Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Years for 2011

Since it is already New Years Eve day in New Zealand and Australia as I write this, I am posting this to say


 to all my readers. May 2011 be a much happier year for you than 2010 was.

Refuse to Choose - Book Review

Refuse to Choose
By Barbara Sher
Rodale Books 2006
Author's Website

Don't know what to do with your life?

Drawn to so many things that you can't choose just one?

Barbara Sher has the answer- Do EVERYTHING!

I didn't know I was a scanner until I read this book.

I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were so many things I was interested in. Now I know why.

I used to worry that I might have ADD but now I know I'm not alone with having lots of passionate interests and that it can even be an advantage.

Scanners is one way to describe people who are generalists, not specialists. But society these days insists on  training people to be specialists. The economy is designed to be run by specialists.

Sher names Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Edison and Ben Franklin as Scanners. Good company! She tells us why they were honored for their many interests, but in today's world the Scanner is often considered lazy or undisciplined.

Sher champions Scanners. She reminds us of our gifts - what it is that's so wonderful about being a Scanner. She also counters the negativism we often hear about pursuing multiple interests.

In one paradigm-shifting sentence Barbara Sher notes that: "If Scanners didn't think they should limit themselves to one field, 90 percent of their problems would cease to exist!"

In the early medieval times, your family had a career and every male in the family - from grandfather to father to son - was trained to work in that one speciality.

During the Renaissance (which means the Rebirth) it was sort of acceptable to become a generalist. Famous generalists of the Renaissance include Leonardo da Vinci. He is well known as a painter, a writer, an inventor and a scientist,

200 years ago, it was still perfectly acceptable to be a generalist - to know something about a lot of things, Benjamin Franklin was a famous generalist. He was a writer, an editor, an inventor, a scientist, a politician and a diplomat.

But the tide has turned and society went back to demanding that people be specialists. I beleive that is one way to control the people - to make them more docile and less able to think. The government needs to be able to control the people and the best way to do that is to force them to do just one job over and over again. Very boring. No wonder so many people hate their jobs.

Scanners fear that they have ADD, but usually they do not have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
Scanners are people who believe that they are Hopelessly interested in Everything
Scanners were previously often seen as Jack of all Trades

Start a Scanner Daybook. Use this daybook to note down all your various ideas and interests. They should not ordered (the Da Vinci Notebooks were famously not ordered). When you are distracted by a tangential idea write it down "get it out of your system" then return to your previous task

Yappers - Another name for Scanners is YAP Yet-Another-Project

Backward Planning Flowchart - A way of breaking down a project until you find a step that you can action immediately

Start Small Start Now - The importance of doing something now, making some small progress. This builds your confidence

There are scanners who can never start their projects
There are scanners who can never finish their projects
There are scanners who are constantly told they are lazy

Other Scanners find that they are organized enough to start and complete their projects but unfortunately lose interest in it as soon as they have mastered it. So for instance they might qualify as a teacher and then announce that they have no desire to teach. This often astonishes and dismays friends and family.

Scanners often have Good Enough Jobs that is to say jobs which earn enough to pay the bills, but allow them enough energy to pursue their other passions. Scanners have usually given up on finding the perfect job anyway.

There are two major types of Scanners.

Sequential Scanners and Cyclical Scanners.

The majority of Scanners are Cyclical Scanners - those who return to the same group of interests over and over again.

Sequential Scanners do not return to the same interests over and over again. They prefer to always be looking for the next challenge or area of knowledge to learn and master.

When a Scanner is asked the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? most adult scanners are unable to make that decision. They have too many things they are truely interested in, so that they cannot choose just one area that they must specialise in for the rest of their life.

A Sequential scanner may have an interest and want to go to school to learn all about that area of interest, but once they graduate, they lose interest and have no desire to teach or work in that area. They just love the challenge of learning or mastering that area. So they go back to school and learn a new area. Again once they graduate, they have no desire whatsoever to teach or work in that area. If you know anyone who is known as a PROFESSIONAL STUDENT, they may be a sequential scanner.

As I said in an earlier post about Polymaths, I wanted to read this book to see what I could do to salvage the remaining 20 years of my working life.

I have a diploma of Business Administration. Nothing special but I enjoyed most of the courses I took. I am not a numbers person so I disliked the accounting classes. However I did pass them, the first time around. They did drag my overall average down which is why I graduated with Distinction and not with Honours. Distinction is an overall average grade in the 80s, Honours is an overall grade in the 90s. My overall average grade was 88%.  I also have a specific group of interests that I usually tend to return to over and over again. I listed them in my previous post on Polymaths. This makes me a cyclical scanner.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that most of my interests are related to communication and words. I could have done well as a librarian, a historian, a researcher, a journalist, an editor or a writer. I love history and I love doing research. I also love art, art history, antiquarian books and antiques. Maybe I can try to get into those areas as well. But without a BFA (fine arts degree) that will be hard.

In the meantime I am looking for an administration position with a non-profit company or a business related to the arts and antiques world. I have also discovered that I prefer the casual business environment and NOT the corporate environment. OK thats enough about me.

This book makes suggestions of how one can cope with choices and how to find a career that covers the vast array of interests that scanners have. At no time does this book ever say for sure that a scanner is better at doing one particular career over another one, That's because scanners have such widely differing interests.

If you want specifics on finding a career for you, this book is NOT for you.
If you want a challenge in finding the right career for you, then this book is perfect for you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Review for 2010

I cant say that this year has been a great one. It hasn't. It has been a so-so year. 

In January I was hit with a major medical issue - which may require me to take drugs for the rest of my life. It's not fatal, but it is annoying, and it does affect my diet. There are now some foods I can no longer eat and others I have to drastically cut down on.

The recession is biting heavily and it is very hard to find a job despite living in a major world city. I  submitted my resume to any number of appropriate vacancies and never received any response. I can only assume there are other people out there who have more education and a more stable work history than I do - and they are being hired.

My son is doing reasonably well in school. He is at or above age appropriate requirements in most areas. While he can read quite well, he does not like to read for pleasure - certainly not like I do. He takes after his dad in that respect.

My son also much prefers computer games, and he has had heart set on a specific game console. He has only been asking for this console for the last 2 years. This year we have finally been able to purchase the latest version of the game console he wanted. He received it for Xmas today and is now thoroughly enjoying himself playing it. Right now I am listening to him playing Super Mario Brothers and the loud music that goes along with this platform game. So far he has 2 games cartridges - but we can easily purchase more games in the future.

I have not read as many books as I usually do. You can tell that by the low number of posts I have actually posted this year (92 if the counter is correct). Blame that on Fan Fiction. I discovered fan fiction this year and spent at least 6 months reading these stories online. Fan Fiction is where fans create and write stories about the characters from favoruite TV shows and post these stories online. The main TV shows I read fiction from, are Stargate, Star Trek and JAG - all of which are currently not running. 

On top of this I am keeping an ear and an eye out on the politics and world events going on. I see the USA frantically trying to get a new world war started anyway it can do so. First they wanted to invade Iran. That didnt work. Then they tried Pakistan and allowed Israel to start yet another war with Gaza over nothing whatsoever. That didnt work. They even tried Venezuela for a short time.

Now they are trying to push the 2 Koreas into starting a war. North Korea refuses to be goaded. Very astute of them I say. South Korea needs to stand up and stop acting like a YES man and start asking some serious questions as to WHY they are allowing the USA to tell them what to do. The US government will do anything to get peoples attention off the poor state of the economy. This situation is NOT helping my stress levels.

One more thing. The stresses about the year 2012 - I personally don't beleive anything is going to happen in December 2012, but one never knows. It certainly does not help my stress levels when Hollywood and the tabloid newspapers insist on making all kinds of predictions and releasing thriller movies about what they think will happen to the world on that date - especially when they have NO PROOF.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Winter Ghosts - Book Review

The Winter Ghosts
By Kate Mosse
Orion Books October 2009
Authors Website

Book Blurb

The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson's case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. He stumbles through woods, emerging in a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful woman also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries.

My Review

While the beginning was slow - it was mostly about Freddie Watson and how he was still mourning over the death of his older brother George during the First World War. While he is mourning, he travels to the Languedoc in southern France. While out driving one day in the Pyrenees, he gets caught in a snow storm and crashes the car. He hikes to a village called Nulle and while he is there, he meets the villagers. Due to the storm, Freddie develops a fever and is very ill that night. While the owner of the inn where Freddie is staying looks after him, she insists that Freddie stay in bed for one more day. Freddie refuses.

Freddie beleives the villagers he met are 20th century villagers. In fact they are from the 12th century. He falls in love with one girl called Fabrissa. She tells him the story of the village - of how the inquisition (She just referred to a War and called the men soldiers) attacked the village and forced the villagers to go into hiding - up into the mountains where they sought shelter in the caves. The Inquisition soldiers followed the villagers up into the mountains and then built up walls to block up the caves.

Freddie takes the village mechanic back to his car and they arrange for his car to be towed to a mechanic so it can be repaired,. While they are discussing the repairs, Freddie is also asking questions about the villagers and the caves. Eventually Freddie gets a wild idea - to climb up the mountains and try to find the cave where Fabrissa and her family sought safety.

Once he arrives at the cave, his fever returns. He finds the tomb full of skeletons and finally undertsands that his Fabrissa (the girl he had fallen in love with) was a ghost of the past. He is close to death when he is found and he wakes up in a local hospital. One of the mechanics sons had followed him up into the mountains and rescued him from a cave that was obviously a tomb with a "spirit of death" - the spirit of death was slowly draining the life force from Freddie's body.

Once Freddie recovers, he explains how he climbed up to the caves and discovered a new unknown Cathar tomb. The archaeologists are eager to investigate and excavate. In this cave Freddie found a letter written in the Occitan language (Languedoc or Provencal). While it was not addressed to anyone, Freddie believes it was meant for him. After he is released from the hospital, Freddie returns to England.

Five years later, Freddie finally feels strong enough to know what the letter says. He takes this letter to an Antiquarian in Toulouse. Freddie tells his story to the Antiquarian in minute detail. The Antiquarian translates and reads the letter to Freddie. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crescent Dawn - Book Review

Crescent Dawn - A Dirk Pitt Novel
by Clive Cussler & Dirk Cussler
Putnam & Sons November 2010

In previous reviews of Dirk Pitt novels, I have not been terribly impressed with Dirk Pitt's son and daughter, Dirk Junior and Summer. But in this novel they come into their own and as a team they are very impressive. But the novel itself could have done with a lot better editing. In fact there are 2 seperate stories in this novel and each story could have had its OWN novel rather than be squashed together as an afterthought to create a 500 plus page monster.

Three events, distant in time and space. A treasure-laden fourth century Roman galley narrowly escapes a ferocious pirate attack; a World War I British warship explodes mysteriously in the North Sea; and in the all-too-real present-day, a string of coordinated bomb attacks destroys historic mosques in Egypt and Turkey. Something (supposedly) links these violent events and it's up to NUMA director Dirk Pitt to find and tie the deadly threads.

While the novel does get off to a slow start, and with different chapters describing each member of the Pitt family becoming involved in their search, the real action doesn't start happening until chapter 20 and when the team members finally get together in chapter 56, they each contribute their strands of the mystery to get the possible entire story.

BUT it turns out there are 2 different stories here, neither of which are directly connected to each other.

At the beginning of Cusslers novels the author always has a brief prologue about one or two historical ships in action - usually by being sunk. These ships always have something major to do with the main story.

So for this novel (Crescent Dawn) there are 2 boats being sunk in the prologue - and both end up having nothing whatsoever to do with the main story and everything to do with the secondary story.

The main story is about the Celik siblings who turn out to be descendents of Mehmet VI - the last Ottoman sultan of Turkey before Mustapha Ataturk deposed the sultans and took control of Turkey in 1923. The Celik siblings have grand visions of making Islam the major religion of the Middle East and the Mediterranean as it once was, over 1000 years previously. They will kill anyone who stands in their way.

First they blow up a historical mosque in Egypt and then they try to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Fortunately that attempt was partially thwarted because Dirk Pitt junior was in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately his new girlfriend Sophie, died as a result of this botched explosion.

Lastly an Israeli water tanker is hijacked on the high seas of the Mediterranean and the crew is forced to fill it with ANFO and HMX explosives. The crew is then locked in the ship and the ship sets sail for Istanbul - where it is obviously intended to be a huge bomb that could destroy the city of Istanbul and a good portion of its 12 million residents.

Pitt and Giordino and their trusty new high speed submersible and speeder called the Bullet (top speed - 47 knots) race to Istanbul to find and prevent this floating bomb from exploding. They are unable to prevent the bomb from exploding, but they do rescue the crew and prevent the explosion from doing a huge amount of damage. In the last few minutes Pitt and Giordino are able to use a dredge to knock a hole in the ship which sinks it.

The Manifest of Jesus is a papyrus list of items that was discovered in Palestine in the late 1700s and reputed to have referred to a cache of items that belonged to Jesus Christ. On the list is an item called the Ossuary of J. The Church of England (Anglican Church) is terrified that it contains the bones of Jesus which will prove that the resurrection never happened. So the church is determined that this list never see the light of day. The Church sends letter after letter to Earl Horatio Herbert Kitchener (the person who is last known to have held the manifest list) demanding that he give the manifest to the church for "safekeeping".

In the early chapters of this novel. Summer Pitt is in England helping a girlfriend (Julie) to research Kitcheners personal papers. Summer uses NUMA technology to do a search around the wreck of the HMS Hampshire where they discover that the explosion that sank the ship, occurred from inside the ship. The hull plates are bent outwards, not inwards. Kitchener drowned aboard the Hampshire when it sunk in 1916.

Unknown to the girls, a jewish antiquities dealer has hired a shady archaeologist named Ridley Bannister to track down the items from the manifest of Jesus. He ends up shadowing the trail of Summer and her friend as they do all the work. Amongst Kitcheners papers and personal belongings, they eventually find the original papyrus manifest and a translation. Ridley promptly takes the papyrus from them at gun point.

After the fallout from the Istanbul ship bomb dies down, Pitt and his team return to the Mediterranean to complete the search for the items of the Manifest. The trail leds them to Cyprus where they eventually find a Roman galley safely hidden in an old cave. Within the ship are boxes containing the items on the manifest. These items eventually go on display in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

To be honest the religious mystery is NOT related to the quest for muslim domination at all. The two historical ships that were sunk at the beginning of this novel were both directly related to the religious mystery. I think this secondary story is just the authors trying to cash in on the latest trend for novels - religious mysteries ala The Da Vinci Code.

This entire novel is all about religion and terrorism and the middle east - the main story lines still happening in the world today.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World's most expensive book sells for £7.3 million pounds

World's most expensive book sells for £7.3 million  ($11.5 million)

John James Audubon's Birds of America at Sotheby's in London before its sale for a world record £7.3m. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

A copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America tonight (December 6, 2010) became the most expensive book ever sold when it went under the hammer at Sotheby's for £7.3m. The auction was a rare chance to own one of the best preserved editions of the 19th century masterpiece, with its 435 hand-coloured illustrations, seen as a key volume on US natural history.

It was sold to an anonymous collector bidding by telephone, the auction house said. Each individual picture is so valuable there have been some fears the volume could be broken up and sold as 435 separate works of art. Experts believe that unlikely: the tome is probably more valuable intact.

And collectors hold Audobon in such reverence that the notion of ripping apart a perfect copy would be akin to sacrilege.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Emergence - Book Review

Emergence - Labelled Autistic: A True Story
By Temple Grandin
Arena Press 1986
Reissued by Warner Books, 1996 & 2005
Temple Grandin's Official Website

Everyone knows what Autism is, right?

Autism is that dreaded Neurological condition that we hope our kids don't get. And if they do - well you know your family is in for a constant struggle for the next 20 years.

One of the first things you learn if your child should ever be diagnosed as Austistic is that the child will regress from whatever they had learned at 18 months, and that they will never improve. Well, the good news is that the "experts" have now been proven well and truely WRONG.

In 1950 Temple Grandin was diagnosed as Autistic. She was almost 4 years old and had not spoken at all. Her mother was told to put Temple in an institution. She was told that Temple would never amount to anything so why waste money and time on her.

Like all autistic children, Temple had a fear of being touched and hugged by her parents and her family. She refused to be touched, because her nerves were so sensitive. At the same time, Temple wanted to be touched. She needed to be touched. But the touches that humans gave her were not the right kinds of touch.

So Temple invented and built a machine that would give her the touch that her body craved. She called it a Squeeze machine. It worked along similar lines to cattle chutes where cows are held by a chute for vaccinations and dipping.

Temple craved steady pressure all along her body - something that human arms and legs cannot give. She had to start over several times, in designing and making this machine, because the college where she was studying, assumed the squeeze machine was a bad thing. The faculty's thinking implied that the machine was giving her orgasms. Masturbation in the 1960s and 1970s was considered a very bad thing to do. Temple eventually graduated from college with a degree in Psychology, and a Masters in Animal Science in the 1960s. She later went on to do a PhD in Animal Science in the 1980s. 

Temple is now a Livestock expert. She designs cattle chutes for cattle in feedlots, abbatoirs (slaughterhouses) and on the ranches and farms. Why does she do this? Because she empathises with cows as they are slaughtered. Stressed and bruised meat is NOT good for human consumption. So the aim is to keep the cow happy (de-stressed) right up to the moment of death.

Last year (2009) a  TV movie was made about Temple's life. Called simply Temple Grandin, it starred Claire Danes as Temple. This movie won 7 Emmy awards in August 2010.
Best Made-for-Television Movie,
Best Director, Mick Jackson
Best Lead Actress, Claire Danes
Best Supporting Actress, Julia Ormond
Best Supporting Actor, David Strathairn
Best Music Composition, 
Best Camera Editing

This is Claire Danes (left) and Temple Grandin (right) at the Emmy Awards in August 2010.

If you really want to have some idea of what it is like to be Autistic, then I suggest you watch this movie. It is a stunning movie. It is funny in places, and it is sad too. But above all, it brings hope to all autistic children and their familes that autism can be conquered - even if it cannot be cured.

Temple has written several books. I hope to read the next volume in her life story soon. It's called Thinking in Pictures.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Golden Rule and it's Source

Taking about the Golden Rule - it is a Universal idea - NOT JUST a Christian idea.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hanging by the Thread - Book Review

Hanging by the Thread
by Donald B Anderson
Stonehaven Publishing May 2010
Book Website

Book Blurb
For ten years, a secret society has risen to power. They have infiltrated every facet of the federal government. They are powerful. They have extraordinary access to public funds. They have incredible technologies. And freedom is their nemesis. They have sought to destroy economic freedom, amass power to the federal government, and create mass dependency on the government.

They call themselves THE THREAD.

And now, they are poised to destroy the Constitution and rise to power.

But, on the eve of their burst into power, a copy of their plan falls into the hands of a young man in the Utah State Capitol building. A small group forms and comes to understand the plan of The Thread. And now, the race is on. Time is short and the group must struggle to preserve their lives, their nation, and freedom itself.

The Lectures
In the years leading up to the events in the story, The Thread has infiltrated every facet of the federal government. To prepare the nation for their rise to full power, The Thread has sought to destroy Economic Freedom and create mass dependency on the federal government.

One of the characters in the story, Dr. Harold Isaacson, is an Economics professor at BYU. In the Thread Lectures, Dr. Isaacson delivers a series of 10 lectures four months after the story's resolution. In these lectures, the professor analyzes the economics behind The Thread's efforts to destroy Economic Freedom and topple America.

These lectures provide insights and principles that will leave the reader with a better understanding of the principles of freedom and a greater ability to interpret the times in which we live. This content is timely and always will be.

This story reflects the last 9 years - since 9/11 - not so much in the terrorist actions of the group, but in the Political and Economic action and in their stealth and infiltration of the US Government and government agencies.

The lectures explain how laws that have been passed in the last 9 years affect economic action. These lectures are not long - no more than 5 pages each - and they are very informative and easy for lay people to read and understand.

Lecture titles are as follows.
1 Introduction to Economic Freedom
2 Freedom versus Equality
3 Natural Rights
4 Thread Objective - Neutralize raditional Institutions
5 Thread Objective - Centralise Power
6 Free Trade and Protectionism
7 Focused Benefits and Generalized Costs
8 Licensing and Registration
9 Income Mobility and Unions
10 Price Controls

Economic Freedom, in a nutshell, is the condition where government uses power and force solely to enable people to live the Golden Rule. When government fails to protect the Golden Rule, oe uses force to enable people to break the Golden Rule, economic freedom is perverted, abused or destroyed.

The Golden Rule is at the heart of Economic Freedom.

The Golden Rule is - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you - or in a modern translation - Treat others as you want them to treat you.

One more note - this story is set in Salt Lake City, Utah which is the home state of the Mormom Church.  So there are a few mentions of God and Satan in both novel and in the lectures. Fortunately (as far as I can tell) there is NO Mormon doctrine mentioned at all. The entire story takes place over one 36 hour period - except for the last chapter which happens 2 weeks later. And the lectures which are presented some 4 months after the main story events.

Overall I found this book to be very interesting and I really enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the lectures at the end which helped me to understand how the actions of the USA since 9/11, have affected the global economy and created the world wide recession we are currently living in.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'll Scream Later - Book Review

I'll Scream Later
By Marlee Matlin
Handjive Productions 2009
Author's Website

Born and raised in Morton Grove, Illinois, Marlee started acting at the age of seven in the role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" at a children's theatre company in Chicago. After several years of performing on stage throughout Chicago and the midwest, Marlee was discovered in a Chicago stage production of Mark Medoff's Tony Award-winning play, "Children of a Lesser God." Following an extensive international search for the lead role, the producers of the film version selected her to star opposite William Hurt.

She went on to star in several movies and TV series and guest star in numerous other Tv series as well. One of them was as the Librarian in the children's program, Blue's Clues.

For seven seasons, Marlee starred opposite Martin Sheen, Jimmy Smits and Bradley Whitford as pollster, Joey Lucas, on NBC's Emmy Award winning series, "The West Wing."

In 2007, Marlee joined the cast of Showtime's cutting edge drama "The L Word" starring opposite Jennifer Beals. She returned for a third season on "The L Word" in 2009.

Marlee currrently serves as a national celebrity spokesperson for The American Red Cross, encouraging Americans to donate blood. She has also worked on behalf of closed captioning and in 1992 was instrumental in getting Congress to pass federal legislation requiring all televisions manufactured in the United States be equipped with closed captioning technology. She also serves on the boards of a number of charitable organizations including Easter Seals, The Children Affected By Aids Foundation, as well as those charities which primarily benefit children.

Book Review
In I'll Scream Later, actress Marlee Matlin takes readers on the frank and touching journey of her life, from the frightening loss of her hearing at eighteen months old to the highs and lows of Hollywood, her battles with addiction, and the unexpected challenges of being thrust into the spotlight as an emissary for the deaf community. She speaks candidly for the first time about the troubles of her youth, the passionate and tumultuous two-year relationship with Oscar winner William Hurt that dovetailed with a stint in rehab, and her subsequent romances with heartthrobs like Rob Lowe, Richard Dean Anderson, and David E. Kelley.

Though she became famous at the age of twenty-one, Marlee struggled all her life to connect with people, fighting against anyone who tried to hold her back. Her own mother often hid behind their communication barrier, and Marlee turned to drugs before she even started high school. However, she found in acting...with the encouragement of her mentor, Henry Winkler...a discipline, a drive, and a talent for understanding the human condition that belied her age and her inability to hear. By the time Hollywood embraced her, she had almost no formal training, a fact that caused many other deaf actors to give her the cold shoulder, even as she was looked upon as a spokesperson for their community.

Now, with uncompromising honesty and humor, Marlee shares the story of her enduring tale that is an unforgettable lesson in following your dreams.

MY review
This was an excellent Memoir. How a deaf girl makes it in Hollywood of all places. Marlee was discovered at the age of 20 on stage in Chicago playing Sarah in the play Children of a lesser God. She was tapped to play the same role in the movie in 1981. She won an Oscar for her moving performance.

During and after the movie, Marlee was living with her co-star William Hurt. They were both doing drugs (cocaine) and he was abusing her.  William was nominated for an Oscar for Children of a Lesser God but he did not win. Marlee did. That would make any man jealous.

Marlee can speak, and she signs, and I believe she reads lips too although she doesnt seem to make this clear. I can read lips and speak of course. But I have never learnt to sign, something I plan to rectify soon. For those of you who dont know me in person, I am "hard of hearing". I was born with a hearing loss although it was not discovered until I was 4 years old. 

Marlee makes her home in the greater Los Angeles area. She and her husband, law enforcement officer (LAPD) Kevin Grandalski welcomed their first child, Sarah, in 1996, their second child, Brandon, in 2000 and their third child, Tyler, in July, 2002. Marlee and Kevin welcomed their fourth child, Isabelle in December, 2003.

The title of this memoir - I'll Scream Later - comes from a comment Marlee made when she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar back in 1982.

This is an excellent memoir and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts - Book Review

Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts - True adventures of a female P.I.
By Cici McNair
Hachette Books Group 2009

This is the autobiography of Clarissa McNair of Mississippi, a moneyed family. She had no idea what she wanted to do when she left college.So after she graduated, Cici moved to California trying to break into acting. When that failed, she bummed around Europe and Asia for several years, worked for the Vatican radio, worked for the CBC in Toronto and even got married to a Canadian. She was divorced within a year. By 1994 Cici was back in New York City trying to become a private investigator. She liked the idea of looking for missing persons.

In the PI business people who search for missing persons are called Skip Tracers. They are tracing the movements of people who skip town. I also considered doing this job, until I realised that you have to cold call friends and neighbours of the missing person and spew out a whole lot of lies in a convincing manner to get the friend/neighbour to give you some information. I am not good at telling lies.

Eventually after calling all the PI's in New York begging for a job, most of them said NO and then told her  to NOT work for Vinny Parco - because he was poison. Cici ended up working for Vinny Parco. He was the only person to give her a chance. She had no experience, no references, no car and no apartment. But Cici was a natural at the job. Her sucess rate in locating missing persons was higher than most PI's.

Cici describes various different methods of locating the mark. She describes lies and stories she used, when on the telephone, some of these stories she had to make up off the top of her head.  She describes what it is like to be on a long stakeout. The information in this book is interesting but eventually Cici's narrative and the stories becomes repetitive and somewhat boring. You can only do so many stakeouts and searches in a variety of different ways.

Cici now owns her own detective agency in Philadelphia. It is called Green Star Investigations. 

I gave up reading by chapter 30 (out of a total of 43 chapters).

Spear of Destiny - Book Review

Spear of Destiny
by Daniel Easterman
Allison and Busby 2009

Book Blurb
The untimely and brutal death of an old man sparks a chain of events that will put his grandson in danger as he races across Europe to Libya, to solve one of the oldest mysteries in the world: the location of the tomb of Christ and the sword that pierced his body on the Cross. In 1942 Gerald Usherwood and his platoon discover a mysterious crypt and it becomes clear they've stumbled onto something extraordinary. Sixty years later, his grandson Ethan discovers his body, slumped over his desk, clutching a small, ancient relic. As Ethan begins piecing together the events of 60 years before guided by Gerald's diaries, he finds himself hurtling across Europe, just one step ahead of the killer who will stop at nothing to discover the final resting place of Jesus Christ - and the ultimate religious icon that could spearhead a violent campaign to revive the Nazi legacy.

My Review
We have probably all heard of the Spear of Destiny. This is the roman spear that was supposedly thrust into Jesus's side as he was on the cross 2000 years ago. This spear is said to have special powers. Anyone who holds the spear, will become powerful. Legend says that the spear was broken into 3 pieces and the pieces hidden around the world. Back then the world consisted of North Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

During World war 2 - Hitler had teams of scholars searching throughout Europe and Africa for esoteric items - items that were reputed to make the holder powerful. Items like the holy grail and the spear of destiny.

Also during world war 2, deep in the southern desert of Libya, a British army team found an oasis that was not marked on any map. It was called Ain Suleiman (the Well of Solomon). The people there spoke a mixture of Hebrew and Greek. The chiefs son was infected with tetanus and the boy was healed. That is the main reason the team were allowed to leave after promising to never mention the location of the oasis to anyone.

60 years later the British team leader is killed in a very ugly manner in his home in England. His grandson Ethan, is determined to find his grandfathers killer. Ethan's adopted cousin Sarah is kidnapped and he tracks her first to Germany and then to Transylvania in Romania. Sarah is repeatedly raped by men who are members of a secret Nazi organisation. These men have been promised the power of the spear to rule the world.

Ethan tracks these men to Romania where he is able to rescue Sarah. They are given the name of a monastery to take shelter in. The abbot of this monastery explains to Ethan and Sarah the full story of the 50 year search for these esoteric items.

From Romania the trail leads back to Libya. Ethan and Sarah must put a team together to travel into the Libyan desert to find the lost spear of destiny. If you start at Kufra - deep in the southern desert of Libya not far from the border with Egypt - and travel west for 3 days, you will eventually reach the oasis called Ain Suleiman. Along the way Sarah is seperated from her team and ends up with the Nazis team - the same men who raped her.

The Nazis get to Ain Suleiman first and kill most of the inhabitants including the chief. Sarah is able to help the women of the oasis to kill the Nazis. By the time Ethans team arrives, Sarah has discovered that the people of the oasis are the direct descendents of the children of Jesus amd Mary. Sarah is a biblical scholar and speaks Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The people of this oasis speak a misture of Hebrew and Greek. Ethan and his time choose to leave the oasis in peace to allow the community to recover from the deaths of the chief and other leaders. They promise to never mention the location of the oasis to anyone.

The story was interesting but formulaic. I would give it a 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Big bookstores can't get Giller-winning novel

Giller Winning novel in very short supply

TORONTO - Montreal's Johanna Skibsrud was the toast of the literary world Wednesday after nabbing the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, but the author's tiny Nova Scotia publisher couldn't say when her winning title would be available in one of the country's biggest bookstore chains.

"The Sentimentalists," Skibsrud's debut novel, is published by Gaspereau Press, which can only print about 1,000 copies a week. The company prides itself on hand-crafted books and has been steadfast in its refusal to outsource in order to meet demand.

"Our plan is still to produce the books here and to produce them at a sane rate that we can manage," publisher Andrew Steeves said from Gaspereau's headquarters in Kentville, N.S. "You have to hope for the goodwill and the patience of the booksellers and the readers. I think it's an interesting opportunity to slow the world down a hair and let people realize that good books don't go stale."

Skibsrud, 30, became the youngest Giller winner in the 17-year history of the prize when her name was called out at Tuesday's black-tie gala. She was emotional as she thanked her late father, who partly inspired her novel, about a daughter's quest to learn the truth about her father's life and his backstory in the Vietnam War.

A Giller win is like winning a literary lottery — particularly for an unknown author — and typically results in a boost in sales. But a downtown Chapters Indigo store did not have any copies of "The Sentimentalists" on Wednesday, even though it had received at least 10 inquiries about the book by mid-morning.

Steeves said he's filling the orders of independent bookstores first because they are his best customers. He couldn't say when Chapters Indigo would receive a shipment. He noted that people can download Skibsrud's book on e-readers if they are desperate to read it right away ("The Sentimentalists" was the third best-selling title on Kobobooks on Wednesday). Steeves, who co-founded Gaspereau 13 years ago, said the company's unique work is important to Canada's literary landscape.

"If you want a world that will only produce the kind of books Random House does then you know, you're going to get a pretty bland, McDonald's culture," he said, adding that Random House does "some great work. I don't really subscribe to the 'panic theory' of, if you don't have it right there, someone's going to buy something else. If people really want this book, if they really value the kind of ... cultural environment that can produce this kind of book then they will wait."

Skibsrud — who grew up in Pictou County, N.S. — admitted Tuesday night that she has, at times, wished that readers could get their hands on "The Sentimentalists" more quickly. Still, the author — who was scheduled to head to Turkey on Wednesday for a vacation — said she has faith in her publisher.

Gaspereau typically produces about 600 to 800 copies of a debut novel, Steeves said. He added that the company has almost completed a second print run of "The Sentimentalists," but would not give specific numbers.

Steeves noted that it was Gaspereau that paid attention to the novel in the first place. On some levels, he said, he really can't worry if Skibsrud is frustrated that her novel is in short supply. "My job is to be faithful to the values that we subscribe to here — to make good books, to do them well, to do them the best way we can and to stand up for and live out those principles," he said. "If we want to have a vibrant Canadian literary culture, you have to be able to foster not just a broad range of authors, but a broad range of publishers and ways of publishing."

Scotiabank Giller Prize 2010

TORONTO - Thirty-year-old Montreal author Johanna Skibsrud became the youngest recipient of the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize on Tuesday night, but readers may have trouble finding her winning novel, "The Sentimentalists."

That's because her Nova Scotia-based publishing house, Gaspereau Press, makes its hand-crafted books locally and can only print about 1,000 copies of "The Sentimentalists" a week. Some bookstores across the country have been unable to get the title since the Giller short list came out Oct. 5.

But Skibsrud was optimistic about the situation upon winning the prize, the most lucrative literary honour in Canada.

"I think that (the publishers) had said that they would cross that bridge when they come to it, so here's the bridge!" she said cheerfully backstage after an acceptance speech in which she thanked Gaspereau for believing in her.

"There definitely have been times that I've wished that it was out there in more readers' hands but I know that Gaspereau has been working very, very hard to get them there and they are in the independent bookstores now and they are, or should be, in Chapters again soon. So yeah, I have faith in them."

"The Sentimentalists" chronicles a daughter's quest to learn the truth about her dying father's life and his backstory in the Vietnam War. Skibsrud — who grew up in Pictou County, N.S. — was tearful in her acceptance speech as she thanked the person who inspired the Vietnam stories in the book.

"To my late father, Olaf, for sharing his stories with me ... for all of his love and support as well, and for being here tonight, because I know he is," she said, looking radiant in a black, long, form-fitting Oscar de la Renta dress and a pearl necklace. I just can't even imagine how proud he would have been."

She said she'll use the prize money to pay off her student loans and travel from Moscow to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian railway.

"The Sentimentalists" was presented by singer Anne Murray at the Giller gala, which was hosted by CTV personality Seamus O'Regan and drew in nearly 500 members of the publishing, media and arts communities.

It was up against:
"This Cake is for the Party" by Toronto's Sarah Selecky;
"Light Lifting" by Alexander MacLeod of Dartmouth, N.S.;
"The Matter With Morris" by Winnipeg's David Bergen; and
"Annabel" by Montreal-based Kathleen Winter.

Winter's novel is also shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award. That prize will be handed out next week.

This year's jury — CBC broadcaster Michael Enright, American author Claire Messud and British writer Ali Smith — arrived at the short list after reading 98 books submitted by 38 publishing houses. Giller runners up will each receive $5,000.

Businessman Jack Rabinovitch established the prize in 1994 in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller. Since then, it has become one of the country's most popular literary awards, with nominated books receiving a considerable boost in sales. It's also a rare chance for the shortlisted writers — who so often toil in solitude — to enjoy a moment in a glamorous spotlight.

At Tuesday's black-tie bash, the nominated writers rubbed shoulders with luminaries including filmmaker Atom Egoyan, dancer Veronica Tennant, author Margaret Atwood, politician Bob Rae and actor Gordon Pinsent. Pinsent voiced the ceremony's author profiles and filmmaker Bruce McDonald produced and directed the broadcast's opening short film, which paid tribute to the prize. Other presenters included Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy and journalist Barbara Amiel Black, wife of Conrad Black.

Dinner included sweet chili ahi tuna tartar with avocado and cilantro, and grand cru torte with pistachio and vanilla anglaise. Selecky, who has admitted she crashed the Giller a couple of years back, was soaking in the night. "It's really nice to have an invitation this time," said the 36-year-old author. She was excited to meet Atwood, one of her idols.

"There's a story in the book that I wrote particularly wondering what she would think of it and I just never thought that she would read it or have an opportunity to read it let alone sit behind me at this dinner," said Selecky. "So it's really special."

While past winners have included high-profile authors including Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro and M.G. Vassanji, this year's list — with the exception of Bergen, who won the Giller in 2005 — was made up of newcomers.

Skibsrud says she relished bonding with her fellow finalists, many of whom — like herself — "haven't received a lot of attention" in their careers. "I feel that this is a really exciting time in Canadian literature," she said, noting she was in "utter shock" when her name was announced as the winner.

McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg says it was "caught off guard" by the number of new writers on this year's short list. "Generally there are small presses involved and some rising but unknown authors, but they don't tend to be the majority of the list," said Chris Hall, senior inventory manager at the store.

MacLeod — the son of acclaimed author Alistair MacLeod — said he and his fellow finalists were all "feeling good for each other" ahead of the show. "Many of us are outsiders to the ... business side of it, and I think that's been a great insulator for us," said the English professor at Halifax's St. Mary's University, which was planning to hold a party for him Tuesday night.

The Giller gala was broadcast live on Bravo! and, and will air on CTV on Wednesday. (Tonight)


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Refuse to Choose - the problem with Polymaths

Refuse to Choose
By Barbara Sher
Rodale Books  2007

Do you know what a Polymath is? A polymath is the new name for what we used to call a Renaissance Man. A man who knew a lot about a lot of things. Names like Leonardo da Vinci spring to mind.I mean lets face it - women were never considered to be intelligent back then - even through they were.

I am 40 something years old and I still do not have a career. I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up. I am interested in lots of different things. I find it extremely difficult to have to choose just one area and be required to stick to that one area for the rest of my life.

Today I found the answer for what I am. I am a polymath. I am also a generalist. But todays economy (whether depressed or booming) prefers to train humans up to be specialists. I do not like being a specialist.

Today I found a book that describes me and my kind. It's called Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher. It has an interesting subtitle Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams.

I also found a review of this book. I haven't read this book yet - but I am putting it on reserve at my library so I can read it ASAP.  Here are some excerpts of this review that I totally agree with. I hope to find a general career I can start working towards. The following comments are some excerpts from the review.

It’s about the types of people Sher calls “scanners” (as opposed to “divers”). People who would rather survey the whole horizon than go diving as deep as they can in one spot. She calls them scanners, I call them polymaths, but they’re very similar.

The main thing I got out of this book was that it’s OK to be a scanner, it’s just how we’re wired and not something we should try to suppress, and in fact it’s a good thing. Which I already knew, of course, but it was nice to see a recognized life coach saying so and talking about her clients who have successfully pursued their diverse interests.

One example of how she shows that scanners are OK: the false stigma of quitting. Many scanners get very frustrated with themselves for not being able to finish what they set out to do. Barbara explains why this is not a sign of failure, but a sign of having goals that are achieved before a project appears to be done. When a bee gets nectar from a flower and then moves on to the next one, do you call it a quitter for not sticking around

And some comments from the Amazon page are as follows - comments that again, I totally agree with.

This is a really good book. You need to read it if you are someone who has so many interests you can't seem to get anything done. If everyone you know says you just never grew up and settled down then you are probably a Scanner. Do you have so many interests the books and papers pile up? Do you constantly find things that interest you and you never seem to be able to finish them? You are almost certainly a Scanner, and you need to hear what Barbara Sher has to say. It can make a big difference.

What I have ALWAYS been is confused. I am not stupid--actually more on the intellectual side. I have varied interests in the Pre-Raphaelites, travel,hockey, making mosaics, growing a garden, politics, writing, being healthy, quirky little English movies etc etc. And instead of picking one career..I have found myself in menial jobs--retail, shelving books at a library, working reservations for a major airline, temp jobs with insurance companies etc etc. And I am still barely over minimum wage, intellegent and having friends wonder what is wrong with me--or asking if I had ADD.
For years, I beat myself up because I hopped from job to job because as soon as I mastered a task, I got bored. Every time I fell in love with a new hobby, I tried to make it a career, only to feel boxed in as soon as it began to take off. I thought I was afraid of success or lazy or undisciplined, but none of that was true. Barbara Sher taught me that I have a beautiful mind--like Leonardo da Vinci. Well, maybe not that good, but I have a hungry mind that needs stimulation. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
Because I am interested in so many things, this book naturally grabbed my attention. Barbara understands that "scanners" are not just losers or non-commital type but are people wired differently than others. They have great abilities that decades ago would have made them someone like Edison or DaVinci.

These comments come from other people who are just like me.  They describe me (Bibliohistoria) and my life PERFECTLY. I am not alone.

My interests are reasonably wide and somewhat varied. They include - reading, genealogy, politics, science, gymnastics (but no other sports), archaeology, science fiction, paleography, history, geography, bibliography, computers, apologetics, cartography, archives, records management, library science, and any other area of interest you can find mentioned in this blog.  
In terms of a career so far, I have recently completed a Diploma in Business Administration. I graduated last year. I have no other educational qualifications. I do make a lot of plans but they never seem to come to pass. I have been out of school for over 25 years. This diploma is quite generalized (which is why I chose it) and not specialised. I did think about doing either a paralegal course or a medical records management course, but did not want to become too specialised. Now my general diploma is a hindrance in obtaining a job as I dont have anything "special'.
When I finally get to read this book, I will post a review and my understanding of what I can do to hopefully salvage the next 20 years of my working life.

One final comment  (Source - Hunter Nuttal)

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

I’ve always loved that quote, but I don’t think he took it quite far enough. Let’s try again.

“A human being should be able to make six figures online, write an enthralling novel, design a relational database, mix a perfect margarita, calculate a stock’s annualized return, juggle five balls in the lotus position, nail every shift point in a drag race, throw a murderous left hook, solve Rubik’s Cube while discussing the latest tax laws, do heavy squats without a back brace, stand with their legs straight and touch their palms to the floor, identify a stranger’s Myers-Briggs type, separate fact from fiction in the law of attraction, make a baby feel safe, make a child laugh, make an elderly person feel respected, be one of the guys, and give a girl multiple orgasms. Specialization is for insects."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lost Empire - Book Review

Lost Empire
by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood
G P Putnam and Sons, 2010

I haven't read the first book in this new series from Clive Cussler, the one called Spartan Gold. It's a good thing I haven't. This novel is the second book in the Fargo series starring a treasure hunting couple - Sam and Remi Fargo. This book was not the usual fun. It was very busy and hard to read. Too many things were happening , too many details and at time it was even boring. It is not connected to NUMA - no names from the Numa books or any of Cusslers other books show up at all. No Bell. no Cabrillo. No Austin and certainly no Pitt.

While the premise was good, the story could have been a lot better.

For starters, there were no real descriptions or stories of Sam and Remi Fargo as a couple so it was hard to imagine them. I would love to know how and why a woman was given a name like Remi. I have to assumne that they don't have children as none were mentioned. There were no personal descriptions of them as humans. While there is a brief mention of their backgrounds and how they got into treasure hunting, this description was dry and void of any personal anecdotes.

The story starts out with Sam and Remi scuba diving around Zanzibar, in Tanzania, East Africa. They find a ships bell buried in a sand bar. The bell comes from a ship called the Ophelia. When the Fargos try to bring this bell up to the surface, the enemy comes out, threatening them, trashing their boat and trying to kill them. How could this have happened so fast? This enemy are Mexican. So the next questions is why are the Mexicans so interested in a bell found off the coast of Africa? And why are they willing to kill to cover up whatever is found? 

Underneath the name Ophelia on the bell, are letters that indicate the bell also comes from another ship. These letters spell out the name Shenandoah - a confederate ship that did a lot of work during the civil war destroying and sinking yankee (northern states) shipping. This ship and its activities was traced from the 1860s up the 1880s and then it disappeared. The Fargo's found it. It was eventually found in Indonesia where it was perfectly preserved (just like the Pompeii ruins) by the ashes from the Krakatoa volcano explosion in 1883.

In the background is the Fargos researcher - doing exactly the kind of job that I would love to do. The researcher's name is Selma (I hope she was named after Selma Ruete - the last princess of Zanzibar) who lives back in La Jolla, California and who is brilliant at finding out all the answers.

I found the relentess Mexicans to be a distraction. They were always there at every turn and every find that the Fargo's made. Always trying to kill the Fargos. Their presence does not always make sense.

The Mexicans had been looking for something for 10 years. The Fargos found it in just a few weeks. It turns out that the current President of Mexico (Garza) is the leader of the country's Aztec party and he got into power by bringing back the memory and power of the Aztecs (conveniently forgetting the bloodthirsty sacrifices that they made) as a warrior race of people capable of running their own country once again.

Garza had discovered a secret about the Aztecs. And if the people of Mexico knew this secret, he would lose his power and his job as president.

The Fargos trace the Aztecs from Zanzibar to Madagascar to Indonesia. There they discover that the Aztecs did NOT originate in Mexico. Some 1500 years ago they travelled from Indonesia, via Madagascar (or Malagasy as it used to be called) to Mexico where they settled around 500 CE.

When this news is released to the press as a rumour, Garza's party is very quickly overtuned and Garza himself committs suicide.

As I said, the story idea was very good one. But the execution of the story was done in a rushed and hurried manner. Too many details and not particularly realistic.

There is one more thing I need to mention. The Olmec people of Mexico. The people whose statues look like Africans. Well since the Africans travelled from Africa to MesoAmerica, it stands to reason that Aztecs may have done so as well. Also if Heyerdahl can prove that the Inca traveled across the Pacific in small reed boats then the early Indonesians and early African could easily have travelled across the Atlantic Ocean as well.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An important Anniversary for me today

This is just a quck note to remind myself that when I was younger I didn't want to be married. I was not in any hurry to meet a guy. But I did meet a fellow. Online of all places. We got married 10 years ago today.

Today is my 10th (yes TENTH) wedding anniversary and that we are still married and we are still together. We have one son - who's pictures are scattered through this blog. Neither my husbands name nor my sons names are mentioned in this blog for privacy reasons.

Losing it - Book Review

Losing it - And Getting My Life Back, One Pound at a Time
by Valerie Bertinelli
Free Press (Simon & Schuster) 2008

Valerie Bertinelli has several claims to fame.
1 - she was acting on a hit TV comedy show at the age of just 16  (One Day at a Time)
2 - she married one of the founding members of the famous Van Halen rock group - one of the more famous heavy metal music bands of the 1980s
3 - her son (Wolfgang Van Halen) now plays with his father for Van Halen some 25 years later
4 - while her marriage was falling apart, Valerie comforted herself with eating. Now she has lost weight in public and on TV. She does this while working as a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.

There are also a number of other nuggets of information that I never knew.

I was never a heavy metal music fan although I loved listeing to the music of the 1980s. I preferred pop, disco and rock music. While I know what and who Van Halen and Bon Jovi were, I was never into their music so I never bothered to read up on any of their group members or their history.

Did you know that Edward Van Halen (Eddie) was not born in the USA? His mother was from Indonesia and his father was Dutch. Eddie was born in the Netherlands. Remember Indonesia used to be called the Dutch East Indies. The Van Halens immigrated to the USA in the early 1960s.

Eddie unfortunately could not cope with the pressures of fame and so he began drinking and doing drugs - marijuana and cocaine. While Valerie also experimented with drugs, she never went further than marijuana. Her drug of comfort was food. Slowly the weight piled on. The the comments began. Mostly they were small things where she looked great but her ass could be a bit smaller.

Valeries sitcom TV show One Day at a Time was a hit. I remember that I loved watching it. Valeries's TV sister was played by MacKenzie Phillips - daughter of John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas. Mackenzie also struggled with drug addictions. Mackenzie was eventually fired from the show.

If you want to know what life is really like, backstage of a rock concert and what it is really like to travel on the road with a music band, then you have to read this book.

I really enjoyed it.

Valerie has a new biography out now - a follow up to Losing It. Her new book is called Finding It and was published in October 2009.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Watch - Book Review

by Robert J Sawyer
Viking (Penguin) Books 2010
Trilogy website
Author's website

This is the second book in the WWW trilogy. I reviewed the first book last year.

This book continues the story of the new conciousness that has arisen on the world wide web,

Caitlyn Decter is no longer blind. Well she still is blind in her right eye, but her left eye has a retinal implant and she can now see in 2 different ways. In realtime - in which she sees the world like you and me. And in cyberspace - where she sees the web as points of lights with the links as lines.

This cyber consiousness makes contact with Caitlyn. The conciousness is given a name - Webmind. And it begins to learn. It reads everything on Wikipedia and in Project Gutenberg. It craves more knowledge.

To speak to Caitlyn, Webmind starts off by sending its answers to her questions online though the Instant Messaging system.  It becomes "bored" with Caitlyns slow responses so while Webmind is trying to chat to Caitlyn, it also decides to learn more by linking to other websites. So far it has only been able to link to one website at atime, even if this does happen in the space of microseconds. Webmind tries over and over again and eventually is able to make two links simultaneously - so he continues to do so. Eventually this causes Webmind to "hang up" or freeze. Caitlyn has to work hard to unjam Webmind. This is the event that brings Webmind to the attention of the government.

On the 20th floor of an office tower in Alexandria, Virginia, there is a new US government agency - an offshoot of the NSA. It is called WATCH, which means Web Activity Threat Containment Headquarters.

When Webmind gets jammed, WATCH becomes very curious about this person online with no IP address and who freezes up online. So they begin by watching and reading everything between Webmind and Caitlyn. They give this unknown online threat a name - Exponential.

At Webmind's insistence, the Japanese scientist - Kuroda - adds more software to Caitlyn's retinal implant and eventually Webmind can see anything that Caitlyn can see. That software includes watching and understanding movies and visual moving pictures (eg anything on TV, youtube or webcams).

Caitlyn is now having to relearn the names of things that she has only ever touched up until now. She must also relearn the colours by linking the names to the actual colours. Caitlyn also learns to read the latin alphabet but she prefers to read braille with her eye (rather than her fingers) as she knows that alphabet best. Caitlyn can talk to Webmind out loud. Webmind can now contact and respond to Caitlyn by sending braille to Caitlyn's retinal inplant.

Halfway through this story a girl in Australia sits in front of a webcam and slashes her wrist. She does so at the urging of others who tell her she is a coward if she does not do it. A few lone voices tell her not to but she refuses to listen. Webmind watches this without understanding. This suicide does make the news.

Webmind tells Caitlyn that he (Webmind calls himself a he, so as to not be called it) watched this and did nothing because he did not know he should have done anything. Caitlyn explains that he should have attempted to communicate with the girl and encourage her to not kill herself. If this happens again, he is do whatever he can to not allow that person to kill themself.

Caitlyn says he shoud do things to make people happy, but only if more than one person is made happy by that event. Do not so whatever you are asked if only that person asking will benefit. That is called being selfish.

Eventually WATCH decides that this Exponential is becoming too much of a threat. in reality - it is an unknown and unknowns must be neutralised. The decision is made at the highest levels to neutralise this threat. So WATCH has agents from the Canadian SIS service sent to Waterloo (in Ontario) to speak to both Caitlyn and Malcolm Decter (Caitlyn's father). They wish to know more about this Webmind and they specifically want to know its source. On which server does it reside?

These agents threaten to void (cancel) Malcolms Decters work permit if they do not tell the agents where Webmind lives and on which servers it resides. Since Webmind lives in cyberspace, he has no hardware and resides on no server.

The Decter family understand that the actions of the agents means that the government wishes to shut Webmind down. The best way to prevent something from being permanently hidden is to make it public. So Webmind needs to become public. What would be the best way to do that?

The answer is SPAM

Webmind removes all the spam emails sent out to some 2 billion email addresses daily. So everyone wakes up one day to just their own daily mail addressed to them that is NOT a spam email. Webmind sends a letter to each of these 2 billion email addresses explaining who he is, what he has done and why.

People respond by asking Webmind to do other things. Webmind deals with all requests and only does whatever is asked of more than just the asker will be made happy. The most common way for this to occurr is when people ask to find missing friends and relatives. Where adopted children and adults ask Webmind to find their mothers and children. Webmind does so but he contacts the mothers and the children first and asks for their permission.

70% of responses are agreeable to being reunited with their friends, relatives and family members who were adopted out

WATCH decides to delete mutant packages at one switching node. Soon 27% of packages are being deleted and this is seriously eroding Webmind's ability to function. Webmind sends a message to Caitlyn. Help I am under attack.

Caitlyn and Webmind together respond by sending all the SPAM that Webmind cleaned up - more than 20 billion SPAM messages - to that one specific switching node - a denial of service attack. It works, as AT and T threatens to take that node offline which will shut down a good portion of the internet. WATCH is forced to abort its attempt to neutralise Webmind.

Caitlyn then asks the question. The government was deleting packages. How did the government know that Webmind was made up of packages?

It turns out that Caitlyn's new boyfriend - a classmate named Matthew who is also a maths geek - had done a google search on various terms after he was told about Webmind and asked to keep it a secret. He searched terms like cellular automata, Conway's Game of Life, cellular automata conciouness, packets, time to live, hop counters.

Since everyone connected with Caitlyn is being watched, (including her class mates at school) his searches were picked up by WATCH and analysed.

In cyberspace, internet activity is routinely sent around the network (the world wide web) in packets. These packets for the most part arrives at the destination safely but some do go missing. This just means that some information never gets to where it is supposed to be and the lack of information shows up as blanks on the receivers screen.

Webmind is made up of these missing and mutant packages.

This was an excellent book and while I did not stay up until 2 am reading it, like I did for the first book, (I am still reading online fan fiction as well), I still enjoyed this book very much. I cannot wait for the third part of this trilogy (called WONDER) to be released next year.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Lady Queen - Book Review

The Lady Queen
The Notorious Reign of Joanna I - Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily
by Nancy Goldstone
Walker Publishing 2009
Joanna of Naples - Wikipedia
Genealogies of Italian nobility - scroll down to the bottom for Naples

Called Joanna in English - Giovanna in Italian - Joanna was the queen of Naples & Sicily and the Countess of Provence (in France) in the 1300s. Since this was during the time of the Anti-Popes (1305 - 1377), with the papacy based at Avignon in Provence, Joanna was ruler of the popes for several years. This afforded her excellent protection and was probably the major reason why she was able to rule for so long, at a time when men expected to be the rulers.

Joanna's father was Charles of Calabria, and her mother was Marie of Valois. These were minor players in the royal stakes. Marie's grandfather was King Philippe III of France. Philippe's parents were King Louis IX of France (later Saint Louis) and Marguerite of Provence.

Joanna inherited the throne of Naples from her grandfather - Robert the Wise. Joanna was the first women to rule a country in her own right - but she was still fought over by the kings of Europe because Naples was a major prize.

Joanna was married 4 times - the first time at age 6 to her cousin Andrew (Endre) of Hungary. Andrew was immature, given to extravagance, and mercilessly egged on by his parents to insist on having equal rights with Joanna in ruling Naples. Joanna did not want this at all. In fact she had no intentions of sharing her power with anyone. And eventually, Andrew would be murdered in a spectacular fashion by some Neapolitan aristocrats. The fallout from this would be serious for Joanna, barely twenty years of age, and facing immense odds from forces inside and outside of her kingdom.

And in the years of her reign, they would be many. Her first set of in-laws, the Hungarians, would ruthlessly persecute her, insisting that it was she who arranged for Andrew's murder, if not actually participating in it. There was her sister, Maria, whose husband Charles was made Count of Durazzo (a city on what is now Albania). Charles and Maria constantly stirred up trouble and looked to replace Joanna as Queen.

There were also troubles that no one could have predicted, most devastating being the Black Death that came through Naples on a regular basis. This depopulation not only wrecked a vibrant economy, it also left the country open to invasion. Warfare was something that Joanna would know on a regular basis, and more often than not she chose her next three husbands as much for their military prowess as for their ability to get her with an heir.

Over 4 marrriages, Joanna gave birth to 3 children - but none of them survived to adulthood. They all died as children - her daughter Catherine died at age 15.

Joanna was eventually assassinated on 12 May 1382 by her sister's husband, Charles of Durazzo. Joan was smothered with pillows, in revenge for the method of Duke Andrew's assassination. The kingdom of Naples was left to decades of recurring succession wars.

Giovanni Boccaccio wrote the Decameron - a series of stories that take place during the Black death plague - during this time. Boccaccio even lived in Naples for a while, as well.

The ghost of Andrew, her first husband and his death would always haunt Joanna, and she would go down in history as a woman who was deceitful, lustful, depraved and murderous. This is a myth that the author, Nancy Goldstone, carefully picks apart in her history.

This book was relatively easy to read although some parts of the papal politics became repetitive and boring. Joanna herself was never boring.


I realise this is not book related but my home country of New Zealand was hit by an earthquake 2 days ago (Friday 3rd September - EDT). In NZ it was 0430 on Saturday 4th September. The earthquake rattled Christchurch - the second largest city - and measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. A large number of buildings were damaged. Fortunately no lives were lost.

The last earthquake I lived through was 33 years ago - in 1977. It measured 7.7 (Ruchter scale) and I was in school at the time. I can still remember running out of the classroom and jumping down into the large dicth that ran alongside the buildings. This ditch was a good 3 feet across and I knew I was never going to be able to jump across it. So I jumped down into the ditch and then had to climb up the other side while the ground was shaking underneath me. Very scary.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Dangers of Summer

Well my son's summer has officially gotten worse.

He went off to a kids activity camp several days ago. The camp had planned activities like swimming, sports (tennis, soccer and softball) and the occasional video movie. On the second day of camp they went swimming at an OUTDOOR pool with no water bottles and no sunscreen. And the organisers never bothered to tell me to provide said items.

My son came home that day with very red skin - both on his chest and his back. He was obviously in a lot of pain. His shoulders developed blisters. One blister was particularly large (over 1 inch across at least) and there were quite a few small blisters as well. These indicate that he had second degree burns.

He could not tolerate the aloe vera I applied. So we had to use moisturiser instead. The next 3 nights were quite hard to get through as he couldnt sleep in any one position for very long.

Fortunately the large blister has now gone down and the peeling has begun. The pain has gone and he has slept right through for the last 2 nights.

From now on we will remember sun screen and T-shirts if he ever goes swimming again. Obviously my son has not returned to this particular camp and he wont be going back again either. I will be complaining to the director of the centre next week about the incompetancy of their staff.

I remember one summer long ago (25 years at least) when I fell asleep in the sun and was burnt all down my back and the backs of my legs. I was on a working holiday and I still had to continue working outdoors picking fruit, even while my back and legs blistered and peeled.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Lost Quilter

The Lost Quilter
by Jennifer Chiaverini
Simon and Schuster Books 2009
Author's website

This novel (The Lost Quilter) is actually a sequel to an earlier novel - called The Runaway Quilt (which I have not yet read) - in which the slave seamstress Joanna escaped from the plantation in Virginia, and managed to get as far as Elm Creek Farm in Pennsylvania. There she was taught how to read, how to quilt and gave birth to her son (Douglass Frederick a quadroon - Joanna herself is a mulatto - born of a slave mother and a white master - Douglas was also born of a white master so he is 1/4 African American)

The beginning of the Lost Quilter briefly tells the story of Joanna's journey from Virginia to Pennsylvania and of how she was betrayed by Anneke to the Slave catchers and dragged back to Virginia. The year is 1859 and the rest of the novel tells Joanna's story in detail of her life as a slave in Virginia and later in South Carolina (after she was sold) in the months before the Civil war began.

While Joanna is enslaved in South Carolina, she begins making a quilt that tells of her journey from Virginia to Pennsylvania so that she can remember how to get back to freedom.

Joanna marries Titus, another slave on the South Carolina Plantation, and gives birth to a daughter Ruthie. The family is split up when Joanna is taken to Charleston by her masters newly-married daughter. Titus and Ruthie are left behind on the plantation.

Some months later Ruthie is brought to Charleston to be with her mother. The reason given, is that her job will be as a personal playmate and child minder to the mistress's baby - if the child is a daughter. The mistress gives birth to a son Thomas so Ruthie is not put to work yet. She is barely 2 years old.

This was an excellent story to read - especially for its minute detail about the daily life of a slave. I must find the earlier novel The Runaway Quilt to read.

Fantastic Fiction review

Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson treasures an antique quilt called by three names -- Birds in the Air, after its pattern; the Runaway Quilt, after the woman who sewed it; and the Elm Creek Quilt, after the place to which its maker longed to return. That quilter was Joanna, a fugitive slave who traveled by the Underground Railroad to reach safe haven in 1859 at Elm Creek Farm in Pennsylvania.

Though Joanna's freedom proved short-lived -- she was forcibly returned by slave catchers to Josiah Chester's plantation in Virginia -- she left the Bergstrom family a most precious gift, her son. Hans and Anneke Bergstrom, along with maiden aunt Gerda, raised the boy as their own, and the secret of his identity died with their generation. Now it falls to Sylvia -- drawing upon Gerda's diary and Joanna's quilt -- to connect Joanna's past to present-day Elm Creek Manor.

Just as Joanna could not have foreseen that, generations later, her quilt would become the subject of so much speculation and wonder, Sylvia and her friends never could have imagined the events Joanna witnessed in her lifetime. Punished for her escape by being sold off to her master's brother in Edisto Island, South Carolina, Joanna grieves over the loss of her son and resolves to run again, to reunite with him someday in the free North. Farther south than she has ever been, she nevertheless finds allies, friends, and even love in the slave quarter of Oak Grove, a cotton plantation where her skill with needle and thread soon becomes highly prized.

Through hardship and deprivation, Joanna dreams of freedom and returning to Elm Creek Farm. Determined to remember each landmark on the route north, Joanna pieces a quilt of scraps left over from the household sewing, concealing clues within the meticulous stitches. Later, in service as a seamstress to the new bride of a Confederate officer, Joanna moves on to Charleston, where secrets she keeps will affect the fate of a nation, and her abilities and courage enable her to aid the country and the people she loves most.

The knowledge that scraps can be pieced and sewn into simple lines -- beautiful both in and of themselves and also for what they represent and what they can accomplish -- carries Joanna through dark days. Sustaining herself and her family through ingenuity and art during the Civil War and into Reconstruction, Joanna leaves behind a remarkable artistic legacy that, at last, allows Sylvia to discover the fate of the long-lost quilter.

Jennifer Chiaverini (the author) is pictured on the cover of the latest issue of Country Women magazine - August/September 2010 issue. The article has an interview, some photos and a new quilt pattern.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

50 Famous Books That Were Posthumously Published

50 Famous Books That Were Posthumously Published

I received an email about this article, and I beleive it warrants being mentioned

Even after an author dies, his or her work can live on to educate and inspire. Many famous authors have had their works published after their death, some with their blessing and others against their expressly stated wishes. For better or worse, here are fifty such works that have been published after the author has passed on.

50 Famous Books That Were Posthumously Published

Billions and Billions by Carl Sagan
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Will to Power by Friedrich Nietzsche
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
The Aeneid by Virgil
Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen by Wilfred Owen
The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Armageddon In Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Lighthouse at the End of the World by Jules Verne
Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf
Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man by Joseph Heller
Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy
The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain

And many more.....

Friday, July 30, 2010

Too hot to read and blog - and the dentist doesnt help

Yes I know - another whole month and I haven't posted anything new.

Sorry but the high humidity and high temperatures we are getting this summer are just so draining. I am too drained to read and too tired to concentrate on what I am reading. I am still reading books, but I am reading in small bursts, and not spending 6 hours reading all the way through one entire book like I usually do.

Temperatures have been constantly around 30 degrees celcius for most of this month. This last week they have dropped and temps have been around 27 & 28 degrees, definitely cooler.

I took my son to the dentist yesterday to get a couple of baby teeth removed. They were causing problems for the adult teeth trying to come up underneath. This meant he had to have a needle to numb his gums so the baby teeth could be pulled out. The dentist tried twice, but both times my son screamed and fought and wriggled and kept his mouth firmly shut and refused to allow the needle anywhere near his mouth.

The dentist had to give up because he couldnt do anything safely. So now my son and I will have to go to another dental office for him to have a general anasthetic so that all the work that needs to be done on his mouth can be done - thats 2 baby teeth pulled and a few fillings done as well.

My son has sensory issues and a very sensitive mouth. He even hates brushing his teeth. The dentist has previously mentioned that my son will need orthodontist work done on his teeth eventually. I have no idea how my son is going to cope with braces.

I hope that my reading and blogging will go back to normal when the weather turns cooler and my son goes back to school. Having him around 24/7 uses up a lot of energy as well.

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's been very quiet - I know....

And yes I know I havent posted for an entire month. I am reading but most of my reading is from fan fictions online - specifically from some of my favourite TV shows.

I am reading books as well. Have started several (I have at least 10 books in the TBR pile all with book marks in them) but so far havent finished any.

It's summer and my son is now home all day for the next 8 weeks. It's already very hot and humid. Temperatures inside the apartment reached a high of 31 degrees celcius today. Outside the temps are holding steady at 30 degrees. It is way too hot really, to do anything.

There are wading pools for the kids to swim in, but my son does not want to go swimming.

I will try and finish some of my books and get some reviews up by the end of July and hopefully more in August. I should also be looking for a job - but it's just too hot to do that.

Canada sure does have its extremes. Minus 30 degrees celcius in the winter and plus 30 degrees in the summer.