Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twitter...oh Twitter...

Now, I know there are people reading this who are fans of Twitter. They love Twitter, they are on there, twittering or tweeting, or whatever the correct term is, day and night. I know that millions are now using Twitter...but I must confess...I just do not get it's appeal.

Now I can hear the cries, I can hear the shouts of disagreement. And I will admit, maybe it does have some use. Certainly, if you want to link to a post, or an article somewhere, or make a quick comment on some issue, or publicize something, it may be useful. Because there are those millions, all linked together in some loosely tied network of 'followers' to 'followers'. But as a form of conversation, I suggest there are far better ways online..does anyone remember IMing. Now, it is not public, but to me that is a plus. It is clear and easily followed. People are not reading some Tweet in the middle of a conversation wondering what the heck are they talking about. Oh, I can hear some saying, you need to download something like TweetDeck or TwitterFox. Well, why do I want an application that is so flawed that I need to download another application to make it really usable? And it is SUCH a draw on your time if you try to pay attention to it, a distraction to my already distracted mind. Then there is the supposedly growing issue of companies and vendors searching your tweets for keywords and then sending you spam after spam based on what you said. Well, it is ALL public there on Twitter, but I for one don't need anymore spam.

OK, maybe I am just not a social person. I admit I am an introvert. Maybe Twitter is just not for me. I could accept that happily. No Facebook, no Myspace, no Twitter.

But...something happen a couple of weeks ago that I just can't get out of my mind and it involves Twitter and what I suggest is possibly a real negative aspect that goes to the very heart of what Twitter is. It is fast. It is brief. It is, by it's very nature, superfical.

It was Easter Sunday. Somewhere, I think on cable news, they were discussing a Big Hoop-De-Doo controversy being 'discussed' on Twitter, starting on Saturday. It seems there was an issue with Amazon. Some authors, who happened to be gay, found that their books were no longer showing a ranking on Amazon. They had before...they did not now, making them also very difficult to search for. Amazon was out to somehow censor LGBT authors!
Now it was Sunday, and I am sure the headquarters of Amazon, as most businesses, were closed for the weekend, and the only representative of Amazon anyone seems to have talked to was a lowly customer service rep who gave an inadequate and poorly informed answer that just riled people up even more.

But no need to wait for evidence, no need to look into the suggestion that this was part of a large computer issue perhaps. No, the thousands and thousands and thousands of tweeters were decided. It was an Evil Conspiracy. Boycotts of Amazon were pledged and as the day wore on, it got more and more angry, more unreasonable, nastier and nastier. The few lone tweets that calls for pause, to wait for the facts, who pointed out it was perhaps illogical to think that Amazon, for some unknown reason, would want to alienate there LGBT readers, were ignored in the sea of angry tweets, all feeding off each other. It was a mob mentality of tweets. If Amazon was the Monster in the castle, the tweeters would have been storming the gate with pitchforks and burning torches.

But the problem was it was all based on almost no known facts. Call it the 24 Hour News mentality. All facts must be know instantly and all problems resolved by the next commercial. We are overwhelmed with material to process, and the more there is and the faster it comes at us, the poorer job we do with it. What actually happened to those rating is still being discussed. It seems it was far more widespread than just a number of LGBT books. Some claim it was the work of a hacker. Personally, I have no idea, but I really don't think that we need another medium that allows us to think even less, and consider issues even less carefully, and to not acquire the facts before we make a decision but instead just react emotionally, just as quickly as we possibly can. The damage is done. Consequences be damned!

Now, ok, it was not all Twitter's fault. It might have happened on another medium..but it didn't as far as I know. Twitter by it's very nature made it possible.
You know the really funny thing? One of the big investors in Twitter (and can someone explain to me how Twitter makes any money?) is none other than Amazon founder, Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. I guess he better not take weekends off anymore!

P.S. Of course, maybe it will all be moot at some point. I just read an article that says Twitter has low user loyalty. A lot of people sign up, maybe because of the famous people they hear on it, but "more than 60 percent of Twitter users have stopped using the micro-blogging service a month after joining, according to Nielsen Online research released on Tuesday."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

a review of When Skateboards Will Be Free

When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh (The Dial Press, ISBN 978-0385340687)

In the late 1950's, on the campus of the University of Minnesota, a young Jewish woman, a college student, with dreams of being a writer, is introduced to an young Iranian man who is on the path to become a mathematics professor. Within a few years, they are married, with two young children. A nice academic path seems assured, until a fateful day when they stop to look at the literature on a table set up on campus, the table of the Socialist Worker Party. Their third child, our author Saïd, imagines what is it like that night as his parents read over the party's newspaper, The Militant, the huge change that was about to overcome them.
"Later that night, I can see then lying side by side in bed in their college housing after the children have fallen asleep, looking through The Militant together. Maybe there is a reprint of the speech that James Baldwin gave during a rent strike in Harlem. This will appeal to the English literature major. Maybe there is a photograph of the Shah standing next to a grinning Lyndon Johnson, with the caption "The Blood-stained Shah." And this will appeal to the young man who watched the tanks roll past his doorstep."
They start to attend meetings and lectures and in a short period of time, dreams of an academic future are put aside to follow the path of bringing about the Revolution. They move to New York city, and when little Saïd is only 9 months old, his father packs up and leaves Saïd and his mother...again to better work for the revolution.
"My father believes that the United States is destined one day to be engulfed in a socialist revolution. All revolutions are bloody, he says, but this one will be the bloodiest of them all. The working class-which includes me-will at some point in the not-so-distant future decide to put down the tools of out trade, pour into the streets, beat the police into submission, take over the means of production and usher in a new epoch-the final epoch- of peace and equality. This revolution is not only inevitable, it is imminent. It is not only imminent, it is quite imminent. And when the time comes, my father will lead it."
The two older children go to live with him, but it seems a wife and infant son will somehow slow down the revolution. Over the years Saïd will rarely see his father, although he is always a huge presence in the life of Saïd and his mother, the very poor life of the two.
"We were poor, mother and I, living in a world of doom and gloom, pessimism and bitterness, where storms raged and wolves scratched at the door....all of it categorical evidence against capitalism and how deserving we would be when the revolution came."
Doom and gloom pretty much sums up the stories and anecdotes that make up the rest of the book, Saïd's memoir of his life through high school and some present day dealing with his parents as a man in his 30's...oddly enough working for the huge capitalist enterprise of Martha Stewart.

Their weeks were filled with his mother taking him to rallies and marches, meetings and lectures. A parade of fellow 'comrades' marched through their lives and including some she entrusted to take him as a young boy on a tour of the socialist paradise of Cuba (the only impression it seems to have made on young Saïd is filthy toilets facilities everywhere) and some that babysat him while she was off on some party business, including one who sexually molested him. Yes, doom and gloom aplenty.

The lived in one terrible apartment after another, it seems more from principle than an actual lack of money, just as he is told they will not spend the money for the skateboard he so desires. No, they must partakes of capitalist society as little as possible. He will wait for the revolution, when all the skateboards will be free. At school, a school he must travel endlessly on buses to so he can attend a school that is a majority black, he has a few friends...until he opens his mouth and parrots the party beliefs he hears at home and at all those meetings, like during the Iranian hostage taking when he tells his classmates that the hostages were spies and "deserved whatever they got". No, that did not make him too popular. Fatherless, living hand to mouth, always the odd man was a pretty difficult childhood and we hear sad story after sad story.

And yes, oddly enough, even though their entire lives were wrapped up in the Socialist party, and all those meeting and lectures, neither he nor his mother, and perhaps even his father, don't seem to have a great grasp on the beliefs of socialism. His mother owned the complete works of Lenin and Marx, but never once read any of the books. When Saïd meets and begins dating a young woman, Karen, at work and she asks him the difference between communism and socialism, he can't actually explain it.
"Really I had no idea...Continually flaring inside me was the impulse to respond either with generalizations or various patched-together facts, or to just simply steer the conversation into familiar territory, where I could speak with authority. To do this, however, felt immoral and unforgivable in the face of Karen's authenticity. Eventually I stopped trying to answer, and muttered to myself, "I guess I don't know what I'm talking about." And she responded, more surprising than accusatory: "Yes, it sounds like you don't.""
Sadly, that sums up my feelings about this book. The Socialist Workers Party and the whole political issue that could have been very interesting, seems like just an incidental backdrop for another sad memoir about a dysfunctional childhood. A father that deserts his son, a mother, with serious issues of her own, that uses the party doctrine to guide her every decision, with no concern of the cost it is having on her child. To quote the cover description of the book, "surviving a surreal childhood in the Socialist Workers Party, Said Sayrafiezadeh has crafted an unsentimental, funny, heartbreaking memoir. Unsentimental...perhaps. Funny...not in anyway, not in even one incident I can recall. Not droll humor, not witty humor, not deadpan humor that some other reviews seem to have found. I am all about the humor, even if it is snarky humor, but no, I found none. Heartbreaking...yes, without question. But even from a good writer, and the author is quite a good writer, heartbreaking and disturbing is not enough for me to like a book that seems it may just be a young man chance to make some points about the unquestionable flaws of his parents.

If you are interested a another opinion....
Rhapsodyinbook's Weblog
Stitch and Bear

Available From Amazon

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh, look at the pretty book covers...on Tuesday Thinger!

Now, if you are a regular reader here, you may have noticed that I am a big fan of Library Thing, but today's Tuesday Thinger from Wendi's Book Corner, has me rather upset!

Questions: Do you have any missing covers (they show as a plain gray book)? Did you have a favorite view (title, author, date entered)? Do you have any favorite covers? If so, is there anything they have in common?

So, over I trotted to my happy little Library Thing page and waited for my covers to all load...and then was rather upset to see that I have quite a few missing covers. Actually, 170 out of 1169, which is what, like 15%. That is awful! But it is not my fault. Well, a few of them are. I know that I have some missing ones and since they are books that there are no covers for, I need to scan them and upload them. But I can't find the power cord for my scanner, that I have not used in a very long tine and it just seems very wasteful to buy a scanner to scan a few books...since I have not used it in a very long time. you thing they would notice if I scanned them at work?

BUT...I clicked on a number of books that show the default cover...and BTW, you can change your default cover ya know...and they show as having covers. Why are they not showing up?? Oh, this is very upsetting and totally unacceptable. Who do I need to speak to about this? I need names!

My favorite view is the one that groups the least coverless ones together. Author is terrible, because the pile of Harvard Classics that I have, since they have multiple authors in one volume, all show up first in that view and all without their, that is very bad. Date entered and title will do the same thing, since I entered them all on the same day and they all show as having the same title, Harvard Classic first...but at least it is further down the page.

Favorite covers and what do they have in common...hmmmmm...that is hard. I like to see them all together, all the colors, the variety. But as individual books, what do I like? Well, I know what I do not like and that is covers that have the author and title in huge letters and use very bright colors. It seems like they are shouting at me. Now, while I like her books and find them very amusing, Evanovich's books are the perfect example of what I do not like in a cover. I am sorry...but it looks cheap to me.
Obviously, it has not hurt her sales though. It might be very important for a more unknown author, a book that you are not going to recognize in the store by name or title, but I really doubt Ms. Evanovich has to worry it at this point. Which is good, since at least that series of her books all use the same look. And I guess it does depend on the audience that you are trying to attract. I guess there may be a really bright, loud cover crowd out there.

I like more subtle ones, ones with graphics rather than photos usually, even rather stark black and white one. Clean and neat...See, these covers are calm and I think they are very pretty. That would make me want to pick that book up off a table in a bookstore and find out more about it. Those loud ones just make me want to run and hide.
I think they should be a bit mysterious even, grab your attention and yet make you wonder what the book is about, what is inside that cover, so that you just have to pick it up and take a look.

...and speaking of taking a look, let's see if we can find a nice Tuesday picture of Bandit, the cutest little doggie in the whole wide world, from his own little blog, the world from down here.

oh Bandit, what are you up to? You look like you are about to get in some trouble. You wouldn't be a bad little puppy, would you? No, you wouldn't, you cute little feller.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just for Jenners, a example of the rather middling quality pysanky I have on hand, from the hands of caite...

Read my Musing Monday carefully....there may be a test!

Yes folks, the start of another week, rise and shine and get ready to get to work...but first, check out this week's musing question from Just One More Page...

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading non-fiction…

Do you read non-fiction regularly? Do you read it in a different way or place than you read fiction?

Do I regularly read non-fiction? Well, my immediate answer was no, I don't read a lot of non-fiction. Not a great reader of biographies, history, political books, memoirs, things I typically think of as non-fiction. Well, let me take memoirs off that list, because personally I am starting to think that memoirs are as much fiction as non-fiction, but that is another topic for discussion.

But then I decided to look into it a bit more, because a number of books I have read recently, mostly ARCs, were non-fiction and I wanted to get a handle on the numbers. So, I went to my old friend, Library Thing, to check out my library and how my books were tagged. What indeed was the ratio of fiction to non-fiction of the books that I actually have on hand? Well, my dear readers, then the problems started. The reason why my post was up later than usual was revealed, because I found, much to my dismay, that many, if not most of the approximately 1200 books I have on hand at the moment were tagged neither. How was I supposed to go to sleep with that mess on my hands? Now, a couple of hours later, the birds starting to sing outside and the sun peaking at the horizon, and with the help of the handy power editing feature of Library Thing, most are now tagged and my mind is at peace and I very happy I am off work today.
I must also say that I am a bit surprised to find that the ratio is actually about 55/45, with fiction in the lead, but much, much closer than I thought.

So I must be a big reader of non-fiction, right? Hmmm...well, no, i think those figures are misleading. First, I think that I tend to keep a lot more of my non-fiction books while the fiction tends to come and go. Over the many, many years that I have been reading, the vast majority of those books have been fiction and most of it is no longer in my possession....gone somewhere. Also, a lot of the non-fiction I have is more like reference material in my mind than 'reading' material. 40 cookbooks, 14 books on fly fishing, 48 books on gardening, 19 books on crafts, including 2 on pysanky, the art of making Ukrainian Easter eggs and 3 on origami. Not books that you usually sit down and read like you do a nice cozy mystery. So, yes, that sort of non-fiction I definitely 'read' differently that fiction. They are more to be perused..thumbed through, stopping here and there, looking for some specific information. Even non-fiction that is less research and more readable, say like my fairly numerous books on lighthouses, books that I have actually read from cover to cover, or the approximately 200 books I own on the subjects of philosophy and religion...well, if I think about it, I often read then less as if they were for pleasure and more like they were work, like I was back in school, reading them for a class and there was going to be a test. Even with some recent ARC I have read recently, I have found myself taking notes and getting ready to write a book report..oh wait, I do! It is called a review. Not that it is still not pleasurable for me...because I loved school and assigned reading! And no, there is not actually going to be a Musing Monday

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

a review of The Glister

The Glister: A Novel by John Burnside (Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-52764-4)

At first glance, it might seem a rather simple, direct story. We are on the British coast, in a town called Innertown, that is, shall we say, in decline. And there is a mystery. Over the years, a number of teenage boys have disappeared. The town, and the powers that be, maybe each for their own reasons, would like to believe that the boys ran away and left the town. But the police officer who we meet at the opening of the book, John Morrison, knows differently. He has seen something, years ago, that makes him know that something more is going on, but he has been convinced to speak about it to no one. Not everyone buys into the official story of the missing boys, including the person who is the narrator for perhaps half the book, a smart, inquisitive 15 year old named Leonard.

Oh, it is a mystery story then, you might think. But no, it is not a mystery story.

A bit more about the town. It is a poisoned place, poisoned by the huge chemical plant that once operated there, a plant that's abandoned, hulking, sinister presence is like another evil character in our story. The very land has been left toxic, surrounded by a poisoned forest of black, sickly trees, freakish animals and unexplained illnesses.
“You could see evidence wherever you looked of the plants effects on the land: avenues of dead trees, black and skeletal along the old rail tracks; great piles of sulfurous rocks where pools of effluent had been left to evaporate in the sun. A few keen fisherman found mutant sea creatures washed up on the shore...some people claimed that they had seen bizarre animals out in the remaining tracks of woodland, not sick or dying, but not right either, with their enlarged faces and swollen, twisted bodies.
The most convincing evidence that some evil was being perpetrated on the headland, however, was the fact that, for as long as the plant existed, the people themselves had not been right....There was more than the usual share of exotic or untreatable illnesses, a sudden and huge increase in depression, a blossoming of what, in the old days, would have been called madness.”
So, is it a horror story? No, not really. I think what it reminds me of actually is a fairy tale, a bleak, sinister, apocalyptic fairy tale. Add in a big dose of violence and a fair bit of sex, and a moral of the story, that in the end, will remain ambiguous. Good and evil, dark and light become twisted, the lines blurred. For example, take the case of our policeman Morrison. He had made a decision, a bad decision to cover up evidence, and he will be called upon to pay for that decision. His fate is, to say the least, shocking and yet the way it is presented and how he himself understands it, takes it to a place very different than the typical horror story and certainly different that your typical mystery .

The town seems, in a way, removed from the normal world. The adults are paralyzed in their actions, the children run wild, all being poisoned in one way or another by that ever present plant and yet the simple answer, to just move away, is never an option to them.
“Nobody goes away. The kids talk about it all the time, but the truth is, none of us really knows what's out there, twenty, or fifty, or a hundred miles along the coast road, because nobody has ever gone that far. People from the Innertown don't leave, not even to go on holiday or to visit relatives. They talk about leaving all the time, of course, but they never actually get out.”
There is a certain surreal, nightmarish aspect to the story. The author, John Burnside, is also a poet and that is clear from the way that he writes. He has a certain lyrical way of telling the tale that it makes even the most horrific things seem, somehow, not totally abhorrent. At the same time he creates such a sinister air throughout the book, it is a feeling that will remain with you after the book is finished.

The line between dreams and reality is blurred. At times, we are in a character's hallucination, but, especially as we near the conclusion, we are no longer sure what is real and what is a dream and what is an illusion. If you like you stories clear and unequivocal, this may not be the book for you, but if you are up for something that will leave you thinking and wondering, well, I can pretty much guarantee this book will do that. I would think this would be a perfect pick for a book club read, because it will leave you with questions you will want to discuss. It is a book that people will either hate and walk away from shaking their heads or will find beautifully written and intriguing.

What some others think of it...
A Reader's Respite
Fyrefly's Book Blog
And Now The Sceaming Starts
Rhapsodyinbooks Weblog
Book Nook Club
Cheryls Book Nook

Available from Amazon

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges...But I Need Tuesday Thinger!

Of course, I am lying. I am all about the badges and the gold stars, and yes, I was a Girl Scout with a sash full of merit badges. So this week's Tuesday Thinger from Wendi's Book Corner, is of particular interest to me. Seems there is a feature called Helper Badges available on LT...and I have two!

Questions: Did you know about Helper Badges? Do you have any badges? If so, what is your highest medal/number? What is your lowest? Do the badges give you any incentive to help add to the areas of LT that they cover (Common Knowledge, Venues, etc)?

Helper Badges are a perfect example for the total geekiness of Library Thing...and a perfect example of why I love it! Oh, thank you so much Wendi for pointing these out.

Many of the members of LT are very concerned, dare we say obsessive, about all the little bits and pieces relating to their books and getting all those little bits and pieces right. Is the date of your edition the right cover showing...did anyone enter the dedication yet? Oh, it can just go on and on and on. Kitty {{my imaginary kitty}} and I well remember the time we had to devote to entering the gender of authors of books in my library that were unknown. Once, I would just add a book to my library by entering the ISBN and maybe checking the cover art was correct. Now I have taken to entering other bits of Common Knowledge as I get the chance..publication dates, character names and such.

Which is why my two badges are in those categories.

caitemaire's Helper Badges

bronze Helper for contributions to any area of LibraryThing (210)

silver Common Knowledge for contributions to Common Knowledge (207)

Of course, once I went to the site and found out all the other badges you can get, I spend way too much time fooling around with it and was almost late for my eye doctor appointment this morning. And now, while I should be out in the yard doing some more clean up, I am here, hunched over my laptop trying to figure out how to get more...FAST! Two is nice, but I need more, and they must be gold. Shiny gold!!

Let's see.
"Distinct authors for splitting homonymous authors into distinct authors (10/35/75)" {{only need 10 to get a bronze}}
"Local Libraries for adding new libraries to LibraryThing Local" (5/25/250) {{only need 5 for this one!!}}
Picture Flaggers-sounds like fun. Translations-I did study ancient Greek and Latin!
"Local Bookstores for adding new bookstores and fair/festivals to LibraryThing Local"...sounds like a good excuse to go to a bookstore.
Oh, soon I will have a cyber sash full of shiny Library Thing medals, just you wait and see!!

..and how, let's see if we can find a nice little picture of a nice little doggie, Bandit, of The World From Down Here, catching up on his reading

...and his newest video...seems he has learned a new trick, smart little feller!

Monday, April 20, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Drum roll please....

The winner of My "Only My Second Ever Giveaway" Giveaway is...

...the always amusing Jenners from Find Your Next Book Here. Congrads!!

So, I am off in search of an e-mail and as soon as I have an address to mail it to, it will be in the mail. I hope that you enjoy it..but then I always find that books I won are just a little more special!

Thanks to all who entered...and blame Random.Org if you didn't win. :=)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The older you get the more that you muse....and other Monday Musings

Well, it is Sunday evening, so here I am, trying to get an early jump on my Musing Monday, so lets check out this week's question, courtesy of Just One More Page.

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about 2009 favorites…
Coming towards the end of April, we’re a third of the way through the way through the year. What’s the favorite book you’ve read so far in 2009? What about your least favorite?

Oh my! We are a third of the way through the year? How can that know, one of the truest things my grandmother ever told me, when I was just a wee Caite, was that the older you get, the faster time goes by. At this rate, the next few decades...God willing that I have a few decades left...will be gone in a flash.
But that, of course, has nothing to do with my favorite books of the year. Just an extra bit of musing...and I will give it to you totally free!

So, my favorite and least favorite books so far. First, I must say that I am happy that I have this blog thing here, because I already forgotten half the books that I read so far this year and had to go back and look at my reviews. I think my grandmother may have also mentioned something about ones memory going as you get older...but I forget. ;-)

The favorite is hard to pick, because, as I look back, there are a number that I was quite fond of so far. And to a degree it is like picking between an apple and an orange, your red headed child or your brown hair child with the big ears, or a day off work with pay or a good lab result on that latest blood work.
Sometimes you want a serious book, sometimes a lighter, funny one, sometimes a thriller, sometimes something of a more literary nature...and I have had ones I liked in each group, and maybe a few more. But if I had to pick just one I would say..hmmmm...The Help by Kathryn Stockett and The School of Essential Ingredient by Erica Bauermeister.

Yes, I know that is two. Very clever of you to catch that, but hey, it was hard enough getting it down to those two, so get over it.
But those are the two I would be most eager to give to a friend, a fellow book lover looking for a good book to read. Those are two that I right re-read again some day, just as soon as I get all the books in my TBR pile finished. {{watch out Kitty!! Oh no, poor kitty...}}

Now, my least favorite. Oddly, that is just as hard, mostly because none of the books that I have read so far have I really hated. A few annoyed me, maybe were not my cup of tea and if you read my reviews you will have noticed a few that I would not recommend but none were awful. Not since January anyhoo, unlike a few books that I could have mentioned from last year.
Because...and here is the secret...there were a couple that I did really disliked and did not finish reading. Yes, I have assumed the advice that I read on some fellow blogger's site, that life is too short to waste time reading a book you hate. So if by page 50 or 75, I really disliked a book, I did not finish it. And if I did not finish it, I did not review it and if I did not review it, I am not sure it is really fair to mention it now. Maybe at page 76 it would have turned around and become a wonderful book. You never know.

Also, because I am a very hopefully person {{really I am, sort of...stop laughing!}} and I assume that some day, I might pick them up again and then, for some reason,I will just love them. Or not hate them as much.
In reality, I will most likely very be that desperate, but you never know!
But just in case this question comes up again by the end of the year, I promise that I will finish and review at least one book that I really hate. Just you you all, my dear readers.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Playing a Carrot...or a Pepper

There I was the other day, not paying any attention to the TV on in the background...until I saw this video. Why it was on PBS, between my This Old House episodes, I have no idea, but I just had to share it. If you like this one, then you MUST watch his broccoli ocarina! I would have shown that one, but it is not really the right season.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday briefs...

really brief this

First, just want to remind any readers that the GIVEAWAY for "The Lost City of Z" will end this weekend. So drop a comment there if you would like to win a copy of a very interesting book.

Second, for those of you that like...or don't mind...e-books, there is an offer out there to download a PDF file of C.J.West's book "Sin and Vengeance". I have not read it yet, but it seems it is being made into a film and the books got very good, if limited, reviews on Amazon. If you are interested, the site is and you will need to enter the password: cjwest.

And last...I just want to remind you check out the Susan Boyle/Britian's Got Talent video here. It seems that the video on YouTube has now been viewed by over 12 million viewers.

Lighthouses in a garden...with trains.

It never fails to amaze me how many wonderful attractions in my own backyard that I am unaware of. Well, I happened upon something that I know I will be visiting this summer. Not quite in my backyard, but certainly an excellent day trip, and this special exhibit will combine a number of things that I enjoy....a wonderful looking garden, model railroads, and lighthouses!
Who would think it was possible?? But it will be this summer from Saturday, May 23 - October 13 at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa.

Now, as a member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, I have heard of it and seen events there mentioned in the PHS newsletter, but have never been there and did not really know a lot about it. It has "thousands of rare and lovely woody plants, including some of Philadelphia's oldest, rarest, and largest trees, are set in a romantic, 92-acre, Victorian landscape garden of winding paths, streams, flowers and special garden areas."

Sounds lovely...but the one particular feature that we..and by we I mean ME...are looking at today is the Garden Railway, "With a changing theme each year, the Garden Railway is a miniature world set in the splendor of a summer garden, featuring historic buildings created entirely of natural materials, each meticulously detailed with leaves, bark, vines and twigs. Logs and branches are also used to create unique tunnels and overhead trestles. Nestled among woody plants, colorful annuals and perennials, the finished product is an enchanting landscape that never ceases to delight visitors both young and old."

But as regular readers here might understand, I am very interesting in the fact that this years theme is LIGHTHOUSES! "Great American Lighthouses returns as the 2009 theme for Morris Arboretum’s Summer Garden Railway display - featuring such favorites as Cape Hatteras, Sandy Hook and Boston Harbor Light." I have read on another blog, New England Lighthouses, that the lighthouses that will be represented are Boston Harbor Light, Brant Point Light, Cape Hatteras Light, East Brother Island Light, Fort Thompkins Light, Mukilteo Light, Old Point Loma Lighthouse, Pass A L'Outre Light, Race Rock Lighthouse, Sandy Hook Light (New Jersey! Woo Hoo!), St. Joseph North Pierhead Lights, Whitefish Point Light, Thomas Point Shoal Light, Whaleback Lighthouse, Whitehead Light Station, Yaquina Bay Light, along with a 1000 feet of track and ten G-scale trains.

So, if your are in the Philly area or will be this summer, and are a fan of gardens, model railroads or lighthouses, this sounds like something you should plan on visiting. And be sure to check out their event sections, because they have a lot of family friendly events all season, something to interest just about everyone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

a review of American Rust

American Rust by Philipp Meyer (Spiegel & Grau, ISBN 9780385527514)

Rural Pennsylvania is dotted with these small, dying towns. Once the home to a thriving mill or plant, the residents find themselves left behind, the plants closed, the jobs moved off to distant, cheaper places. But the people stay, many of the people stay, as if they too are effected by the rust that is slowly eating away the hulking buildings of the once prosperous business. The people stay, taking minimum wage jobs or part time jobs, getting further and further in debt, walking away from houses they can't pay the mortgage on and no one wants to buy. Not a cheery situation.

American Rust is set in such a town, Buell, Pennsylvania, set on the edge of the Monongahela River, south of Pittsburgh. Once home to a thriving steel mill, it is now a place where the great paying job are only a memory and the future does not look too great. And it is there that we first meet two of out central characters, Isaac English and his best friend Billy Poe. They seem unlikely friends, Isaac always the smartest kid in school, a genius in fact, who has stayed around town caring for his crippled father; Billy, the former star football play on the high school team, who stayed around town nothing. But now both in their early 20's, Isaac has planned his escape. He has stolen $4000 from his father, and plans to hitch a ride on the trains that still travel through the area, make his way to California, and enter college to study astrophysics.

But before they even reach the town limits, someone ends up killed, arguably in self defense, and a whole set of actions is set in motion with the rest of our cast. There is Billy's mother Grace, living in a trailer she can't afford to heat, her hands crippled by arthritis, but unwilling to totally leave her drunken, cheating husband. There is her on and off again boyfriend, Sheriff Harris. On Isaac's side there is his father, confined to a wheelchair years ago from an industrial accident and the one person that seems to have escaped Buell, his sister Lee, who went off to Yale on a scholarship and married into a wealthy family. But even she is cheating on a husband she doesn't love during her visit home. Yes, it is all pretty bleak.

But that is not why I did not like this book...and I can't say that I liked it. Heck, I have read any number of recent Canadian novels, which have to be some on the bleakest stuff out there. No, and it is not even what I found to be the author's rather annoying writing style, part stream of consciousness, told in short chapters from all the various character's point of view, yet oddly the same, with missing punctuation and odd sentence structure. It is not the repetition of the same ideas, voiced over and over by different people, to the point that I had to on several occasions go back to the beginning of the chapter to remind myself again of who was talking. I will not even mention Isaac'a habit of referring to himself in the third person, as the Boy.

And it is not that he doesn't capture a certain reality. I know a lot of places like this in Pennsylvania, little places, set in the middle of often very beautiful scenery, that have seen better days, as Grace relates at one point.
“At the top of the hill was a big vista, the whole valley was green and full looking, the gorge, the river cutting between sheer cliffs. She stood a while longer and watched long tow of barges, a dozen or fourteen of them, pass under the tall bridges that spanned the gorge. It was a beautiful place to live. But that did not put any more money in her pockets...”
I know those towns. In fact substitute north eastern Pa for western and substitute closed coal mines for closed steel mills and it is the town my maternal grandparents were from. The town they left for more opportunities, but the town other family members remained in, as did their offspring, for reasons I could never understand.

No, what I really disliked, something that I hate in books and movies alike, that for me is a deal breaker, is that the characters acted stupidly. Not just the one bad decision that started the whole process, but stupid decision after stupid decision after stupid, senseless decision to the very end of the book. I hate to shout at the characters about what they are doing. They never seem to hear me and they never do what I say.
As an example, let's look at Isaac. We are told again and again he is a genius. So I am a genius, with no money, and I am looking for a way out of this dead end. Surely, he could get a scholarship as his sister did. Arrangements could be made to care for his father. But no, Isaac, a self professed 100 lb. weakling decides to ride the rails with a bunch of meth heads and thieves and other questionable sorts, and with a pocket full of cash no less. I guess he couldn't just buy a bus ticket and get there in a couple of days? And then there is the idea that these people are somehow trapped, that they have no options. But they all do. Billy was offered several football scholarships..but instead sits in his underwear, drinking beer outside his mother's double wide. And his mother was offered a good job in Philadelphia, where she could have finished the degree she says that she wants so much...but she turned it down.
A lot of drinking, a good bit of sleeping around, a couple of people that without doubt could use a visit to the mental health clinic..and a lot of very bad, stupid, senseless decisions.
Sorry, I found little I liked here.

Now, as is sometimes the case, as I look around at other reviews, I seem to be holding a minority opinion. I am not the lone dissenter out there, but there are many 4 and even 5 stars reviews that make comparisons to Cormac McCarthy, to Steinbeck and Faulkner. No...for me there is no real comparison and while I held in there to the end, this is a book that fell far short of my hopeful expectations. In my opinion, if you want a rather bleak, depressing, hopeless story, full of people making bad decisions, you may love this book.

For some other opinions....

The Book Lady's Blog
Devourer of Books
Cheryl's Book Nook
medieval bookworm
The Bluestocking Society

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

too many options...Library Thinger makes my head spin..

yep, Tuesday again, so lets see what Wendi at Wendi's Book Corner has to tell us about a Library Thing feature...

This week we are going to take a peek at the styles of Your Library and how you can customize them. To see what I'm talking about, go to Library Thing, and click on the Your Library tab. Just under the tabs, you will find a section that says Styles, A, B, C, D, E, and then a symbol that looks like a pencil. If you click on the pencil, you can edit your styles, or the formatting of the pages that show your books' information....there are 44 different options you can select from!
Questions: Have you explored the different styles? Have you customized any of the styles? If so, what are your favorite customized items (isbn, Dewey Decimal, Reviews, Book-Swap, etc)?

Well, let me just say first of all that I am very glad that Wendi counted the number of options and saved me from having to do it.
OK, actually, most likely, I will still have to go over and count them again, just to be sure. That fact alone might give you an idea of my issue with all these choices. My inability to make choices, my ability to 'waste' endless amounts of time, my fixation to have things a certain way...oh, Library Thing, why do you do this to me?

Yes. I was aware of the styles, but I was not aware that there were quite as many options as there are. Since I joined LT a year or so ago, I have changed the style several time. At the moment, I have settled on style A. I must have covers...and they must be first. I am shallow, I know, but I like the pretty colored covers. From there, I like to keep it simple and not being a librarian type person, things like Dewey are wasted on me. ISBN, useful when you are looking for a book, but if they are in my library, obviously I already found them. Cover, author, title, ratings (which I fool with endlessly) tags, entry date and shared. I sort them by the entry date, the last entered at the top of the list and working down, a hundred books to a page, 12 pages.

But...but there is one more column and I can never decide what to put in it. Reviews? That would be lovely..if I had more of my library reviewed. But until I joined LT, I never reviewed a book, so I have at least 1000 that will most like never get a review written for. That is a lot of blank space in that column then. At the moment I have summary in there, before that I had publication info in there..before that I had subjects, but they tend to be very long, (My Antonia, the first book on my list has 20 subjects) and throw the whole look of the page off. LCCN, OCLC, BCID, LC classification...I have no idea what they are. If anyone knows, feel free to explain them to me please. So, for now, I will stick with something fairly useless that just looks nice.

It all just comes down to keeping track of what I own...and the pretty book covers!

.. and speaking of pretty,as usual, we will end with a picture of the cutest little doggie in the whole wide world, Bandit

"Bandit, get out of the flowers...good Bandit..."

Monday, April 13, 2009

if you want to feel good...

I know it is Monday and all, and some people don't do Mondays too well. So first, a pretty picture of the cherry blossom trees at Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ.

And now, if you want to watch something that is just very nice, and very positive, and I think very sweet, have a look at this This Very Nice Video from Britain's Got Talent. Sorry that it can't be embedded but click over and watch it and I can guarantee you will have a smile on your face afterward.

Thanks to The Anchoress for pointing this one out.
photo by Tony the Misfit

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Monday Musing...

Just finished a lovely Easter dinner and I really need a nap now, but first a moment of musing, because I see that the Musing Monday question is up over at Just One More Page. This week, Rebecca asks a very good question I think....

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about blog comments

How do you respond to the comments on your blog? Do you try to email individually or comment on post yourself answering the comments above? What do you think is the best way to res/pond to comments and do you respond to all of them? Do you feel slighted if you don't receive a response back from the blog owner? (question courtesy of Jenn)

A timely question, since I was actually just thinking about it myself. This weekend, I was reading one of those blogs about how you can improve your blog and they were discussing this issue. How important it is to respond to build reader loyalty and such. Of course, there were like 250 comments on that post and I lost interest after about 20.

Which says something right there, doesn't it? Part of the issue is simple numbers. Now, I do not get huge number of comments. Somewhere between blog like the one mentioned above, that get hundreds, and some you see that get no comments. (BTW, I always leave a comment when a happen upon a blog with no comments to their posts. Otherwise it remind me of someone just talking to themselves in the shower or something...Assuming BermudaOnion has not commented there Anyhoo, my point (and I know it is hard to find it in here sometimes) is that my comments are of a number that responding is reasonable. I do try to respond, in the comments themselves, if someone make a particular point. I have said it before, but I love my commenters. Agree with what I wrote, disagree with what I wrote, make a good point, make no point at all...I appreciate every comment. I prefer to answer in the comment themselves because I see it as a bit of a conversation that we are all sharing..unless it was something I would just want to address to one person privately. Never had that happen, but if so, I would e-mail them. Like if they called me an idiot or poated something really hostile.

Do I respond to all of them? No, but usually not because I wouldn't like to. Days I am working (you might remember the discussion of my bizarre work schedule) are pretty much blog free days for me. Especially since all blogs are now blocked from our internet at work. So, I can read your comments via my e-mail (until they block that too), but I can't respond. Well, except in my head, but as far as I know, you can't hear that. Right??
And by the time I get home, many, many hours later, I usually don't have time, I forget to, or most importantly, forget the really clever remark I was going to make.
So, I just do my best...

Do I feel slighted if a blog owner does not respond to my comments. Well, no, I didn't until you suggested it. Gosh, now I will be checking....
I know some people try to respond...and some people don't. If they get a great many comments, it is, realistically, impossible. I would rather they spend their time posting something else really interesting for me to read. Sometimes you get a response from another commenter, which I think it great, furthering that whole idea of discussion. Sometime my brilliant remark just dies a slow, unnoticed death...{{sob}}.

Speaking of comments and those people that faithfully comment on your blog, in case you did not click on that link above, let me give a wee plug to an award, an award that I think that really goes to the heart of blogging, an award for us to give to our most faithful commenters, A Blogger's Best Friend Award. "The "A Blogger's Best Friend Award" shall be given to your most loyal blog readers. Thus, the award should be given to a follower of yours who takes the time to comment regularly on many of your posts. In addition his or her blog should be creative, funny and always entertaining. Upon receiving this award, pass it along to two fellow bloggers who fit this criteria." So, go over there and grab it and give it some commenters that remind us we are not just talking to ourselves in the shower.

The fact that my niece's puppy, Bandit, came up with this idea (really, he told me so!) has nothing to do with the plug. (How does a dog type you might ask....?)
Ok, it actually as a lot to do with the plug, but I also think it is a nice idea.

..from the Easter Vigil Mass, the Easter Song of Praise,

The Exsultet

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!

Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice O earth in shining splendour,
radiant in the brightness of your King!

Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church, Exult in glory!

The risen Saviour shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people...

Friday, April 10, 2009

a couple of quick things...

...and I will try to resist my instinct to comment endlessly. Just a couple of interesting things to share.

According to a University of Melbourne study... "Caught Twittering or on Facebook at work? It'll make you a better employee, according to an Australian study that shows surfing the Internet for fun during office hours increases productivity."
I am e-mailing my boss right now...

Ever been trying to make that $25 total for free shipping at Amazon... and come up short? So you add that other book or whatever and now you are $10 over? Well, here is a handy website that will let you search for Amazon items that are closest in price to just the amount for need to get to that magic free shipping number. cool.....

but coolest of all, is the brand new award I was given! It seems that Bandit, the Cutest Dog in the World, from the cutest blog, the world from down here, has created this award and I am one of the two lucky recipients.

The "A Blogger's Best Friend Award" shall be given to your most loyal blog readers. Thus, the award should be given to a follower of yours who takes the time to comment regularly on many of your posts. In addition his or her blog should be creative, funny and always entertaining. Upon receiving this award, pass it along to two fellow bloggers who fit this criteria. Congratulations!
Why, thank you very much Bandit, and I always enjoy your blog...even if you do post a lot of pictures of yourself.

Now, I must pass it on, something I admit that I am very, very bad it. And two is not enough!

The first, of course, must go to Bermudaonion. If there were a greatest commenter award in the blogshere, she would have to get it. She reads and reviews five times the books I do, posts several times a day, twitters constantly and yet also finds time to post comments on a countless number of blogs. I think she may actually be 5 people in a garage somewhere with 15 laptops...
But I always enjoy her comments! ;-)

Next...kaye at Pudgy Penguin Perusals. A faithful poster here, always amusing...and I enjoy her odd attachment to those tuxedo wearing birds.

and then there is Jenners of Find Your Next Book Here. She shares my slightly quirky sense of humor and, hey, she is a Jersey Girl too!

Now I am past my two awards...but I have left out so many deserving people! See, this is what I hate about these awards! So to everyone who posts here regularly, or has ever posted here, let me say in all seriousness (which is so very, very hard for me) that I appreciate each and every one of you and each and every comment. Please, consider yourself awarded as well, and feel free to pass the award on to a few deserving commenters as well.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Do You Know Your History...or Are You Just Old?

For your of those e-mail tests that make their way around the internet. Now, they say you should do well if you are over 40, but I think that they are several decades off. Maybe if you are over 70...or 80. But then the only one I got wrong...about the pony...I was actually alive for.

But I was very young...and I had no pony myself.

Except my imaginary one...Pony.

No relation to my imaginary kitty, Kitty.

1. In the 1940s where were automobile headlight dimmer switches located?
a. On the floor shift knob.
b. On the floor board to the left of the clutch.
c. Next to the horn.

2. The bottle top of a Royal Crown Cola bottle had holes in it. For what was
it used?

a. Capture lightning bugs.
b. To sprinkle clothes before ironing.
c. Large salt shaker.

3. Why was having milk delivered a problem in n northern winters?
a. Cows got cold and wouldn't produce milk.
b. Ice on highways forced delivery by dog sled.
c. Milkmen left deliveries outside of front doors and milk would freeze
expanding and pushing up the cardboard bottle top.

4. What was the popular chewing gum named for a game of chance?
a. Blackjack
b. Gin
c. Craps

5. What method did women use to look as if they were wearing stockings when
none were available due to rationing during WW II.

a. Suntan
b. Leg painting
c. Wearing slacks

6. What postwar car turned automotive design on its ear when you couldn't tell whether it was coming or going?
a. Studebaker
b. Nash Metro
c. Tucker

7. Which was a popular candy when you were a kid?
a . Strips of dried peanut butter.
b. Chocolate licorice bars.
c. Wax coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside.

8. How was Butch wax used?
a. To stiffen a flat-top haircut so it stood up.
b. To make floors shiny and prevent scuffing.
c. On the wheels of roller skates to prevent rust.

9. Before inline skates how did you keep your roller skates attached to your

a. With clamps tightened by a skate key.
b. Woven straps that crossed the foot.
c. Long pieces of twine.

10. As a kid what was considered the best way to reach a decision?
a. Consider all the facts..
b. Ask Mom.
c. Eeny-meeny-miney-mo.

11. What was the most dreaded disease in the 1940s and 1950s?
a. Smallpox
c. Polio

12. "I'll be down to get you in a ________, Honey"
a. SUV
b. Taxi
c. Streetcar

13. What was the name of Caroline Kennedy's pony?
a. Old Blue
b.. Paint
c. Macaroni

14. What was a Duck-and-Cover Drill?
a . Part of the game of hide and seek.
b. What you did when your Mom called you in to do chores.
c. Hiding under r your desk and covering your head with your arms in an
A-bomb drill.

15. What was the name of the Indian Princess on the Howdy Doody show?
a. Princess Summerfallwinterspring
b. Princess Sacajawea
c. Princess Moonshadow

16. What did all the really savvy students do when mimeographed tests were
handed out in school?

a. Immediately sniffed the purple ink as this was believed to get you high.
b. Made paper airplanes to see who could sail theirs out the window.
c. Wrote another pupil's name on the top to avoid their failure.

17. Why did your Mom shop in stores that gave Green Stamps with purchases?
a.. To keep you out of mischief by licking the backs which tasted like
bubble gum.
b. They could be put in special books and redeemed for various household
c. They were given to the kids to be used as stick-on tattoos.

18. Praise the Lord & pass the _________?
a. Meatballs
b. Dames
c. Ammunition

19. What was the name of the singing group that made the song "Cabdriver" a

a. The Ink Spots
b. The Supremes
c. The Esquires

20. Who left his heart in San Francisco?
a. Tony Bennett
b. Xavier Cugat
c. George Gershwin

----------------------------- ------------------------------


1. (b) On the floor to the left of the clutch. Hand controls popular in
Europe took till the late '60's to catch on.
2. (b) To sprinkle clothes before ironing. Who had a steam iron?
3. (c) Cold weather caused the milk to freeze and expand popping the bottle
4 . (a) Blackjack Gum.
5. (b) Special makeup was applied followed by drawing a seam down the back
of the leg with eyebrow pencil.
6. (a) 19 46 Studebaker.
7. (c) Wax coke bottles containing super-sweet colored water.
8 (a) Wax for your flat top (butch) haircut.
9. (a) With clamps tightened by a skate key which you wore on a shoestring
around your neck.
10. (c) Eeny-meeny-miney-mo.
11. (c) Polio. In beginning of August swimming pools were closed movies and
other public gathering places were closed to try to prevent spread of the
12. (b) Taxi. Better be ready by half-past eight!
13. (c) Macaroni.
14. (c) Hiding under your desk and covering your head with your arms in an
A-bomb drill.
15. (a) Princess Summerfallwinterspring. She was another puppet.
16. (a) Immediately sniffed the purple ink to get a high.
17.. (b) Put in a special stamp book they could be traded for household
items at the Green Stamp store.
18. (c) Ammunition and we'll all be free.
19. (a) The widely famous 50's group The Inkspots.
20. (a) Tony Bennett and he sounds just as good today.


17- 20 correct: You are older than dirt and obviously gifted with mental
abilities. Now if you could only find your glasses. Definitely someone who
should share your wisdom!

12 -16 correct: Not quite dirt yet but you're getting there...

0 -11 correct: You are not old enough to share the wisdom of your

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

a review of The Lost City of Z...and A GIVEAWAY!

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-51353-1)

For centuries, there were stories of a huge, developed, ancient city, deep in the Amazon jungle, a city where gold was so plentiful that the Indians ground it into a powder and covered their bodies in it. The Spanish called it El Dorado, the gilded man, after the city's gold covered king. It was a legend that lured many explorers to their deaths in the jungle, but a legend that would not die. In January 1925, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, perhaps the most famous explorer of his day, accompanied by his son and his son's best friend, set out on what many thought was the best chance to discover the truth of the mysterious city. They set off to great fanfare, entered the jungle...never to be seem again. David Grann, in his first book, The Lost City of Z, sets out both by extensive research with many before unknown documents and by his own trip into the much changed and yet still quite dangerous Amazon, to determine the truth of what actually happen to the great explorer Fawcett....and perhaps to solve the mystery of El Dorado as well.

Fawcett was, in ways, a larger than life figure. It was when he was in the British military, stationed in Ceylon, that he first got a taste for the adventurous life of the explorer. Certainly, at the time, he was not alone in his quest; the Royal Geographical Society in London had an actual school for explorers at their headquarters. But he was certainly one of the most famous, the most succesful, the most colorful and seemed, in some ways, to be indestructible. His greatest adventures were deep into the jungle,
"a wilderness nearly the size of the continental United States, to make what he called "the great discovery of the century"- a lost civilization. By then most of the world had been explored, it's veil of enchantment lifted, but the Amazon remained as mysterious as the dark side of the moon."
On several previous trips into the Amazon, mapping areas of south America only vaguely understood before, when it seemed that all those around him had succumbed to illness, or starvation, or madness, he would emerge from the jungle, months later, even when all hope had been lost. He would always reappear, except that one final time....

For decades, countless have tried to solve the mystery of what happened to Fawcett, perhaps as many as a hundred of them losing their own lives in the process. And yet the mystery persisted, the mystery of the Lost City and the mystery of the most famous explorer that had set out to find it. For his own reasons, Grann, someone who happily admits that he hates to camp, has a terrible sense of direction, can get lost on the subway and prefers his air-conditioned apartment in NYC to the overwhelming heat of the jungle, found himself caught up in the story as well and set out to see if, at last, the truth could be found.

I will leave it up to you, the readers, to find out if he accomplishes that task.

But I will tell you this, that the journey he takes us on, in search of it, is a thrilling and very interesting one. He takes us back to learn about Fawcett, someone who
"wanted to become what Joseph Conrad had dubbed "a geography militant", someone who, "bearing in his breast a spark of the sacred fire", discovered along the secret latitudes and longitudes of the earth the mysteries of mankind."
A soldier, a hero in WWI, a spy for the British, a husband and a father...but most of all a man truly obsessed. He would return home, to the comfort of his family between expeditions then, once again, the feeling would start.
"..before long, he found himself unable to sit still. "Deep down inside me a tiny voice was calling," Fawcett said. "At first scarcely audible, it persisted until I could no longer ignore it. It was the voice of the wild places, and I knew that it was now part of me for ever." He added, "Inexplicably-amazingly-I knew I loved that hell."
Hell is not an overstatement of the conditions he and the others suffered in the jungle, and yet he, and so many others, again and again would return, answering that call of the wild.

The Lost City of Z is a thriller, the story of the history of an era, but most of all, the fascinating tale of one man's obsession. It is also just a very good read that I think many of you will enjoy.

And to help you do that, I am going to give away, to one lucky person, a brand spanking new ARC of the book....since somehow I was fortunate enough to find myself with an extra copy. So if you would like a chance to win, just leave me a comment here. If you would like to actually comment on the book or the review that would certainly be appreciated, but if you would like to be entered to win, just mention that too and be sure to leave a way to get in touch with you. For an extra chance to win, just mention the contest on your own blog and tell me that in your comment as well.
Since I am not a wealthy woman, I am afraid that I have to limit it to US residents, and I will draw the winner...hmmm...shall we say Sunday, April 19th, to give you a chance to say something really clever. Not that it will help your chances, but it is fun to read!

Check out these other great reviews...
A Reader's Respite
Fashion Piranha
At Home With Books
A Bookworm's World
Fresh Ink Books
The Book Catapult
Fyrefly's Book Blog

Also Available From Amazon

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Library Thing's like a Tuesday Thinger Party!

It's Tuesday, and happily Wendi, with this week's Tuesday Thinger post, has reminded me of a new feature that I have to check out.

Questions: Do you have a LT widget on your blog? If so, what is your favorite thing about it? Have you had a chance to go see the all new widget building page, and if so, have you built a new widget? If so, what do you like about it?

I do have the old one, and I always liked it. Ok, maybe it was not as fancy as Shelfari's book shelf, or whatever it was called, and you get people that like Goodreads widget more, but I though it was nice. Neat, tidy...reminds me of books that I forgot that I own, which as far as i am concerned was the best part. And i think the covers are pretty.

But then, the other day, I found the NEW one and it is way cool. I mean really folks, if you have not checked it out yet, you should. I have not put it on my blog yet because I was fooling with it, trying to get it just right. There are so many options, and I have issues with things that involve a lot of choices. What color, reviews, no reviews, how fast should it change...oh, the choices. I need to lay down and take a wee reat now.

To save you the trip...or if we have not yet enticed you to join Library Thing...let me quote the post from LT...
* New "animated" style cycles through your covers in a oddly mesmerizing way.(they are right. it is oddly mesmerizing)
* Widgets are extensively customizable, so you can fit them to your blog without any special knowledge. ((good...I have no 'special knowledge'. Of anything.))
* Power users can do more, with Javascript and CSS customization. Check out Chris' blog for stylish use.* ((not going to look. I will then be envious of something I can not re-create because I have no 'special knowledge'.))
* The new widgets are shareable (an example) so members can show off and swap styles. (Yes, we'll be having a widget-creation contest soon.) ((I don't share well))
* Widget links don't go off somewhere, but open up a slick lightbox "mini-book" page, with your information and (optional) links, to LibraryThing and elsewhere. You can, of course, fill in your Amazon Associates code, if you want to make money off your widget. ((where did i put my Amazon Associate code? I have made 54 cents through it!))
* Widgets now include (optionally) tags, ratings and reviews. You can filter by reviews and tags too. ((oh no, more options..))
* The code is good—based on our improved JSON Books API and designed not to slow down your page (they're "lazy-loading"). Weirdly this can make the widget look slow. That's because it's not slowing down the rest of the page! ((Greek to me. except I actually studied Greek))
* Internationalized from the ground up.((no idea what that means...))
* Orcas, baby!

Ok, I have no idea what the orca part means either. They are a bit of an odd bunch at LT. Which is another reason that I like it there. And the parts about the code, they are wasting that explanation on me. The whole "Javascript and CSS customization"...hmmmm not so meaningful to me. I just like that it works.

I am off to find a list of color codes...I know I saved a link for a site with them I can pick something that goes with my rather colorless blog.
That is next on my 'things to do' list. Ok, not next, but somewhere on the list. To get a new design for my blog, a unique design...anyone know a good blog designer? Because as I mentioned, my knowledge about such 'codeish' things is very limited. And I really don't want to make the whole blog disappear. But I want to be unique!

{{P.S. edited to say that I did add a version of the new widget. not sure the final version...but a start. Oh, look at the pretty covers, watch them change...}}

Now, another charming picture of Bandit! Be sure to check out his blog
now. He love the comments. He told me Italian!

No mommy, don't put me in the washer! Please!

Oh, No! I look like a wet rat...

Monday, April 6, 2009

List...I don't need no stinking list...but I do need my Musing Monday!

Yes Bandit, I realize here on the east Coast of the USA it is still Sunday, but the Monday Musing question, from the inquisitive mind of Just One More Page is up. And if I do not answer it now, I am off to work for the night shortly, and who knows when I will answer it...since, as I have mentioned, all blogs are blocked on the internet at work.
So, with that explanation, here is this weeks question...

As a follow up to last week's question, Joseph asked how you keep track of your tbr list. Do you have a paper list or on your computer? Do you take it with you when you go shopping? How do you decide what gets added to it?

So, who is this Joseph...and why is he so interested in my books? ;-)

My To Be Read list. How do I keep track of it? Very easy question. I don't have one, so I don't have to keep track of it. Certainly can't take it with me. Ok folks, that's it, so long now, see you next week....

What I do realize is that a lot of folks are a lot more organized about their books than I am. What they have read, what they will read, what they wish they might read, what they will buy, what they will get rid of, what they loaned out, what they borrowed...oh my, it is all just too much for me. I mean, really...Excel spreadsheets are so very, very neat but just beyond my organizational skills. I use Excel at work, but I am not terrible...shall we say the language of the computer spreadsheet.

And hand written lists in notebooks and such...well, i can't do that either. My handwriting is too poor. So poor that the list would just annoy me so much. Then, I would also have to cross out things and make changes and it would get all messy and that would annoy me SO much too. My entire life might spin out of control and I would have to retreat to the quiet darkness of my bedroom, just me and my imaginary kitty, Kitty. They may think I jest Kitty, but I do not!

So, what to do when I happen upon a book that i think I might desire?
Well, two choices. Buy it...or add it my 'wish list' or cart on Amazon. Because as I have also mentioned, most of my books I buy from Amazon. So if I am wandering around the blogshere or the World Wide Web in general and happen upon something that sounds interesting, I just go over to the Evil Amazon and see what is available. If it is not a brand new book and there is a used on available in the Marketplace for a penny or close, for a total of $4, chances are I may buy it.
There is no rhyme or reason to what I buy usually, beyond what I read in a recommendation here in blogland..or reviews in the NY Times or Philadelphia Inquirer or any of those other places I read.

Which is why I always have these packages arriving in the mail all the time, wrapped in brown paper. Heavens, what must my mailman think I am doing here....?

Or, if I am unsure I should buy it (which happens if I pause a few minutes and really think "Caite, do you need another book, do you have room for another book?") or if it is new, I add it to the cart over on the Evil Amazon, put it in the "Saved Items--To Buy Later" to either wait until I have $25 worth and will get free shipping ('cause I hate, hate, hate to pay for the shipping!) or I forget why I put it in there to begin with. Then, months from now, I just delete it.

I figure that if I read enough good things about it and want it enough, I will remember and still want it. And maybe, on the occasion when I wander into a 'real' bookstore, I might even be desperate to actually buy it! It has happened..

And someday, if I actually ever get to the bottom of my on hand TBR pile {{watch out Kitty!!}} I may have to come up with a real system.
I figure...2012, 2013 maybe. If books still exist then.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Making Me a Pot of Zombie Chicken Soup....yum....

I just want to take a moment and thank two of my fellow bloggers, Rebecca of Just One More Page and Sandy of You've Gotta Read This for awarding me an award, what Sandy refers to as 'a slightly twisted' award.

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all..."

Now, it's say I must pass it on to 5 bloggers, or risk the wrath of the Zombie Chicken. I am almost tempted to see what that chicken might do...instead I will attempt to pick out five...soon...really...soon.

So hold off Zombie Chicken! Or you might find yourself in a pot of soup. Have I ever mentioned that I make the very best chicken soup in the whole world. I really little little chicken

Thursday, April 2, 2009

St. Augustine Lighthouse

Oh, I have been very, very bad and not posted a lighthouse visit for months! True, it is winter, and lighthouse visiting here in the Northeast tends to lessen in the winter, but still it is unforgivable. Please forgive me anyway.

So, as a special treat, we are going out of state, leaving the Garden State of New Jersey for a moment to head south to the Sunshine State of Florida and visit the very pretty St. Augustine lighthouse. The Bro, the Sil (sister-in-law for you internet challenged) and I flew down to visit The Niece, who is a college student in Florida, and on a free day, we all took a road trip to America's Oldest City to visit the lighthouse. You might not be surprised, but that was my idea and they graciously went along and we all had a lovely day.

It is all one can want in a lighthouse. It is tall, it is conical, it has stripes!
But a bit of background first. The lighthouse that now stands there is not the first structure that has stood on Anastasia Island. On the feast day of St. Augustine in the year 1565, the Spanish fleet, led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, landed on the northern coast of what is now Florida and established the first European settlement in America, naming it in honor of the saint. Soon, it was quite a thriving port and a watchtower was built on the barrier island, most likely with a fire at the top at night to mark entry to the port.

In 1673, the Spanish started construction of a large fort on the mainland, Castillo de San Marco. which is still standing and certainly worth a visit as well. The fort was built of conqina, a natural limestone material composed of shells, quartz sand and clay. A few decades later, it was decided to build a new watchtower of the same material on the island to replace the wooden tower and after Florida was ceded to the United States in 1821, it was decided to use the still standing conquina tower as a lighthouse. Over the next few decades, several additions were made, removing part of the original structure and adding a 73 foot tall brick addition, raising it's height, installing oil lamps and reflectors and then a fourth order Fresnel lens in 1855.

But as a lighthouse, it was less than ideal and there was a a real threat of the tower collapsing from erosion, so in 1871, Congress authorized funds to build a new tower, the one that presently stands. Paul Petz, who also designed the Library of Congress, was hired as the architect, and the 165 foot tall tower was completed in 1874. The bricks for the lighthouse came from Alabama, granite was shipped from Georgia, the iron work infrastructure was made in Philadelphia, dismantled and shipped to Florida and then rebuild on the site, the new first-order Fresnel lens was made and sent from France. It was painted with it's distinctive black and white spiral and red lantern top, it's 'daymark' which has remained unchanged ever since.

There were three keepers stationed at the lighthouse, each taking an eight hour shift. Their duties included climbing the 214 steps to the top every 3 to 4 hours after dark, carrying buckets of oil, weighing about 30 pounds each, to replenish the lanterns and to rewind a winch for the 275 pound weight that slowly descended, moving the gears that revolved the len, like a giant grandfather clock. In the daytime, of course, the work never stopped either. Every prism of the lens had to be cleaned and polished, maintenance had to be done on the tower and they also had to maintain their own garden and livestock and maintain the keepers house that was built in 1876 for them and their families. From time to time they also had to act as lifesavers, for ships that struck one of the nearby sandbars and floundered.

These were probably the heydays of the tower, in the years leading up to WWI. The tower became quite a tourist attraction. In the 1800's there was a tramway across the marsh and then in 1895, the St. Augustine and South Beach Railroad brought visitors to the lighthouse, as many as 10,000 a year by 1909. In 1927, the historic Bridge of Lions was completed and now one could easily cross it from St. Augustine to Anastasia Islamd.
And of course, there were always the exploits of the keeper's families. One of my favorites is recounted at
"Life at the station was full of varied activities for the keeper’s children as well. One noted story involves Cardell "Cracker" Daniels, son of keeper C.D. Daniels. Cracker would regularly use the tall tower in his backyard as a launching pad for his model airplanes and parachutes. After safely parachuting several inanimate objects off the tower, Cracker decided it was time for a live experiment. Cracker’s sister, Wilma, had a cat named Smokey, who was selected as the paratrooper. After a couple of practice descents from lesser heights, the reluctant cat was tossed from the top of the tower with the parachute strapped to its back. When the frightened feline reached the ground, it quickly fled from the area. Unaware of Cracker’s antics, Wilma searched far and near for her cat over the next several days. It was about a month before Smokey finally returned home, but it wasn’t until several years later that the family learned the real reason for the cat’s disappearance."

I assume the cat did not find it funny....and you cat lovers might not

In 1936, electricity was finally brought to the tower, lessening the duties of the keeper and in 1955 the tower was automated. Sadly, as with many other lighthouse, so began it's decline. The former keeper's house was rented out as apartments and fell into disrepair, being boarded up in the 1960's and then severely damaged by fire in 1970. But it was that act that resulted in the wonderful restoration both the lighthouse and keeper's house have undergone in recent years.

When the county threatened to tear the keeper's house down, the Junior Service League of St. Augustine had it place on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1982 signed a 99 year least for the building, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the building and finally to open it as the Lighthouse Museum. In 1990, they then signed a 30 year lease with the Coast Guard for the closed up lighthouse and undertook a restoration of the lighthouse and the first ever repair of a Fresnel lens, the 9 foot tall original lens that had been damaged by vandal's bullets.

After 14 years and at a cost of $1.2 million dollars the complete restoration of the lighthouse was complete and in 2002 the lighthouse was deeded to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, Inc, a not-for-profit group that operates it today.
And a fine job they do. The lighthouse is in excellent condition, surrounded by beautiful nature trails . There is also a very nice separate gift shop and the keepers house continues to be opened as a museum. If you are in north Florida, you really don't want to miss making a visit to this very nice lighthouse.

Of course, you will not be able to visit with the World's Cutest Doggie! But the view will still be as nice, the ocean from the one side, the old city from the other.