Showing posts from November, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The debt ceiling (From GQ magazine)


Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich: A review

You always know what you are going to get with a Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum novel. Stereotypical New Jersey mob references. A basically incompetent bounty hunter who couldn't catch a cold without major assistance from the big, strong, sexy men in her life. Kooky bail-jumpers who are generally of the comic book character variety and who will lead Stephanie and her "wingman" Lula a merry chase throughout the book. Stephanie's exploding cars or, as an alternative, stolen cars. Stephanie's crazy grandma who is hooked on "showings" at the local funeral home. Implied hot sex between Stephanie and two hot men - although not at the same time. Lula wearing skimpy outrageous clothes that barely cover her fat body and taking umbrage at anyone uses the word "fat" in her presence and constantly eating fried chicken and/or doughnuts and frequent references to her former career as a 'ho. Well, it's all there in this book, too. That being said -

Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen by Emily Brightwell: A review

The first of the Mrs. Jeffries Victorian mysteries series was published in 1997 and Emily Brightwell has churned one out every few months since then. Twenty-two of the books had preceded  Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen , (published 2007) the one that I just read, and there have been at least a half-dozen written since then! Yes, Ms. Brightwell is quite prolific. Not particularly original or interesting, but certainly prolific.  This is the first of the series that I have read, and, obviously, a lot of exposition and water have flowed under the bridge since the beginning. This entry somewhat supposes that the reader has a familiarity with the characters and is invested in their stories. I wasn't, and that made the book less enthralling than it might have been. It is the selection of my local Mystery Book Club for the month of December and that was my excuse for reading it.  Mrs. Jeffries is the housekeeper for Inspector Witherspoon of Scotland Yard. The unmarried inspect

The USNS Medgar Evers

I remember when Medgar Evers was murdered by a white supremacist in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. It was one of the saddest and most shameful days of many such days for that state during that period. His was also the first of a number of political assassinations of prominent champions of civil rights that occurred in the 1960s. The killings of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy were to follow and, for many, overshadowed Mr. Evers' death. That death, though, made an indelible impression on my youthful memory and I've never forgotten its impact. It was with a certain amount of wonder and real pride that I learned recently that the U.S. Navy had chosen to honor the memory of Mr. Evers by naming one of its newest ships after him .  The U.S. Navy Ship Medgar Evers was christened by his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, in San Diego on November 12 and will begin serving as a supply ship for the Navy in early 2012. Thus the Navy honors an Army veteran who served

The Ionian Sanction by Gary Corby: A review

The Ionian Sanction is the second in Gary Corby's very interesting ancient Greek mysteries series. Thorion, the proxenos (agent) for Ephesus (a Hellenic city in the Persian Empire) in fifth-century Athens, is dead. Very dead. His body is hanging from the ceiling of his office in his Athens home, where he is found by Pericles. Pericles had received a note from Thorion which seemed to say that he had committed treason against Athens. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems at the death scene.  Pericles calls in the investigator Nicolaos, whom he had used once before, to look into the death. Nico quickly discovers that Thorion did not die hanging from the ceiling. He was already dead when he was put there. Who killed him? Why? Did it have something to do with Thorion's supposed treason? He was the agent for Ephesus. Did the cause of the murder emanate from there?  Pericles is nothing if not decisive and he decides on the spot to have Nico to investigate fu

Addams Family Values: Wednesday Addams explains Thanksgiving

Have a happy, violence-free Thanksgiving.

What'll they cheer this time?

There's another of the endless Republican "presidential" debates tonight and I can hardly wait to see what the slavering audience will cheer this time. So far the Republican debate audiences have gone wild to show their support for: The death penalty to be applied without restraint. Letting uninsured people die of treatable diseases. An electrified border fence to kill people who try to cross it. Furthermore, they have booed: Gay soldiers who choose to serve their country, even those who are in war zones. Letting children (who may themselves be citizens) of undocumented workers pay in-state tuition at Texas universities. Given that history, it's really not all that hard to predict what the crowd might get hot and excited about this time. I would guess that if Newt Gingrich mentions his plan to do away with child labor laws and put six-year-olds to work as janitors, the Republican crowd would love it. And if he goes even further and mentions his long-ago


It's the name of a big, new novel by Stephen King and, for my generation of Americans, it is a sad date forever etched in our memories. 11/22/63 - the date that our president was murdered. Each year since, as the fatal date draws near, there is always a flurry of news stories about it and a flurry of commentary, both positive and negative, about the president who died that day in Dallas. This year is no exception. In addition to King's book, we have the release by Caroline Kennedy of her mother Jacqueline's taped 1964 reminiscences with Arthur Schlesinger and Chris Matthews' biography of the man, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero .  Also, the weekend just past brought us a long article in New York Magazine by Frank Rich entitled "What Killed JFK?" Rich's answer to the question he poses is that it was the pervasive hatred of the times which created the atmosphere where a deranged loser could believe that it would be acceptable for him to assassinate a presiden

The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby: A review

Just over a week ago I first learned of this series of mysteries set in the ancient Athens of Pericles and Socrates and I couldn't wait to get started reading them. I requested the book on my Kindle and got right down to business. I was not disappointed.  This is Gary Corby's first Athenian mystery but he shows a sureness and sophistication in the plotting, and his characters are well-drawn. Many of the characters here, like Pericles, Socrates, and the first murder victim Ephialtes, were real people, but Corby's main character Nicolaos is his own invention. He is a particularly appealing and empathetic character.  Nicolaos is the son of a sculptor who hopes that his older son will follow in his footsteps. Nico has other ideas, but in ancient Athens he is bound to do what his father commands. He only becomes a free adult when his father dies.  We meet Nico just as he has returned from his two years of service in Athens' army. He is twenty years old and has an idea that h

SPQR XIII: The Year of Confusion by John Maddox Roberts: A review

Decius Caecilius Metellus, now Senator Metellus and married to Caius Julius Caesar's favorite niece, Julia, is tapped by Caesar to oversee his current pet project of revising the calendar. It is 46 B.C.E. and the calendar currently in use in Rome has become hopelessly out of sync with the seasons of the year. Caesar, in his best, practical, problem-solving manner, has called in astronomers and astrologers from around the known world to put matters right by inventing a new calendar that will keep time accurately and not have to be revised every few years. Much as they love Caesar, his fellow Romans hate the idea of having their old calendar tinkered with, and so when the astronomers start dying in violent ways, there is no shortage of suspects in the murders.  Two of the astronomers are killed by means that even the best doctors in Rome cannot decipher. How will Decius ever figure it out and catch the culprit?  The SPQR series is truly one of my favorite historical mystery series. T

Supremely politicized court

There was a time in my memory when our Supreme Court was held in high esteem and citizens could be generally assured that decisions made by the court were made on the basis of the cases' merits and in accordance with the Constitution.  No more. The Supreme Court under the Chief Justiceship of John Roberts has become a hotbed of political activity where it seems that cases are decided primarily based on what would advantage the court's favorite political party.  From the outrageous ruling of the court on the disputed presidential election in 2000 right through the possibly even more laughable finding that corporations are people, too, this court has lost all claim to be considered an objective arbiter of constitutional issues.  The majority's opinions are always informed by the latest talking points of the right-wing. The latest evidence of their bias came on the day that the court decided to take up the case filed against the health care reform bill.  On that very day,

Wordless Wednesday: "Spirit Dancer," Denver Botanic Gardens


Republican candidates heart torture

The latest thing that we learned from the Republican presidential debates is that these candidates are really enthusiastic about torturing people and that they would reinstate waterboarding as an interrogation technique on their first day in office.  Furthermore, we learned that a Republican audience would wildly applaud and cheer such action.  None of this should be a surprise to anyone who has paid any sort of attention to these debates. Throughout the debates, they have been all about who can stake out the craziest, most extreme position and stick to it.  Whoever wins this race to the bottom usually gets to be the frontrunner for that week or at least the one who gets the most buzz for the week. The whole thing is beyond depressing.  How can anyone take any of these guys seriously?  They are not serious people.  They will do and say anything that they believe will give them the advantage with the Republican base, and, excuse me, but the Republican base is batshit crazy!  They a

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley: A review

Flavia de Luce, Alan Bradley's wonderful eleven-year-old detective, is back again in a fourth installment of her adventures.  I Am Half-Sick of Shadows  may be my favorite so far. It is well-plotted, the characters are wonderfully drawn, and the action moves along at a snappy pace. It proved to be a fast read, too fast in fact. I didn't want it to end so soon.  Flavia and her two older sisters and sworn enemies live with their father, the Colonel, in a rambling wreck of an estate in rural England. They live in genteel poverty along with the wonderful Dogger, the Colonel's old war buddy and now jack-of-all-trades around the estate, and the cook whose cooking Flavia despises. The Colonel always struggles to keep the wolf from the door and his latest scheme for doing so is to lease the estate to a cinema company for the purpose of making a movie with the international movie star, Phyllis Wyvern. The company arrives just before Christmas and begins to set up to film the movie

Meet the kitties

Regular readers of this blog may remember that back in August I told you about the death of my beloved cat, Nicholas .  It was a devastating loss for me and I wasn't at all sure that I ever wanted another cat in my life.  But, of course, my children, who have lived with cats their entire lives, had no such doubts and soon started lobbying me to add another cat to the household.  My younger daughter even had the potential candidates all lined up for me. While visiting friends earlier this year YD had discovered two kittens in their neighborhood.  The kittens had apparently been abandoned.  She and her friends asked the neighbors but no one claimed the little kittens and so YD's friend and her husband took the babies in and took care of them.  They raised them for the past several months, but they are dog people, plus they are getting ready to make a long-distance move so it wasn't feasible for them to keep the kittens. When we returned from our Colorado vacation last we

Veterans Day

To all who have served and to those who are still serving, and also to their families, we offer our gratitude and our support and our promise that we will never forget your sacrifice. Happy Veterans Day 2011.

Poor Rick Perry

Poor Rick Perry.  And I never in a million years thought I would type those words!  But, honestly, as a human being, I can completely empathize with his "Oops!" moment last night.  In the middle of telling a story or making a point and suddenly your brain freezes up and you can't remember what that point was?  Yes, been there, done that.  But I'm not running for president.  I want anyone that I vote for for president to be smarter than I am and certainly better able to speak in public than I am. And that person is not Mr. Perry. Long ago, the sainted Molly Ivins dubbed Perry "Governor Goodhair," the implication being that that's all he was - all hair and no ideas.  Nothing under the hair.  It's something that a lot of Texans have known throughout Perry's charmed life in public office.  Now the rest of the country and the rest of the world is learning that, too. Rick Perry will never be president.  But will he now concede that point and get ou

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht: A review

The setting of  The Tiger's Wife  is the former Yugoslavia, torn apart by years of war and ethnic cleansing. Natalia is a young doctor, a pediatrician, who, with her lifelong friend and fellow doctor Zora, travels to a district village that she had never been to or heard of to inoculate and treat children. En route, she receives the devastating news that her beloved grandfather has died in another village she had never heard of. Her grandfather, also a doctor, had been the major influence in her life. He had set her on the course she was to pursue as her life's work, and he had filled her imagination with fantastic stories.  The stories that he told had a touch of the supernatural and the superstitious. They were stories strongly grounded in the folk tales and beliefs of villagers who, even in the late 20th century, lived lives isolated from the modern world, lives that were full of the beliefs and traditions of their ancestors. His stories included a tale about a deathless m

"No" is a powerful word

Today was election day and around the country voters said a loud and ringing "No!" to a lot of pet Republican initiatives. The vote which gives me personally the most satisfaction is the one in my birthplace of Mississippi which rejected the Republican proposition that a fertilized egg is a person deserving of all the rights and protections of personhood.  They had previously tried to sneak this abomination of a law by the voters of Colorado - twice! - and been rejected.  Now the voters of Mississippi have rejected them, too, and if they can't get approval for this idea in the ultra-conservative state of Mississippi, it is unlikely that they can get it passed anywhere.  That won't stop them from trying though.  They are already trying to get the initiative on the ballots in several states for next year. In Ohio, the voters rejected the idea that public employees do not have any collective bargaining rights and they did so by a very unambiguous margin.  Good for t

Election Day 2011

It's an off-year election but there is a lot riding on the outcome at the polls tomorrow. In Ohio, voters will decide whether public workers have rights to band together to negotiate contracts with their employers, but, in the end, it is not just the rights of public employees that are being determined, it is the right of all workers. It's the whole concept of collective bargaining that is at stake here, for that is what the Republican governor and legislature of Ohio are seeking to curtail.  If they are successful in getting the voters to approve the law that they passed earlier this year - and millions and millions of dollars have poured into the state from the usual suspects to try to make sure it is passed - then even more draconian laws more punitive to labor unions can be expected in coming legislative sessions.  If, on the other hands, the opponents of the law can manage to stop this movement in its tracks, then it may prove to be a bellwether for the fate of other su

The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich: A review

It's only within the last year that I've begun reading the works of Louise Erdrich. Don't ask me why I waited so long. After all,  The Beet Queen  was published in 1986 and  Love Medicine  in 1984. She was always on my radar, but there are always so many books to read and so little time. Belatedly, I have entered Erdrich's world and I'm very glad to have finally made it here.  Louise Erdrich writes about ordinary people. They are not superheroes, or even heroes (for the most part) in the common understanding of the word. They are people who struggle to play the hand that Fate has dealt them through nature and nurture (or lack of nurture) as best they can. They go through life never really understanding their own motives or what makes them tick. Mostly, they are too busy making a living to give much thought to that. Even so, these characters sometimes have flashes of insight that just about literally take the reader's breath away.  In this, as in other of her boo

Your Friday kitty break

I don't know if I would classify these as the "10 cutest cat moments" but there are some pretty cute images here. Of course, it is hard to take an image of a cat that isn't cute. Happy weekend to you and your cat(s)!

UNESCO recognizes Palestine. Congress takes its ball and goes home.

In the Palestinian people's long struggle to have their rights to a state of their own recognized, they finally achieved a tiny victory this week. The United Nations' education, science and culture organization known as UNESCO decided to accept Palestine as a full member even though the geographical boundaries of such a state do not exist.  This means that Palestine, rather than its occupying power Israel, will have the right to nominate World Heritage Sites in its own territory, such as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and this helps to achieve at least a few of Palestine's long-denied rights as a state. It is likely that other United Nations organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will follow suit.  Inch by painful inch, Palestine may finally be crawling toward a kind of recognition and legitimacy as a world state. And what has been the response to all of this in this country?  Our gover

Wordless Wednesday: Allan Houser sculpture


Drink up! No, really, it's okay.

Don't you hate it that science is always coming up with some new research that tells us that something that we were told years ago would benefit us is really going to kill us?  I can give you a prime example - HRT.  Hormone Replacement Therapy.  For years, women of a certain age were told that it was the magic pill, the key to keeping ourselves young and supple, and many of us took the little magic pills.  Then one day out of a clear blue sky comes new research that proves rather definitively that, as young and supple as we might be, our chances of getting certain forms of cancer were greatly increased! Every year it seems that some researcher comes up with another of these magic formulas and everybody jumps on the bandwagon and then a few years later we find that it wasn't magic after all.  Vitamin D3 was another recent example. Anyway, happily, it works the other way around as well.  Sometimes we find out that things which we thought were bad for us, or at least not parti