The Russian invasion of Ukraine and how far Putin is going to push it – what a tragedy!
Our upcoming trip to Europe: I just booked a cruise with an extension in eastern Europe. We start with five days in Poland, then get the cruise in Prague and sail to Berlin. I hope the War of Russian Aggression or a new variant of Covid-19 doesn’t interfere with our trip, which starts in April. I REALLY need to travel right now!
The environment/climate change. This is always on my mind. Also, getting a blurb to put in our weekly newsletter from the Environmental Concerns Committee, of which I seem to be chair.
The book I am currently reading, Braiding Sweetgrass – excellent! I’ve been taking notes!
Whether Republicans are going to retake the House and/or Senate in the upcoming midterm elections. They are projected to win because that’s the tradition in midterms, but does it have to be? The Dems need to do something to improve their messaging! More GOP control will be a disaster, especially with the kooks that run the party now!
Whether I have time to accomplish everything I want to accomplish this week.
PCGuyIV’s Truthful Tuesday this week prefaces , then asks the following question:
In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine a one-and-done story line, as even books and movies that started off as one-off stories have turned into multi-part franchises, and film series we thought were done have gotten fresh material added. Star Wars comes to mind specifically. The first movie was presented almost as a stand-alone with the thought that sequels might happen, but no guarantee. After the first three movies were done, that seemed to be all. Then the prequels, for better or worse, happened, and now there are three more sequels, two ancillary movies, and related TV shows. With all that said, this week’s question is all about sequels, prequels, and tangents.
Regardless of the media, when it comes to stories, do you prefer those that are perfectly sequential in their writing, such as the seven original Harry Potter books or Frank Herbert’s Dune series, or do you find stories that skip around in the timeline, such as the nine central Star Wars films to be more entertaining?
I prefer sequential, but flashbacks or time changes are OK when they are done well, in literature. In movies, these time switches are more confusing. In this I’m referring to time switches within one book or movie.
When movies or books are in a series I enjoy, then I anticipate any of those that come after. But sometimes, it just seems like a movie studio’s way of capitalizing on a successful film, especially when the sequels or prequels are weak. The ones that come after the original usually are not as good and it’s as if the screenwriters can’t come up with anything new. But if the sequels/prequels enhance or add to the story being told, then I’m all for it. I loved all the Harry Potter movies and thought they were pretty faithful to the books. I also liked the original Star Wars trilogy, but then lost interest with the prequels,, although they weren’t bad. I guess I prefer sequential, or chronological in time.
With books, I prefer sequential – most of the time, authors write sequels that move the characters forward in time, even if each book can stand alone. I’m thinking of certain mystery series, such as Tony Hillerman’s novels about Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, cops on the Navajo Reservation. They were more believable that way. If they were static in time, I don’t think I’d like them as much, even though I didn’t read them in strictly chronological order. There are many classics, too, that I got interested in based on the first book and can look forward to reading the sequels – such as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, as well as Outlander (although this last series got tedious after awhile, and the books kept getting longer. I had trouble keeping track of all the characters.). As a kid, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books, which I read in order. I enjoyed accompanying the lives of Laura and her family, and finding out how the characters changed over time and the experiences they had. I have never read a “prequel” in a series of books, but I don’t think I’d like it as much.
Here are the first 8 books in the Outlander series. I have read them all, over a period of 20 years, but I had trouble getting through the last few. Too many characters to keep track of, like when a character is introduced in a scene in one book and then pops up in another book later on. My memory can’t keep track of all these people! Also, I got tired of Gabaldon’s writing style, so I tended to read the really long later books in spurts – when I got annoyed with either the writing style or the myriad of characters, I’d put it aside and read something else for awhile…which may account for why I can’t remember all the characters and their significance to the story line. (Sigh!)
Looking up images for the Outlander series, I’ve learned there is a NINTH book which came out this year! Should I read it? I probably will, eventually. (I hope the title means the series will come to an end.)
Are there any books that you can read over and over again, and never seem to tire of? Yes, but not too many times and usually there is a space of several years between readings. I have read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice three or four times, and some of her other novels twice. Like I said, I have to be in the right frame of mind, so it doesn’t happen a lot. There are just so many books and so little time!!
Have any of your favorite authors written any books that you just didn’t care for? Of course. No author writes a masterpiece every time, and of course, what constitutes a masterpiece is a matter of opinion usually. One of my favorite authors is Barbara Kingsolver, and I will usually buy and/or read anything she writes that I come across, but occasionally it doesn’t interest me much. Not all of Jane Austen’s novels are great, but the worst is the one she didn’t finish, and the version I have, the author who finished it for her wrote a very dull tale. Sometimes an author will write a trilogy or a series of books about the same topic, or set in the same place or with the same characters, but then I decide to read something else he/she has written, and don’t care for it. This happens especially with mystery writers who then write something else. I’m sure there are other examples but I can’t think of them right now.
When it comes books, do you prefer reading fiction or non-fiction? The genre is unimportant. I like both fiction and non-fiction. I actually got on a non-fiction jag for awhile, but non-fiction books often take more time to read so fiction is easier. But you know what they say: Truth can be stranger than fiction!
Also I am in some book groups so I read whatever the book selected is, whether fiction or non-fiction. I like book groups because I get out of my comfort zone and read something different, and often it is wonderful!
My favorite genre is historical fiction, where I can learn about a time and place and at the same time enjoy the story. The only problem is knowing which parts are true and which are not. But usually I don’t care too much.
Frank has some great questions this week for Truthful Tuesday about one of my favorite subjects: books and reading!!
Do you consider yourself an avid reader? Not “avid” but enthusiastic, for sure! (Avid is a woman in one of my book groups who checks out ten books a week and finishes them all! I actually have a life outside reading!) I grew up being encouraged to read, and I read a lot of the books kids, particularly girls, read in those days. But I wasn’t a great reader because it took me a long time to read most books. I avoided classes and majors that required a lot of reading, to my detriment. I now know why: I have ADHD, and get distracted, so if I’m not totally engaged, I will forget what I’ve read by the time I get to the end of a page or am thinking about something else and not what is on the page.
When I was in my early 30s, I resolved to become a better reader, and set a goal for myself of 12 books per year – doable, only one per month, but more than I had been reading. One of the authors that inspired me to read more was Jane Austen, and I read all of her books as well as some “spin-offs” and “fan fiction.” My resolve to read 12 books a year put me on track to read more and regularly. Especially after I retired, I’ve been reading more and more. Now I have an account on Goodreads, which has a reading challenge every year. I set my own goal (which is now 40 books a year) and am conscientious about achieving it! I’m also in two book groups, so I read different types of books.
What was the last book you read all the way through, and how long did it take you? Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal, picked by a book group I participate in. This book is Pride & Prejudice updated to Pakistan in 2000-2001. Being a Jane Austen fan, I found the story highly entertaining. It took me 4-5 days to read it. If I really love a book, I will spend hours reading, neglecting my blog for days!
Are there any books that, try as you might, you just haven’t been able to bully your way through? I’ve been trying to get through a book of speeches by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I read a page or two, then go back to another book I’m reading (I often read more than one book at a time) that I enjoy more. I’ve been on page 204 for weeks. I want to finish it, but I don’t know when and if I will.
PC Guy IV poses the following question for his weekly Truthful Tuesday challenge:
Whether it’s soups, stews, or chili, are there certain foods that you consider “winter fare”, only suitable when the temperature dips low enough to turn the furnace on, or do you just eat whatever whenever?
I think it’s natural to prefer certain foods in winter, as opposed to summer, especially living in a climate with cold winters. It’s nice to hunker down with hot chocolate or apple cider to drink, and to choose soups for winter lunches. But I don’t like to give up on summer fare just because it’s winter. Dale went to Costco a couple of weeks ago and looked for Sangria – their brand is our favorite. Finding that they weren’t just out of it, but had actually taken it off the shelves, Dale asked an employee why and was told that “sangria is considered a summer drink.” OK, I can understand that – it conjures up lazy nights at outdoor bars or cafes in Spain following hot summer days – but we like to drink it all year! Apparently we weren’t the only ones to complain because within two weeks it was back in their wine selections!
Ice cream is another one – I do love ice cream in the summer and am more likely to have it in the summer, but if it’s on the menu as the dessert of the day, I will choose it no matter what the season!
I’m a member of a wine club that allows me two bottles of wine per month, and in the winter I sometimes get what is called “Winter White” or “Winter Red.” Of course these wines can be drunk chilled or at room temperature, but I like to heat them up and add a few cloves or cinnamon sticks!
In contrast, I hardly ever eat soup in the summer, but I have it almost every day for lunch in the winter – it’s easy and good. I love salads year round, and don’t mind fruits and vegetables imported from South America. Chili is great in winter too, although it’s rarely offered here; I’m not sure why.
But in the winter, what I most look forward to is movie night in front of our TV, with a winter snack of microwave popcorn accompanied by Mexican hot chocolate!* This hot chocolate is prepared with milk over the stove, stirring in a piece of a bar of chocolate usually flavored with cinnamon. I use a whisk when stirring to make it frothy! While normally I am content to have No Sugar Added Swiss Miss or hot tea in the evening, I’ve got chocolate bars made in Mexico on hand for those special movie nights!
I find it harder to lose weight in the winter than the summer. I don’t exercise as much (especially with limited access to fitness centers during the pandemic) in the winter. Perhaps it’s a sort of instinctual need to hibernate like bears. Put on a layer of fat and sleep the cold away!!
*You can find fancy recipes for Mexican hot chocolate online, but I make it very simply, the way I learned in Mexico:
2 tablespoons or approximate Mexican bar chocolate (easy to find in Mexican stores or ethnic aisles in supermarkets) Ibarra brand. (But any brand will do.) This bar chocolate has a grainy texture and is already flavored with cinnamon. (See photo below.)
2 cups of milk (I use skim – use whatever you prefer)
Using a small saucepan on the stove top, add the milk and the chocolate chunks over medium heat. Do not allow it to boil by constantly stirring with a spoon, until the chocolate is melted. Then use a whisk to froth the mixture.
When it comes to navigation in unfamiliar territory, do you shun technology, relying on traditional maps and written directions, or do you leave the atlas behind letting GPS and Google Maps guide the way?
We always have a road atlas on hand when we go on road trips to get an overall idea of the route, mileage, etc. When I plan trips (I do the planning, Dale does the driving!), I use a road map so I can map out where to go and how to get there. That way, we can wend our way through a state and see a number of things without having to backtrack. I use the Internet as well as guide books to plan where to go.
However, we use the car’s GPS system (in my car; in his car, we use Google maps on his phone) when we are on the road to make sure we don’t get lost.
This is good because Dale and I have had arguments in the past when we used paper maps – I would tell him to turn right but for whatever reason he turned left because he didn’t believe me. I WAS LOOKING AT THE DARN MAP!! And I was a good navigator too. But when walking, I tend to get mixed up using the GPS on my phone and am better off with a small paper map of the area. I’m thinking of the times we tried to find restaurants in Sao Paulo which were close to where we were staying but somehow the GPS disoriented us and we ended up going somewhere else we happened to find when we were lost getting to the place we were looking for. In Tel Aviv, we stood on a street corner with the phone GPS in hand, arguing about which way we were supposed to go to get back to our hotel after exploring a shopping mall.
I don’t have that problem with road maps or most of the time with the GPS in my car. However, we have gotten lost when the GPS didn’t know the way! Once we were going from Highland Park to Highwood, two north suburbs in the Chicago metro area very close to each other, but the GPS led us way out of the way and after driving for about 20 miles, I said, “I don’t think this is right.” My sister had said the restaurant where we were meeting was five minutes from the place we were coming from. It wasn’t a brand new street address, either, so I don’t know what “Jeanie” (which is what we named the GPS voice on my car) was thinking. The only other problem with GPS systems is that we may enter an address, the official address of the place, but we end up on a busy street with a wall next to us, and we know the place we are going is behind that wall, but where is the entrance?? The entrance is not always the same as the address.
Therefore, I recommend having a paper map if possible as well as the GPS. Locally, the GPS usually gets us where we need to go, even if sometimes Dale takes what he thinks is a shorter way (and turns out usually to be wrong). And imagine if something happens to the phone or the car and technology isn’t available? This can happen in remote areas when there is spotty Wifi service, and then the GPS may not work at all.
My favorite GPS system is Waze.
It’s a free app for your phone and works best when there are two people in the car – one to drive and the other to look at Waze. People can input problems they encounter on a road – police in vicinity, car on side of the road, traffic jams, etc. It also identifies red light cameras so you can follow the speed limit when you are near one! I recommend it for anyone who does a lot of city driving. You can earn points and eventually choose your own Waze avatar!
It’s much less nerve-wracking to have a GPS in the car one is driving than depending on a map and nowadays we can usually count on any rental car we get having one. The GPS in our rental in France was great, once we figured out how to use it – it was very counterintuitive and each time we got it right, we couldn’t remember what we did the next time we got into the car! That GPS voice was British and announced everything in meters and kilometers, of course, but I loved her – we dubbed her “Eleanor.”
Now that the holidays and last year are over, are you filled with a renewed sense of hope at the coming year, or something else? Please explain.
As I write this, I have the TV on next to my computer desk, following the nail-biting election returns from Georgia. One of the Democrats is ahead and the other is very closely behind his Republican rival. If both Democrats win, the Democrats will have control of the Senate, with an exact 50/50 split – and future VP Kamala Harris will break the tie vote along party lines. That will given Biden a better chance at being able to move ahead with his agenda.
That said, both houses of Congress are barely in the hands of one party or the other. This says a lot about the state of our country these days, with two halves of the population who are completely polarized. It is unknown how much hold Trump will continue to have on the Republican Party after he leaves office, but there is bound to be a lot of political and social strife in the next few years and our democracy may continue to erode – but it’s not too late to save it.
So, I am cautiously optimistic about 2021. I feel that at least there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a ways to go to get to the end of that tunnel. The pandemic is still with it and probably will be for several more months. BUT we will have sanity in the White House, a president with a lot of experience and respected here and abroad, AND the vaccines are coming – they are not being distributed as efficiently as they should be and hospitals have not gotten the number of vaccination doses they were promised, but even so, there are reasons to be hopeful. I am not optimistic about the American political scene, whether both Georgian Democrats get to the Senate or not, but at least we can relax a little knowing that President Biden won’t continue to destroy the environment and gut government agencies such as the EPA.
I don’t expect to be able to travel much this year, although we are hoping to take a road trip in the autumn, perhaps to the Northeast to admire the fall colors.
Meanwhile, we keep on keeping on, wearing our masks and not going to crowded places. We are blessed to have a nice place to live on a beautiful campus, our meals are delivered to us every day, and we do have a chance to get together with some of our friends here at least occasionally. I am relieved the holidays are over so we can get back to our new normal, having Zoom meetings regularly with family and friends, pursuing our interests and having plenty of things to keep us occupied. It is disheartening knowing we will have to stay in this enforced semi-isolation for many more months, but at least now we are used to it, and health care professionals know a lot better how to deal with the virus.
I look forward to reading 40+ books this year, painting a watercolor masterpiece, finishing a couple of photo books, and working on my several writing projects.
When it comes to giving money, do you view it as a thoughtful gift, or as a sign that the giver didn’t care enough to think about a “real” gift?
For years, my parents gave us money for Christmas and birthdays, and I looked forward to it! Usually I needed it to pay off credit cards, or for bills. So it was always welcome. My mother, however, would always give a wrapped gift also, which usually wasn’t fancy or expensive, so we’d “have something to open.”
I have followed basically the same custom with our kids which makes life much easier, instead of having to think of something cute or clever to give them. And this year, our daughter & son-in-law said all they want is money. I’m sure our son will appreciate a check also. But I will get them a few other things so that they’ll have “something to open” and also because Dec. 25 is our daughter’s birthday as well as Christmas! Since my husband and daughter (she’s really my stepdaughter) are Jewish, I always give them some little thing for Hanukkah also – they say socks and underwear are standard Hanukkah gifts! This year they are literally getting socks for Hanukkah!!
Although it makes life easier to write out a check (and as you said, I usually give more than a gift would be worth), I do like to shop, but I don’t want to buy just anything. I have been known to give a friend a gift when it’s not their birthday or Christmas because I happen to find something I know they will like. Sometimes a gift card is the solution when I don’t know what to get somebody. Gift cards are a bit of a cop-out but it’s better that they get an Amazon gift card to buy something they want than to go to the trouble of trying to find something I think they might like.
So with our kids I just follow my mother’s tradition, because they know they can rely on getting money from us but we always have a wrapped gift or two for them as well! I do usually get gift cards for my nieces and nephews, and this year especially, because mailing a gift card when you can’t get together because of Covid-19 just makes more sense!
And now for some related entertainment from the great musical Cabaret!
Welcome to another edition of PCGuyIV’s Truthful Tuesday! Here is the question for this week: With the exception of blogging (assuming it’s a hobby and not your profession), do you have any unique hobbies or pastimes?
UNIQUE?? Hmmm….I don’t think any of my hobbies are particularly unique. I like to write, draw, blog, read, garden…these are not exactly unique.
I thought of the collections I have. I do have several collections: cats (images, figurines, etc. – I always try to buy a cat sculpture when I travel), Mexican alebrijes (little figurines of animals, carved out of wood and intricately painted), creches (Nativity scenes – I have about eight of them so far, from different cultures), photo albums (I used to make them by hand, now I do it on Shutterfly – and for what? They take up room and when I die, no one will want them and they’ll get thrown away – but this year I love them because we can’t travel due to the coronavirus and it’s nice to look at the albums I worked so hard on when it’s cold and dreary – like today – I can “travel” back in time), “refrigerator” magnets (which are not on my refrigerator, they’re on my file cabinets – I buy magnets everywhere I travel), and it looks like I will soon have a collection of unique face masks!
I decided to ask my husband, who always thinks of things I never come up with. He said, “You’ve become an ancient Egyptophile” which is true! We went to Egypt two years ago and since then I’ve developed an obsession with ancient Egypt. I made two photo albums on Shutterfly (because I had too many photos I wanted to include for only one), I have researched historical fiction about ancient Egypt and bought a lot of books from Amazon, as cheaply as possible, because most are no longer available at libraries. Libraries tend to cull books that were written over twenty years ago and not in demand any longer, unless they are classics. Apparently ancient Egypt was a fad in the 1990s, because nearly all the books I’ve gotten were written at that time, and most of the authors haven’t written anything new. (I vaguely remember my mother getting all excited about “King Tut” because items found in the tomb of Tutankhamun were in a traveling exhibit at museums around the world – perhaps that’s when it was.)
I also subscribe to the online Ancient History Encyclopedia, where I look up things I want more background about, and I’ve even made lists of the pharaohs, women rulers in ancient Egypt, and timelines. Actually, I have recently become interested in ancient history in general, which I never studied in high school or college. The Egyptian civilization is the oldest of all of those long gone civilizations, and it lasted three thousand years, more than any other, I think. It is amazing that we have been able to learn so much about them. They left so many writings, monuments that contain writing, tombs that have been preserved for centuries. They were a proud, egocentric people, and did want to leave behind their life histories for posterity. We know quite a bit about their customs and culture, but of course there are many gaps and lots of speculation. Every so often, some archaeologist uncovers something new that sheds light on a missing piece. Tutankhamen, for example, was not an important or long-lived pharaoh. His reign started when he was 10 and he died at 19. He is so well-known to us because his was one of the very few tombs that was found intact due to its location underneath another tomb. There used to be a lot of speculation that “the boy king” was murdered, but in the 2000s, they did a DNA test on his mummy and found that he died of malaria. At least, that’s what our Egyptologist guide told us.
I wonder if two millennia from now, what will be left over of our civilization that people in the future will be interested in? Everything nowadays is so fleeting, temporary – much of what we’ve written and done will be lost; we don’t build many monuments these days, and everything we buy is not made to last. If we don’t destroy the planet before then, perhaps someone in that far distant future will find elements of our cultures that they will try to piece together.
We have an expression when we want to say something is not a strict rule: “It’s not written in stone.” That describes our attitude today, I think! The ancients, however, DID write in stone! We have sent samples of our culture out into space for extraterrestrials to find. But who will find us? And will they want to?
I realize I’ve strayed far from the question, but it’s more of a justification for this obsessive “hobby.” I don’t know how long it will last, but it’s definitely Covid-19 driven! Lots of time to read and immerse myself in the lives of people – real and fictional – who lived along the Nile River several millennia ago! It makes the time we are stuck at home a lot more interesting.
I have strong feelings about this week’s topic for Truthful Tuesday by PCGuyIV, so I have a lot to say to answer these questions, based on my own experience!
The old adage says, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Today’s questions stem from this bromide. Don’t worry if you aren’t currently working. The questions can easily be answered, and are likely better answered from a reflective standpoint.
Do you now or have you ever been employed doing what you love? The first 20 years of my working life, I worked in clerical positions, primarily in export shipping and freight forwarding. I didn’t love these jobs, but some were better than others. I enjoyed being able to use my skills, such as being able to use one of the two foreign languages I speak, and there were some other things I enjoyed, but usually I was somewhat bored and I felt I wasn’t really contributing anything meaningful to myself or society. That’s why I decided to change careers and become a teacher.
I would say that I actually loved my job for about three years out of my entire working career. These lovely three years occurred primarily when I was teaching and I had the ideal working environment: my principal liked and supported me, I got along with co-workers and they respected my opinions, I was working with small groups of students that came to my classroom, and I was doing what I best at. Sometimes I would be at school preparing for the day, and as I wrote on the whiteboard the schedule for the day, I would have a feeling of exhilaration: there I was, writing the date in Spanish and English, something simple like that, because I was good at what I did and I loved using Spanish in my job as well as teaching English to Spanish speakers. This feeling of exhilaration would sometimes wash over me when I was sitting at a table working with three or four kids on reading. I felt like I was really making a difference, I was doing something to help those kids by teaching them to read! When I saw a child make progress in an area difficult to him or her, teaching was the best job in the world!
During my three best years, I did projects with my students that were really enjoyable, and as long as I taught the curriculum and my lesson plans fit the standards, I could expand on it as I wished. I was great help and a good resource for the classroom teachers that my students were in. The kids felt comfortable with me because most of their day was spent in a classroom with native English speakers and that could be intimidating, even when they were competent in spoken, non-academic English. Although I did encourage them to do their work in the language of instruction, with me it was okay if they preferred writing in Spanish at first instead of English. I also tried to make connections between the two languages and we drew on their native culture whenever possible. I told all my students to be proud to be bilingual and not to give up their native language even if their academic work was mostly in English. I told them that being bilingual would help them get a better job in the future. (If I had not been what is considered bilingual, I doubt I would have ever gotten a teaching position in a public school system.) It was clear that I loved and respected their culture, and knew something about it.
These feelings of contentment sometimes happened outside of those three years in which I was truly happy, but three years out of 12+ years of teaching is only 25% of the time – the teaching profession is brutal these days! The other years either I had a principal that didn’t support me or didn’t care, I had either too much to manage or too little control over what I did, and/or I felt that I wasn’t appreciated or respected by the administration or my colleagues. I was only a mediocre classroom teacher – there were too many things pulling on me, I had to keep track of more tasks and more kids than I could manage well. With small groups, especially when they came to me in my classroom that was set up for their needs and mine, I was a better teacher and happier too.
But I have to say, when I was able to leave the profession and retire, I was very relieved and grateful. I hardly ever miss teaching.
Do you agree with this saying(If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life)or is it a bunch of poppycock, and why? Doing what you love is still work. Even those three ideal teaching years, I worked very hard – late nights planning and grading papers, early mornings preparing for the day, and I only allowed myself one day on the weekend to completely get away from my work. Ask the health care workers on the front line taking care of Covid-19 patients if they don’t consider what they are doing as work! Most people are not lucky enough to spend their working life doing what they love, and even when they do, it’s still a lot of responsibility. You can’t just take the day off because you want to. Sometimes you will be doing that part of your job that you love, when something you don’t enjoy so much imposes itself on you and you have to take care of it because that’s part of your job too. I don’t believe there is anyone on Earth who loves every minute of every day of their work – not even workaholics!
In an ideal world, we would all work less hours, have more leisure time, and the work we did would be fulfilling and a contribution to society. We would be respected for our labors. However, living in a country which values work so much that there isn’t even a law requiring employers to give their workers vacation time, this adage has even less chance of ever becoming reality!