Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday 13 #28- Suburban Wildlife

This Thursday's 13- flora and fauna seen while hiking in our local national park. Leave a link to your TT list & I'll link to you here. The purpose of TT is to get to know your fellow bloggers better.

1. Doe and Baby faun standing in the creek as I blundered around the trail like an elephant

2. Tom Turkey standing in the middle of the road- he's nearly big enough to roast..if you can catch him first!

3. Black snake slithered across my feet and toward the creek.

4. Hiker or family member tending a grave in a tiny family cemetary in the middle of the woods

5. Three gray squirrels wrestling in the leaves

6. Honeysuckle patch covered with bumblebees

7. Mountain Laurels are everywhere in the park & they're all in bloom. Beautiful white bell shaped flowers and the trunks grow in unique curly & gnarled patterns as the trees age.

8. There has been an abundance of wildflowers along the roadside and the trails' edges: yellow buttercups, white almost Marguerite type daisies- but not quite, bluebonnet types, and many others.

9. I came across a lady doing yoga beside the road yesterday. The park is a beautiful and serene place for quiet meditative practices.

10. A bunch of male frogs living along the creek held a competition to see whose chug-a-rum was louder

11. Different park- saw the mounted police doing patrols far more south than usually seen in this park. Normally they're all in DC along the Mall. The horse was gorgeous, dappled grey & tall.

12. Baby fish, no bigger than my pinkie. Nearly translucent- you can only really see their shaows along the creek bed

13. No mushrooms yet. It has been far too dry, unfortunately. Last year the kids and I had a great time identifying all of the different mushrooms we saw (and this was in July no less), but I'm wondering if this year will be different due to the dry weather.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

American Gods; Neil Gaiman

I know I'm a bit late to jump on the Neil Gaiman fan bandwagon, but count me in. This one is set in the contemporary U.S. Shadow is the antihero; a troubled & somewhat slow headed ex-con, whose loyalty to his wife is questionable and yet touching too. We never learn Shadow's actual 'true name' as they say in fantasies- knowing a person or thing's true-name gives you power over it/him. And Mr. Gaiman certainly never let me feel like I had the power in this plot. I was never quite sure where he was taking me- and I found that quite refreshing.

What would happen if the Gods chose to be actual flesh and blood people living among us ordinary humans? What would happen when the Gods from the Old Country were challenged by the "New Gods" in America? The Greek and Norse and Russian and Egyptian and many more- pantheons all brought to America by believers upon their settlement in the New World. Threatened by the New Gods: consumerism and greed, robber barons, the internet, tv, drugs, alcohol, etc. Who would win? Can an ordinary man thrust into extrordinary circumstances triumph? And what about the nearly dead, but not quite ready to let go wife Laura?

I was absorbed enough not to attempt to research the various mythological gods and goddesses referred to in the text- an amazing feat for a nerdy chick like me. Normally I'd've sat sat on the 'net hunting them all up, but I was in too much of a hurry to try and decipher what Mr. Gaiman had in store next. I have to say I liked the ending- Shadow finally tries the trick the addicted leprechaun told him about, leaving me to wonder who Shadow really was or became over the course of the story and what huge clues did I miss because of my preoccupation?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thursday 13 #27- Things to be Thankful for

The first 13 things that came to my mind in no particular order. I need to remind myself that the sun always comes out after the rain, there is a silver lining in every cloud, etc. The last week or ten days have been stressful & sometimes I need reminding. There are always reasons to be thankful.

Leave a link in the comments & I'll link to you. The purpose of Thursday thirteen is to get to know bloggers better.

1. Good health

2. A comfortable home

3. My family

4. Our church

5. My flower garden

6. Sunshine

7. My blog & cyber friends

8. My library

9. Rain- makes the trees & flowers grow

10. Troubles- Because having troubles in our lives reminds us that the good times are to be treasured. How can you know when the good times are if you don't have bad times??

11. Fresh strawberries & ice cream

12. Hugs

13. SEX! LOL ;0

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Have You Heard??

The Japanese government is instituting a manga 'nobel' award this summer as an effort to promote Japanese culture. Link to press release HERE. Daughter & her buddies are very, very excited & hopeful that this will make manga more available & less expensive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ode to the Shore

maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings


maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Beach Glass
by Amy Clampitt

While you walk the water's edge,
turning over concepts
I can't envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty--
driftwood and shipwreck, last night's
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic--with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
or touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.
The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it's hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass--
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I'm afraid) Phillips'
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.
The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A little stress to go, please

A little bit of stress lately, not related directly to me but involving the Spouse & his former employer. Kinda sidelined us for a while. Potentially serious- not involving any medical mishaps or malpractice, but directly related to the job. Gonna have to consult an employment law specialist. >:{ Not pleasant at all & definitely going to get much, much more stressful before it gets better.

As a result- no reading been done. Or at least- nothing that has stuck in my mind, anyway. An interesting YA fantasy/alternate reality by Catherine Fisher. I'm about 1/2 way done with. It has been slow going so far, but I can't be sure the problems aren't due to paragraph #1. See above. It's a library book, so I can hang on to it & renew it if I have to. Also reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Wonderful stuff so far. If I've not waited too long I've a copy of Holly Black's new novel Ironside waiting at my local library.

I hope anyone else who still stops by has had a better week than we have. Wish for better news this week!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Bombs

Two more local high schools had bomb threats yesterday. This makes 5 threats since the VA Tech shootings in April. Son #1's school and another close by. Supposedly the kids at his school were made to get off the morning buses directly into the sports stadium. The other school evacuated out of the building shortly before lunches began. The kids missed their meals and classes. It's a long way between breakfast at 6:30-7:00 and lunch after school at 2:30 or later.

According to the local news, each bomb threat costs the schools $7,000 for the police services to clear the buildings. Plus- it's a felony. IMO, I think they ought to bill each person convicted the full cost of police services and another fee for the lost hours of instruction.

Son #1 had forgotten his cell phone so he stayed out in the stadium chatting with friends and enjoying the good weather.

Monday, May 14, 2007

More News

If you've visited for awhile, you may remember that my FIL has been seriously ill over much of the winter. The preliminary diagnosis of cancer has been ruled out, thank heavens. He's much, much better. So far so good apparently. The underlying chronic illnesses are still there, albeit better controlled (for now).

The biggest surprise has been my MIL's forced retirement from the company she worked for. She had nearly 30 years there & planned to work another 6-7 years until their mandatory retirement age. One day in April she's getting ready to leave & she's told, "As of today you're retired with full benefits. Do not report for work again. There will be a meeting about your benefits in two weeks' time." End of story. Of course, there are quite a few people who're suffering severe financial problems due to the sudden lack of employment, but fortunately my ILs are ok despite his medical bills.

Now that they're both retired, they've planned to take a long, slow trip around the southern US by minivan. The only sure destination being Key West. My MIL has wanted him (the FIL) to take her there for years, but it was always postponed. Not after this winter! They plan to be gone until Son #1's graduation next month. He can't fly due to medical issues, so they're driving. Stop whenever & wherever they like, for as long as they like.

No one knows for sure how long his health will hold up until he gets ill again- or if he'll make it through next time. So I think they're striking while the iron is hot. More power to them, IMO. I think it's a wonderful idea, although my paternal grandparents were on their long dreamed of around the world cruise when he finally succumbed to emphysema & I can't help but think of that now.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Husband~ Has started the new job. Looves it. Seems like 5+ years of stress has been washed away from his face. Poor love. He's more energetic and upbeat & just generally perky. It's hard to see how bad things have become, sometimes, when you're stuck in the middle of a huge mess.

Son #1 & GF~ went to his senior prom last evening. They had a private dining room at our favorite formal Chinese restaurant & went on to the dance in a huge ballroom in a hotel. Poor things, apparently the only seating was right in front of the speakers & they're both deaf today. Neither thought to carry a few chairs elsewhere in the room. 0_o

Daughter~ Has been earnestly studying for her geometry final. If she scores high enough on the first test she gets an automatic A on the second one. Motivation! She's joined the chorale society at our church. The summer performance will be a medley of famous Broadway tunes. It's quite a popular group among those who can sing & she enjoys it. They do several a year & she may continue with it.

Son #2~ His best friend's parents are expecting a later in life "surprise" baby. Needless to say, the boys are totally grossed out by this turn of events. We've had great fun teasing him that perhaps we too ought to have a fourth child to fill in the void when Son #1 leaves for the great adventures of young adulthood. SHOCK AND AWE does not begin to do justice to the Son #2's reaction. We're kidding of course. Three little darlings is more than enough. But it has been funny to tease the Little Emperor a tad.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Face Down Beside St. Anne's Well, K. L. Emerson

This is a new to me author, Kathy Lynn Emerson, who had this published through Perseverance Press in 2006. I have two older titles by her in my TBR. This copy is via the library, though. This title is set in 1575 (or thereabouts) Elizabethan England.

Lady Susanna Appleton is the foster mother of Miss Rosamund Appleton, who is the bastard daughter of Lady Susanna's husband. It's a long & complicated story. Kinda amazing, but who am I to ask too many impertinent questions?? Anyhow, Rosamund's a handful, even from my 21st centruy POV and so has been shuffled around in search of a suitable place for her to be 'trained.' She ends up in the tiny village of Buxton, notable only for the warm mineral waters from St.Anne's well (hence the title).

She and two coconspirators have snuck out of the house in the dead of night to have a go in the spa waters. Horror of horrors- they get caught. It was a neat opening scenario though, three middle school age girls sneaking into the spa in the dead of the night. Their French instructor, Mlle. Louise Portier, sends them home in disgrace and promises punishment to be handed out next morning after church. Only, the next morning Mlle. Portier is found dead by the well.

Why was her death ruled an accident, when Rosamund is sure it was murder? How can Rosamund investigate without raising suspicion or revealing where she actually was that night? Where did Mlle.'s special mushroom box get to? Lady Susanna descends on Buxton to get to the bottom of all these issues, bringing her stout housekeeper along for chperoneage. There are wheels within wheels, spies and counterspies and endless speculation. Not to mention a forced engagement & a creepy animal abusing teenage boy.

There are plenty of historical details, a May Day festival, nude mixed bathing, spelunking, Puritans and more. Not a hint of romance, although Ms. Emerson's bio on the inside cover says she's written a few of those too.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dangerous Tides; C. Feehan

Written by Christine Feehan and published by Jove in 2006, Dangerous Tides is the latest installment in the Drake Sisters series. I've also posted my thoughts on the last Drake Sisters novel I read. The next installment, titled Safe Harbor, is due out June 27 this year according to Ms. Feehan's website (link in title above).

Dr. Libby Drake is a physician, a woman unsure of her femininity and beauty, a woman who finds intelligent men a huge turn on. Nerdy intelligent men, I mean. Very few women I know find ignorance or stupidity sexy. She has had a lifelong thing for Tyler Derrick, a 'brilliant' scientist- to use Libby's description. Tyler likes her, but doesn't believe in magic. He's so distrustful of her family he tells her to her face that they are charlatans, and he plans to 'prove it to her.' Despite being offended, Libby helps Tyler and their relationship grows.

Unfortunately, someone threatens Libby and/or Tyler. Who might this person be? What motivates them? How can Tyler be such a 'brilliant scientist' but not see his nose before his face? Needless to say, I figured this part out early, but I really found Libby and Tyler fascinating. She sees him pretty clearly (and loves him anyway) and is willing to watch/wait for him to work through his emotional and family issues. Tyler is an all or nothing kind of guy. Full throttle intensity in everything he does- research, hobbies and personal life. So it made sense to me that when he finally committed to Libby and understood that her family is all important to her, he does so wholeheartedly.

As I've mentioned previously, I read this series primarily for the sisters' interrelationships & this book certainly showcases that. Libby and Tyler and their growing commitment are wonderful to watch as well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A College of Magics; C. Stevermer

Originally published in 1994 by Tom Doherty & Assoc., ACoM was written by Caroline Stevermer. A link to Ms. Stevermer's website (a very basic one) is in the title above. Ms. Stevermer has also co-authored a series of young adult fantasy novels with Patricia Wrede. This is a young adult fantasy set in England and eastern Europe in the early 20th century.

The protagonist is Faris Nallaneen, Duchess of Galazon, eighteen years old. Faris has been sent away to a finishing school, which also has a reputation for turning out witches (unknown to Faris' evil uncle). Said evil uncle has his own reasons for sending Faris away, which he naturally doesn't reveal to her, but which likely involve political schemes and ransacking the peasants for more tax money. We watch and observe as Faris makes friends, grows and changes, makes enemies and is forced to leave school early for a fate unknown and unlooked for.

I must say I wonder why redheaded heroines are often described as either rangy/gawky/awkward or statuesque. Rarely any other description. How come? No petite curvy feminine redheads. Not that this quibble interfered with my enjoyment of this novel, I simply noticed it early on in this novel & the description made me think of many of the other novels I've read whose heroines are redheaded (or some other descriptive term that means essentially the same thing). Anyhow- back to ACoM.

Faris' best friend and her bodyguards have lots of adventures together on their journeys across Europe (pre WW I). Her new mentor is, to say the least, unusual. I found Faris to be prickly and dense at first, although these character traits are fully explained later. I thought her uncle's motives in the end (which were obvious to this romance reader, anyway!) should've been on her radar, but weren't.

A thoroughly enjoyable adventure/coming of age novel, I recommend it to all who enjoy watching young ladies come into their own.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Turtle Diary; R. Hoban

I was actually looking for something else when I came across this little book. I remember the Hoban name from a children's story we had when I was a kid, eons past. The flap on the library jacket mentioned two strangers who meet at the London Zoo and decide to free the turtles. I couldn't resist.

It wasn't a caper story, as I wrongly assumed from the blurb. Turtle Diary is a study of how adults can be cut off from society. Similar to living in a zoo, I think. You're constantly surrounded by people, it's noisy and often disheartening and obnoxious. However, in reality, you're cut off from authentic interpersonal relationships.

The chapters alternate between the perspectives of each protagonist- one by William G. and another by Neara H. They are middle aged, single adults cast adrift from most of society for separate reasons. The turtles, though, are what bring Neara and William together. They represent a kind of authenticity, I guess. The need to be free and to interact with the world in a natural and fulfilling way.

Turtle Diary is mainly the interior monologues of the primary characters. Since I approached TD thinking it was a 'caper novel' I was initially put off by this. However, it soon became clear to me that I misinterpreted the flap (as usual) and I reevaluated my opinions. Mr. Hoban has quite a lot to say about the need to reach out to others, about isolation and about humans' need for meaningful relationships. Even if it all has to begin with a pair of turtles.

Mr. Hoban is likely best known as the author of the children's books featuring Frances.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bedside Table Reading

The following books are precariously piled on our bedside table, each
having been started, some only a few pages, others halfway finished. I
don't have the appetite, drive, call it what you will to read
nonfiction as quickly as fiction.

1. Wild New England, Steven Gorman

2. Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
3. Make
Money Not Excuses, Jean Kratzky
4. A Moorland Hanging, Michael
5. The Coming Generational Storm, Kotlikoff and Burns

One coffeetable photography book, one investigative piece about our food supply, one medieval mystery and one piece about economics and governmental policy.

Edited to correct formatting problems; 6 May 2007