thought for the day – march 22

The older I get, the more people I have to miss in my life.

bookmark: keeping the house

Keeping the House: A Novel – Ellen Baker

There are probably many books that I would love to read but, because I have never heard of them and likely never would hear of them, I don’t get to enjoy them. Time is valuable, and you don’t want to waste it on a book that just makes you go, “meh.” This book was definitely not a waste of time.

I believe I originally heard of this book through a BookBub email. While I rarely buy anything through their recommendations, this book peaked my interest. A story set in the fifties (actually, my birthday falls within the span of the story), a book with history in it, set in Wisconsin, a story that includes an old house – it all just came together to pique my interest. The only thing that threw me off a bit was a comparison to other books that were about “women’s lives.” I was afraid it might be another polemic about injustices that women have suffered at the hands of men, rather than an examination of universal themes shown through a woman’s eyes.

Yeah, I open myself up to a lot of nasty comments with that remark, but as a man, I do get a little tired of being accused of being the bad guy all the freaking time. Certainly, there are men who I would like to whack upside the head just as much as any women would, but there are women that deserve the same, and blaming a man for their condition is a cheap excuse for their own lack of gumption. I better quit this digression before I get myself into hot water (or hotter water) with those who would take issue with this. Glad to discuss it another time, but just for the record, I do think that women have suffered from attitudes that disrespected their abilities.

In any event, you do not need to be a woman to appreciate the things that the main character in the book, a woman, goes through. If you are a man reading this book and cannot relate, then maybe you should take a closer look at your attitude towards women. As for me, I thought that this was a wonderful story about personal conflict and the resolution of same.

The story does take place mostly in Wisconsin and encompasses both world wars and the early fifties. The author obviously has done her homework and is able to describe not only what the women in the story go through, but the men as well. This history all adds to the depth of the book.

I found that there was something in almost all the characters to which I could relate. It is a talent to create characters whom you can both dislike and feel sympathy for almost at the same time, and this author does this with aplomb. At one time or another, I could easily feel myself in several of the characters’ shoes.

Throw in my fascination with old houses. I drive by houses, particularly old houses, and wonder about the lives of the people who live there and have lived there. There are so many stories in the world that no one will ever hear, and those old houses seem to hold on to those stories. I am always sad when a once grand old house gets torn down, or even when an old farm house bites the dust. It always feels like a loss of more than just the house – it is the loss of all the lives, and the stories of the lives, of the people who lived in that house. The house in this book is no exception, and I don’t think it spoils the story for me to say that it is still standing at the end of the book.

I thought that this was such an excellent book that I decided to add a hard copy to my library. There are very, very few books that I read in either ebook format or borrow from the library and then go on to buy a hard copy for myself, but this book qualified for such an honor, as it were. I suppose it just hit all the right points for me. It may not for you, but I strongly suggest you give this book a chance.

Finished 2/4/18

bookmark: lost horizon

Lost Horizon – James Hilton

Some time ago I bought a DVD of the original Lost Horizon movie, but have yet to watch it. I’ve seen snippets of it off and on over the years on television, but have never seen enough to have more than just a general sense of the movie. When the book recently came up as a suggestion to read, I decided that I would like to read the original before I saw the movie.

I enjoyed this book as much as I thought I would. The snippets of the movie I had seen gave me a clue as to what to expect, but the book was better than my expectations. For one thing, this is an older book, written in a style that some readers today might find old-fashioned, particularly if you are an American reading this English author. I found the writing to be substantial and satisfying, fitting to the subject at hand. It was enjoyable reading something different from our current mainstream books.

I must admit that I related to the main character quite a bit, as I suppose many people have. While I am certainly not in his league of popularity (and never have been), I totally understood his attitude towards life and his career. This made it much easier to understand why such a man would find his situation acceptable.

However, the ideal “Shangri-La “ would be a different thing for different people, and I suspect most people would not be happy in the Lost Horizon’s Shangri-La. I would be. Except, of course, I would be loathe to give up contact with the people I left behind. But if I were given the eventuality of the situation, I believe I could accept it.

Sometimes it is very pleasant to consider the existence of some Shangri-La somewhere. A place that would give you peace and time and the ability to devote your time to the studies of your choosing. Still, perhaps living in the real world and having to deal with a lack of peace and time allows us to appreciate those things a bit more when we have them.

This book does give one a bit to think about. I wonder, given the same situation, how I would really feel about it.

Finished 1/13/18

it’s a start

A small step in the right direction. Weight is down to 320. That’s six pounds in a week. Actually, that’s about what I expected. Losing water weight is pretty easy and the first month of my typical diet can see me lose up to twenty pounds. Unfortunately, that’s the easy weight, then it gets to be a slog. Still, I am not complaining about a small victory. Successful battles win the war.

On another note, wife and I went out to go grocery shopping yesterday and found that our van has a flat tire on the right front. This is one of the last things I need. At least we have a second car to use. Later in the day, while there was a freeing drizzle coming down, I went out to check on the spare tire. It is stored under the back end of the van. This is a really inconvenient place for it, and besides that, it exposes the tire to terrible conditions. While the tire still has air in it, it is almost as rusty as the rest of the van. I think it would work, but I don’t think I would risk any high speed driving with it.

Moot point, actually, because when I tried to find the jack point on the frame, everything kept crumbling into rusty bits and pieces. I could not find a way to jack the car up to change the tire. Not to mention that I was sitting in snow to do this, the flat tire being against the curb, limiting accessibility. So there it sits, a rusted out hulk with a flat tire. I honestly don’t know what to do. It just might be time to put the old girl down and get the new (used) car. I suppose I can have it towed to my mechanic to replace the tire, but I think that is just throwing good money away. I was hoping to make it through the winter months before looking for a new car, but sometimes fate deals you a different hand.

At least it is getting a little warmer out. We have had temps in the teens – both above zero and below zero – for the last couple of weeks and that was getting older than old. Small blessings, I guess, even if it meant that I had to scrape frozen rain off my windshield this morning before I could drive to work. If don’t like it I should move. Actually, I think I would , if I could afford it. Ain’t a’gonna happen.

bookmark: the art of inlay

The Art of Inlay: Design & Technique for Fine Woodworking (Revised & Expanded) – Larry Robinson

Having recently become interested in building my own ukulele, I thought that I might like to fancy it up a bit. Of course, this means inlay, and more than just fret markers. Now, the likelihood of me ever doing this is pretty slim, or at least doing it well, but what the heck. I like to learn how to do things even if I never even do them.

There really isn’t a lot to inlaying. It’s pretty much cut out the pieces that you want to inlay, cut a hole the same shape into the surface that you want to put those pieces into, and then glue them in. That’s it, except then you want to know the best way to cut them out, the best way to make the hole, and the best way to glue it all together, not to mention how to finish it.

This book covers all that. Beyond that, it really is just a matter of practice. It looks simple, but it seems that things that look simple, never are. It always comes down to doing something over and over again before it becomes “simple.”

The bigger part of this book is the illustrations. Not so much for the how-to-do, but on the finished results. There are some stunning examples of work the author and others have done on musical instruments. Many are way too froufrou for me, but when you are doing a masterpiece I guess it’s no-holds-barred. Still, it shows what can be done.

Some reviews of this book say that there isn’t enough information on how to do it, as opposed to the illustrations of completed work. I don’t think this is true, but perhaps that refers to the book before it was “Revised & Expanded.” I think you can learn what you need from this book. Heck, I’m ready to give it a try.

Finished 1/3/18

2018 – a new year

Another new year. Sometimes I’m surprised to find myself still around. Not that I think of myself as particularly old at this point in my life. It’s just that back when I was in my twenties, the idea of being around at the turn of the next century was difficult to entertain. It seemed so far off. Having reached that milestone, I am constantly surprised that I not only made it to that, I have gone beyond. And, of course, I always wonder how many more years I will see.

At this point one tends to look back on the past year’s accomplishments and prospects for the new year. Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of past accomplishments to consider. When I ask myself, “What have I done?” I honestly can’t think of any thing worth noting. I like to think that it’s just my memory getting bad. It’s something to console myself with. The best I can come up with is that I’ve cleaned up the yard. Not that that was a grand effort, but at least it was something.

Wracking my brain and I still can’t come up with any other accomplishments of note for the past year. Somehow, not such a surprise. I bet my wife could come up with something. Well, I guess we can count her surgery last year. Jeez, I just remembered that I had my right knee replaced last March. That seems so damn long ago. I guess I didn’t even mention it here. Along with physical therapy, that took up a good bit of my time and limited the things I could do. And my wife’s surgery was preceded by having to put her into the hospital a couple of times. Hmm, I guess health related items start to become part of your “accomplishments” as you get older.

It seems that I could make a longer list of things that I didn’t get done last year, but rather than make that a negative, I’ll make it a positive by adding those things to the list of things to do for this year. So what are those things?

Number One – Lose weight! Oh, how many times has that topped the list of New Year’s resolutions? Way too many to count. After I had my knee surgery last year my weight went down to a place I didn’t mind being, thinking that getting down to where I would like to be would be easier. Instead, I’ve managed to almost make it up to the highest weight I’ve ever been. The scale this morning said 326 pounds. I can’t stand being this heavy any more. Clothes are getting too tight, it hurts to get up and down stairs, or to do much of anything else. No energy. Depressing. So once more, into the breach. Lose weight. I would like to say with confidence that this is definitely going to happen this year, but with my track record, a good amount of skepticism is warranted.

Number Two – Get the basement straightened out. When I moved back into the house with my wife we just put things wherever they would fit. We finally have the first floor pretty well organized, but the second floor still isn’t settled and the attic and basement are the worst. Actually, the basement is the worst, because until I can get to my table saw I can’t work on the things that are going to help us get the rest of the house organized, like new shelves and cabinets. So, while the whole house is on the list to get organized, number one is getting the basement into an operable condition.

Number Three – Learn to play the ukulele better. I slacked off on my practice so am not where I would like to be with this. I’m not sure that I will ever be (or even can be) as good as I would like to be, but I can always be better. This means practicing every day. Really, if I can’t find a half hour every day to do this, then I am doing something wrong.

Number Four – Eating better. This goes along with Number One, because I won’t lose weight if I don’t eat better. As we get older, this becomes more important to our health. Proper nutrition will help keep us out of the doctor’s office. And it has no small effect on the budget, too. Eating out all the time, even something as inexpensive as something like McDonalds, starts to cost big bucks, and the older I get the more those bucks are limited. Which leads to the next point.

Number Five – Pay off the credit cards. I’ve been working on this, but it’s been a long effort. I have paid off a couple, but things keep coming up where I have to charge something (like car repairs, dental work) and then pay that card off again. Not to mention the Christmas expenses. It’s been two steps ahead, one step back, for most of the year. Now there are hearing aids in the near future, a necessary new (used, actually) car, and who knows what else. All of which keeps pushing back the time when I can say that all the credit cards are paid off, and making the idea of retiring a true work of fiction. Ain’t gonna happen, no matter who wishes what. Well, you sleep in the bed you made.

I think that’s enough. If I can make headway in any of those things, even if it’s not a lot of headway, I’ll consider the new year a success. Actually, just living until 2019 will make my year. It could be worse.

I hope that you all have a great year, and if you are an old fart like me, may you live in good health to see the next year roll around. In the end, that’s all we can ask.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – Leah Remini

I first became aware of Leah Remini’s issues with the Church of Scientology through her series on the A&E network, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. Not that criticism of the Church of Scientology was new to me. I had read Jenna Miscavige Hill’s book earlier so I was already familiar with some of what Leah Remini writes about.

It always surprises me when someone who seems to be as strong-willed as Ms. Remini is able to be controlled and manipulated by an association where participation is voluntary. Granted, when you grow up in something, that voluntary aspect of things does not always seem obvious to the participant. Sometimes it is just plain old hard to see the forest for the trees. However, it does speak to the intelligence and will of those who are able to break free from the psychological grasp of such organizations as the Church of Scientology.

If you are put off by street language, you may not care for this book. It didn’t bother me. The world Leah grew up in is reflected in her personality, which comes through loud and clear in this book. It seems to be a typical story of an unfulfilled need that gets filled by someone or something that shows up at just the right time. In this case it was Scientology, introduced to Ms. Remini by her mother, who was introduced to it by a boyfriend. It’s fascinating how something that can make us feel empowered can also imprison us. Which is pretty much Leah Remini’s case.

This book is not entirely about just the Church of Scientology, though you might argue that every aspect of Leah’s life, every decision she made (and perhaps still makes) was influenced by Scientology. When it has been such an intimate part of your being for so many years, it is hard to shake the thinking. It is actually an autobiography, and a pretty revealing one at that. She knew that if she was not honest in her writing that the church would take every opportunity to use something she left out against her. Even still, you can find stuff all over the internet where the church has been attacking her for her efforts against the church.

You won’t be reading this book or watching her television show about the church if you are a member of the church. It’s against the rules, so it is interesting that there are people from the church attacking her. Then again, most religious people follow the teachings of their church when it is most convenient to them and ignore the rest, though there are zealots in all “religions” who swallow everything hook, line and sinker. And then there is “management” in the church that knows that it is critical to their survival to put down critical thinking about their organization.

You may not appreciate Leah Remini’s, um, shall I say “abrasive” personality, but I do. I respect someone who thinks for herself, even if it comes later in life. Sometimes you just need that more mature perspective to put things in their proper place. Overall, I recommend this book.

Finished 12/16/17

long time, no post

Well, that’s not exactly true. I have been posting my bookmarks – reviews of books I’ve read. Even there I think I have missed at least a couple of books. Oh well. So why no other posting?

I suppose because my life has become more “settled,” with a bit less sturm und drang. I know, doesn’t make for an interesting blog. But then again, I don’t think that anything I have written so far would be of any interest to anyone but myself. Rather narcissistic, this blogging stuff.

There are always the ongoing issues. A bit more weight than I like to carry is slowing me down and making it a bit difficult to maintain any form of active lifestyle. Ha! Like I have ever had an active lifestyle. But even things as simple as getting up and down the stairs is a bit more torturous than it needs to be. It’s more likely that things will get done around the house if it doesn’t feel like a physical punishment to do them. That’s something to add to my New Year’s resolutions – losing weight. I actually mean it. Really, I do.

The house is a mess. Not in the sense of dirt piling up in the corners, but rather in the sense that we have not been able to motivate ourselves (my wife and I) to really tackle all the stuff that needs a home from the reunification of our two households. There are still a few boxes in the dining room and the attic really needs to be gone through. I guess that is what winter – and New Year’s resolutions – are for.

Christmas is coming and we are hosting my wife’s side of the family this year. That always involves a good amount of preparation. We are trying to arrange it so we are not in panic mode as the guests are walking in the door, but my level of confidence in our ability to do that is not as high as I would like it to be. Still, we have the rug cleaned and the Christmas tree purchased, so it is heading in the right direction. Can’t be complacent, though. Tempus fugit.

Retirement seems as far away as always. It’s hard to conceive of living on just Social Security, so I’m not really complaining. Yes, it would be nice to have the rest of my life to do what I want to do, rather than go to work each day, but then I wouldn’t have the money to do it. Catch 22. Well, it gets me out of the house and let’s my wife run her day without me being in the way. And I certainly could have a more demanding job, so I should shut up and appreciate what I have.

That’s it for now, just to let you know I’m still alive. When I feel a bit more rant-y, I’ll post again. Until then, at least you’ll know what I have been reading.

Hope you all have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

bookmark: spider woman’s daughter

Spider Woman’s Daughter – Anne Hillerman

Long ago I found Tony Hillerman’s mystery books set in Navajo country. I enjoyed the exposure to the Navajo culture that was part and parcel of each novel. An additional benefit was that my mother shared the same love of the books. I read every one that Tony wrote and after his passing was sad to think that no more would be written. Little did I know that his daughter would take up the baton.

While Tony’s novels focused primarily on the characters of Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, the focus of Anne Hillerman’s first foray into this series is Jim Chee’s new wife, Bernie Manualito. I suppose this is logical since I think it is easier for an author to get into the head of a character of the same sex (and no, I don’t think this is a sexist idea). This change of point of view does not change the style of story, which retains the atmosphere of the Navajo country and culture.

I think that Ms. Hillerman has done a fine job of carrying on her father’s legacy and I look forward to reading her other available novels and any additional that she may write. It’s tough breaking into a new genre and even tougher picking up the style of another author, but she has done it with excellent results.

Finished 12/4/17

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

I have seen the movie Blade Runner several times and just recently went to see the latest movie, Blade Runner 2049. Discussing the movie with my son, he asked if I had ever read the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, on which the movies are based. I said I had not. I assumed that I saw the movie, so no need to read the book.

Wrong.

While the movies are excellent in their own right, in a way the movie and book are almost two different stories. It was well worth the time it took to read the book. It is possible to enjoy the book and movies equally, but for different reasons. If nothing else, I finally learned what electric sheep have to do with the story. As usual, the book is able to flesh out the story more than a movie can. Exposition in a movie drags, but in a book it elucidates. The book gave me a whole different perspective on the story.

Thank you to my son for getting me to read it (and for providing me with the Kindle version). I heartily urge everyone to read the book, whether you have seen the movie or not. As for me, it’s time to check out the rest of Mr. Dick’s writing.

Finished 11/29/17