Friday, 30 October 2009

Another Book Meme

This one is all over the place - and I love it.

1) You are facing an epic journey. You may choose one companion, one tool and one vehicle from any book or film to accompany you. Or just one of the three. It's up to you. What do you choose?

As companion I'd take Paksanarrion from Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksanarrion. As tool, Bilbo's sword, Sting. The vehicle, Ozma's magic carpet. And I'm off to fairy lands forlorn.

2) You can escape to the insides of any book. Where do you go, and why?
I go to the Lord of the Rings. It is beautifully written, its detail and scope for the imagination is immense and it pulls you into yourself, away from your troubles or boring tasks.

3) You can bring one literary character into your current life. Whom do you choose, and why?
Nicholas vander Poele from Dorothy Dunnett's series about thirteenth century Europe. No matter what viccisitudes he undergoes Niccolò is always tremendous fun and a good companion.

4) Jane Austen's Persuasion is my go-to book. It's like a snow globe, a tiny world in which everything glows.

5) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most enviable?
Nancy, in Arthur Ransome's series about the Swallows and the Amazons. Your own sailing dinghy? A beautiful lake? Nirvana.

6) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most frightening?
I don't remember ever being frightened by a book or film character. But I was made into a puddle of terror by a radio program called 'The Creaking Door', a program that featured half hour horror stories. I still recall one in which the protagonist was turned into a madman by a diet of fish; I faintly dislike eating fish to this day.

7) Every time I re-read L. M. Montogomery's edited Diaries I see something in them that I haven’t seen before. These books are a record of a transition period in the position of women in the first half of the twentieth century and are, in addition, a riveting story.

8) It is imperative that Diana Gabaldon's the Outlander be made into a movie. Sex! Sword Fights! Scotland!

9)is a book that should never be made (or should have never been made) into a film.
Can't do this one. Too many choices!

10) After all these years, Nevil Shute's On The Beach still manages to give me the queebs.

11) After all these years, Bronte's Jane Eyre still manages to give me a thrill. 'Reader, I married him.' Priceless.

12) If I could corner the author Rosemary Kierstein, here’s what I’d say to her in one minute or less about her books:
Finish the series before I explode!

13) The coolest non-fiction book I’ve ever read is Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle. Every time I flip through it, it makes me want to go and retrace his journey.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

It's a JOAT's Life After All

I spend far more of my time than I would wish trying to flesh out acronyms and so I am sitting here laughing at myself as I title a post with one. I first ran across 'joat' in Heinlein's stories, I think, and loved the word. It means 'jack-of-all trades' and he used it to describe someone who could turn his hand to anything as needed. But I have always thought of it as the perfect description of a housewife and mother (or, to be politically correct, a house-husband and SAH father too.) Chief cook and bottle washer, laundress, chauffeur, chief procurement officer ( of food, silly), safety inspector, chambermaid, librarian, early childhood educator, gardener, handyman, dog walker, book-keeper, gate-keeper, practical nurse and practically everything else. With a lot of us working outside the home as well. Not to overlook the amount of energy it takes to make the personal part of marriage work. It doesn't surprise me at all that vitamins sell so well.

There are a lot of joatish aspects to running a home even after the kids have left it for good -- and even after they have, you're still a mother, there at need, and eventually a grandma.

As for me, I am a quintessential joat and have been all my life. I'm the kind of person who can turn my hand to a lot of things, from being the body on the other end of the cross-cut saw as an eight year old to the person who could think up skits and draw or make decorations for school dances, chair an obstreperous meeting, make costumes for the gymnastics team, run a parents' lobby group, read and correct a PhD thesis, work puppets (and make them), design posters or look after an evaporator. As I write this list, I realize that I could make it longer: good for a person's ego to look back and think about things that have been accomplished.

There's an underside to this rock, however. Or there is for me. In the course of doing a bit of everything, I have never spent the time and energy to do one thing well. I've been reading The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is an analysis of why some people do amazingly well at what they do - Bill Gates is one of his examples as are star hockey players - and he postulates that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to learn to do something exceptionally well. Putting in that amount of time is not something that a joat will do, being too busy doing an adequate job for ten hours at a thousand things. After I put the book down, with a sigh, I thought a bit about that ten thousand hours. And I realized that I have, indeed, put that amount of time in at something. Reading. I have known how to read for 62 years. That's 22,630 days. And I have probably read something for at least an hour on more than half of those days. I'm eligible to be an elite reader. Woot.

Somehow, this thought is not as comforting as all that. It would be nice, she whispered, to be really, really good at something that other people recognise as amazing. Even nicer if that thing generated income, but, for me, the important thing would be to have some confidence that the thing I did (whatever that would be) would turn out superlatively well. I wonder, though, if the kings (and queens) of their kind really feel the kind of confidence that I long to possess. Did Gretzky take the ice knowing he could and would score or did he start every shift in terror that this time it wouldn't happen? Or the Beatles wake up in fear that they wouldn't come up with anything new that day? Strangely enough, I can launch into an activity that I am 'good enough' at with some confidence and make adjustments on the fly to make it work.

But when it comes to something that I would really like to be an ace at, like writing in this blog, there are a lot of false starts, erasures and angst. (Wait, should angst be a plural noun to keep the cadence? Is there a plural of it? If so, what is it? Mmm. Better pick another word.) But when it comes to something I really want to do well, such as writing this post, I make a lot of false starts and erasures and suffer a lot of anxiety.

Every once and a while, though, the words will fly and I will fly with them, higher, faster, stronger, and what ends up on the page is all I wanted it to be. And some day, maybe, I will have written my ten thousandth post and it will all come together. Until that day I jog along, a happy-enough joat, using my highly honed reading skills to admire the work of my friends. And life is good.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

A Monday Mission Voicemail.

I've been slacking off on the Monday Missions; brilliantly hosted by Painted Maypole. I missed the poetry last week but am determined to do that challenge one day. The gang who did them had some real winners; follow this link to find them.

This week's mission is equally fun: we are to craft an outgoing voice mail message. Although no one is going to reach the level of the school in the Antipodes (providing that one was real), here is a try at it. If I were more tech savvy, I would try to do this with a real voice, but, alas, I have no clue how. So... an explanation. Our phone number is a repeating one, the local three digit code repeated once in whole and once in part, like this; 123-1231. We get a lot of wrong numbers.


You have reached 613 123-1231. No one is able to take your call at present. Here are your options.

If you have mis-dialed, we do not want to know about it. Try again, and concentrate, please.

If you are calling to tell us we won a large prize, we don't believe you. Go on to the next sucker.

If you are calling from the bank or telephone company to tell us about your great new plans and services, give up. We don't want them.

If you are calling to find out why Mary isn't at the meeting, hang up and wait a bit. She is late, as usual.

If you are calling to tell Mary about a meeting date, get in line or use email.

If you are calling to remind Mary about something she forgot to do, she knows, already.

If you are calling JG, he'll be astonished.

If you are the YD, we're probably busy eating.

If you are one of our vanishingly small number of friends, please leave a message at the beep. Oops, I guess this message is too long - the beep went a while ago. Sorry!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Dancing in my Pants

Alejna at Collecting Tokens has tagged me for the Music in my Pants meme. Gulp. Here is how you play:

If you want to join in, the game is played thusly: set your iPod to shuffle, and make a note of the songs that come up. Append the phrase “in my pants.” As many songs as you choose.

The meme is causing me difficulties because, while I do have an IPod (and me a senior citizen, too) what I use it for is to practice line dancing. Accordingly, the play list is somewhat specialized, although I do have some other music on there with which to warm up and cool down. When I started sorting out the titles I wanted to use, I realized that this could be rather misunderstood. However, here they are.

Tonight I'll be lonely too, in my pants.

Take me home country roads, in my pants.

Ho Ro Mo Nighean Down Bhóidheach, in my pants.

Rant and Roar, in my pants.

This is it, in my pants.

Better than knowing where you are, in my pants.

Rise Again, in my pants.

Um, I think I had better leave it like that.

On the other hand, we do dance to a song called 'Make love to me'. Without the pants, please.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Friday, 16 October 2009


Photo Credit: The Younger Daughter

It's almost noon here and patches of frost are still lingering on the shady side of the lawn; the leaves are raining down whenever the wind blows, broken free by the frost from their hold on the trees. The red maple that I have in the header picture is now bare of its gold and scarlet as are the birches of their paler yellow. Only the sugar maples and oaks are still holding a brave show of red and bronze. And what am I doing in the midst of all this splendour? Not posting, that's for sure. It's been more than two weeks since I have had a free hour to play.

The things that I have been doing? Well, raking leaves for one thing. JG is not happy if his lawn is covered with leaves. And when the lawn is surrounded by and dotted with trees, each day brings a new covering to be removed. I have also been: dealing with Thanksgiving; visiting my mother-in-law; making posters and drafting a display ad; running to meetings; running to physio; doing the exercises (not often enough!) that the therapist is giving me; trying to get the winter clothes out, pressed and ready to use; making stacks of the papers in the office that need to be sorted and dealt with; and doing a little retail therapy. In fact, we bought a new vehicle.

I have been driving a Jeep Liberty and I adored the thing. It had four wheel high and low drive and could pull out of the nastiest snowy ditch. It took diesel fuel and got great mileage. What it could not do is miss a deer. Last winter I moaned a lot on this blog about the deer that crunched in the front end and about the subsequent tribulations of getting the damage all fixed. Since it was repaired, the Jeep has never been the same and has become prone to quitting dead just after being started and refusing to restart. It also sometimes refuses to shift. This is not good, not at all good, if a lot of the driving you do is through the back country where there are no people and no cell phone coverage. It stopped last week eight feet out of the garage and we decided that this was the last straw.

I now have a nice Ford Escape, all wheel drive and lots of bells and whistles, including Sirius Satellite Radio. I had no idea there were so many kinds of country music, not to mention sports broadcasts. I have a sneaking suspicion that Sirius is just as much of a distraction while driving as cell phones. The Ford is also equipped with a hands free connection for the cell phone, if I could make it work. The dashboard is more than a little daunting, let me tell you. My darling Jeep is in the hands of my brother-in-law, a Class A mechanic among his other accomplishments, who lives where he can phone for help. I am sure he can keep it running, if anyone can. And I have some confidence I can get where I need to go without hassles.

I wish I didn't need to go so many places so often, but the load is going to lighten after November when I am handing over the Chair position at the LHCS Board. Between then and now, unfortunately, we have to go through an accreditation process and preparing for this has been a lot of work, meetings and studying. The accreditation team interviews board members as well as staff and we have to be able to discuss such fascinating topics as how a governance board works and how we establish, follow and review our aims and objectives. I would go to sleep working on this stuff if I weren't so terrified that I won't have an answer that will satisfy the examiners. It's like a final exam but with a team that I really, really don't want to let down.

At least I am not frantically sewing a Halloween costume. Little Stuff decided that she wanted to be a witch, with a slinky dress and a crow on her shoulder. Her mother was able to find a dress that suited her at a costume store, along with a witch hat with streamers, a black wig and a lot of black, purple and sparkly green make-up. I found a paper maché bird that is properly black and boding and she is all set. She did want black shoes with buckles and high heels but I think her mother talked her out of that notion. I do not recall her mother and aunt being quite so exigent about the detail of their costumes, but maybe time has softened the memories. She has already informed me that next year she wants to be a rock star. I guess if the black wig hangs together she could be Cher, maybe.

Tomorrow we are supposed to go and get our regular flu shots; the H1N1 is supposed to be along in early November. Although I am concerned about the grand kids and their parents, who are all in schools where the virus is said to thrive, I am not worried about JG and myself as we are old enough to have been through both the 1950's wave and the 1960's wave and probably have a pretty good immunity. I am told that the line-up for flu shots has been huge so far, most unusually for our area where people are normally pretty blasé. It never ceases to amaze me how little attention people actually pay to the facts during these health scares; the ordinary flu shot has nothing to do with H1N1. Nor is it necessary to stop eating pork. It's frustrating when you are trying to get basic information out; I get the impression that people will do anything rather than wash their hands and stay calm.

I just saw a young doe stroll across our lawn, kicking through the leaves and paying me no attention at all. She's a pretty little thing, just old enough to have lost her dappled coat. The leaves are still pattering down. I need to quit writing, get some lunch and get out there, rake in hand.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A Recommendation

One of my favourite blogs is 'Nuts In May', a truly authentic and interesting voice. And a contemporary of mine, grandkids, bad back and all. Maggie put this post up about 'The Sunday Roast', and I thought some of you might be interested. Maggie herself was roasted here.

The rest of this post is a quote from Maggie's blog, explaining what the 'roast' is and asking for support for the new cook.

Some of you might well be thinking, "Whatever is this Sunday Roast?"
So for those who have never heard of it, I will explain quickly that David invited people to be interviewed via email, to use on his post every Sunday together with their picture.
Some of his questions were Why Do You Blog? What Is The Reason Behind The Blog Name? What Advice Would You Give To A New Blogger? He also asked what they thought was their most significant post on their own blog and why. Also what other blog had influenced or made the most impact on them and why.
These posts have always been really interesting to read and I have made some good blogging friends this way.
I was Roasted Last December just after Christmas. It was good fun, if not a little hot!
Eddie also wants these back numbers linked to his blog for others to see but if this is not possible, then you can always check them out at David's place.

Well Eddie hasn't as many followers as David has (getting on for 1000). Who could compete with that? Therefore, it has been decided that some of his followers would spread the word around so that readers will know that the Sunday Roast is still in operation. That is why I am writing this post that I will leave on my blog for a week or so, before I post anything else.

So my dear readers, if you enjoyed David's Sunday Roast, please would you post a similar notice on your blog to help promote the fact that it is still in operation and point them to Eddie Bluelights?
I wouldn't be a bit surprised if David didn't come over and have a peek from time to time.
Let's give him something to be really proud of....... a tradition that was started by him and that lives on.