  But I ended up being disappointed.  I love Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, but there wasn't enough of either of them in this book.  Joe barely appears, does almost nothing, and then disappears.  There are some other interesting characters in the book, Scott James and his K-9 dog Maggie.  Maggie is an ex-Marine bomb sniffing dog who has been wounded in battle.  She could have her own book and is the real hero in this one.  I hope there will be more Elvis Cole / Joe Pike books, but I hope they're more enthusiastic in them than I am about this one.

I guess I haven't done too badly in November so far.  I have a few more library books sitting around .... and some more on hold.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rose Kennedy Greenway Carousel

If you've read many of my posts, you know that I spent most of my life in New England.  I lived in and around Boston for much of that time.  We lived in southern New Hampshire for a few years, when we had to buy a small farm for our Irish Wolfhound, Morgan.  Doesn't everyone do that when the puppy outgrows the apartment?

Jack and I miss Boston, but the real estate market there is crazy.  $1,000.00 a sq. ft. is too much to pay.  I'd give a lot to get into a time machine, go back to the 1980s, and NOT sell our condo on Beacon Hill.  But I can't find a time machine.  The next best thing is to visit as often as possible.

We've been renting a condo at the corner of Beacon St. and Bowdoin St. for several years, just for a week or two at a time.  It's across the street from the State House and Boston Common.  I love just staring out the window at the Common and the skyline.  Sunrise or sunset, it's equally beautiful.

Boston is a walking city but also has a terrific subway system.  It will drop you off in front of Symphony Hall or the Museum of Fine Arts or the Science Museum.  People complain about it, but they should have ridden the Green Line back in the 1970s.  The Boston T will take you almost anywhere within walking distance of where you want to go.  We always walk down to Waterfront Park while we're there.  We used to sail out of Charlestown, so we sit and dream about those days.

One of the cool things near the waterfront is the Rose Kennedy Greenway.  This is what the city did after the expressway / Rte. 93 was submerged.  Yes, that was The Big Dig.  What can I say?  But they made gardens and parks on top of the hidden highway and they commissioned the carousel.  It's got sea turtles, foxes, barn owls, and tons more animals and creatures native to Massachusetts.  Have you ever ridden a lobster?  Here's your chance!

While Philadelphia is in the process of demolishing its gorgeous old theaters, here's what Boston does with theirs.  In fairness, Emerson College owns the Paramount and several other theaters in Boston and has restored them.  The narrow white building on the right of the Paramount in the photograph below is the old Opera House, which has also been restored.

Anyone know where I can get a time machine?

Monday, November 2, 2015

October Books

Despite a very chaotic month, I managed to read a few books.  I was too lazy to blog about most of them.  Sorry.  Here they are.

Show Boat  -  Edna Ferber

     I didn't like this one as much as I liked So Big.  I plan to read Cimarron one of these days.

Death on the Dragon's Tongue  -  Margot Arnold

     The Toby Glendower / Penny Spring archeological mysteries are usually good.  I like them so much that I tracked them all down on the Internet.  This one, which took place in Brittany, didn't hold my attention.  Maybe that was because I read it in the middle of some of the aforementioned chaos.

My Mother Was Nuts  -  Penny Marshall

     This was purely a distraction for me.  I came away with a completely different perception of Penny Marshall, of Laverne and Shirley, actress and director.  I didn't think it was particularly well written and it jumped around a lot.  It was more like a casual chat than an autobiography.

City of Shadows  -  Ariana Franklin

     I especially enjoyed City of Shadows, a suspense / murder novel about a woman who pretended to be, Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.  It's got a kicker of a surprise ending.

The Abbey Court Murder  -  Annie Haynes

     Annie Haynes is all the rage at the moment.  I bought three of her mysteries for a few dollars for my Kindle.  This one was good, so I'm eager to read the others.  This was one of those books where I wanted to reach into the pages and shake a few people for being idiots, though.

Thunder Bay  -  William Kent Krueger

     I also liked Thunder Bay, which is one of the series about Cork Corcoran, an ex-sheriff who solves mysteries in Minnesota.  It's full of action and I like the deep woods locales.

I hope to do better in November

Friday, October 23, 2015

More Canoeing

The weather was my idea of perfect yesterday.  It was in the low to mid 70sF, a bit overcast (I dislike lots of sunlight), and with a light to moderate breeze.  So we decided to go canoeing again.  After a few mishaps loading the canoe, we were off to Lake Nockamixon.  Here's what we saw.

We saw turtles and fish and turkey vultures and a kingfisher.  I was just playing an audio of the call of the kingfisher to make sure I had the identification right.  I never got to see the bird clearly, I just thought from the way it flew and the call that must be what it was.  Turtle, our cat, was interested in the call, too, and apparently thought I'd brought one home.  We also saw this little blue heron fishing along the bank.  He was braver than the great blue heron we saw last time.  He let us get fairly close and never flew away.  All these photos were taken with the same iPhone, but the heron one looks weird to me, almost like a painting.  I wonder if Jack took it through the plastic bag he had his phone in.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Can You Canoe?

For my birthday in 1998, Jack bought me a canoe.  We lived in Massachusetts, in a fairly rural area south of Boston known as the South Shore.  We lived in a 300-year-old house with five fireplaces, situated about ten feet from the South River, when it was just a baby.  More a stream there than a river.  I was a conservation commissioner in our town, so I got out and about to conservation lands and lands that were to be protected.

We loved to go canoeing, to rent a canoe on the Charles River, the Concord, the North River, and the South River.  But since we moved to Philadelphia, I've had to store my canoe at my niece's in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and then at another niece's in Bucks County.  We also no longer had our Land Rover D90, the kind of country workhorse that could easily carry a 16' canoe or plow through 4' of snow.  And in PA, you have to buy a launch permit for non-motorized boats to legally put in at any state parks.  

However, we finally found a roof rack that would fit our small car, bought a launch permit, and headed off to Lake Nockamixon, about 15 minutes from my niece's farm.  Autumn is the perfect time to canoe.  Mid week means fewer people.

Lake Nockamixon is huge, about 5, 200 acres.  No boats with motors greater than 20 hp are allowed, although we were rocked a bit by the wake from a motor boat.  Even small motors can create wake.

The day was perfect.  I was nervous at first because I can't swim.  My family's thinking was that if you stay out of the water, you won't drown.  My father could swim but my mother could not.  My sister can swim.  So I guess we split down the middle.  I always were my PFD (Personal Floatation Device) and Jack used to be a lifeguard, so I feel reasonably safe.  But I'm still afraid of all the lake monsters that live where you can't see them.  And, so far, I'm only willing to paddle along the shore.

The leaves were turning, the fish were leaping, damselflies were flitting, and a great blue heron flew from a tree, screaming at us for invading its space.  It was peaceful and magical.  Stress drained away.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Show Boat - Edna Ferber

I read So Big, by Edna Ferber, two years ago and really liked it.  Novels of the 1920s often have a quiet but compelling grace.  No fireworks, no violence just to get our blood pressure skyrocketing, not a lot of whining or self analyzing.  They're about life as many people knew it, hard and relentless.  The people are accepting of their lot or, if not, are willing to work hard to change it.  There's little sense of entitlement, as in many stories of today.

This year, I read Show Boat, by the same author.  I'd include a photo but my copy is a 3-in-one volume of no particular beauty and without a dust jacket.  It's got So Big, Show Boat, and Cimarron in it.

Show Boat is mostly the story of Magnolia (Nola) Ravenal, nee Hawks.  Her father, Captain Andy Hawks, is a feisty little river boat captain, owner of the show boat Cotton Blossom.  He knows every inch of the Mississippi and her tributaries, he knows the moods of the river.  It's a living thing to him and the other rivermen.  He takes the boat, its crew, and its cast of actors up and down the rivers, stopping in river towns to regale the townspeople and the backwoods people with plays and music.  It's a real treat for them.  They save their money and drive or walk miles to attend the show.

Captain Hawks meets a New England school teacher named Parthenia.  She is stern and unyielding and thinks plays and acting and dancing and music are sinful and a waste of good time.  But Andy shows her the boat and tells her how profitable it is.  She eventually comes around and takes over much of the management of the boat - to the annoyance of the crew and cast.  She's the queen of the Cotton Blossom.

Magnolia is born, becomes an actress on the boat, to her mother's dismay, and elopes with the dashing Gaylord Ravenal, hired as an actor but really a professional gambler.  Gay and Parthy do not get along and he and Nola leave the boat.  Their life is a pendulum swinging from riches to poverty, depending on Gay's luck at the card table.  Nola wants stability for their daughter, Kim, born on the riverboat during a terrible storm.  Kim goes to a convent boarding school and becomes a famous actress.

I didn't get too involved with the story until I got close to the end.  In my opinion, a lot of the book is flat, like someone relating facts and stories without a lot of emotion.  It didn't keep my interest like So Big did, but I don't feel that I wasted my time reading it.  I'm curious to find out what Cimarron is like.

Monday, October 5, 2015

September Books Read

     It's been a chaotic few weeks.  I've been reading, but I haven't felt like posting because very few cheerful things have been happening.  Our business computer crashed and burned (as did my husband).  We had to buy a new desk computer and have our brilliant computer guy, one-arm-Brian, spend the day recovering lost data.  A few days later, our backup program went into action restoring files we had already restored and deleting new data.  Brian came back, gave them a good whacking, and straightened out the problem.  I think we lost only two files.

     In addition, my step-daughter is now in week three in the ICU, recovering from major surgery.  I have one thing to say to any smokers reading this:  STOP!  You don't want to go through what she's going through.

     We did have a lovely lunch at Great Sage in Clarksville, MD, a very busy vegan restaurant with delicious food.  And, on the same trip to visit my step-daugher at Johns Hopkins, I got to stop at Daedalus Books in Columbia, MD.  I've mail-ordered from them for years but had never visited, despite driving past several times.  I was so overwhelmed that I only bought four books, two of them for my little grandnieces, a mystery for me, and an adult coloring book for me about Paris.  For those days when all I can do is sit quietly and color in my coloring book.

     So, here's what I managed to finish reading in September:  

     The Studio Crime  -  Jerrold
     Blood Sinister  -  Harrod-Eagles
     As the Pig Turns  -  Beaton
     The Nature of the Beast  -  Penny
     Four Seasons in Rome  -  Doerr
     A Street Cat Named Bob  -  Bowen
     The Clue of the Tapping Heels  -  Keene
     Reckless  -  Hynde
     A Murder is Announced  -  Christie

     How's that for diversity, with a heavy lean on mystery?  I've blogged about some of the books but not others.  That doesn't mean that I didn't like them, I just didn't have a lot to say about them.  Or  they were finished while in the midst of the above referenced chaos.  I started two mysteries and abandoned them.  If they don't grab me fast, I'm not staying.

     I hope you had a good September.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Street Cat Named Bob - James Bowen

I believe it was Travellin' Penguin who mentioned this book.  She said it was very popular, all over the Internet, and that she didn't know how she'd missed it.  Well, I missed it, too.  She also said that the cat doesn't die at the end of the book.  That was enough for me to ask for my library's copy.  I no longer read books or see movies in which animals are hurt or die.  There's enough of that in real life.

Bob and James Bowen found each other when they were down and out in London.  James was a recovering addict working as a street busker.  Bob showed up on his doorstep.  James tried to find Bob's owner and originally didn't want to keep him.  But they quickly formed a strong bond and James realized that caring for Bob helped him in his recovery.

They became an Internet sensation when Bob started riding to work on James's shoulder, riding on the bus with him, and sitting in his guitar case while James performed.  Life working on the street is hard, but James explains why some people do it.  Bob attracted a lot of attention and affection, increasing James's income.  People knitted scarves for Bob, yes, for Bob, not for James!  They brought gifts and food for him.  They took photos and videos.

The book is simply written.  There were no photos in my copy, but you can Google Bob and James and find quite a few videos of them.  I wish them both well in their voyage through life.  And I wish we could take our pets to all the places that apparently welcome them in Great Britain.  Here, only my bank and some restaurants with outdoor seating welcome dogs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Four Seasons in Rome - Anthony Doerr

I recently read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I thought it was magical, that the writing was luminous, and that the story was wonderful and heartbreaking.  My cousin gave me that book and went on to recommend this one.  She mentioned that much of it was about being the new parents of twins, something with which I have no experience.  I chose a lifestyle without children and have never regretted it.

The day after his wife gave birth to twin boys, Anthony Doerr received an invitation for a year-long fellowship at the American Academy in Rome.  He accepted and they packed up their six-month old twins, time having elapsed, and moved to an apartment in Rome.  Neither of the adults spoke Italian and, of course, the twins hadn't even mastered English.  Brave or insane, I think I know which I think they are.

Through the haze of sleeplessness, Doerr describes stumbling through their first days in Rome.  They need to find the nearest grocers, fruit sellers, bakeries, and learn how to negotiate Roman customs.  You don't stand at the back of the line waiting your turn.  You shoulder your way to the front to call out your order.

Apparently, Italians have a universal love of babies, especially twins.  Old people, children, they all smile, say how beautiful they are, and want to touch the babies.  Despite having the lowest birth rate of all Europe, he says, he's constantly congratulated on having produced twins.

They find a babysitter so they can occasionally go off to explore Rome and Umbria by themselves.  I think we all know how gorgeous the countryside in Italy is, whether from personal experience or movies.  Rome is chaos, but layered by thousands of years of human life.  At times he seems overwhelmed by the ghosts of all the people who have lived where he and his family are living.

If this sounds like the babies are the centerpieces of the book, they are.  Doerr speculates on many aspects of Roman life, how they seem to accept death better than Americans do and, thus, live life more fully, more in the moment.  He finds a set of Pliny's Natural History and reads it during his stay.  Pliny, who I haven't read, seems much like Herodotus, who I have read, with their wild and wise observations.

In the world of coincidences, Doerr was in Rome, living near the Vatican, during Pope John Paul II's last illness and death.  We here in Philadelphia are about to go into literal lockdown mode for the visit of Pope Francis.  Two very different situations, but similar in the adoration and massing of the crowds.

The book is fairly short, about 200 pages.  It's interesting, although his descriptions sometimes seemed inappropriate for this sort of book, a bit over the top, perhaps better for a novel.  And it confirmed that I made the right decision about children!

The Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny

I love Louise Penny because she's introduced me to wonderful, odd people and to the mythical place called Three Pines.  I wish she'd write a mystery a month.  I don't even care if there's a mystery involved.  I just want to sit in the bistro drinking with Reine-Marie, Armand, Ruth (especially Ruth!), Rosa, Clara, Myrna, and the others, basking in the warmth of the fire and in their intelligent and sometimes silly conversation, eating delicious food.

Little Laurent Lepage cries wolf.  A lot.  His imagination runs away with him.  So when he races into the village, raving about a gun he found in the woods, a gun bigger than a house, and a monster riding on the gun, no one believes him.  However, when he's found dead, apparently from a bicycle accident, retired Chief Inspector Armand Gamache feels that something isn't right.  He suggests to his protege and successor, Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, that they investigate further.  Yes, Laurent was murdered.

What they find in the woods is a huge missile launcher built in the 1990s.  Called Project Babylon and decorated with the Whore of Babylon, no one was sure it had been built, although some people had been searching for it and for its plans for years.  Pointed at the east coast of the US, rumor had it that the builder was planning to sell the launcher to Saddam Hussein, but the builder was murdered.  As word gets out, Canadian intelligence agents show up.  They clash with Lacoste's group and Lacoste's group clashes with some of the local police.  Tensions and subterfuges abound.

There's another murder.  Everyone is looking for the plans for the gun and Laurent's murder is overshadowed by the search.  The intelligence people from the government, an elderly scientist who'd been involved in the project, even some of the older villagers who lived there when the gun was built are suspected.  How could they not have known what was being built in the woods?  Not everyone is who they seem to be.  Someone is hiding something.

The Nature of the Beast is the eleventh in a string of engaging and satisfying mysteries involving Gamache and the residents of Three Pines.  I've now acquired them all and hope to start at the beginning and read through to the end.  This is how the books should be read.  If you read them out of order, as I did, you'll miss the reasons for the character development.  Things happen, people change.  But I'd love to live in Three Pines.

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

This is an organization and an effort that is dear to my heart, so, occasionally, I'm going to remind you of that.  Signing digital petitions is all you need to do, although an occasional donation helps them to pursue their legal battles on behalf of the horses.  If you sign petitions for a while, they will come already filled out.  All you need to do is hit 'Submit'.  Easy.  We need more people to speak out. This is a democracy and voices should count.

Wild horses on federal lands are supposed to be protected by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros act, passed UNANIMOUSLY by Congress.  Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the horses have been rounded up using helicopters or traps.  Many horses are injured or killed in the process.  The land designated for wild horse preserves has been drastically reduced, while cattle grazing, a financial loss to taxpayers, has increased.  The BLM prefers cattle to horses, for no good reason.

There are now more wild horses stuck in holding pens than are free on the ranges.  This costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year.  There would be little or no cost if the horses were left on the range.  Wild horse numbers were much higher in 1971 when Congress decided they were disappearing and needed to be protected.  If their numbers do need to be managed, contraception is effective and less traumatic to the horses.

I'll let the organization speak for itself.  Please sign some petitions and help if you can.  The horses don't deserve to be abused by their protectors.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

Do you ever find that it's difficult to review a book you really like?  I don't read much contemporary literary fiction and I wasn't expecting to like this book.  My cousin gave it to me for my birthday.  At lunch with some of my family, everyone who'd read it, which was everyone at the table except for me, said they liked it.  Now I know why.

Marie-Laure is a young French girl who has gone blind.  Her father is the locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris.  He's responsible for tens of thousands of locks.  Her mother is gone, so he takes Marie-Laure to the museum with him.  There she learns about natural history, gems and shells being of particular interest.  He also builds a miniature diorama of their neighborhood in Paris to help Marie-Laure learn how to get around the city.  For her birthdays, he builds little houses with secret compartments to hold special birthday treats.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Werner and his sister Jutta are in an orphanage.  Werner is forced to join Hitler's Youth.  He's a wizard with radios, math, and electronics, but he's still forced to participate in the rigorous training / bullying of the army of children.  He meets Frederick, a sensitive boy who loves birds and who is filled with wonder.  The army is not a good place for either of them.

As the Germans invade Paris, Marie-Laure's father is given a stone which may be the famous and valuable gem called the Sea of Flames.  There are four gems, one real and three fakes.  He takes Marie-Laure to Saint-Malo, to the house of Marie-Laure's great uncle, Etienne.  Etienne had been a hermit since the First World War, when he and his brother fought.  His brother was killed.  Etienne cannot bear the real world and never leaves his house.  He sees ghosts.  

Etienne's house is full of radios.  He and his brother used to broadcast a science program for children.  The Germans order everyone to turn in their radios.  Etienne's family complies  -  except for the powerful radio built into the secret attic.

Werner and his unit are responsible for locating and destroying any unauthorized radios.  Etienne has been broadcasting a list of numbers to the Allies.  Saint-Malo, the beautiful old city by the sea, becomes a target for both the Germans and the Allies, bombed mercilessly.

Marie-Laure's father tries to get to Paris but is arrested and imprisoned.  Etienne is taken prisoner, too.  Marie-Laure is left alone in the house by the sea.  A German officer is searching for the valuable gem that her father may have had.  He shows up at the house and Marie-Laure hides.

There's so much beautiful detail in this book.  Her father buys Marie-Laure books in Braille.  She's reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  At one point, she begins to read the book aloud for broadcast.  

In one of the strange twists that sometimes startle me, I was reading Twenty Thousand Leagues earlier this summer.  It got put aside, not because it wasn't interesting, but because it just did.  You know how that goes.  Now I'm eager to finish it and read, or re-read, more Jules Verne.

At first, I was annoyed by the book because it jumps forward and backward in time.  The chapters are short and alternate between Marie-Laure's story and Werner's, until they converge.  As I got to know the characters and understood the trajectory of the story, I felt more comfortable.  The time period covered is from just before World War II to 2014.

I have joined the ranks of the enchanted.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Quick Trip to the Nature Park / A.K.A Keeping My Sanity, Or What's Left of It

I've taken you here before, but in a different season.  It's now late summer and the trees and plants change from week to week.  It's starting to look like fall, even if it doesn't feel like it.  It's 90F in Philadelphia as I write this.  Too, too hot for me at any time of the year.

 Low tide and late summer flowers.
 This is a nice place to sit when the sun swings around and the bench is in the shade.
 The Ben Franklin Bridge to New Jersey.
 Cormorants walking on water.  I love that they float low in the water, their heads like periscopes.
 In a few more years, this park will be even more interesting.
 Lovely fall flowers.  I just wish the background vista was lovelier.  Camden, NJ.
The Walt Whitman Bridge to New Jersey.  And the ruins of piers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Way We Live Now - Anthony Trollope

Ta-da!  I finally finished my Trollope!  Don't get me wrong.  I enjoyed it immensely.  But in this edition, it was 825 pages long.  That's a long book.  I've read Orley Farm, which is also long, and several other Trollopes that I have in multi-volume older editions.  It says something for the book that it held my attention for so long.

As with most Trollopes I've read, Trollope weaves several stories around and together.  It starts with Lady Carbury, an authoress of dubious quality.  She supports her daughter, Hetta, and her son, Sir Felix Carbury.  Although both are grown, they live at home.  That's to be expected of unmarried Hetta, but Felix is a gambler, a womanizer, and a drunk.  He spends his money and almost impoverishes his mother, who dotes on him because he's her beautiful son.

Roger Carbury, Lady Carbury's cousin, loves Hetta, but she won't have him.  She loves and respects him but doesn't love him that way.  She loves Paul Montague, although he's been engaged to an American woman, older than he and far too passionate.  He breaks off the engagement and then meets Hetta and falls in love.  There are repercussions and lost letters and misunderstanding.

Then there's Mr. Melmotte, a rich, rich man, and his wife and daughter, Marie.  Is he rich?  Or is it smoke and mirrors?  Opinion is divided.  But as people bow to his possible wealth, they accept him into their ranks and he becomes more arrogant.  He's rude, they all admit that, and doesn't know how to act in polite society.  Lady Carbury wants Felix to marry Marie for her money, but he's not eager.  Marie, however, falls madly in love with him and plans their elopement.  But country girl Ruby Ruggles, whom Felix courts for giggles and fun, loves him, too, and hopes he'll marry her.

I don't think there's any recapping a book like this.  I could tell you about Ruby and John Crumb, about Mrs. Pipkin, about Paul Montague and Mrs. Hurtle, about the gambling debts, and how the club goes belly up and the young men have no place to go, about Lady Carbury and Mr. Broune.  There's a lot about love, love lost, love mistaken, and there's a lot about business and who's skimming what from whom and who actually has any money.

The Way We Live Now is a lush book, one to get lost in, one with wonderful characters and stories.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Never Fall in Love with a Spider

This is a lesson we all should have learned from Charlotte's Web, isn't it?  Somehow, I didn't.  A couple of months ago, we noticed a spider in a web on the outside of our kitchen window.  She and her web were very visible.  We started saying hello to her when we got up in the morning, and later we wished her a good night.  It seemed a smart place for her to have her web, near the patio light, which would draw nocturnal insects.  It was a safe, sheltered place for a smart spider.

We named her Regina and identified her as a yellow and black garden spider.  She has long, elegant legs and a wonderfully intricate pattern on her back.  Garden spiders weave a distinctive zigzag runway in the middle of their webs, the purpose of which, so far, has not been determined.  She was often busy in the morning, reweaving or revising, and checking her web.  She was a source of pleasure for us.

Then she disappeared.  We knew that that might happen.  We mourned for her but were hopeful that she had just moved on.  And then I noticed her in the corner of the patio, above a dying azalea.  Delighted, we rejoiced.  And then she disappeared.  I sent our neighbors, the ones who share our patio wall, an e-mail.  I told them we had lost our spider and she might be headed their way.  They looked for her, but no luck.  A few days later, Jack found her on the outside of the second story library window.  Clearly, she was moving up in the world.  And then she disappeared.  A garden spider needs a real garden, doesn't she?

It's been about a week since we last saw her, and Jack has just found Regina again.  She has a web behind a chair on the patio.  Her reappearance has made my day, but she seems to be a nomadic spider, so I expect she'll disappear again.

Here's Regina.  If you look closely, you can see her zigzag runway, just below her legs on the bottom right.  She's an amazing creature.  Isn't she beautiful?

Book Darts and Turtle

I just rediscovered my Book Darts.  When I'm reading a book I plan to post about, I sometimes think I should take notes.  But I hate taking notes, interrupting the flow of my reading, and I'm the world's worst note-taker.  I scribble things down and then either can't read my scrawl or don't remember what I meant by 'file complaint'.  Did I file a complaint or was I reminding myself to file a complaint or did someone else file a complaint.  Don't ask me.

Anyway, years ago, I bought a small tin of Book Darts.  Like, I suspect, a lot of you, I love stationery items and book related things.  I bought the book darts, put them in my desk, and forgot about them.  I remembered them when I was reading the latest book I posted about and thought I should take some notes about it.  Instead, I dug out my Book Darts and had a great time marking the pages where there were things I wanted to remember.  I just checked and found that Book Darts are still available.  They're great.

Update for Those With Cats:  Turtle is still in her box.  Usually, she abandons a new box after a few days.  I think she likes this one because it's shallow.  She can lie in it and still see everything that's going on around her.