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Monday, January 29th 2007


Damn you, Meg!

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Green; very low.
  • Greyhounds: Early mid-morning nap
  • Next up on Mt. TBR: Travels with Dr. Death
It's all your fault, dear Meg.  Your fault that I stayed up an hour and a half later than I had to last night; your fault that I sobbed over my breakfast and had to go about morning rounds red-eyed.


The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

Rating: 10

I have a dirty secret to admit here.  My mother gave me Tuesdays With Morrie; I never read it.  I had my usual knee-jerk reaction to bestsellers; I often find them lacking and cherish a notion that my taste is somehow superior to that of the howling masses.  Never cracked it.

But Meg, in her quiet way, urged me to read this.  So I took it with me to work.  And gulped it down.

If you (like me) have been in a cave and missed this book, it's about a man who dies (no spoiler there), and the five people he encounters in Heaven who help him put his life into perspective. It's a sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, sometimes horrifying journey into the life of someone quite ordinary.  Save at least 3 hankies for the last two people.

I rarely read the blurbs & reviews on the book cover before I read a book, but often find them interesting afterwards.  One of the reviewers calls this a "larger-than-life" tale.  How odd...I find its appeal in the fact that it is just as small as any life.  Its appeal is in the dailiness of life...the two pieces of toast with margarine.

Another reviewer notes "ehoes of the classics--The Odyssey...".  I was most reminded of "Death of a Salesman."  "Attention must be paid!" to the life of the ordinary everyday man.

Attention must be paid indeed.

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Monday, January 29th 2007


Silver threads among the gold

There it was again, staring me in the mirror.

It isn't new...it's been there awhile.  When you look in the mirror as much as I do, you can't help seeing it.

Note: I am not vain, but if I see 25-30 patients in a day, and wash my hands before each one, and again afterwards if I had gloves on, that's a lot of glances in the mirror.  I defy YOU to wash your hands at a sink before a mirror and NOT take a peek.

But last night, it just kept teasing me...and so I went hunting for it.  And it's not alone...it has a whole cohort of previously suspected but unseen friends. 

What is it?

Grey hair.  Not just grey, white really.

They seem to be proliferating near my cowlick, along what would be a center part if I parted there.  There are half a dozen or so of them that I could easily find.

I'm not sure why, but I pulled one.  And then a representative "regular" hair, just for a comparative sample.  And then taped them both to a piece of paper for contemplation.

It is quite white, and definitely thicker than my usual hair, with a wave that stands up even from the paper, unlike the other hair which lies there in submission.

Does that mean as I mature, I will finally have hair with body and texture? Or will it simply have a mind of its own?

It's a peculiar feeling.  Not sad or angry, definitely.  More like I've reached another phase of growing up.  Kind of like the first time you notice that you're growing breasts or start your period.  The kind-of-exciting, kind-of-scary feeling that your body is following some predestined clock; a reminder that you're just along for the ride.

I kind-of like it.
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Thursday, January 25th 2007


Up your yardarm!

  • Next up on Mt. TBR: Travels with Dr. Death
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, C.S. Forester

Rating: 7

Avast, me hearties!

This book makes me think of an old Peanuts cartoon. Linus is reading The Brothers Karamazov and Charlie Brown asks him how he pronounces all the names.  Linus replies that he "bleeps" over the parts he can't pronounce. (Or something similar).

There's a lot of bleeping in this book.  There are entire pages of naval jargon that is really incomprehensible. 

But buried beneath and between is a charming coming-of-age story.

I was surprised to realize that it was only written in 1950.  It "reads" much older...an effective device, I think.  I should have realized; CSF also wrote the African Queen, so I know he's 20th century.

I'm somewhat daunted to see how many other HH tales are out there.  I do think I'll seek out another one or two, however!  Fortunately, I found a list of the tales in order.

On another note, Danger, Danger!!  I went to Amazon.com today.  Tony Bourdain has a new book.  And Michael Ruhlman.  And there are some other new foody books.  And a spy novel.  And, oh my.  The Cliff List lengthens. 
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Thursday, January 25th 2007


Happy Happy Joy Joy

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Green; very low.
  • Greyhounds: Sleeping off the travail of 5 minutes in the lightly falling snow
   2 dinner dates
   8 old friends
   2 current friends
Sum total: Priceless!!

Two coworkers and I set up a dinner last night with an old coworker, about to move to IL.  And soon thereafter, an even older coworker called about a dinner with a bunch of old good buddies!!  One was at 5 pm, the other at 5:30.  Some quick juggling, and I made them both.

And so glad I did.  How wonderful to catch up with old friends, compare kids' progress.  Especially fabulous to catch up with one friend who has met some real life changes and challenges, and come out of it with unsuspected insight and strength and grace. 

A beautiful thing, old friends.

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Thursday, January 25th 2007


Let's Get Physical

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Orange, moderate
  • Greyhounds: Snowy
  • Next up on Mt. TBR: Travels with Dr. Death
Just the idea of physical fitness is repugnant to me.  First of all, it really just seems like a waste of time.  I don't enjoy it.  It's trendy, and I hate trendy things.  People who say they get "high" from exercise make me suspect that something else is making them high. I hate me in fitness clothes.  I dislike "jocks" (which I realize is a stereotyping generalization and I apologize).

But, I'm 40+, overweight, out of shape, inflexible, with a bad back, and guess I'd like to live a little longer than another 10 years, so I joined a gym. Again. You'd think I'd learn.

This is a new gym to the area but a big national corporation. I hoped that that would mean it was professionally run.  I was amused by the high-pressure sales tactics when we signed up (including the "let me get my manager and see what else he can do for you" thing...I expected him to say "What would it take for you to drive away in this gym tonight?).  But it appealed to me because it does not charge extra for things like yoga classes & raquetball.

I've been going now for a couple months, and my disgruntle list grows:
1)The music SUCKS.  Loud, pulsing techno beat, most of the time. So loud that it's very hard to drown it out with opera, jazz and classics from my new Shuffle (which is so little, and clips on, and is just adorable).
2)The bathrooms are dirty and don't have toilet paper or paper towels half the time, even just after opening
3)The "free, one hour fitness evaluation and workout" was a one hour sales pitch for personal training, which costs just as much as the gym membership.  It did not demonstrate how one could safely use the gym to achieve fitness goals (nor did the trainerette bother to find out what our goals were...she decided for herself what they were).
4)While the gym appeared to be spotless in the beginning, it's quickly slipping.
5)It's way too crowded.
6)A personal trainer missed an appointment with me today, one that he suggested and set the time for.
7)I'm disgruntled with myself for falling, yet again, for the sales pitch and the trend.

The challenge now: To prevent the disgruntlement from becoming an excuse to not exercise, because it really is probably the most important thing I can do right now for my physical and mental health. 
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Monday, January 22nd 2007


Not to be read before bed

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Green; very low.
  • Greyhounds: Sniping over the couch
  • Next up on Mt. TBR: Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

Rating: 10

Harrowing, chilling, not to be read before bed but hard to put down long enough to sleep

I don't tend to read much murder mystery or true crime; I know that there is bad stuff out there but honestly I prefer to occupy my mind with lighter matters (kind of like my taste in movies...I know that there are movies out there that I 'should' watch but probably will go thru my whole life without seeing...Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List...go ahead, lecture me, but I have enough trouble sleeping already.  Even my taste for the occasional testosterone charged adventure flick changed after 9/11. But that's another rant).

ANYWAY, that said, I do appreciate really good writing and psychological insight.  Similar to Devil in the White City, this book has both in abundance.

In Cold Blood is the tale of the killing of a family of four in Kansas in 1959.  One mass killing among many even that year; the next decade would see, among other things, the Manson family murders.  A case that would probably have sunk into obscurity except for this extraordinary account.

Truman Capote takes us so completely into the lives of the victims & perpetrators alike that it reads like a novel.  No detail is too small to overlook.  But the writing is highly readable; it flows and never drags.  The only exceptions are the long excerpts from writings by the criminals as well as their friends or family members...these tend to be long, rambling, sometimes nearly illiterate, and all shed considerable insight into the minds of the criminals. 

And I admire the dispassionate tone of the book.  Not a condemnation, not an excuse; simply the facts, ma'am.  There are no passionate arguments from the author for or against the death penalty; one is left to decide for oneself if the penalties fit the crimes, and if the criminals were indeed sane.  It is interesting to speculate on whether these criminals, today, would have received the same punishment; I'd be willing to guess not.

Altogether, a compelling read, and one that I revisit in a year or two.

Thanks to Petaloka for sending me this book!
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Thursday, January 18th 2007


A trifecta

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Green; very low.
  • Greyhounds: Chilly
  • Next up on Mt. TBR: In Cold Blood & Horatio yet
Looks like I stopped reading for a week.

Not a chance. 

It's just that I was reading four things at once. I can't read In In Cold Blood right before bed...too creepy.  And I have a couple of things on the TBR to finish before I start the Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes challenge on 2/1/07.  So I did finish a couple of things today.

If God Wanted Us To Travel by David Brenner

Rating: 6

Published in the early 90s, and shows its age.  The Polish, Jew, Nazi etc jokes get old in a hurry.  The terrorist/security jokes just aren't funny anymore.

Not that there's nothing here.  The short anecdotes & stories are very enjoyable and very real...when David doesn't get puffed with his celebrity status.  I imagine that a lot of this might be better heard than read.

In general, this was a good book to read at work...short amusing bites, easy to put down & pick back up.  And thanks to ThanksMom for the gift!

The Ship Who Won by Anne McCaffrey & Jody Lynn Nye

Rating: 7

Pat, formulaic, enjoyable nevertheless

I'm not a hard-core SF person (and I guess this probably doesn't qualify), but I generally enjoy this series, co written by AM & other authors.  This book is a little pat, a lot formulaic...the climax & denouement in particular remind me of preset dominoes falling into place just so.  But still, the characters are enjoyable, and I enjoyed it enough to take it into the shower to get a few more pages read. 

And lastly...

Bride of Dark and Stormy

Rating: 10

Oh, how silly...the first 10 of the year for this.  But honestly, I haven't enjoyed a book in ages.

This book is a compendium of entries into the yearly Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Bulwer-Lytton is the author who penned the immortal words, "It was a dark & stormy night..."  He was well known for his purple prose...and in his honor, aspiring wordsmiths can enter this yearly contest for the worst possible opening sentence of a book. 

Unfortunately, this is a BookCrossing bookring book, and it has to move on.  Fortunately, I have the entries on the website to keep me warm.  My favorite 2006 entry:

"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"

Edinburgh, Scotland

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Tuesday, January 16th 2007


A night in the life of Beaker

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Green; very low.
  • Greyhounds: Early afternoon nap
  • Next up on Mt. TBR: In Cold Blood, a sci-fi, a Horatio Hornblower...
It is very hard to be Beaker. No one else realizes that you are the Prince and to be accorded every privilege.

Take bedtime. I go to bed early. Not so John & the boys...they stay up til one or two, have a last potty, and them come to bed. John fetches the dogbeds from the closet (where they live in the daytime due to a retaliatory cat) and spreads them, two on each side of the bed.

As it happens, there are three "good" beds, and one that is a little old & tired & squished down.

Gopher & Thomas pick quickly, and settle, before John even gets into bed. Jake (the un-greyhound) has to watch John brush his teeth, but once he's finished, will take whatever bed is left.

And Beaker, having been last up the stairs, watches in disbelief as everyone else selects their bed before him. How dare they! And of course, the last bed is the old one.

So there is nothing to do now but whine, and pace. And lie down on the bare floor because no bed is good enough. Then repeat first step. And go to the door from time to time, to give a big "WOOOOF" in case someone should be faked out and get up to see what is going on, freeing up a (now prewarmed) bed. It rarely works.

So finally Beaker carefully, slowly settles himself on the substandard bed. ::::S I G H :::::::

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. The humans have been adequately guilted into buying 2 NEW beds. Only problem, there are now two new prime beds, and two now-substandard beds. And the same routine.

Oh, what a trial to be Beaker.

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Tuesday, January 9th 2007


Proud to have been...

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Green; very low.
  • Greyhounds: Beaker was confused to be put in the car for nothing
  • Next up on Mt. TBR: Bride of Dark & Stormy, In Cold Blood
All dressed up and no place to go...thank goodness!!

Valery, a brindle greyhound near Harrisburg, got out yesterday.  I prepared...a bag with the squawker, treats, water, leashes; Beaker in a snug coat, me in layers & sturdy shoes; was on my way to meet Susan at the WaWa...and then the call came...she was found, early this morning!  YAY!  Unfortunately, Cameo remains out in Warrington. 

Proud to Be: My Life, The Air Force, The Controversy

Kelly Flinn

Rating: 9

Proud to have been...

I miss the Air Force.  I often dream about it (really).  I miss the family feeling.  I miss walking into an education session and seating myself next to a blue uniform, and starting the familiar conversation..."Where are you stationed? Oh, do you know _______"  It never took more than a minute or two to find a common acquaintance or post. 

But this book reminds me of the things I don't miss, and points up exactly how different the "line" side of the Air Force is from the support side.  How interesting to contrast her experiences of early 90s AF with my own.  And how chilling to hear her stories of suicides in the AF, and compare them to the story I know.

This book would be worthwhile simply for the first half...the author's experiences at the Air Force Academy and in flight training.   I obviously know more about the Air Force than those who've never been in, and more about flight training than even some in the AF, having a brother who was an instructor pilot, but I learned a tremendous amount.  In retrospect, some things make sense.  Hopefully things have changed some since her experiences.

While Kelly's grave ended up being of her own digging, I feel terribly sorry for her.  Emotionally immature and naive, she paid with her innocence and her mental health.  She shouldn't have had to pay with her career as well.  Certainly, if every officer who had an adulterous relationship was forced out of the military under similar circumstances, the Air Force would be a much lonelier place.

And if everyone who fraternized was penalized to the extent of the law, yours truly might still be serving time. 

I'm unable to find anything recent about Kelly online.  I hope that she has established herself in a cockpit somewhere, and that she has regained her mental & emotional balance. 
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Monday, January 8th 2007


A real turn off for eco-tourism

  • Disgruntlement Alert: Green; low.
  • Greyhounds: Whisper is starting to come out of her shell
  • Next up on Mt. TBR: Proud to Be, Kelly Flinn, and just received 3 books in the mail!!

Appointment at the Ends of the World by William Karesh

Rating: 6

A sure-fire turn off for eco-tourism

This is a wildlife veterinarian's account of his adventures in Borneo, Peru, Bolivia, Zaire, etc, working with locals and ex-patriates to study elephants, okapi, macaws, orangutans, peccaries and other endangered wildlife.

I probably would have enjoyed this book more had I been expecting what I got.  I expected lots of animal adventures.  Instead, the book is 80% logistics & politics, and the animal encounters are few & far between.  They are also general rather than specific...this is how one goes about catching and tagging fur seals, rather than encounters with individual animals.  It is interesting, sometimes engrossing, but not at all what I expected.

Mr. Karesh's writing is fairly good although sometimes stilted, and often takes itself oh-so-very seriously.  His reflections about loneliness and the personal sacrifices he's made are gratuitous.

My lasting impression of this book will be that it shattered any fantasies I might ever have had of (should I win the lottery) taking an eco-tourism trip, hiking through jungles (on well established trails) to observe (at a safe distance) some colorful wildlife (and then returning for cocktails in the hottub).  His travels are harrowing, and his casual narrative of the things which can bite, crawl on, suck blood from, cause pain to, and burrow under the skin of and then pop out later from, anyone in the vicinity, will feed my nightmares for some time to come.

Thank Gods for modern life.
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