Friday, January 30, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Furry


No need to guess very hard which furry is going to be here this week. Unfortunately I only have photos I had to scan and they are not brilliant. My favourite furry, sadly no longer with us but the best dog I ever had. May I present the charming Miss Cleo, otherwise known as my avatar.

The avatar photo is cropped from this one which is cropped from another larger photo taken with my daughter on her wedding day, twelve years ago.

I bought her when she was 5 months old, from someone who had come down with a serious illness and could not look after her. She was a gawky adolescent, not yet grown into her ears and not housetrained, would you believe?

When my granddaughter visited and was still in a high chair for meals, Cleo sat underneath waiting for the manna to fall from heaven. Of course she was often rewarded for her patience.

Cleo, sadly, no longer with us, for three or four years. Gone but never forgotten.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Students of Evil?

OK. This is one of my “Hard Hat” posts. I am really mad about this. It is just so wrong.

It looks to me like the government of Pakistan is not capable of administering the part of Pakistan in the north west, that boarders Afghanistan. The Swat region. I guess the locals must feel that way.

All those Taliban (That apparently means student. Ha! Their little joke maybe?) that used to run Afghanistan are now flitting between Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Pakistani government does not seem to be able to prevent them, or really want to.

I heard on the news the Taliban have got some “moral” objection to Girls being educated. They have been blowing up schools that teach girls. They shoot and behead those who oppose them in the community.

These... creatures... are utterly misogynistic. I guess they must use the word “moral” to mean something utterly different from what I understand by the word. It is horrifying that they are so inadequate and threatened by the mere thought of an educated, intelligent, woman they do this.

I truly think I would be willing to take up arms against their like, if anyone were to try to impose it on me.

This is not something the locals seemed to want, they were sending their daughters to school. They are having this imposed on them. So surely it can't be genuine Islamic teaching, can it?

It would be interesting to get an Islamic take on this. I really can't believe anyone would condone it.

Whatever though, this is a bunch of misogynistic... A# holes! who have decided to impose what they claim is God's will on these people. Not any god a normal person would recognise. More like the opposing team if you ask me.

Jesus said: (Matthew 7)

15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

He went on:

19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

It is difficult to put it better, and it is true if you are religious or not, Christian or not.

The fruit of these.. creatures, is ignorance, want, oppression, destruction, evil.

These girls are foreign and far away, but they still deserve better than this. Far away but I should be concerned because if I stay silent when it is done to them and theirs who can I expect to speak up if someone like that wants to do it to me and mine, who would be left to?

I figure this thing does not restrict itself to lines drawn on maps. Afghanistan has got to be better off without such people being in charge of it, I guess the continuing troubles it still has have got to be down to them too. I figure the allies should not leave till they are no longer able to do that sort of thing, it would be moral cowardice. Maybe Pakistan should take responsibility to do the same. Anyone who provides them with any support should be persuaded not to.

If anyone treated any ethnic group like the Taliban treat women, no one would be making any 'cultural' excuses for them. No right thinking person can condone, or excuse it. It needs to be eradicated. There is no excuse or justification.

It is just not acceptable, in any context, anywhere, ever.

Editorial comment from JMB: Shocked? This is not the usual type of post which appears on this blog. Just because I do not write about such things here does not mean that I am not in agreement with what Moggs is saying. In fact, if you knew me in real life, you would know that one of the things which incenses me more than anything else is the treatment of Muslim women.

Yes the degree of suppression of their basic human rights varies greatly. This I know full well, both from my reading and from the many Muslim friends I have. But the fact that a basic fundamental right such as education is denied to anyone on the basis of their gender is anathema to me. Knowledge is power, and as such must be denied to women in Afghanistan, to keep them in their rightful "place", according to the Taliban.

For some reason I seem compelled to read many books which highlight the reality of Muslim women, one of which was the Bookseller of Kabul, which I reviewed in the link. This book had me ranting for months and made me quite depressed. Will this treatment ever change, will the rights of all Muslim women ever evolve into basic human rights?

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights lawyer, says over and over again in her book, Iran Awakening, that so many of these rights are denied women, not based on the Koran or even Sharia Law, but merely on the interpretation of certain individuals, unfortunately often those in power. But that gives me a slight glimmer of hope. Things can be changed. But how long will it take? Sadly not likely in my lifetime.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Underground

For those of you who don't know it, in the UK, London has a Metro/Subway system called the Underground. Remember the movie “Sliding doors”? That was a lovely movie.

The Underground is ancient. The oldest in the world. All others are (often improved in different ways) more modern copies. I would bet it is the most complicated too. There is something.. Magnificent about it for all its faults.

One thing the Underground used to do is make the odd announcement over the pa systems.

You always listened up to these because they mostly told you something useful, important. Like the line you hoped to switch to at the next station was suspended, or there was a fire alert or something. You knew it would be important and therefore worth listening to.

Not now though, and it is my personal suspicion that this has led to the rise of the iPod. Sounds like something from a bad “B” movie. THE RISE OF THE IPOD!!! Doesn't it? Yes, mea culpa, I have one now, sobs, breaks down confessing... “I have joined the pod people!”

Well anyway, that was then and this is now. Now the poor users of the Underground system are constantly pestered, bombarded, by pointless recorded, or computerised, messages that the important stuff gets lost in. Messages telling you not to smoke, or to stand behind the yellow line, or not to abandon your luggage, or really annoyingly (and this is my personal favourite grr) that there is a good service, especially when you have just had a diabolical journey, being turned off trains, delayed and the like.

They have an opposite one also, when they tell you about delays on the line... and the service seems perfectly normal too. I guess you just can't trust them...

So now instead of listening I figure we all just mentally tune them out, or go mad, or block them out with an iPod and those noise suppressing in ear buds you get for plane journeys.

I wonder if anyone else gets this? I don't remember it being that bad on any other Subway systems, and I have used a few.

One thing they do get right on the Underground though, there are usually lots of staff about, at least in central London. That makes you feel nice and safe.

They are not so obvious in some of the lonely outer stations later on at night though. Maybe they could fix that?

So Metro Gnomes, if you are listening... Way less announcements please. None about so-called good service, they just make you look like you are trying to con us. And more visible staff late at night in small stations pleeease.

For some weird reason I quite like the odd random “Mind the gap” announcement, they somehow seem friendly.

Am I being cranky with this post, or do I have a point?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Chipped


I'm not a coffee drinker any more. Some years ago I turned again to tea and finally to rooibos, the leaf of the "red bush" or Aspalathus linearis, grown only in South Africa, and which has no caffeine and is full of antioxidants or so they say.

Of course I have my favourite mugs for this: Denby Craftsman style stoneware mugs. Well as you can see I have more than one. In fact I have eight of these in different colours, one of which is chipped. But totally usable so I don't discard it. Now since I have the choice of eight when I go to the cupboard you would think I have a one in eight chance of selecting it, but it always seems to be up front and centre. So I pick it up saying, oh well, I'll just use it this time. Maybe I should just toss it. Although they now retail for $31.57 each, so maybe not.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Random Photos from Today

After the snow disappeared here in Vancouver, well in most parts although not all, the fog arrived some days ago and in parts it is very thick. So today was a very grey day as the Thursday walking group did our usual Granville Island walk along False Creek.

It was very cold, zero degrees Celsius in fact, so this pond was frozen and there were no ducks about.

This young woman was warm inside and totally concentrating on the pot she was throwing in a pottery studio we pass along the route.

Looking across False Creek towards the lightly fog shrouded buildings on the north side.

But just a moment, there is something wrong with that building they are constructing. Or else there is something wrong with my eyesight. How come we have passed this building for months and not noticed that it is all askew, out of kilter? It looks as if it going to collapse at any moment.

Now this stunning photo below, of Vancouver downtown peeping above the fog, is not mine. It was emailed to me and I cannot give the photographer credit as I do not know the origin of it.

Supposedly it was taken this morning from Cypress Mountain, a local ski area. Click on it to see it in its full glory.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not an Apple but a Lemon?

Well I have had my new MacBook Pro for less than four weeks and it is already "in the shop" to have the DVD drive replaced. Mmm. This does not bode well.

I read that the MacBook Pro was considered to be the gold standard for build quality in a notebook and considering I paid a premium of $1500 over the price of an equivalent PC to buy this Cadillac/Maserati/Porsche of notebooks I expected it to be in perfect working order out of the box. But from the moment I began loading CDs into the DVD drive there have been concerns. Intermittent concerns to be sure, but concerns.

Early on I had the awful experience of a CD not being read by the drive and also not ejecting as requested. Out came the big fat book, Switching to the Mac and my hair just about stood on end as I read the solutions, the increasing order of desperate measures for the one trying to extract an unwilling CD from the DVD drive, including the use of a paper clip. Since there is a section included in the big fat book, I assume this is not such a rare occurrence. Luckily, using the Disk Utility program, I was able to get it out, although I never did load Paul Simon into iTunes.

By last week I had loaded more than 60 CDs with no problem until once again I had one which refused to load, although it did on a retry. But this weekend came the very serious problem, for when I loaded an instructional DVD from the library it made the most awful grinding noises while trying to read the disc, which it sometimes succeeded in doing, sometimes not. Now this was not some old beat-up DVD but a new one, just acquired by the library and I was the first borrower. I wondered if it was the taped barcode on the upper surface causing it to be off kilter, so I took both it and the computer back to the store where I bought it. They found the same thing but when they loaded the disc into their other Macs it read it without a problem and no unusual noise whatsoever.

So today, when I went to the Apple Store for a one-to-one lesson I also made an appointment with the Genius Bar to have them check out the DVD drive. Same thing. Sounds like the Wheel of Fortune on mine but smooth as glass on the others in the store. Consequently after checking if the part was in stock they have taken the computer to replace the drive and I should have it within a few days, with any luck. So here I am on my old faithful Dell computer, telling a tale of woe about my brand new Apple computer.

Old Faithful

By the way, my old faithful Dell has a newly installed keyboard and after its memory upgrade in July is in very good shape. Finally, after months, Dell had stock of the replacement keyboards and I ordered one for a very hefty price in comparison to the US price for the same thing, The Old Scientist installed it with no problem at all, thanks to a YouTube video, some detailed posts by technical people, along with judicious reading of the manual. The internet is an amazing thing and the fact that people go to all that trouble to share their knowledge never ceases to astound me. There must be a teacher buried in all of us somewhere.

Now my new MacBook Pro features a one-piece, rigid, machined aluminum frame or unibody, a huge plus feature, according to Apple. But how do you actually get into it to replace the DVD drive? How do you get this unibody off to get inside? Will they return it to me all scratched up and not yet a month old? I have been so careful with it, treated it ever so gently. I never eat near it nor drink near it, as opposed to the Dell from which I am always vacuuming crumbs, etc. I handed it over to them very reluctantly and can only hope that it will be returned in perfect condition and with a fully functional DVD drive which does not sound like the Wheel of Fortune. All I can say is luckily I purchased the three year extended warranty, even though the cost certainly made me gulp for this does not bode well, as I said. What will be next? I am very happy to have my faithful Dell to keep me company as I wait on tenterhooks. Yes, I know. It will be fine, fine, fine.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What character are you?

Well I found one of those survey thingys that match you up with something, or someone. The other day. Hat tip to the Sue - Up A Mountain blog

In this case it was “Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?”

Guess what? Well I duly took the test and am revealed as the next best/worse thing to one Wesley Crusher...

..but am not really any wiser, as I didn't follow the series (a Star Trek spin off) and never heard of the character 'till now. I may be either unknowingly condemning myself as a horrible person, or blowing my trumpet as simply lovely, or maybe just average?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

The potted character ref says “A brilliant learner with a knack for almost everything, you choose to spend your efforts in the pursuit of travels that extend your own potential.”

It quotes him as saying, ”Maybe I am sick of following rules and regulations!”

Well I do like to think I am not completely dumb and I suppose I do like to travel...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Hats


I'm not quite sure when I began wearing hats again. I certainly cast them off in the sixties like every other woman, glad to be free of "hat hair". But somewhere in the last ten to fifteen years I have begun to wear them again. Of course it is not easy to find a good hat shop in this part of the world. In fact I can only think of a couple here now and they do not have great hats, more funky ones, which do not suit my advanced years. I have lots of casual straw ones to keep off the summer sun, as befits a very freckled one and but a few dressy ones too.

I just counted my hats and I currently have 26 and yes storage is a problem. A few are in hat boxes but most are not and consequently, usually stored nestled within each other, they are sometimes become malformed and I have to take some drastic measures like steaming (not the straw ones) them to return them to shape.

But may I present a selection of some of the hats in my closet and worn quite often on my head.

My red Akubra, seen here before for Photo Hunt -- Red

A slightly formal Italian straw hat, bought for an outdoor wedding
in San Jose, five or six years ago

Another favourite Akubra, fern green and worn often
during winter

The very casual raffia hat which sits in my car all summer
and is usually grabbed as I exit

A jaunty little female styled fedora

I saved the best for last: a beautiful fine straw bought
in the early fifties for a wedding. Yes this hat is
more than fifty years old and I still wear it occasionally

Do I own one of those ubiquitous baseball caps which everyone, male and female, seem to consider a suitable head covering? And which men do not remove when they go inside? That would be a resounding no! Nor do I own a Tilley hat, although all the other members of my family do.

I think you can see that wearing a hat has not disappeared with one person at least and I look forward to seeing the other photos of this week's theme.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Person with no Identity

At this moment, I am feeling really, really uncomfortable, as I have no passport. For hopefully no more than two weeks, neither of us can leave the country. It is a very strange feeling, as if I do not exist as a either an Australian or a Canadian.

For many years, while my mother was still alive, I kept my passport ready and a bag half packed, so that I could dash off to Australia in the event of an emergency. But when it came, her stroke, followed a day or so later by her death, there was no point in going for she was in a coma and everyone knew it was but a matter of time and my brother took care of it all, but when my brother died several years later it came as a complete shock and I was on the plane within 24 hours, even though I was still working, for then it was my turn to take care of things. Perhaps I had a premonition for that year I still had two weeks holiday banked and did not even have to take a leave of absence.

It is fifty years since I took out my first passport. How things have changed. Look, it is handwritten. It reads British Passport, Commonwealth of Australia. Inside it declares Australian citizen and a British subject. Now there is no mention of Britain on either passport, although this is my first expired Canadian passport so I cannot say how that may have changed. That one is, of course, in French and English. I am both a Canadian and une Canadienne.

Another change is the paucity of stamps in the current passports. My first one is filled with all kinds of exotic stamps from places I travelled to in those first five years and even personal history as it records my marriage and change of name, my immigration acceptance into Canada, along with the birth of my son, born here but registered as an Australian citizen. My daughter's birth must appear in my next passport, since this one expired in 1964 and she was born in 1966. Nowadays, hardly anyone stamps the passport as you come and go. Except the USA. Immigration is very vigilant there and they never omit to stamp your passport on entry.

Now, as you can see above, the Australian one is carefully cut on all four corners to be unusable while the Canadian one is punched through on every page as well as the covers with the words null void. It is rather funny that they both expired within a few days of each other since the Australian one is a ten year passport while the Canadian one lasts only for five years.

In the past two days we have spent $524 dollars on two new passports each and $56 for passport photographs, all for the privilege of being identified as Canadian and Australian citizens. The cost for the photos should have been only $40 which we paid earlier in the week for two sets for each passport but today mine were rejected at the Australian office because it did not "conform to the regulations", by a few millimetres or so it seemed to me. For some reason the old scientist's were fine. Go figure. So I was forced to rush out and have new photos taken and return to the office before they closed for lunch, all in about 30 minutes. Only the Australians would close their office for lunch!

So here I am, hoping nothing will happen that will cause me to wish I could travel the USA or to Australia in the event of an emergency. I am sure all will be fine, fine, fine. But I do feel uneasy for some reason.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe... The book Meme II, according to Miss Moggs

What was the last book you bought?

I bought several at the same time. One foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, that I have not read yet. Categorised as a Paranormal Romance. Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly, Chick Lit? Again not read yet. Sister Time by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane, Science Fiction, No Not read either. Prey, by Melina Morel, Paranormal Romance, Not either. The Merchant's War, by Charles Stross, Fantasy, Yayy read it!

I guess you figured I often buy a whole bunch of books at a time and keep a stock to choose my next read from, depending on my mood..

Name a book you have read more than once.

Well there are quite a few. Here is a selection: Mythago Wood; The boy next door; Earth Abides; Persuasion; Farmer in the Sky; Clan of the Cave Bear; The Physician; Chase the Morning; Time and again (both books of that title); A Christmas Carol; Permutation City.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life?

Yes. I guess several in fact, or strongly influenced how I thought. There are the big ones like The New Testament; Origin of the species, etc. But I don't think the question is about them, I figure they influence most of us directly, or indirectly, along with others, like the Wealth of Nations and Das Capital.

Books that probably fit the intent of the question better are: The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore and That's not what I meant! by Deborah Tannen and I guess curiously The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith. Also two, or possibly three, one I can't remember the title read years apart but are lumped together in my mind: Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott and The Planiverse by A. K. Dewdney.

How do you choose a book, eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?

I guess everything really. I look at forth-coming publication lists every now and again to get an idea of what is coming out. Authors I read before I pay special attention to. I take reviews with a pinch of salt until I can figure if the reviewer has similar tastes to me, both with books and movies. I hang out in book stores checking the lists and new titles. I am influenced by the cover art but more by the summary.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

Depends on my mood, but more often fiction.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or, a gripping plot?

A good story line that trips along, Good ideas, original concepts. I like a book that makes me think about it a bit after reading it. For fiction, a satisfying ending, usually happy where any baddies see the light... or get it, The heroine gets her guy... And the goodies come out on top.

Most loved / memorable character
Lots of them, some that stand out: Paksenarian; Podcayne; Honour Harrington; Friday (the girl of the book of the same name, not as in Robinson Crusoe), Kris Longknife; Captain Wentworth... Sigh, Lazarus Long.

Which book, or books, can be found on your night stand at the moment?
None. I don't read in bed unless I am ill.

What was the last book you read and when was it?

Legacy - The Sharing Knife, by Lois McMaster Bujold, Fantasy, last week.

Have you ever given up on a book half way through?

Yes. If it gets too turgid, or I think, “This was a mistake”. Why waste valuable lifetime on a book you are not getting anything out of when you already wasted the money I figure. Learn when not to throw good money after bad I say. Last one for me was Irreversible, billed as an action romance. Maybe we were not simpatico. Maybe I was swayed by the cover.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Year's Dinner -- Ten Days Late

For many years we have had the same friends to dinner on New Year's Day. They were neighbours when we lived in our first house in Vancouver but we moved to this house 31 years ago and after a while they too moved to another area. But our friendship remained strong and we always celebrated the New Year together on this day at our house, in former years with our children too.

Sadly the husband died a few years years ago but with the wife and a single friend who joined this celebration somewhere along the way, we have continued the tradition of having dinner at our house. Not this year however, due to the snow. Three times we scheduled it and three times we were thwarted by the weather. The last time it was lucky that we did, for we had a nine hour power cut at our house, starting at the dinner hour. Wouldn't that have been fun, with guests? No power to cook and a freezing house to boot.

But finally yesterday, January 10th, we had our celebration. I kept the Christmas decorations and lights in place and even the tree, long past its "best by" date, which amazed them since both had taken down theirs. We even exchanged Christmas presents, long past even the Eastern Orthodox Christmas and yes I still have some which have not been distributed.

Prosciutto e Melone, as appetizer. Yes I know this is really a
summer delight but I love this simple combination at
any time of the year

Prime rib roast with mushrooms and gravy

Potatoes Romanov, a tradition for this meal as is the
prime rib roast

Vegetables, minimalist style, with chopped chives

Trifle with fresh strawberries and cointreau, another tradition
for dessert

Although I was very tempted to serve the Christmas pudding which I made a month ago and is still sitting in my refrigerator. But once again tradition won out. For some reason when I have changed this menu there has been an outcry, so since it makes it easier for me I just go with the flow. Besides the pudding is just getting better, like a fruit cake. Perhaps we'll have it for Australia Day or ?

I don't know why over the many years we have been married we have never before acquired a simple decanter for red wine. We changed to large red wine glasses long ago but no decanter. My Italian son-in-law always uses one for red wine, so desperate for ideas I bought the "old scientist" this Italian set for a Christmas present. He christened it with an Australian Shiraz from the Margaret River region in Western Australia. For a teetotaler I seem to spend a lot time and money pursuing alcoholic beverages and accoutrements. Oh well, he's worth it!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Aftermath


We have just been through the snowiest December since 1964 in Vancouver, here in the so called banana belt of Canada. Not only have many of us been snowed in for days on end but the weight of the snow has done considerable damage. Luckily our roof did not collapse as did three other buildings here, but I watched in dismay as our garden took quite a beating. In the aftermath of this snow, the boxwood hedge which divides our driveway from our lawn emerged in a somewhat sad state and I am thinking it may not be possible to save it. I don't know how all the weight of the snow ended up on one side. It looks as if the old scientist was drunk when he trimmed it last Fall.

The aftermath of snow is really ugly, not beautiful like the first fall. This heap on our front lawn, mixed with broken branches and dirt and left over from shovelling to keep the gutter free as it began to melt, is just one of many around the neighbourhood.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Review of Inkheart, the movie

Well the holidays are over and it's back to normal. While I was off though I managed to get in some real life “out and abouts”. One thing was to go to the movies to see Inkheart.

It is based on the first book in a trilogy by German Authoress Cornelia Funke. It is one of those Movies that are good for adults and kids alike. You don't need to take kids either ^_^.

It is difficult to decide just what to say about it without spoiling things as it unfolds rather cleverly and ideas and bits of plot are revealed to best effect as it progresses.

It is set in Europe and has a European feel. This movie does not try to do Disney, it has an interesting darker feel. Mortimer Folchart played by Brendan Frazer a book binder/restorer and his daughter Meggie Folchart played by Eliza Bennet move around a lot.

It quickly develops that Frazer has been searching for a particular book “Inkheart” for years. Also that Frazer's wife has been missing under mysterious circumstances since Meggie was a small girl. Their lives are about to change, the mobile status quo of their lives over the last few years is about to change.

Some well recognisable faces were in it, Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent and Paul Bettany to name a few.

A mysterious character, Dustfinger (Brendan Fraser), approaches Mortimer. They have a confrontation over a copy of the book Inkheart in an alpine village that Meggie witnesses. It gradually becomes clear that Mortimer's relationship with books is “unusual” and that Dustfinger may in fact be a character off the pages of the book...

It has a bit of everything, including plenty of action. I enjoyed it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Intriguing Book Meme

My bedside table, somewhat straightened
for this photo. Yes we will get to
the overflow in a moment.

Still under snow but hopefully it will be all melted by midweek, even though it is snowing at this moment, so I thought I might take a crack at this book meme.

I found it before Christmas at Cherie's, where she did it in a most interesting manner. Welshcakes also did this meme and frankly she is also a hard act to follow. But let's get down to it.

What was the last book you bought?

Bought online and now in hand, needless to say it is about Macs. Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual by David Pogue. Absolutely essential it is, as I switch from or is that to the darkside.

Name a book you have read more than once.

My most celebrated example of that is Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett. Probably my favourite novel, it is the first in a series of eight books, called the House of Niccolo, which Lady Dunnett published over a fifteen year period between 1986 and 2001. Each time a new one came out, before I read it, I reread all the preceding volumes, which meant I have read it at least 8 times. But in fact I have read it even more and I have even read it in Italian. Forgive the proselytizing but it is an amazing saga that I can recommend to those interested in history and travel in that period, for Niccolo ranges far and wide over much of the known world of the time:
Dorothy Dunnett's The House of Niccolò series are filled with bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail. The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges, the good-natured dyer's apprentice who schemes and swashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.
Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life?

Yes, a book that started me on an in depth look at evolution was one written by Robert Ardrey called African Genesis, published in 1961. A former playwright and screenwriter, in the late fifties he returned to his anthropology roots and as well as this book he wrote The Territorial Imperative and The Social Contract, all still on my bookshelves. It led me to explore the writings of Darwin and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and it certainly did change the way I saw life.

How do you choose a book, eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?

Mostly by recommendation and reviews but by reading book blurbs too. I also follow certain authors and buy whatever they publish. I often buy online and the websites have lots of information to help you make a choice. But I love to visit bookstores and even if I do not buy all that interest me at that time, I write them down for later or perhaps to borrow from the library. It is also not unknown for me to buy a book after I have read the library copy.

The overflow of the bedside table, rather like lava.
Not all unread, but quite a few TBR.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

Probably fiction because I read for enjoyment but I do like it to learn something new from each and every book I read so I prefer it to be factual and well researched and not with obvious glaring errors. That said I seem to read a lot of non-fiction too.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

I think I have to say I like a good plot, but good writing is equally important. In fact if a book is badly written I will likely never finish it, no matter how intriguing the plot. Not an easy question to answer.

Most loved / memorable character

Well obviously I have to go with Nicholas from Niccolo Rising, above. From the very first page I found him intriguing and continued to do so for eight volumes.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

An Italian Dictionary, small, for quick lookups
La Regina della Casa, Sophie Kinsella -- in Italian and read in snatches to sharpen my Italian skills, yes lightweight I know.
The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold -- actually I have finished this one and I should move it along
People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks -- currently reading
The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge -- second hand, given to me by my psychiatrist friend as she thought I would enjoy it
Leap of Faith, Queen Noor
When we were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguro -- I used to be a big fan but lost my taste for him with a couple of strange books he wrote. I will try again.
Several Bibles and the Book of Psalms on the lower shelf

Then the tide of books flows uphill and ends up in the bookcase.
One of twelve similar overflowing bookcases in my house,
content 95 per cent read.

What was the last book you read and when was it?

The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold. This has a very unusual plot but most intriguing and I would recommend it. I mean to say, Helen murders her mother in the first few pages and the story follows the next twenty-four hours of her life, interspersed with recollections of her childhood. I know that many critics found this novel disappointing in comparison to her earlier much vaunted The Lovely Bones but it drew me in quickly and kept me intrigued to the end.

Have you ever given up on a book half way through?

Many times, although not until the last ten years or so. At my age, life is too short to waste it on books I don't care about when there are so many interesting books out there to be read. Of course I always check out the end after giving up, but then I often check out the end before I read a book anyway.

I have to say this post took much longer than I anticipated, even though it was interspersed with loading CDs into the new computer. Feel free to take it up, if you are so inclined. I always enjoy reading what other people think about books and I am hoping for more recommendations.

After this was written, there was a delay in publication as we were struck by an eight hour power outage which I had been anticipating for weeks. We were supposed to have friends to dinner yesterday but luckily we had postponed (for the third time) due to the snow, as we would have been sitting by candlelight munching cheese and crackers or??? Will this snow ever go away?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Hope


This one totally had me stumped but a discussion with Miss Moggs, sometime correspondent to this blog helped me out. Presents are little boxes of HOPE and what's more 8 days after Christmas ours still sit unopened under the tree, due to the snowy weather conditions and we are still waiting for family and friends to get together.

We thought it might be New Year's Day but conditions are still treacherous on the road to our house. However we live in HOPE that this snow will soon be gone and we will be back to our normal drizzly winter soon. Two weeks now, no sign of a snowplough. We did get out a couple of times during this period when there was less snow but it keeps coming. Oh for a four wheeled drive.

The one set of tracks up the centre of our road. Ugly! Well pretty but an ugly situation.