Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Greatest Generation passes - Francis S. Gibbs 1916-2008

Dad would have been 92 years old today, but he missed that by two months. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, my father served during the whole of WWII in the Canadian Forces in the RCAF. After leaving the RCAF in 1946, he came down to the US with my Mom (and me) and joined the Army Air Corps. In 1948, when the Air Force was born, we became an Air Force Family. By his retirement in 1973, Dad had over 35 years of combined service. His wish was always for a military funeral when the time came, and a bagpiper. We were able to give him both. An Honor Guard from the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the active duty Minnesota Army Guard did a wonderful job, 21 gun salute and all. We were so very proud. A bagpiper played Amazing Grace, and an Army bugler played taps. Since Dad himself had been a trumpeter, this was especially moving. I was so very thankful to be able to have had these dedicated men of several generations giving their time to honor a veteran who had served so honorably. Our parents are a part of us. When they are gone we suddenly become propelled into real adulthood. The older generation is now me. A constant presence in my consciousness, my father will always be there, now passing through the flowing river of life with my mother. I couldn't have had better parents, nor more interesting ones. Being a military family we had opportunities and experiences others seldom have, and a lot of learning and fun along the way! Rest in eternal peace.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Latte McDonald's style...

This lady is the CEO of McDonald's. WOW...an Air Force wife who started out evenings in a McDonald's. Can I tell you I am proud! They closed the Dunkin' Donuts that we frequented each Saturday am. Weird sobbing noises ensued. So now there is McDonald's and it is even closer than DD was, by about half a block. We forlornly dragged in and I reluctantly ordered a latte. I don't like sugar in them, so I was afraid of the pre-made stuff. ZOUNDS. Now i am a real McDonald's latte aficionado. Delicious. Hot, and even though more expensive than I like to pay for coffee (I don't often hit Starbuck's because of the silly prices) it seems worth it once a week!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm a Mandarin?...what?

I'm a Mandarin!

You're an intellectual, and you've worked hard to get where you are now. You're a strong believer in education, and you think many of the world's problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. You have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates you when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power. You believe that people can make a difference in the world, and you're determined to try.

Talent: 33%
Lifer: 54%
Mandarin: 62%

Take the Talent, Lifer, or Mandarin quiz.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Netbook from Lenovo...

This is a cool little mini-laptop. WOW. I see this as the wave of the future in mobile computing. Large enough to actually see, as opposed to a phone unit, big enough to see a film, yet has the specs you could actually use in a computer while traveling. And at such a light weight at 2.6 pounds? Great. And the price is another happy surprise. This baby goes on my want list. I picture myself keeping my whole ebook library on this, and some music to read by! I think maybe when the next couple generations of this small unit come out it will be time to make a move. See where this trend leads. As a late adopter, I keep my eyes on the prize, but make no move until something has been tested by all those early adopters! CompUSA has a dazzling array of Netbooks and there are many more out there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

High Fidelity and Nick Hornby...

I've been reading Nick Hornby lately. High Fidelity first. I can just see John Cusack in the story. Why is that? Well, I saw the movie first, and I must say the characterization was perfect in the film. I felt more sympathy for Rob in the book than in the movie, but I love John Cusack's work, so I also liked the movie. A good example of modern British rather alienated characters, the books Hornby writes have a certain grit, and lots of droll humor. About a Boy has the same main character really, except here he doesn't work, and Hugh Grant was perfect for the part!. But he is still a perennial youth, a teenager, a fuzzy-brained idiot really, who hasn't figured out a real life. I haven't finished About a Boy, so the verdict isn't in yet on if I will read any more of Nick Hornby. We'll see.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Forever Ulysses...

A forgotten novel by one C.P. Rodocanachi, a Greek writer whose focus was on explication of the Greek Spirit through the ages. First published in the UK as No Innocent Abroad , Forever Ulysses was published by Viking Press in 1938. I read Forever Ulysses in just a few days, as it captured my interest in subtle ways. A very dated novel in some respects (published in 1938, it was a history of one Greek who captured the eternal Greek spirit, and at the same time illustrated the times in which he lived). Starting before the turn of the 20th century and ending a few years after the Great War, which of course we know as WWI, since it turned out NOT to be the war to end all wars. I fell over one of Rodocanachi's other books, Athens and the Greek Miracle when a friend found it at a used book store. When searching Worldcat, we turned up this novel, so I placed an interlibrary loan request. The riches that can be had from a simple ILL request know no bounds. Beginning with Ulysses' youngest years, we follow him from the age of six, as he leaves his village in Cephalonia to try his luck at making a living, using his slippery talents. First as a shoe shine boy in Argostoli, a Greek lustro, and then following along through Egypt, the Sudan, and on to America, we follow his adventures through wars and peace, and through many a scheme as he makes, loses and remakes his fortunes, encountering the likes of Kitchener, the Mahdi, and countless others. His final move is back to Greece, and back to his humble village, and his eternal rest. From this vantage point in time, I was lucky to find an archived book review at TIME Magazine. The review dates to January 10, 1938, a week after publication. Apparently there were real life models for Ulysses, including the author's own life! I was reminded of the stories of Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos as I read the Ulysses story over again. Using his life, and the lives of other adventurous Greeks, Rodocanachi created Ulysses as the behind the scenes mover and shaker of his era, an inveterate deal-maker, businessman, global nomad, and patriot. Ulysses was fascinating enough, imagine the lives of those he was modeled after.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Rex Reed...

Reading the New York Observer the other day just for the Rex Reed movie reviews. Still the same standard as way back in the late 60s when I used to see him on TV. WOW. Rex has been a mainstay of my movie (O.K. pretentious people out there, my film) interest all these years. He's the kind of iconic name like Marilyn Monroe or Henry Kissinger. He's just always been there in my cultural database. Not for me the mellow tones of an Ebert, though I love the guy's reviews sometimes; no, I prefer the acerbic tones, the irony and the satire I get from reading Rex's reviews. When he likes a movie, I can tell that will be a film worth watching. When he does not, it gives me pause. Sometimes I disagree, but I always respect his insightful opinions and ruthless critiques. You get the feeling no one has EVER paid Rex Reed to simper over their movies! His review of Sex and the City is a scream! I loved the movie for what it was, my chance to see the ladies one more time, but as far as film, he had it nailed! Keep it up Rex, to me you are still that dashingly handsome guy I saw on late night TEEVEE back in the early 70s...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Portis Aloha?

It's almost like grieving. I just finished Gringos. This was Charles Portis at his best and in the last novel he has written. I won't say his last novel because he just might publish one any minute? Maybe? Please? I do not reread books. That never appealed to me. I have read it, so on to the next book. Not with Portis. I have all five novels and now I must start at the beginning again. I have written here before about Portis. For the pathos without much of the humor, read his short piece I Don't Talk Service No More but for the ironic beauty and gentleness with which Portis treats the average guy trying to make it in this world in some ethereal and usually weirdly comic way, read the novels.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Avocado and Elizabeth Peters...

A great lunch today. Avocado again! Oh boy, do I ever love avocado. Made the Roast Beef and Avocado Salad for dinner last week. YUMMY. I'll be getting more avocados for sure.

Now for more serious fare. I recommend Elizabeth Peters' series of Amelia Peabody mysteries. Amelia has a thirst for Egypt, pyramids and Archaeological mysteries! You can learn a lot while being entertained. I have read other books by Elizabeth Peters (real name - Barbara Mertz), but her heart is really in the Amelia Peabody character. She is funny, pushy, erudite, loving, inquisitive and very modern for her times. The series is set in the late 1800s and Amelia wears trousers! In order to read these seemingly light reading novels you better have a terrific vocabulary or a terrific dictionary.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

HDTV is better than chocolate...really...

We got HDTV hooked up and WOW...boy...this stuff is terrific. What'll they think of next? I mean the resolution is more than the human eye sees when the human eye looks out on the world. EVERY little pimple on the Red Sox faces is there for all to see. Just in time for a look at the Olympics as well. Again I say - WOW. Luckily the History Channel, and National Geo also do HD, as does the Food Channel, HGTV, Sci-Fi for goodness sake. All my favs. Also get two PBS channels in HD...my cup runneth over. Thank you local TV fiber optic cable provider!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Womanly comportment...hand placement

So a friend sent me this link to Bitter BettyBlogs the topic being standing positions and what to do with ones ladylilke hands and arms. Interesting tutorial. I can remember some of the advice in this vein in many a publication of my very early youth.

One friends reaction: "Ha ha, the look on the model's face is like, "what is this bullsh*t I'm doing!?" The slenderizing position looks like you're afraid your butt is going to fall of if you let go! AH, but my very favorite! I think we should all go somewhere and express pertness! HAHAHAHAHA! It looks like her arms got put on backwards at the fembot factory! HAHAHA! Oh, and for the love of GOD, the big girls better not let their arms be akimbo! (what?!) It doesn't say why, just don't do it."

Another friends reaction: "I practiced these for a while (in front of a mirror of course!) first #2 to “slenderize the hip line” then I moved on to #3 to “minimize the waistline” but came to a dead STOP when I read “Warning to the overweight” about this position requiring the arms to be akimbo and that I should avoid this-----what the heck??!! If I wasn’t overweight, I wouldn’t be trying to “minimize my waistline”!!! But, I do have to say I agree with you...let’s all go somewhere and express pertness! Or what the heck maybe a cowboy’s (shouldn’t that be cowgirl) hand position----that should be attractive but I’ll make sure I do it symmetrically…"

I remember “Charm School.” YES, I *DID* attend Charm School. I was unimaginably young, the year was 1958. I learned to walk, talk and in general comport myself as a LADY. DO NOT CROSS YOUR LEGS AT THE KNEE. Demurely cross them at the ankle, always holding those knees (naughty KNEES) tightly together...Cross ones little arms at the wrists demurely in the lap after sitting in this lady-like position. We actually WALKED WITH BOOKS ON OUR HEADS to practice the smooth walk. We had a fashion show and learned to walk and turn and pose, much as in this tome on hand and arm positions...hahhahha.

Well, I know how to wear gloves, and what gloves go with what occasions...hats, ditto...all augmented by my mother’s able teaching. She herself however, was NEVER accused of PERTNESS...hahhha...if you knew her you’d know that. She was a capable, assertive, able woman who did everything from knock out walls and remake our old house, to tarring the roof, growing the flowers and veges, and sewing, knitting, doll making and repair, and photography, reading and painting. But, I digress....

Yes, we should be more aware of our INNER PERTNESSES!! But seriously folks, you have to admit that this is a better image than the tattooed woman with her boobs flopping along, her flip-flops matching the rhythm, chewing her gum noisily with her mouth open, slogging through the grocery store, smacking her little ones, yelling at the top of her lungs to the man in her life who is over stuffing frozen meat into his shirt...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Michael Chabon addendum...

Talking to another Portis fan today I remembered that when I first started to read Yiddish Policeman I had a sudden epiphany. Chabon is the closest thing to Portis I have read. There is a feeling of "kindred spirit" there...some fascination with the ridiculous. A great choice to follow reading Yiddish Policeman is Masters of Atlantis. You'll never read schlock again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Michael Chabon's Sitka...

I finished The Yiddish Policeman's Union over the long weekend. I started it a few days before the weekend, and I attempted to make it last longer, but it just would not. It captured me and tunneled me through that oddest of looking glasses and into a parallel universe of Jewish Sitka just before reversion. I lived in Okinawa just previous to that island's reversion to Japan, and there is indeed a surrealistic component to the temporary state of mind in a place which is neither one nor the other quite yet. In Sitka, the reversion has its upheaval religiously and socially, no one knows their fate. To be tossed out ignominiously into a cold world is nothing new to Jewish life, but the population had ignored the 60 year inability to make the Jewish state in Alaska permanent, and was confused and depressed about the coming abyss. Into this Meyer Landsman falls over a body in his flophouse of a cheap hotel whose identity and fate become an obsession for the policeman. Meyer has his own problems - an ex-wife he loves, a friend he counts on, and assorted characters who come and go through Chabon's brilliant world. His fascination with the chess pieces of the dead man's life becomes an unfolding story of a miraculous life, a Holy Man who found the modern world and its convoluted motives too much. I can't say any more because as usual, Michael Chabon has written a completely original novel which has to be read. Any fluid language of bookish critique would be exceedingly superfluous. Do I need to add that I think Chabon the most brilliant writer on the scene? I missed his book signing in Seattle last year by one day, and I still rue that I didn't change that plane ticket...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Alan Furst once more...

Last night I finished The Polish Officer. Furst (read all about his books in the New York Times) only gets better at crafting the time, the place and the characters. When I have to leave these friends at the end of the book, I am left hoping. I referred to the last novel as depressing in another post, but depressing isn't the right word. The realities of WWII were awful. No poetic effusions I could craft would make that any different. Just awful. The Germans and the Russians tramped over the top of the Poles, and that is just a fact, among many other facts about the period. What happens to people's lives, and how radicalized ordinary folk can become is the eternal theme of Furst's work. The germ of conscience, the surprising surge of honor and bravery in those who had considered themselves ordinary folk, continues to fascinate Furst and it fascinates me.These are novels of merit and worth, not genre novels, not what is referred to, irritatingly enough, as "easy reads." The main problem with good writing is that you can't go back, you can't settle anymore. If tricked into reading Furst or Portis because you thought it was genre, or you thought it looked swell, you are caught up in the search for more. I am a reader. I read as a child; I read whatever I thought looked interesting, and my parents never stepped in (She READS! Isn't it wonderful? They were wonderful). SO, I read voraciously and widely. I am not a writer because so many other people have done that already. Too many as it turns out. So much is drek. Now I only read what I want to read, and there are years of books ahead of me that I may not get to in this lifetime. You can be sure Alan Furst's work will top the pile.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Summer...reading...

Light reading has captured me for the last several weeks. After finishing Alan Furst's Night Soldiers I was ready for some M.C. Beaton. The Furst novel was so heavy. A depressing, intricate story of Eastern Europe and the Balkans pre and during WWII, it had an ending that was a surprisingly hopeful one. Furst writes with a dexterity and depth not found in a lot of modern writing, and I look forward to each novel. I know his characters now, and each one is a friend. I have a few Beaton books lined up, and just finished another Lawrence Block Bernie Rhodenbarr novel. This time I read The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart and it was the best of the Rhodenbarr's so far! Very witty, very New York. The resolutions of the mysteries in this series do seem pulled out of the woodwork. You don't have the clues in book really, so the books aren't about clever detection as much as about the characters, the city, the humor. I think they make terrific airplane reading, or summer entertainment. Donald Westlake's Dortmunder series is far better plotted, and more entertaining all around, but I will read Rhodenbarr books as I find them, and I love the whole New York City thing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ludlum's over for me...

I began to read The Icarus Agenda and then stopped and checked it back into the library. I think I have maxed out on Ludlum. I have read so may of his books that they are all sort of flowing into each other, each one a plot of megalomaniacs taking over the world. I liked that for the first ten books or so, but now I think I've read enough to have, in effect, read them all. Since reading Alan Furst, the bar has been lifted for any novel I read of any geopolitical topic. I am reading Night Soldiers now, and that's going to take awhile. In eReader, I just finished reading Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It was like reading a video game. His first novel, it was not at all fleshed out. The characters left a lot undiscovered, and the alternative world was left pretty much unexplained. I did like it though. I am looking forward to the next Gaiman ebook I have, Stardust.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Diversifying...

I started Eyelets in the Seams so that that topic won't figure heavily in this blog. Since the picture today is of my beloved rice cooker, I may as well extol its virtues a bit. NO home appliance is quite as handy if you like rice. The best small appliance buy I ever made, and I've bought plenty of small appiances (a personal obsession). LOVE it. The only drawback with mine is that there is only one container and no lid for it out of the cooker. One should be able to store rice in the frig in one container and have one for use when the rice runs low.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Not alone anymore...

After all this time I am not the only family blogger. I'll be adding two sites to the side bar - two my home on the web type sites, one containing a very funny blog. One is the family comedienne, and one the family heavy metal musician. He has less to say. No blog? This is the twenty-first century, and although it is in many ways a shame, everyone could be blogging. See them on the side bar later.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fiber Optic to the home...BTV

Let me begin by saying how exciting it is to live in a city with the foresight and initiative to undertake a task of this magnitude. Fiber optic to the home is a great network, and providing telephone, Internet and television as a municipal service is the best idea since Bell made that first call. Read about the current state of the network at 802 Online.

Having heard of this being started in the Mid-West by some small city or other several years ago, I was excited when I heard that my city was thinking of asking the voters if they should go ahead with the plan to bring this to Burlington. The answer was yes, and the plan got rolling. I was waiting for the day the cable went by my house so we could sign up. The only high speed Internet we could get was Adelphia for many years, and then Comcast after their purchase of Adelphia. Service with Adelphia was extremely poor to put it mildly, for both television and Internet, and of course we had to have Verizon phone service. With Comcast, service got measurably better, but the cost was extremely high to have Comcast cable TV and Verizon phone service. The cost savings for all three services with BTV is remarkable. There were delays in the completion of the infrastructure, but we got online with BTV last October.

There have been occasions for using the support provided, and this weekend, after an ice storm of two days, we really had an Internet problem. Here is where the localization of services really pays off. LOCAL service from LOCAL people. We know where they work, and we can call and talk to them. If we had to, we could go down there and actually see them. They don't work out of a sweat shop in Bangladesh, or a bank of phones in South Carolina or California. They work a few blocks down the hill and are part of our community. I am thankful for the support folks at BTV, and I applaud their efforts to make sure we can get the services! Our router seems to be in a group of several problems of the same kind which have been experienced in the last couple days. BTV is sending out an engineer to the homes to check and solve these problems. TRY and get that kind of service from a huge faceless corporation.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Seattle entries finally tuned....

I finally finished the entry on Seattle from last July! I had pictures to add, and I must say that the picture coding here on blogger is confusing. After many trials, I have the text wrapping well, but the pictures aren't in the order I had envisioned. Here's the link to Seattle entries. I once again found I couldn't stop myself from starting a Ludlum book. This time it's The Aquitaine Progression. In eReader, my new updated version for Windows of eReaderpro, I am reading Prester John, a dated novel by John Buchan. While a swashbuckling adventure, it does illustrate the colonial prejudices common in its time. I love his writing, and have previously read several of his novels set in and around WWI. The new version of eReadPro has a handy bookshelf feature which the software badly needed. I have no idea why it was so long in coming. The Mac version doesn't have it so far. Soon?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Reading through to Summer...

After a quick read through Robert Ludlum's Holcroft Covenant
I was ready for something a bit less frenzied. It's a long, complex and depressing book, actually. The movie was different in resolution, but had the same ambiance. I then took up Marjory Allingham's The Tiger in the Smoke, a very different sort of book from the usual procedural she wrote. It is a philosophical book, a thinkers story of the evolution of evil, juxtapositioned with good. A morality tale which leaves the reader glad for resolution, and appreciative of the chance to pick up the book at the local grocery store from a charity book heap for the low low price of one dollar. I finished the Allingham book, happy to have discovered a real sleeper, and then took up Alan Furst again. I have bought all the rest of his WWII era novels, as they are so well written and so thick with plotting, philosophy, ethical conundrums, and all the detail of that era in Europe and Eastern Europe of which he writes. His novels could be a class in history all by themselves, but human history, not dry recountings of espionage tales, not fast-paced romps through violence and mayhem, but thoughtfully moving accounts of human experiences at difficult times and in difficult places. Choices or no choices, the characters struggle to survive, to reach decisions made sometimes in the society of ethical vacuum, and always these choices open paths down which our characters struggle to maintain a human dignity, even in the midst of chaos and terror. Mundane daily survival becomes a problem of turmoil and compromise. I am reading Night Soldiers now.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

eReader SOLD...winter...blogging malaise

eReader up and sold to Fictionwise. HHhmmm....I haven't a clue what this will mean for the Palm book format. Motricity decided to get out of the ebook biz and concentrate on their mobile technology lines. Can't blame them, but I liked eReader and never dealt with Fictionwise. The changes so far seem to be backend, and are good so far. Cart remembers you and what you have in it, wish list changes as you add books to cart. These are new changes. So the site is being retooled to bring it up to more current usage practices. I wonder when the changes in book unlock and so on will come if they do come.

AMAZON'S Kindle may be the driving force behind this merger for Fictionwise. There is already ability to get some books with mobile phone technology other than Kindle. As long as Kindle is so expensive and so limiting in format I am not interested as a buyer, but of course I am interested as an observer. It's development is interesting. The ebook readership has not grown to the proportions envisioned back in the early 90s of course, and Kindle might lure a few more people into the fold, so in that way it may encourage other vendors as well.

Winter proceeds - we have broken the ALL TIME record for snow in February and fast approaching the top of the top 10 all time winter snow loads. How wonderful. Could have lived without the honor. Can't do much either way.

Blog malaise sets in every few months...I think post-blogging is hitting me just as post-iPod did! Blogging is at best a harmless narcissistic activity for those of us who can't find enough people in real life to bore, and after awhile it does lose its shiny newness. I could go on about the political climate, how boring is that? Pretty darn boring!