Monthly Archives: May 2012

Third Sentence Thursday, three times

Because I’m in one of those moods when I try to read more books than I have eyes, all at the same time, more or less.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

p. 87 – “I don’t have the time or the bed space for this.”

Ships’ sick bays are small, even when they’re not coping with an outbreak of something contagious and dangerous. One little girl who bumped her head, however badly, is one more patient than the doctor can cope with. She’ll just have to go back to her own cabin and her family.

Except that she doesn’t have either of them. Who would take a child on board a ship in 1913 London and abandon her there, to make her way to Australia all alone? And why?

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers

p. 95 – “But he never comes there now.”

Why doesn’t Robert Fentiman seem interested in finding the mysterious Mr. Oliver? After all, Mr. Oliver can help prove when his grandfather, old General Fentiman, died – and with any luck, that evidence will make Robert a rich man. And yet, he’s doing everything he can to discourage people from tracing Oliver. Why?

Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler

p. 35 – “Well, is the ship plant or animal?”

Does that sound like an odd question? Yes? Then you’re luckier than Lilith Iyapo. She’s lost her whole family, and then her whole world come the nuclear war that everyone dreaded, and been kidnapped – or rescued? – by hideously grotesque aliens. After a very long time completely alone in one room, she’s met one of the aliens and is being taken on her first tour of their ship. And the ship seems to be a forest, a forest where the plants can move on their own initiative.

A mystery

Okay, what happened here? Seriously. A week ago, this cherry tree two blocks from my house looked perfectly fine. On Saturday, it sprawled on the ground, split into three pretty much equal pieces, halfway down to the roots.

Lightning? But it doesn’t look scorched. A teeny tiny tornado? Its own weight? I don’t have a clue. Anybody want to guess?

Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you to Lea Jurock – who has a blog of interesting book reviews and photos, by the way – for nominating me for this one!

The rules of The Versatile Blogger Award are:

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded The Versatile Blogger award.

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award.
  •  Include a link to their blog.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So – some of the blogs I’ve been following. (This was the hard part – there are so many great bloggers out there!) If you read my blog, you might be interested in the writers below. If you’re one of the writers below, I think you deserve an award; accept it if you want to. If you don’t like Internet awards, ignore it.

Alice (through the Macro Lens) who shares things we might never have noticed about the world inside and outside

Beverley Smith – so many thoughts about tracing your family tree, healthy eating and living, and much much more

Cedric de Alicoque, who posts wonderful photos of Mexico

Doodlemum, for her clever cartoons about life with three children and a very big dog

erafferty, who writes about living as a foreigner in China, and faith, and travel, and cooking…

Gilly Gee, wonderful photographer and writer and traveler and grandmother

Huffygirl, who spends her time either working out or else satirizing the world we live in (um, I think the post about Colorado importing unused Canadian oxygen was satire, wasn’t it?)

“K” from Oregon, who is determined to keep eating for only $35 a week

Laura Mays Hooper, who has so many ideas about how and what to write

Margekatherine, who encourages all of us to stretch our boundaries and enlarge our comfort zones

rthepotter, who seems to be interested in just about everything there is to be interested in, and takes pictures of it too

Suzie Ivy, who shares beyond-belief stories of life on the police force

Virginia Spencer, who takes lots of photographs and paints too! And who also has a (sometimes) purple dog.

Warren Smith, who draws and posts an impressively elaborate maze every single day – wonderful if you’re crazy about mazes like me!

ziggyshortcrust – elf portraitist and memorialist of doomed little white cars

And seven things about me –

1. I am probably the least talented aikido student in the known universe – it took me about twenty years to reach black belt. (Which isn’t the end of training – it means that you’ve learned the fundamentals well enough to start really studying.)

2. I’ll eat and enjoy just about any vegetable there is – but please don’t try to feed me lima beans or broccoli raab.

3. (Just in time for the unofficial start of summer) – I am not a beach person. Give me shade!

4. I enjoy singing – which doesn’t necessarily mean that anybody else enjoys hearing me sing!

5. I hate shopping for shoes.

6. I like to do things with my hands – cook, knit, garden, cat’s cradle, whatever. (Oh, all right. I probably haven’t done cat’s cradle since I was twelve. I bet I can find refresher instructions somewhere on the internet…..)

7. I can come up with plot ideas much, much faster than I can write the stories, so I have an enormous backlog of books begging me to write them.

Thank you

It’s been a hectic and tiring weekend…but it seems appropriate to take a few minutes for a Memorial Day thank you to veterans (including my late father). Thank you for risking your life. Thank you for giving up years of your freedom to make your own decisions. Thank you for seeing sights I can’t imagine and don’t really want to. Thank you for enduring mental and physical and emotional stress, the loss of friends, your own injuries…

I know I’m not covering everything. I’m an inexperienced civilian. But thank you.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

A much, much easier Weekly Photo Challenge topic this week – “Summer”.

Summer is

boat races

thunderheads (and thunderstorms)

and street fairs.

But most of all, summer is



and green.

Friday Fictioneers – Losers

Here’s my try for this week’s Friday Fictioneers. (This was a hard one, I thought.) The photo prompt is –


“It was a sure thing.”

“Nothing’s a sure thing.”

“Yeah. Except losing lots of money going after a sure thing.”

“Well, it’s over. Lock up and walk away.”

“Wait. See those bugs – our last customers. Just a minute.”

“What now? There’s nothing in there worth bothering with.”

“I bet there’s a little syrup from the drink machines. I’m going to open the drive-in window so they can fly in and help themselves.”

“Moths like that don’t have mouths. They can’t eat your old syrup.”

“So we’re all losers.” Pause. “I’m leaving it open anyway. Might be hungry ants, right?”

“You’re a total doofus. But thoughtful. I’ll give you that.”

Third Sentence Thursday – Be careful what you wish for

(What’s Third Sentence Thursday? Open the book you’re reading to a random page. Post the third complete sentence on the page, with a few comments about the book.)

Emma by Jane Austen

p. 341 – “He was wishing to confide in her – perhaps to consult her; cost her what it would, she would listen.”

Poor Emma. She’s spent most of the book – and at this point we’re very near the end – trying to pair up all the unmarried people she knows, and they’ve been very uncooperative. But a girl has to do something with her time, after all.

Just recently, it’s occurred to her that she really, really cares about one particular man – but her best friend Harriet is in love with him, too. And now he wants to talk to Emma about the girl he loves. Oh, no! Is he in love with Harriet? All Emma can think of to do is to pretend that possibility doesn’t upset her. Not at all. Not the least little bit.

Vintage Mysteries: Death, Deduction, Devil Dogs…Who could ask for more?

Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A keeper? Yes, absolutely, definitely, no question

Hound of the Baskervilles? It’s a really good story. Read it.

Oh, you want details? Okay, here we go. Poor Dr. Mortimer is terribly worried, so worried he has to talk to Sherlock Holmes right away. It seems that there’s a legend in his part of the world – Dartmoor in Devon – that a wicked 1600s ancestor of the wealthy Baskerville family has doomed them to be hunted to their deaths by a genuine, for real, hellhound with flaming eyes and jaws. Nonsense? Dr. Mortimer would like to think so. But if it’s just a foolish old superstition, what did terrify his friend Sir Charles Baskerville into running, panicked, until his heart gave out? And what, oh what, left those huge doggy footprints near the body?

Still, Sir Charles is dead. The family curse can’t do anything more to him. But what about the heir, young Sir Henry Baskerville, fresh from farming in Canada and enthusiastic about taking over his new role as the local squire? Nothing Dr. Mortimer or Sherlock Holmes can say will persuade him to stay safely in London.

At this point, Holmes disappears from the story until almost the end. Really, most of the book is Dr. Watson’s chance to shine, and he turns out to be a satisfying hero on his own. He may not be as brilliant as Holmes, but he’s brave and determined and smart enough.

Oh, and did I mention the escaped murderer? And the deadly bogs full of quicksand? And the assorted mysterious ladies? The sinister butler, and the missing boots?

When I first read Hound of the Baskervilles, sometime in my teens, it terrified me. It’s not so frightening now that I know how things work out, but it’s still exciting and interesting. And I like the ending, because Doyle realizes that the people who went through these dreadful experiences would take some time to return to normal – if they ever can.

It’s a good book. Read it.

100 Word Challenge for Grownups – Week 43 – Storm

This week Julia’s prompt for the 100 Word Challenge is

…The flame flickered before…


The flame flickered before it went out. And everything was dark.

Dark, but not quiet. The wind didn’t howl, it screamed, and sleet clicked against the windows. “Sounds like they’re being sandblasted. Was that the last candle?”

“Last one I could find. Besides, we’re out of matches.”

“We could have lit the next candle from this one. If we had another candle.”

“It’ll be morning sometime. And they’ll get the power back on once the storm stops.” An arm wrapped around my shoulders.

“And then we’ll have heat.”

“I guess we’ll just have to make do, won’t we?”

“Mmm. Make our own?”

Mix it up challenge – Lost in the forest

Review – A Forest of Kings
by Linda Schele and David Freidel

A keeper? Thoroughly undecided

A Forest of Kings promises to let you in on the recently deciphered history of the ancient Maya in what’s now Mexico and Guatemala. And it is packed solid with information. (Including some insight on whether we really ought to expect the world to end in seven months.*)

At this point, I should probably add a short warning about how to apply my opinion of this book to your own interests. Once upon a time, I was an archaeology major. In other words, I think things that happened a long time ago are interesting, and I think using the crumbling, grimy remnants of Back Then to understand what people who have been dead a long time were up to is interesting. Your Mileage May, as usual, Vary.

A Forest of Kings is a hybrid (about a four-way hybrid, actually). On one hand, it does offer us Mayan history – which turns out to be a lot more dramatic and human than the old version that thought the Maya were peaceful astronomer-priests obsessed with the calendar. Uh-uh. No. It’s true that they were kind of obsessed by the meaning of various dates and time periods – and they were obsessed because they meant to use the information to their own advantage to get rich and win wars and become powerful. They were very rich indeed – probably some of the most prosperous people of their time, the 600s and 700s and 800s, when Europe was in the poverty-stricken depths of the Dark Ages.

There are many, many line drawings of Mayan art – which is astonishing and hard to “read”. A lot of the images show Maya kings and queens wearing clothes that are so elaborate you have to search for the human being hidden in them, and so elaborate you wonder how they could have moved around without falling over, or at least having their huge headdresses tip down across their faces.

The book also goes into lots and lots and lots of detail about excavations and tombs and inscriptions, probably too much detail for many people. And the history tends to get lost among the excavations and the painstakingly literal translations of reproduced inscriptions – for example, “18 days, 7 uinals” [a uinal is a 20-day time period] “ 11 Etz’nab 11 Ch’en” [the date] “hubi (it was brought down) the flint-shield of Jaguar-Paw of Calakmul captive of the ahau”. The quote here means, more or less, “On 11 Etz’nab 11 Ch’en (August 8, 695), King Jaguar-Paw of Calakmul was captured by our king Ah-Cacaw of Tikal.”

And finally, there are little scenes scattered through the book – not connected enough for a historical novel, but maybe we can call them historical short stories. They try to show us how various events looked to the people involved, and many of them are effective.

Will I keep A Forest of Kings or get rid of it? It’s a rich-as-fruitcake introduction, as complex as Mayan art, to what has been learned about the ancient Maya over the last few decades. But it tries to be too many different books all at once. I’ll keep it for now, but it may have to go later when I make final decisions about just how much we have room for.

* Okay. Is the world going to end this December??

The Maya had a lot of interests besides keeping track of the date, but they did develop one of the most complicated calendars ever, with a couple of different ways of figuring out where they were in the “real” solar year combined with a system for counting how many days had passed since their beginning of time, August 11, 3114 B.C. When they used this beginning-of-time system, they normally settled for writing “only” the first five digits of the date – and that cycle will reset to zero in December 2012.

But there are larger units in the Mayan calendar – one king of Palenque had an inscription made that predicted the anniversary of his reign will be celebrated in October, 4772. What happens this winter is more or less the same as what happened twelve years ago, when we started a new millenium.

So relax.