Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Thieves of Manhattan

The title drew me to this book and it is as mysterious as the plot. It is about a young aspiring author, Ian Minot,  who can't get his work published by a world of publishing that is rapidly changing and doesn't respect him or his work. He learns more than he wanted to know about how books really get published and what really sells from an older, cynical, ex-editor, Jed Roth,  who teaches him about life and writing.

I didn't know if I would like the book or even finish it, but once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. It is a fascinating read about distinguishing fact from fiction in the literary world and in the characters who cross the path of the young writer. He sees how people can change personas and perceptions as easily as they change coats. He starts to suspect that no one is who they seem to be and that everyone is lying about not only their true identities but also the validity of their published writings. Even though he is jealous of published writers, he is scornful of the nature of the publishing world of people who are far too impressed with themselves. People are "gaming" other people and everyone has an agenda.

Especially intriguing are the sections when the seasoned editor, Roth tells the neophyte, Ian, that his work is too ordinary--ordinary people with ordinary lives where nothing exciting happens. However when Roth shares his own writing with Ian, Ian realizes that he is a much better writer than Roth. They form an uneasy partnership to polish a work of fiction and get it published as Ian's memoir since that seems to be what excites the publishing world. Ian wants to be published; Roth wants revenge on the publishing world for perceived slights.

Ian begins to suspect that the memoir is about crimes that have been committed and that he is being set up to take the blame. It is a satisfying, intriguing adventure full of surprises and as exciting as the world of publishing would have it to be. The life of the main character takes a few turns I had not expected which I always like in a good summer beach book.

Looking for Me

On the day that the first tropical storm of the new season arrived in my region, it was easy to justify a day in front of the computer while the rain poured through the trees in the window behind my screen and the laundry was chugging away without my help. The hours fly when surfing the web is a trip into dozens of worlds unlike my own. It is entertaining, amusing, appalling, and fascinating to visit the inner workings of the minds of other lives. Some are very foreign, some are very familiar. I wondered how many other people were doing the same thing across the globe. Why do we do this? What are we looking for? Why is it so absorbing?

We can visit Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and endless other popular places to connect with other people to glimpse whatever they will reveal of their lives. We accept, discard, and consider what it all means to us. We are looking for ourselves. Who are we? Why does a certain life experience appeal to us while another is discarded as unacceptable? I have to decide if playing games is a worthwhile activity to include in my life. I have to decide if taking pictures will be rewarding for my personality. Do I really want to spend my time reading a book about World War II that someone just reviewed? Will it give me any insights into my psyche; will it make me feel good or will it make me feel bad? Yes to this, no to that. So many questions to be answered.

I grew up in an era when so many technological toys were not available and the quest into self-discovery was a different journey. We had to seek out the company of people in our geographic area to see how we could garner some wisdom through their lives to pick and choose what made us comfortable in our own skins. It was a much slower journey to become ourselves. These days constant noise across the globe 24/7 can be overwhelming. I begin to doubt if I can find myself in the middle of so much over-stimulation.

I can't decide if all our technology is better or worse for today's generation. Perhaps this global village will provide companionship to the lonely, insight to the confused, comfort to the infirmed and entertainment to the bored. Considering the number of people addicted to self-destructive habits, all of us need something to fill our lives. 

At times when I am the only person in my house, I am glued to the computer screen. That probably says a lot about me. I'm still stuck to the computer rather than walking around permanently attached to a smart phone. Will the time come that I drop the land line, cancel cable computer and live my life on a smart phone communicating with 5,000 BFF that I've never seen face to face?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chunky Monkey

This is a tasty summer dessert. It can be a smoothie, or refrozen into soft ice cream consistency or you can drink it with a straw like a milk shake. It is very cold and delicious but very nutritious. It is dairy-free, and gluten-free. I made a few personal adjustments, but  I found it on 

Chunky Monkey

1 banana
1 can 13.5 oz. coconut milk
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1/2 C. chopped strawberries
1/2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips or 2 Tbs. cocoa powder

2 Servings

Cut the banana into chunks and freeze it. Put the other ingredients into separate containers and refrigerate them until the banana is frozen.

The amounts of the ingredients can be adjusted to personal taste. I sometimes add other fruits and leave out the chocolate chips.

Put all ingredients into a blender and I use the "aerate" setting until it reaches the consistency I like. Sometimes I pulverize it until everything is the size of specks and drink it like a shake/smoothie.

At times, I like to leave the ingredients in pea-sized chunks and eat it with a spoon. It can be eaten in a variety of ways.

Sometimes I put it back into the freezer for an hour until I can eat it with a spoon as I would eat ice cream. If it is left in the freezer too long, the ingredients separate and the coconut milk freezes as hard as ice. It has to be thawed at that point and remixed in the blender if it freezes too hard.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Know Thyself

I tried to read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, but I did what he did. I didn't read all of the book and he skipped hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail. He began his quest to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine with a lot of optimism and naive assumptions. It quickly became an exercise in survival. It was a good lesson in geography and history of the regions where the Appalachian Trail meanders through the Eastern part of the United States. Along the way, it became convenient for him to begin skipping parts of the trail for various reasons. The trail was never fully developed to the extent that the planners had intended which made it very difficult in some regions.

It had some interesting moments and was a little funny at times, but I kept wondering why he was doing it. Maybe it is like "why they climb the mountain..because it is there." I've read that people in Europe walk a lot and hike a lot and I think he got into that when he was living abroad. I know there are folks who like to hike, but I think they don't take too long to figure out a little goes a long way. I don't need six hours in the wilderness to remind me how much I enjoy a hot shower, clean toilets, clean beds, and warm food cooked on a stove.

I found parts of the book to be tedious and boring, so I skimmed big sections of it. It is a good "how to" manual for those who want to commit a few months of their lives to hiking the Appalachian Trail. I have to wonder if the book would encourage or discourage anyone seriously considering such an undertaking.  I have a lot of respect for his research and his list of suggested readings. I enjoy his folksy style of writing layered over some well-considered advice on the topic of serious hiking.

I stopped reading it before page 300. I skimmed over the rest. I went to the last chapter and read how he felt about the whole experience, but I thought it could have come a lot sooner. Generally, it was too much information, that I didn't need or want. I preferred mining for his nuggets of "self-realization" as I read how he reacted to various situations. His revelations about other hikers that crossed his path would have been a red flag to me. There are criminals in nature as much as on a big city sidewalk.

He learned a lot, and I suppose he wanted to know all of those things and wanted to write a book, but I didn't really care about most of it. I found the lesson about hypothermia to be good to know and a word to the wise to those who should stay out of the wilderness. I also thought the notion that it is dangerous to wander off the trail was a good piece of advice. Everyone has their levels of tolerance and I glaze over at the idea of spending that much time in the woods. Mention bears, snakes, insects, challenging weather conditions, and mind-numbing exhaustion, I could be quickly cured of the impulse to wander into the woods even with a GPS and a cell phone. I think he discovered the stuff of which he is made and sounded a bit sad about it. I'm sure he found some parts of the experience to be very rewarding. Whatever they were, I'm okay with not having that experience. I'm not willing to pay the price he paid. He did a respectable amount of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and wrote a book which I could vicariously enjoy without making such a huge commitment. I enjoyed his Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid more than his Walk in the Woods.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Microwave Multitasking

Everyone has a microwave that is used often in the course of a day. It's great for making a cup of tea or coffee--two minutes to heat water on high heat. Defrosting freezer items can take longer such as some frozen meats might take ten minutes on medium to low heat. Frozen items like precooked chicken can be heated in two minutes. Cooking a raw potato quickly can take only 6-8 minutes in a microwave. Microwaves are often used around my house to heat some leftover foods like vegetables, or spaghetti, etc. Snacks like popcorn or pretzels are easy to heat in a microwave.

So with all that stuff taking time to prepare, what to do with the two minutes that it takes the microwave to heat something? It's not enough time to go back to reading my book. It's not enough time to go back to preparing other things for a meal. After all if a cup of soup is in the microwave, it might boil over, so there I stand watching the turntable inside while the soup heats. It became obvious that it was a perfect opportunity to do a little multitasking while keeping an eye on the contents in the microwave. It isn't multitasking in the truest sense of the word, because I'm just watching the microwave do something and I want something to do while I watch it.

In the two minutes that it takes to heat a cup of water for tea, it is possible to do 50 lunges. Jumping jacks make a good choice, because one limits the time one does those anyway. Squats are easy to do in place while watching the soup or cup of water rotating around inside the microwave. Stretching exercises are quick and easy to keep busy and make good use of the time spent watching the microwave. I like put my hands behind my head, which bends my elbows, and lift the opposite knee to touch elbow to knee, alternating sides to see how many I can do in one minute. Sometimes for variety, I side-step back and forth across the kitchen and count how many I can do in the two minutes before the tea is ready.

Pushups are not a favorite of mine. I would rather use the set of dumbbells that weigh ten pounds each, which I keep in my kitchen corner. I can pick them up and do curls, or lift them over my head, or any number of movements while standing far enough away to watch the activity in the microwave and still move freely. Any activity that keeps me moving and using energy is acceptable. I don't have a formal list of activities that I do during that time when I babysit the microwave, I alternate with my mood. Sitting in a chair is the only unacceptable option. I already sit too much when I am reading. I need a counter where I could stand to read or work on the computer which is what I did when I worked. Exercising when I take a break helps.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Nouns to Verbs

We have become so accustomed to quickly looking for information that Google has become a verb--"Google it". It is amazing to see what they can produce to answer questions. In the same way that we "Google it" for information, we now "Amazon it" for shopping. I used to think of Amazon as books and music. Recently, I see that I can also find amazingly unusual products for sale by searching a few key words on Amazon.


I saw this t-shirt and of course it makes me giggle. Naturally, it is for sale on Amazon. This isn't a commercial, but I have found that I can shop at Amazon for many items that I can't find in drug stores, department stores or even hardware stores. This week my household has ordered three times from Amazon for items that aren't books. I ordered undies and lotions. Hubby ordered car parts. Before I jump in the car and run around town looking for weird stuff, I now consult Amazon. Not only do they sell many things also available on company web sites, the Amazon price is often better. When I order, it is delivered to my front door within a few days. Can't beat that for efficiency.


Next week I am shopping for a hummingbird feeder, exercise pants, a coffee maker, and this tiny medicine cup (Medline Plastic Medicine Graduated Cups) which I haven't been able to find at drugstores. I have many ways I use those tiny cups, but they came with other products and now I want to replace them. A hundred for under $4. Imagine that. "Amazon it."

Monday, May 20, 2013

April Tapestry

During the month of April, we visited many places and shot many photos. We flew to New Orleans where we set sail for 22 days on a cruise ship. Along the way, we crossed through the Gulf of Mexico, across the Atlantic Ocean, and into the Mediterranean. The ship was the hotel and we stopped at nine ports where we spent the days on tours. It was a great trip with many good memories. I kept a daily log, but we were too busy to find time to post it. I will have to edit and see if there are any worthwhile thoughts that are noteworthy to post here. The ship's Wi-Fi was .40 per minute and I conserved my time to sending brief e-mails to family. Below is the second of two slide shows that I have completed at this point.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Why would I watch a movie from 2007? I can't remember how I missed such an intriguing movie when it first emerged in the theaters. I didn't even know the movie existed until I ran across it at my gym. I go to a neat gym that has a "cardio theater". Eighteen cardio machines in front of a big movie screen, what's not to like? I'm not on cardio equipment long enough to see a feature length movie, but it is a fun way to exercise. If I find a movie I like well enough to want to see all of it, I can always see it at home on my Verizon On Demand which I did with Fracture.

I was hooked on following this intriguing plot to see where the contorted chess game between the prosecuting attorney and the accused murderer would finally reach a conclusion.

It's about an attempted murder by a brilliant, successful scientist who is determined to show that he can commit murder and get away with it. The district attorney put his most successful prosecutor on the case, but Willy, interesting choice of names, is ambitious and distracted by his impending move to a more lucrative job at a big-name law firm with a huge new salary. He thinks conviction will be a slam dunk because he has a signed confession so it should be easy to move on to his new job. He doesn't bother to do his homework or due diligence and should have been suspicious that it was just too easy.

It becomes clear that the murderer is playing him and the young prosecutor finds out that there are details he overlooked. He has to go back to basics and actually produce enough evidence to convict the murderer in order to put him away. The murderer has carefully planned his crime and has planned to get away with it. The murderer isn't a lawyer however, and Willy is determined to preserve his near-perfect record of convictions with his superior knowledge of the law. It is an interesting contest of wills in a legal drama.

The cast is filled with famous names, and some recognizable faces from the best of the acting world is on the job. It is good to finally cross paths with this movie because it was worth the time we spent watching it. I wish there were more movies of this variety. I will have to see what is playing in the cardio theater tomorrow, because they show a different film each day.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Triangle of Balance

When our children are small, we parents sign up for many sports and activities to give them a chance to sample various skills until they find things they enjoy and want to continue. We took our son to gymnastics, skiing, swimming, t-ball, tennis, and so forth. Of the many lessons in which we participated when my son was young, one of the most useful turned out to be ice skating. 

We had no grandiose goals and did not want to achieve high levels of performance on the ice. We never planned to become performers or even learn to do spins or any of the showy moves we see on television. Our son was six and it seemed like a good idea for him to learn some sense of balance on slippery surfaces. We also rented skates and tried to survive without any broken bones.

We had an instructor who taught about a dozen adults and children in class and he took us through some basics. Of course, staying on our feet was the most important thing. We knew how to snow ski, but the point of balance on skiis is different from ice skates. We were absolute beginners and needed to be able to stay vertical on ice. He explained how we were to put out our arms, somewhat forward about 45 degrees, with the palms open and down while imagining the palms of our open hands gliding over the ice. Those open hands would form two points of a triangle and our bodies would form the third point of an imaginary horizontal triangle which we would proceed to glide over the ice. 

We were instructed to keep in mind that our weight was to be centered on the skate, somewhat under the ball of our foot, but not too far forward because the toe pick would catch and flip us on to the ice. Of course, weight too far back would result in the skates slipping forward and we would fall backward. We were to concentrate on moving our triangle over the ice and not think so much about balancing. The body would take care of balancing itself if we thought more about the horizontal triangle.

Amazingly, it worked as we pushed off while imagining that horizontal triangle that we had to keep level as we glided over the ice first on one foot, then the other. We would glide from one side of the rink to the other even if it was a bit shaky. We got stronger and more confident so that we could begin to circle the rink with the other skaters. Before the half dozen classes ended, I could even skate backwards. We didn't learn any spins or jumps, we just wanted to avoid falling while we moved over the ice.

He would point to various skaters on the ice around us and point out what they were doing right or wrong. When he saw someone with their hands at their sides, or even behind them, he would declare very strongly, "Too casual." When I watch ice skaters on TV today, I can still hear him saying "too casual" if their arms aren't out and away from their bodies. When I see their hands and arms out to the sides in a balanced position, I remember his triangle of balance concept.

We worked very hard to learn just a few concepts, but other things came along and we didn't continue it as a family recreational activity which I regret. However, I'm a little too old to risk my bones again. The idea of a triangle of balance has stuck with me all those years and anytime I cross an icy parking lot during the winter, I remember to put out my arms, form my triangle of balance to walk across icy patches on sidewalks, slippery floors or any place where I don't want to lose my balance and fall.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

They don't know what they don't know.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect abounds today in the Information Age. In a previous life, I was a librarian and most of my job was research. To those who claim "everything is on the Internet," I must respectfully disagree. The fact is that only a small portion of mankind's knowledge can be found on the free Internet according to assessments by academicians.

Much of mankind's accumulated information will never be available on what we know commonly as "the free Internet." The reality is that it would be too expensive to digitize everything, not to speak of time-consuming. Much of mankind's knowledge can only be found in archival libraries that will not be scanned into digitized versions. One must visit the source where the information is housed. "A significant amount of archival material held by The New York Public Library is not yet represented anywhere online." An essay written by a librarian at Harvard is also very revealing.

When I refer to the "free Internet," I mean those sites that can be searched through Dr. Google. When we consider the expensive subscription databases available through University libraries, Public Libraries and specialty medical, legal, scientific libraries, or government collections, they can't be searched through search engines. Anyone doing serious research must go to those specialty collections sources to find accurate, reliable, peer-reviewed, well-researched data. Joining a local public library gives patrons access to extensive, and expensive databases that have unique search tools. Access to University libraries often require membership fees if one isn't a student.

Some primary source databases are only available through the "Deep Web" or the invisible web unless you want to pay for a private subscription. We've all heard the axiom, "It's worth what you pay for it." That is a good maxim to keep in mind when we are looking at information. When we evaluate information, we need to consider from whence it came, especially in secondary sources, lest we get led down the garden path to wherever propagandists wish to lead us.

To make a long story short as we like to do in the information age, it is always useful to ask ourselves who wrote the information, what are their qualifications and what is their agenda? Primary source or secondary source? Sources, sources, sources--some are better than others.

As Dr. Samuel Johnson said,

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it."
    Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson
    English author, critic, & lexicographer (1709 - 1784)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


In January, 2012, I wrote an entry called "Doors Unopened" and I find it still applies today. I reject posting a great many ideas that come to mind for various reasons.  So here is a list of the current rejects:

I won't write about the following subjects unless I get some great inspirations or queries to hear more about--

--My December cruise was outstanding. I'm a big fan of cruises and I could write endlessly about the things I enjoy about them. We meet legions of interesting people and see great places. We always take several Gigs of photos. People who love to cruise have those too. People who don't love to cruise don't care, or hate the whole concept. I could live on a ship and never get bored.

--My holiday with my family and grandchildren was superb. I never tire of talking to my grandchildren who are extra special to me. They light our lives in a million ways and I will always enjoy time spent with them. I think it is a great unspoken compliment to their parents that they can share their greatest contribution to the world with us. I think they can feel successful and accomplished as adults when they can leave the grandchildren to visit with us while they take some time off.

--The holiday display presented annually by Longwood Gardens always tops their previous efforts and makes the holidays extra special to set the stage for our celebrations. It too, produces tons of photos.

--The Terabyte hard drive that I needed to add to my desktop to store travel photos can be summed up in this sentence and one word--necessary.

--My new gym makes me feel good and gives my days structure. It centers me like nothing else.

--Religion and politics are still on my reject list. I just don't go there. People think what they think without my input. My opinions are in stone and I don't need to argue with anyone.

--My frustration with my constant quest to find "mature" slacks and workout pants will be restrained. See previous angst-- Venting on Vetting Jeans

--The number of books I read is numerous and anyone who wants to read book reviews can check Amazon. I try to keep up to date with a number of my favorite fiction authors and their current offerings such as John Grisham, Stuart Woods, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, Tess Gerritson and others. I'm too busy reading to write yet another review. Kudos to the public library, without whom I would go broke feeding my reading addiction.

The subject that I do find noteworthy is that of a gift that I received this year. I have a new Nook  which is most interesting. Never having felt the need of an e-reader, I find that it has been a revelation. I thoroughly enjoy reading books with it and find that I can use the wireless connection to my local public library and check out epub books to my Nook without leaving my easy chair. When I finish reading it, I can return it wirelessly to the public library and delete it from my Nook. It automatically expires in 14 days so there are no overdue fees. It can store books, magazines, newspapers, music, photos, movies, and games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles. So I will have to load it with entertainment before I travel again. 

I can purchase any number of things from Barnes and Noble online with their web connection as well as surf the web and check my e-mail. It is such a handy little toy that I never knew I needed. New paradigm.