Of Coffee and Jellies

April 23, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual San Antonio Public Library’s Book Festival. Out of a good many speakers, I chose to hear Juli Berwald the author of Spineless–the science of Jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone. She was very good–entertaining and well-versed in jellyfish. So now I am about half way through the book. The hubby is reading it as well. Who would have thunk it! Jellyfish are quite the animal! I’m looking up Jellyfish documentaries on Netflix asap.

I recently read The Monk of Mokha a tale of Yemen, coffee and a tenaciously motivated young man who resurrectes the coffee trade in Yemen. If you think this would be a bland read, guess again. It’s as rich as Yemeni coffee itself. And, there’s the volatile, multi-leg journey racing across Yemen–as it turns into a war zone–carrying his coffee samples to the conference that will make or break his multi-year efforts. Dave Eggers is the author and he never disappoints.

The newest book from Yan Martel, author of Life of Pi, is The High Mountains of Portugal. Three seemingly different tales weaving together with a slightly surreal tinge. Parts of it seems to go on a bit, but stick with it for a fine reading experience.

I dearly love British crime/mysteries whether they be books, TV shows or movies. Author Alex Marwood was recently recommended by Stephen King on Twitter. I figured her books were damn good if he recommended them. The Wicked Girls and The Darkest Secret are psychological thrillers hard to put down till you get to the end. And, as the Brits might say ‘bloody good characters’ as well.

Get a book or three this week and happy reading.

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Our time as an illusion

March 30, 2018

Albert Einstein’s famous declaration “time is an illusion” is explained in his book Relativity. Einstein writes: Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence. ( read more) 

It’s hard to believe that my grandson Justin Carter was arrested for an alleged terroristic threat five years ago in Feb. 2013. To some of us, the years may seem to have gone fast. To Justin it was probably an eternity of waiting, his life on hold, unable to move in any direction–a stagnant place of worry and inaction. This week, a plea deal was made–thanks to his amazing lawyers–and Justin is a free man. He moved to Colorado with his dad where he ‘begins a new chapter’ of his life. (read for details of plea)

Justin also set up a GOFUNDME page to raise money to help him get started in his new life. He was unable to use the internet for five years, even to seek a job. He did work at a restaurant for minimum wage for the past few years.

In this week’s time that I spent reading, I immersed myself in New York’s Bohemian world of the late 60’s-early 70’s with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethrope in Smith’s amazing prose memoir “Just Kids.”  

In what seems like both a long time coming and a short time to get ready, we are in the real time of planning our big vacation trip to Minnesota during two weeks in May. Grandsons to see, one for the first time and their parents, we have been looking forward to this for months. 

As I approach my 71st birthday in June, time seems to have gone by rather quickly. I lie in bed some nights trying to remember events throughout my life, just for the sake of remembering.  As the implications of time swirl in a no particular order, I try to I keep in mind the biblical concept that “God’s time is the best time,” as I appreciate all the times past, present and future.


Letter to my blog

November 2, 2017

Dear ‘A Small Blog’,

I’m sorry I have neglected you lately. We’ve been together for so long, and I miss our little conversations. I have been reading, watching Netflix, working, going to the gym, sometimes to a museum. I have a lot of work to do as President of Friends of Spare Parts Board of Directors–a job I am so proud of.

I know you think I have abandoned you for Facebook and Twitter. I promise to think some pithy thoughts to share very soon.

Much love and affection,

Laura

 

 

 

 

 


Books, Books, and More Books

June 25, 2017

How time flies! It’s been almost a year since I’ve shared the good books I’ve been reading. After I found the San Antonio Public Library now has many of the best selling or most critically acclaimed books available (albeit sometimes on a long waiting list) I’ve been reading about a book a week. I do read all by books on a Kindle. Easier on my hands and I can take it anywhere.

Image result for kindle

Here is a list of some of my favorites:

News of the World Especially if you are a Texan, but even if you are not, you will love this beautifully written story set in Texas after the Civil War. I sent it to my 16 year old granddaughter in hopes she will read it.

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favorite authors. Aurora is chocked full of realistically based sci-fi scenarios, appealing characters and a lovely ending. His Mars Trilogy is superb! especially if you’re interested in a possible future of the human race.

Half Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat takes place in India. A great story that proves love is a culturally universal, human thang! As an acclaimed writer, he has other books which I have on my list.

I’m on a jag of reading, in order, all the Eve Dallas books by J.D. Robb. Interesting crime solving mysteries set in the future ‘starring’ a kick-ass female police lieutenant–with a sexy, rich hubby. Fluff?-maybe but entertaining.

Lab Girl a biography by research scientist Hope Jahren, PhD. She’s a bit quirky, as is her long-time lab assistant/best friend, so her projects usually include interesting and sometimes strange adventures.

I also like author Robert Masello. His books are a fascinating combination of history and fiction with people/characters you know (but not really). Some of the titles. are The Medusa Amulet, The Einstein Prophecy, and The Jekyll Revelation.

 

 


So many books, so little time

August 6, 2016

It’s past time for another list of books I’ve read. And, I have been busy. Earlier this year, I reacquainted myself with our San Antonio Public Library’s availability of Kindle downloadable e-books. It has grown much since I tried using it a few years ago and found it lacking in the books I typically read. Now, it seems they have acquired many more titles and ‘copies’ of titles. Thank goodness, because it was about to come down to food or books, and you have no idea what a hard choice that would be.

galloway booksA friend of mine recommended the Ruth Galloway series of mystery books written by Elly Griffiths. I decided to make sure we read the series from the beginning and in order. We made the mistake of reading all the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache mystery books out of order, mostly because of availability from the library. That kind of sucked because the development of the recurring characters relied on timeline events.

Both the hubby and I read the first Galloway book The Crossing Places and were hooked. Interesting realistic characters, intriguing mysteries, great setting in England. Ruth is an archaeologist so there is some ancient English history thrown in as a bonus. I have always been a sucker for English mystery authors. They solve the crime in a way that pulls you into the story, with rich characters and always a touch of wry British humor.

Now we’ve finished the lot and I’m on to other books on my list created from various “best of“ reads from the internet and magazines.

euphoriaEuphoria by Lily King is an amazing book. I think I read it in about three intensive days. Euphoria is a fictional story based on a 1933 expedition to New Guinea by Margaret Mead. “Told through the eyes of Gregory Bankson, a fellow anthropologist and friend of Nell and Fen Stone, the book describes a fractured marriage under further pressure in a botched field trip. Interspersed with Nell’s journal, the author gives a very realistic characterization of the culture they are studying.” This from a review from The Library Thing

oliveTwo more very good books were Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout, which I found strangely personal. It is a Pulitzer Prize winner, which always means a quality rorchardistead; and a mini-series as well.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. This is one of those books that makes you sad when it ends. This is a first novel for Coplin, but she must have an old writer’s soul, because it is epic and beautiful.

I just finished a rather long, detailed non-fiction book about Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mina Crandon and others, titled quite aptly, The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and witch of lime streetHoudini in the Spirit World. If this doesn’t intrigue you and you don’t like long books, it might not appeal. Took me a while to get into it, but once I did, it was very good. Though Houdini adamantly fought against spiritualism, it left me (at least) feeling not so sure there aren’t spirits floating around and someone might be able to channel them. You also learn a thing or two about Houdini and Doyle you probably didn’t know.

Happy reading!


In between Netflixing, what I’m reading

December 2, 2015

If you’ve read my blog post Confessions of a Streaming Addict, you might think that’s all I’ve been doing to while away the hours. However, I’ve managed to squeeze in several books—some of which are listed below.

1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew

book cover reuseThe concept of creative reuse aka upcycling, remaking or repurposing is not new.  According to Grant Johnson, author of the book “1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew, “…materials reuse has been around since medieval scribes scraped off and reused parchments, and the ancient Greeks melted down older bronze statues to make newer versions.”

Creative reuse, in its current incarnation, combines artistic expression with ecological responsibility served with a side of thrift.  1,000 photos of artworks and projects from artists around the world inspire us with infinite creative possibilities.

Spin

book cover spinWritten by Robert Charles Wilson, this is science fiction, but with plenty of plausible science based theories. The novel starts out simple, but grows with complexity as the story progresses. The main characters are exceptionally well developed and likable, too. Stick with it, as it becomes an engrossing read.

 

 

Last Train to Istanbul

book cover last train to istanbulA historical novel about Turkish Jews during WWII. It was well researched by the author who used historical aspects taken from written files and oral histories. I was surprised to learn the Turkish government has a history of not only welcoming, but protecting its Jewish citizens.

It is a tale of escape from the Nazi regime with realistic characters and plenty of suspense. I plan to read more of Ayse Kulin’s books in time.

 

City of Stairs

book cover city of stairsThis is a novel in the fantasy genre. I follow the author Robert Jackson Bennett on Twitter @robertjbennett. He is an irreverent hoot sometimes, but don’t be fooled, he is an amazing writer. It’s a tale of people and politics, a mythology of gods and magic. His imagination runs wild. Yet, Bennett manages to build a highly organized and absorbing world with a storyline and characters which will definitely grab your attention and leave you wanting more.


Waiting to read

March 29, 2015

kindle and booksThis is a little list of some of the books I’ve recently read–mostly while sitting in hospital rooms or doctors’ waiting rooms. My husband had two episodes of seizures, one in November and one in January. He spent a some time in the hospital and subsequently at various doctors’ offices. Many tests were done and no particular medical reason has yet been established. Texas law dictates that after one has a seizure, one may not drive for three months. So, with Kindle in hand, I’ve been the designated driver. Titles comes with links to the books on Amazon, followed by short personal opines.

Sistina by Brian Kenneth Swain  Not just because he is a friend, I say this is an excellent read. The link is to the review I wrote on Amazon. From there I recommend purchasing and enjoying.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel This story interweaves in different and intriguing  ways from other post-apocalyptic books I’ve read. It’s sweet, suspenseful and leaves you with hope for the human race. And, yes, I am drawn to that particular genre.

Marco Polo-The Journey that changed the world by John Man  I bought this nonfiction book after watching the Netflix Marco Polo series–with naked women ninjas and other such highly suspect re-enactments of Marco’s life under the Khan. The author really dug (pun intended) into archaeological evidence, and tracked down a great deal of historical data. If you want the most true story of Marco Polo, read this.

Colorless Tskuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami I love this Japanese author. He writes enigmatic, intense character novels. This is his latest, but not greatest. Read Kafka on the Shore to be blown away.

Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd As a young woman, Pattie was married to Beatle George Harrison until Eric Clapton ‘stole’ her away. Were they matches made in heaven? Not quite. She led a very interesting life and tells it with great insight and candor, revealing the true personalities of two of the greatest music icons of my age.

Gould’s Book of Fish  Magnificently written, fact-based fiction by Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan. Full of graphic imagery often written with wry sense of humor, it’s not for readers with tender constitutions. Still, if you want real literature, it’s a must read.


Remembering the Sabbath

March 1, 2015

Several years ago I read this wonderful book “Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest” by Wayne Muller, ordained minister, graduate of Harvard School of Divinity and therapist.

In his introduction, Muller explains in a general, not accusatory way, how in the relentless busyness of modern life we have lost the rhythm between work and rest. He tells how we suppose action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something-anything-is better than doing nothing. Because of this, we don’t rest, we miss the quiet refuge that brings us wisdom, and we miss the joy and peace from our moments of rest.

According to Wikipedia, the Sabbath is generally a weekly day of rest or time of worship. It is observed differently in Abrahamic religions and influences similar occasions in several other practices. Although many viewpoints and definitions have arisen over the millennia, most originate in the same textual tradition.

In this book Muller encourages us to remember the Sabbath by living the rhythm of rest and gives meditations and  examples of how to incorporate ‘small’ Sabbaths into our everyday life in a variety of ways—that include setting aside quiet times, taking a walk in the park, lighting a candle and saying a blessing, enjoying a meal with friends.

The following are a few passages that I hope will inspire you, as it did me, to find a quiet place, at any time, to remember the Sabbath as a divine gift of rest.

Readings from the book

In Genesis, a fundamental goodness is presumed throughout the creation story. At every juncture God acts, steps back and rests. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” Genesis 1:31 Sabbath rest invites us to step back and see that it is good.

Mark 2:27, “You are not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath is made for you.” Muller says, The Sabbath isn’t a responsibility, it’s a gift, and if we don’t take that gift, we all suffer. He tells us the point isn’t to take the Sabbath in order to avoid spiritual trouble with a cranky God who’s going to punish you. The point is to take Sabbath in order to be as nourished, fed and delighted as we’re meant to be. “Your life is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be opened.”

meditation, stones, pond,prayerPrayer is like a portable Sabbath, when we close our eyes for just a moment and let the mind rest. Like the Muslims who stop to pray five time a day, like the Angelus we can be stopped by a sunset, a meal and we can pray. Something close to the heart, and simple.

Sabbaths are filled with prayers. But we can begin slowly with a simple prayer like a pebble dropped into the middle of our day rippling out over the surface of our life. Perhaps a line from the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, a short blessing: “May all beings be happy and may all being be at peace.”

A verse in the 23rd Psalm says “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.” Even Jesus stepped back from his ministry and the crowds to a place of rest. In doing so he is honoring a deep spiritual need for a time dedicated not to accomplishment and growth, but to quiescence and rest.

Better is one hand full of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” Ecclesiastes 4:6 Traditional Sabbaths are filled with prayers. But we can begin slowly with a simple prayer like a pebble dropped into the middle of our day rippling out over the surface of our life.

Mother Teresa said “Let us remain as empty as possible so that God can full us up.”At our best, we become Sabbath for one another. Not fixing, not harming, not acting, we can become space, that our loved ones, the lost and sorrowful, may find rest in us. ‘Where ever two or more are gathered, there am I in the midst of you.’ 

 The Desert Fathers counseled, “Go into your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” Set aside a period of time in nature or at home, at a church or temple, a library or anywhere you will not be disturbed. Sit, meditate, pray, read, whatever pleases you. Pay attention.

 


Retirement–what I’m reading

November 23, 2014
Found on Pinterest

Found on Pinterest

I am a book hoarder. I always like to have many books stashed away–either on my shelves or in my Kindle–to read at some future time. The last few months, I made it a goal to read all the hardback books I’d been saving for retirement, plus a couple of library books.

All of the following books are very good to excellent, except for the last one which was so-so–my opinions only. I’ve linked them to their page in Amazon for your convenience. Also, they are all over the map as far as genre is concerned.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbuagh

Oral History by Lee Smith (highly recommend though you may talk like a hillbilly in your head for a week afterward)

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

The Wayfinders by Wade Davis (I wrote about this one already)

Shoot an Iraqi by Wafaa Bilal and Kim Lydersen (not what you might think and very interesting)

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Bayne (sad indicator at 10)

Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis Rodriguez (read for banned book week)
 The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (library book, five star rating for post-apocalyptic genre)

Purple Cane Road (Dave Robicheaux Book 11) by James Lee Burke (library book. I’m kinda hooked on James Lee Burke at the moment)

Chasing the Night by Iris Johansen

Let me know if you read any, how you like them.


Cultural Extinction

September 14, 2014

At any given time, I have about a dozen books on my shelf waiting for the right time to be read. So it was with “The Wayfinders-Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World,” by Wade Davis, which had been waiting patiently for about three years. Once I’d read the first few pages, I gulped this book like it was a life-giving elixir.

way finder book coverDavis begins by sharing his view of the world. And believe me, from his life experiences as a National Geographic explorer, writer and anthropologist, he is well versed in world. “Together the myriad of cultures makes up an intellectual and spiritual web of life that envelopes the planet and is every bit as important to the well being of the planet as is the biological web of life we know as the biosphere.” Davis calls this social web of life an ethnosphere — the “sum total of our thoughts and intuitions, myths and beliefs.” This ethnosphere is the core of our adaptive nature and our legacy.  And, the truth is we are facing the loss of half of humanity’s social, cultural and intellectual legacy, as the extinction of human cultures is picking up pace.

Excellently written and thought provoking, this book is essentially a compilation of Davis’ series of Massey Lectures. Davis shares his extensive knowledge of a good many diverse populations with whom he developed relationships. First, the Polynesians, spreading their cultural realm to hundreds of islands throughout the Pacific with their amazing art of navigation. Who knew Thor Hyderdahl’s “Kon Tiki” was full of bunk! Peoples of the Anaconda is a perfect example of a large and diverse civilization whose existence is woven into the very fabric of its physical location–along the Amazon River. The Aborigines of Australia, with their ritual ‘dreaming,’ evolved a deep, timeless relationship with their world. “What does it mean that though out history “dynamic living people have been driven out of existence by identifiable and overwhelming external forces?” Davis asks.

With a perfect blend of science and human insights, Davis makes  powerful observations. In the chapter on Sacred Geography he states, “…I would like to reflect on this particular attitude of ours, this manner in which we have reduced our planet to a commodity, a raw resource to be consumed at our whim.”  The modern world…”is certainly not the true and only pulse of history. It is merely a constellation, of beliefs, conviction, paradigm, that represent one way of doing things…”

For some reason I thought of this song when I was writing this blog. In the vast oceans, we are but ripples and waves. But, as that, we part of the whole. We are past, present, and the future–if we don’t fuck it up.

“I’m a wave upon the ocean, I’m a little ripple on the sea. Don’t get no crazy notion, you know you’re very much like me.” Shivas Headband