Saturday, April 28, 2007

Amazon is recommending I purchase the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants.
I wonder what brought that on?

Friday, April 27, 2007


Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate by Angus Konstam was slow reading for me. This was due to the fact that I started this book with zero previous knowledge about pirates and Konstam is an expert. While I was approaching Blackbeard with the glee of an 10 year old boy, looking for gory details, battles, hangings, and blood and guts, Konstram was seriously discussing the history of pirates and Blackbeard's life. Sometimes the details became a bit tedious and boring to me. Also, only about half the book is actually specifically about Blackbeard. The first half of the book covers the history of pirates.
This may have not been the best first pirate book for me to read.

From Amazon:
"Konstam, the Scottish author of more than 50 maritime history books here explores the dreaded Blackbeard, "the archetypal pirate of the age...and one of the most fearsome figures around." Konstam makes a thorough, exciting examination of 18th century pirate life, with wonderful details such as the pirates' code, which can read as a precursor to America's own Bill of Rights: "Every man has a Vote in Affairs of Monument, has equal Title to the fresh Provisions, or strong Liquors, at any Time seized & use them at pleasure." However, the author's portrait of the seadog fails for two reasons: first, very little is known about Blackbeard, and Konstam hasn't been able to uncover much that's new; "we must assume" becomes a frequent, frustrating qualifier when the book focuses on its subject. Secondly, Konstram is fond of cliches: a ruler's power base collapses "like a house of cards" while another is able to "walk the political tightrope;" and the feared pirate himself "would stop at nothing to get what he wanted." The padding necessary to produce a lengthy version of Blackbeard's story produces a work that has little of the dash and derring-do readers will expect from the biography of a pirate, and ends up painting Blackbeard less as a terror of the high seas than a bully with a big boat. Illustrations."
Copyright © Reed Business Information

What I'm planning to do is read another pirate book, Under the Black Flag. Then I have a book on Captain Kidd that will follow at some point. (I also have 2 more nonfiction virus books calling me.) This will break the fiction/nonfiction order I'm trying to follow for the year, but I think it may be time to toss that rule out. As of today I'll be reading rule free and may be reading more nonfiction for awhile.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Anthony Trollope said, "Of the needs a book has, the chief need is that it be readable."

(Borrowed from Pattie)

Monday, April 23, 2007


"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

~Albert Einstein

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Heart-Shaped Box

Some readers are going to expect a whole lot from Joe Hill's debut novel Heart-Shaped Box because Hill is the son of Stephen and Tabitha King. Hill will not disappoint the majority. A new 2007 release, Heart-Shaped Box runs 374 pages but is an easy afternoon read. In the book middle aged rocker Judas Coyne buys a ghost advertised in an online auction. The ghost will arrive in the dead man's suit. After the suit arrives, Coyne discovers he was set up. The ghost "auction" was in reality only offered to Coyne and he now has living in his house a malignant spirit, the stepfather of one of his former groupies, who is out to kill him. Ostensibly the ghost is out for revenge for his stepdaughter's suicide, but Hill slowly reveals that there is more to the story.

After about the first 100 pages I wasn't sure if I wanted to finish this book or not. I'm not a huge fan of strictly graphic horror stories and it sure appeared it was headed in that direction. Then the tale took a twist and I kept reading. I'm not disappointed that I finished the book. In the end, Hill had some clever plot twists, tied up all the loss ends nicely, and there was a satisfying conclusion. I will admit, however, that I quickly skimmed through a couple of the more graphic scenes.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Virus Hunter

Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World by C. J. Peters and Mark Olshaker is a first person account of a real virus hunter. C. J. Peters spent his professional career studying deadly viruses in a lab and in the field. He was in the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and later in charge of the CDC. This book covers some of his more intriguing cases as well as his career and personal life. If you just want to read about deadly viruses, this probably isn't the book for you. Yes, the viruses are covered, but this is really more of an autobiography. Look at The Hot Zone or The Coming Plague for more exciting reading. Once you've read several different books about viruses and read the name of the men and women who have worked with them, you will recognize C. J. Peters names, as well as other people mentioned in this book. Virus Hunter was originally published in 1997.

"I was suddenly gripped by what we refer to as 'the pucker factor,' an uncomfortable and unpleasant tightening of certain sphincter musculature."

Concerning PR work with the media:
" We needed a well-conducted Strauss waltz to inform and calm the public, but instead what we had was a simultaneous competition among heavy-metal bands"

Concerning an emergency vaccine made in response to an outbreak:
"Worse, since it was made in the brains of these mice, recipients also got a does of foreign brain material, with the risk of autoimmune encephalitis. This is a pretty scary premise for a modern vaccine."

"African and Asian monkeys are critical to laboratory science throughout the Western world; you couldn't simply stop importing them. Even worse, cell cultures from their kidneys were used to prepare polio vaccines and the polio virus could grow side by side with [the] Marburg [virus] in the same cell cultures."

Thursday, April 19, 2007


1. What time did you get up this morning? I got up at about 8:00 AM.

2. Diamonds or pearls? Pearls

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Uh... I really, truly don't remember. It was probably some movie from 1982, maybe.

4. What is your favorite TV show? Lost

5. What did you have for breakfast? coffee

6. What is your middle name? It was Ann but after I married I dropped the Ann and kept my maiden name as my middle name.

7. What foods do you dislike? I don't want anything too firey hot and spicy

8. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Te Vaka's Tutuki (truly)

9. What kind of car do you drive? Old's Alero

10. Favorite sandwich? Assuming it is made with tomatoes fresh from the garden, a BLT, otherwise probably a ham sandwich.

11. What are characteristics you can’t stand? I can't stand liars, bullies, and know-it-alls

12. If you could go anywhere on vacation where would you go? I have some more large trees I want to visit. Friends will know what I mean.

13. Favorite time of day? evenings

14. Where were you born? Nebraska

15. Coke or Pepsi? Pepsi, but only because my husband likes Pepsi. I really don't drink soda unless there is no other option

16. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Night owl

17. Pedicure or manicure? Neither

18. What did you want to be when you were little? depending upon the age, either a pioneer orphan or a lawyer.

19. What is your best childhood memory? This is a tough one. It is either running and playing in the sand bars on the Platte River in Nebraska (any one who has seen the Platte in the summer in the middle of the state will understand why) or looking with my grandmother at her flower garden.

20. Ever been toilet papering? me???

21. Favorite day of the week? Saturday

22. Favorite flower? Obviously I like lilacs if flowering shrubs count. I find it hard to pick a favorite flower.

23. Favorite ice-cream? It really all depends upon what I'm in the mood for and what is in the fridge. Normally I like an ice cream with some chocolate; there is a mocha java flavor that I've enjoyed recently.

24. How many times did you fail your driver’s test? Passed on the first try. Of course this was after a drivers ed class and I did the driving test in a small town. I think they may be a bit stricter now.

25. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Assuming that I would be stupid enough to do this, it would be at Amazon.

26. Last person you went to dinner with? My whole loud family.... sigh

27. What are you listening to right now? An airplane passing by

28. What is your favorite color? blue

29. How many tattoos do you have? none, unless age spots count

30. Coffee or tea? Both!

31. Do you tan easily or burn easily? Burn

32. Do you color your hair? If so, how often? No coloring. I earned the gray that's coming in.

33. What was the first car you ever purchased without the help of your parents? 1969 Ford Galaxy 500

34. What is your most dreaded household chore? Currently it is cleaning the double shower in the master bathroom. It's too big to easily clean. I'd try a new automatic shower cleaning device, but we're trying to sell the house and move, so I wouldn't want buyers to want it.

(I edited this quiz that was going around to suit me, so some of the original questions were left off of it. )

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Last Town on Earth

I was rather expecting something a bit different after reading descriptions of Thomas Mullen's debut novel, The Last Town on Earth. Published by Random house in 2006, it is 387 pages long, with a few extra notes at the end. The Last Town on Earth is set in 1918 in the state of Washington. Due to the epidemic of Spanish influenza raging across the country, the newly conceived utopian logging town of Commonwealth has imposed a self quarantine of the town from the surrounding communities. They closed off the road leading into town by felling a log across it and post guards. A weary soldier is shot as he refuses to heed the warnings and tries to make his way into town. These two events help set into motion many of the novels events. This, however, is really not a historical novel about the 1918 influenza epidemic.

Actually, I found many of the unconventional historical premises of this novel less than completely plausible. There were many socialists in Washington, apparently, at the turn of the century and Mullens does tie in labor disputes, the Everett Massacre, and the rise of the Wobblies into the story. However, It really comes across as a bit more of a preachy 2006 novel rather than a tale set in 1918. Even with anti war sentiments at the turn of the century, there were many more supporters and men who proudly served, like my grandfather. At times this book feels too much as if Mullens is trying to promote some personal agenda rather than tell a story. Also, this is a morality tale in many ways, not a story about surviving the flu epidemic. As Mullens says, "[T]he quarantine designed to block out the flu had only succeeded in cutting off the town from its previous ideals of right and wrong. It was a town in full eclipse..." Mullens is a young author and I would imagine his next book might hit the mark a bit more closely for me. It's not that this is a bad book; I simply would recommend others I've read before it.

vote no

Our homeowners association has been working on updating and refining the CC&R's for about 4 years now, or basically since we moved here. There was a time about 3 years ago where the revisions had been done by a committee, and then were set aside and subsequently lost by the association board. The new board president is a no-nonsense-get-things-done kind of guy who was on the original revisions committee and he's worked on getting the revisions and updates back in place for the last year.

We received the updated/revised CC&R's last Friday and I was quite happy with them. They're looking good now. Everything is up to date and clearly stated. Apparently, the whole development is not happy with them. Right away one of the houses on a corner put up a huge plywood "Vote No" sign. I saw more neighbors out milling about and talking this weekend and yesterday than I've seen since the last big controversy. You know they are agitated about the new CC&R's. I guess many people would oppose any change, even if it is for the best. The thing is that the new revisions aren't really changes at all. They simply clarify what was already in place.

The ballot you have to send in says either that you are voting "yes" or "no". If you are voting no, it has a place to please explain why. This is hardly anything to waste 2 sheets of plywood over. If they want to vote no, they can do so and say why on their ballot. Why on earth would they put up a huge "vote no" sign for the rest of us?

I'm almost scared to answer the door until the deadline for voting passes because I fully expect the troops to be out protesting door to door. There are several busybodies in our development that love to do things like that - go door to door trying to stir up trouble. I can't for the life of me figure out what exactly that family is so upset about... We're think we should hurry up and vote yes, then when someone stops by "just to visit" we can say we've already voted. Maybe we'll mention that if they have a problem with the changes, they are free to vote no and say why they don't like them. It's hardly worth getting upset over.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Demon in the Freezer

The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston is chilling reading during this age of bioweapons and fear over weapons of mass destruction. Published in 2002 after the anthrax scare (which is also covered along with smallpox) this is one frightening book precisely because it is nonfiction. D. A. Henderson, one of the people who fought for eradication of smallpox, said: "Smallpox was the only disease we know of for which there were deities. It was the worst human disease. I don't know of anything else that comes close." The smallpox virus aptly fits the WMD description. Although officially declared eradicated in 1978, there are stockpiles of the smallpox virus held in the USA and the Soviet Union. There may also be other countries who have secretly stockpiled some smallpox virus, perhaps as weapons.

It is known that the Soviet Union was making weapons grade small pox virus. One run of the Soviet Vector research group's 300 gallon tank would produce "enough smallpox to give each person on the planet around two thousand infected doses of small pox." Smallpox is highly contagious and spreads exponentially. "It has taken the world twenty years to reach roughly fifty million cases of AIDS. Variola [smallpox] could reach that point in ten or twenty weeks." "It is generally believed to be the most dangerous virus to the human species." "Smallpox can bring the world to its knees."

Perhaps one of the most frightening facts is that "Today almost everyone who was vaccinated against smallpox in childhood has lost much or all of their immunity to it."

writing teens

I received another article for the next issue of the teen newsletter yesterday. No awesomes, but... oh my! This author has moved away from the area and is no longer homeschooled. She wrote the adult advisers of the teen group and wanted to know if she could have something put in the newsletter this year... so it was handed off to me. I reviewed this for the newsletter as a favor. I could reject it on the basis that the young woman is no longer a part of the local homeschool teen group. However, if I rejected it out right, then it would mean that if my daughter wanted to continue her world music column after we move, she couldn't because we would no longer live in the area. This left me in a quandary.

This young woman was desperately trying to sound intelligent. She was a bit too fond of her thesaurus and seemed to think that if she used all big words it would be better. What she neglected to focus on was her audience, the teens reading the piece. Most of them aren't going to get past the first two sentences, which is just as well because even if they finished it, they might never quite know what she was trying to say to them. The idea of a topic sentence in any paragraph was a foreign idea. Any attempt to clearly state what she wanted to say and then support her ideas became all muddled up when she tried to boost her vocabulary and focused more on that than the writing and ideas. If she were my teen I would have kicked it back to her and told her to clearly state say what she wanted to convey. I would suggest making up a brief outline to organize her thoughts.

Alas, I took the easy way out. Along with my son (as senior editor) we highlighted a few things that needed to be changed. There were several sentence fragments and spelling errors. We corrected the word she made up (by adding extra suffixes). Neither of us addressed the real problem: that the piece lacked coherent, organized thoughts and came across as stilted and disjointed. Yeah, we're chickens. [insert appropriate chicken noises here] Actually, I have a feeling that the young woman wrote this essay for a class and received a good grade on it, so she wanted to share it with us. I'm sure that the teacher didn't read all the way through the piece or the sentence fragments, spelling mistakes, and made up word in the last half of the piece would have been noticed (one would hope). I am appreciating my teens writing abilities more and more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Cobra Event

Richard Preston is best known for his nonfiction book The Hot Zone, a horrifying account of the Ebola virus, and other research based books. I was interested in reading his fiction book The Cobra Event. It is a chilling story about what a bioterrorist attack could look like today. Preston also has included in the story some of the history of bioweapons and information regarding bioengineering. If you want to be scared to death by a fiction book that is solidly grounded in fact and almost reads like nonfiction, The Cobra Event will fit that description.

The bioweapon used in Preston's The Cobra Event, is a genetically engineered viral brain pox being slowly "tested" on humans by one crazed man. After 2 suspicious deaths in NYC, the CDC sends Dr. Alice Austen to do the autopsy of a 17 year old girl who dies from this virus. The FBI is also called in and the search for what the virus is and who engineered it begins. There are several very vivid descriptions of autopsies and of the symptoms and ultimately the violent behavior the virus causes in humans (seizures, self cannibalism). This is a very gripping story because it is so based on real facts.

Ultimately, Richard Preston is a nonfiction writer and he writes like one. This isn't always bad, but it does mean that, for example, when describing his characters, he gives us just the facts. Do not expect lengthy descriptive passages that help develop well rounded characters. He gives us the basic information and then proceeds onto his fictionalized attack and real facts regarding bioweapons. His facts are gripping and the story certainly moves along, but The Cobra Event often reads like an nonfiction account of an event.
You'll never look at a runny nose the same way...

regarding tests of bioweapons in the Pacific:
"The problem with bioweapons was not that they didn't work, it was that they worked too well. They were remarkably powerful. They were difficult to defend against. They were cheap and easy to make, and while they depended upon the weather for their effectiveness, they were a good or even superior alternative to nuclear weapons, especially for countries that could not afford nuclear weapons."

"The Gulf War Syndrome is almost certainly caused by exposure to chemical weapons. But we have not yet ruled out the possibility that it's some kind of biological weapon."

Monday, April 9, 2007


I have a new appreciation for those bloggers who post something every day. I can tell I won't be one of them.

There is a fun little game going around the blogging world. I first read it at Joshilyn's and Dana's blogs. What you do is google your name with either needs or wants, etc after it. By the time I googled "Lori needs" many, many other "Lori"s had already done it. Apparently this has been going on since December 2006, so I was getting their lists. I decided instead to just take interesting bits from various sites instead of sticking strictly with the wants or needs.

If you have a vacation home, frequent flyer miles, a private jet, etc., Lori needs them, please get in touch with her.

I think the flavor of the message from Lori was a little bit more condenscending than is helpful to anyone... I think Lori needs to step out into the experiences of others and use that to make an attitude change

Lori has not received a fair trial, and no evidence has been presented to prove her guilt

Lori has lived her life with her sister being the perfect person, beautiful, sweet, charming, and loved by their drunken mother. Lori has spent years coming to terms with the jealousy of her sister and, finally, accepting and loving her, yet still uncertain whether she herself is worthy of love too.

Miss Lori always greets her young viewers by saying "hello" in a different language... Whenever Miss Lori needs something, she can always count on the Purple Possibility Bag to have it, and more!

Lori must exercise all diligence to protect her beloved children.

Lori needs to update the evaluation questionnaire to include a distinction between hearing about the workshop through the purple handout and the yellow sign.

Lori needs to refine her vocals a bit. The raw talent is there, but she needs some more control.

Lori's unexplainable attraction to the stranger coupled with a chance meeting with a Catholic priest lead her on a hunt to discover the story behind the tattered stranger and why he happened to collapse at her cottage.

Things Lori needs to bring... Balloons, Bingo cards, Coffee maker, Cold meat sandwiches, Potato Salad, Relish Tray, Favors

Lori needs to pick up the permit yet.

To be successful in 2007, Lori needs your help today!... Host an event at my home to introduce Lori to my neighbors... Invite Lori to speak to my church or community organization

"We have a toilet in the trailer...We’re not animals…Lori needs to keep her wits about her, especially after too many White Russians."

Lori is still working out the details, but is confident her "Shock & Awe" plan will be a goldmine.

Lori needs at least a weeks notice if you want her to travel to Costa Rica.

Lazy Lori needs to disappear.

Lori doesn't really want to tell her mom that she's mad over her speech (since she said things about Lori) but she does want to let out her anger toward her mom and let her know how she feels. I think that Lori should take it easy on her mother. I mean, come on! Although "personal" things about Lori may have been said in the speech, Lori needs to cut her mom some slack. . . I think Lori secretly has a goal of getting along with her Mom but she just needs to spend more time with her."

Lori tells him that she's pregnant... Lori says that Karl must think she's an idiot for getting herself into a mess.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The World Rushed In

The World Rushed In by J.S. Holliday is an eyewitness account of the California gold rush of 1849. Holliday based this account largely on the voluminous journals of William Swain and the many letters exchanged with his family. When available, he also used accounts of others to tell the stories of the '49ers. Holliday follows Swain from his start in Youngstown, NY, across the country to the gold mining camps of CA, his journey home by ship and through the Isthmus of Panama, and back to Youngstown. This is truly an eye witness account of history.

In The World Rushed In Holliday has arranged each chapter into 3 sections. He begins each chapter with an historical overview of that section of the journey along with a map of the section of the trip the chapter covers. The next section is Swain's journal entries. The final section is composed of the letters to Swain from home, mainly by his wife Sabrina and brother George.
This is an interesting way to document a historical account. The beauty of the way it is organized is that it allows the reader to either read the historical sections and follow the maps while skipping much of the journal entries and/or letters or choosing to read it all. It was originally published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster and is 559 pages long, although the account ends at page 463. The rest of the book consists of notes, sources, and an index.

Some interesting quotes:
From Swain's journal entry of May 29th when he did some self medicating, "[I] took a dose of cayenne pepper, got into a fine sweat, and slept nicely till morning."

"One would think that they [antelopes] were all females on account of their curiosity."

"There seems to be little disposition to maintain religious worship here. The thoughts of the people are entirely preoccupied with drinking, gambling, or getting gold out of the earth. Religion and religious services, like everything else in California, is singular and unnatural."

"The whole business of the inhabitants of this country is to make money, no matter by what means."

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Inheritance of Loss

I read The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai for a group that reads award winning books.

From Amazon:
This stunning second novel from Desai is set in mid-1980s India, on the cusp of the Nepalese movement for an independent state. Jemubhai Popatlal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge, lives in Kalimpong, at the foot of the Himalayas, with his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and his cook. The makeshift family's neighbors include a coterie of Anglophiles who might be savvy readers of V.S. Naipaul but who are, perhaps, less aware of how fragile their own social standing is—at least until a surge of unrest disturbs the region. Jemubhai, with his hunting rifles and English biscuits, becomes an obvious target. Besides threatening their very lives, the revolution also stymies the fledgling romance between 16-year-old Sai and her Nepalese tutor, Gyan. The cook's son, Biju, meanwhile, lives miserably as an illegal alien in New York. All of these characters struggle with their cultural identity and the forces of modernization while trying to maintain their emotional connection to one another. In this alternately comical and contemplative novel, Desai deftly shuttles between first and third worlds, illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a "better life," when one person's wealth means another's poverty.

Desai's writing and descriptions are beautiful, which would help explain why this book won the Man Booker Prize in 2006. The only problem is that after reading The Inheritance of Loss I was left with a feeling of despair and utter hopelessness. I need to think about it some more before I could really recommend it. Perhaps the book groups discussion will help solidify my feelings.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Monkeys and Idols

We have 3 flying, screaming Woot monkeys at our house.
Yes, I am feeling fine and no, the coffee creamer wasn't past it's expiration date.
Here's a picture of the screaming Woot monkey:

I haven't been a huge American Idol fan. I saw a couple shows last year and a few more this year. Rather than focusing on Simon's "mean" comments or Randy's comments, which both actually have some basis in fact and show some thought, or looking at Ryan's total inane hosting abilities, let's consider Paula. I think Paula's comments are completely worthless drivel that mean nothing. What is she even contributing to the show? Every time I've watch Idol I haven't heard one intelligent thing come out of her mouth. At least Randy will tell them if they are "pitchy" and sometimes kindly let them know that their performance wasn't good. Simon may come across as mean, but I think he's just blunt and honest. Paula, though... That girl maybe has continuously had some bad creamer in her coffee.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Yelling Match

I drove over to the closest grocery store Monday night to just grab a few things for the week. Normally it's a pretty tame place when you stop by early in the evening. People are there shopping on their way home from work or after dinner. The customers tend to be families. Monday night was like a twilight zone episode.

When I arrived, I realized I had forgotten my list, so I was running through the store trying to remember the few things we needed. I had about finished up, when I suddenly recalled something else that had been on my list. At this point I have no idea what that was because events wiped it out of my mind.

As I headed out of the water/soda/juice aisle and turned toward frozen foods at the back of the store, I noticed an old man yelling to my left, by the yogurt section. He looked like an old prospector with a long, scraggly, gray beard. The object of his ire, a young father with his son, was right in front of me, passing juice and headed to dairy. The father had his son's hand and they were walking toward his wife who had their daughter sitting in the cart by the milk.

The old guy was yelling something about "In this country we watch our kids and don't let them run wild." The little boy in question was probably about 4, maybe 5. He was at that active little monkey stage little boys (and sometimes girls) go through. I bet he had been thinking about scaling the yogurt case, or maybe ran laughing from his dad. It didn't matter, because his dad had him.

The dad said, "It's OK, settle down. I've got him." or something like that.

The old man though would have none of it. He was working himself up into a lather and I was caught right in it when he let loose. "Why don't you go back to Mexico!" He snarled loudly. "We don't need your kind here."

The father yelled back, "I'm Hawaiian, man....I'm not Mexican..."

"Go back there! Go back where you came from! Stupid wetbacks! We don't need your people here. This is our country..." The old man continued yelling at the father.

The father was getting upset and started swearing at the old guy, who just kept yelling racial slurs and telling the father to go back to his country.

I stood there, completely stunned, mouth hanging open. There were multiple comments running through my mind. "But Hawaii is part of the USA... You want this family to go back to paradise? The father has his little boy, why are you yelling at him? Who is really the problem here?"

As I turned to where the mother was, she looked at me with a sad smile and said, "My son was..."

I interrupted her, shaking my head, and said, "But he's just a little boy... he's just a little boy..."

All the while the old man was spitting hatred their way and the father was swearing in a low voice and telling the old man to shut up. The young children were trying to ask their parents why the old man was yelling at them. It was simply awful.

I turned my cart and headed right to the checkout with tears in my eyes, totally stunned by what I just witnessed in my friendly neighborhood store.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Two of my son's good friends turned in articles for the April newsletter. They have restored my confidence in teens. Their articles were both well written; there were no spelling mistakes, no grammatical errors, and, most importantly, no "awesomes".

We stumbled across the book World Music: A Global Journey while looking at Amazon for ethnographies to use with anthropology. Just me is going to go ahead and do this next year. This course will be a logical progression from the music appreciation she did this year, which stressed classical and jazz. It will also tie in nicely with anthropology.

My mom sent me a photo of my cousins, one of her brother's children. They were all old people and I didn't even recognize a couple of my cousins in the photo. What's up with this?

Sleeping at the Starlight Motel

Sleeping at the Starlight Motel by Bailey White is a collection of stories with a decidedly Southern point of view. This book is a small volume, 238 pages, that was originally published in 1995. I read a library copy when it first came out and always told myself that someday I would own my own copy. Time has not diminished my enjoyment of White's lovely little tales. Part of my enjoyment could be due to hearing White share her stories on NPR years ago. I particularly enjoyed the fruit tree man story (I knew someone just like that) and the teacher's playing hooky at the dog track.

"Actually, every good family has a story of a spectacular plumbing disaster."

[The house looked] "as if it had been designed by someone who made a careful study of the Tryon Palace under the handicap of a visual learning disability."

" 'So foolish of young people to marry today,' she said. 'Much better to just stay at home - simpler and more hygienic.' "

"There is something quite comforting about being given a complete physical examination by a beloved old family doctor, now nearly blind."

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was originally published in 2005 and released in the USA in March, 2006, by Alfred A Knopf. The hardcover is 550 pages long. In The Book Thief, which is set during W.W.II, Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster child to Hans and Rosa Hubermann in Molching, Germany. Liesel is a book thief, although only of a handful of books, but these books form the foundation for the story Death tells us. It is also the story of Liesel's neighbor, Rudy, the mayor's wife, and Max, the Jewish man the Hubermann's are hiding. It is a story of survival, pain, regret, determination, love, and convictions, but, ultimately, it is the story of the power of words.

Although this book is listed as young adult fiction, it is very much a book for adults too. I really think that placing The Book Thief in the young adult section may have precluded many adult readers from considering reading it. I know I originally passed it by after seeing several adults recommend it because it was listed as a young adult book. When two trusted book loving friends added it to their stacks, I finally decided to give it a try. I do not regret this decision.