Courtesy of Google.
"In the end, what really matters? Only kindness. Only making sombody a little happier for your presence." Under the Wide and Starry Sky: a novel by Nancy Horan, Ballantine Books, 2011
As, on occasion, I do, I read a book that is completely outside the genres that I normally read; that is, outside what has passed for normal since 2004. Before my retirement from The Little Airplane Company in 2004, my normal genres were non-fictional.
This book is a historical novel based on "...the letters and papers of Robert Louis Stevenson, Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, their family members and friends." It made for fascinating reading - even to me! The book uses many passages from those writings mentioned, quite skillfully. Although I found the quote from Horan's book, my research did not definitively show that the words are Horan's. On the other hand, I did not find them attributed to either Stevenson; so, I assume that the quote came from Horan's fertile mind. The research did assure me that I was not the only one who noted the words.
Image from Amazon.com, no endorsement implied.
While putting together the previous posting about my old, family books, I chuckled to myself - knowing that Stu would (and should) step in to chide my USA definition of old. Peoples of the Old World have books/hieroglyphics/scrolls dating back not just 100 years, not just 100s of years, but (in some cases) thousands of years.
Stu took it easy on me in his comment, presenting links to the facsimile of one book that dates back to 1525. (Of course, had Stu wished to be really kind, he would have provided translations!) I, myself, can read just enough of the German to make me dangerous, my biggest hurdle being to recognize the letters! (Among my "old" books is this one:
A Scientific German Reader
Kip, Herbert Z, PhD, Vanderbilt University
Oxford University Press: New York, London, Toronto, Melbourne & Bombay, Humphrey, Milford
Stu (nor I) knew how to provide graphics in a comment on this blog; so, we shall work around the issue. Below, is Stu's comment.
I'll go a step further by presenting the graphics.
Gesundheit! And...happy St Patty's (St Paddy's, if you prefer) day ta ya. St Patrick is the Patron Saint of Engineers - although - I couldn't tell you why! We always had a "big do" at University of Missouri School of Mines & Metallurgy (now, Missouri University of Science & Technology).
Addition of 3/18/2013
A project on which I spent a bit of time, today, was cataloguing old, family books that are in my possession. As with other physical possessions, I will be attempting to dispose of the books - either to family, local (to the area in which the original owners lived) museums, or to a different spot in our basement.
Each time I have gone through the books in the past 20-30 years, I have come across so many items of interest that it is difficult to remain on task. (The file linked at the bottom is the listing that I made of the books.)4
Stu and I have had, on occasion, an email exchange concerning what each of us meant by certain wording that each of us used. As Stu is fluent in several languages, and as I am semi-fluent only in English, I generally learn more from these exchanges than does he; but, he is game and sticks with me in the effort. One of the books that intrigued me, today, is Ray's Arithmetic, Third Book: Practical Arithmetic1 (published before 1900, at which time Grandmother was 16 years old) which just happens to use some of the mathematical terms that Stu and I have discussed. It is a fascinating book that leads the presumed student, step-by-step through mathematics that one was to learn in USA third grade. Starting with a major section of the book, these are the things one is to learn.
XI. COMMON FRACTIONS
Articles 121 through 124 are untitled, but Article 124 includes, "Fractions are divided into two classes, Common and Decimal."
Article 125. ANOTHER METHOD
Article 126 through128 are untitled.
Article 129. DEFINITIONS which provides definitions of the following: Fraction, Improper Fraction, Simple Fraction, Compound Fraction, Mixed Number, and Complex Fraction.
Article 130. PARTS OF FRACTIONS
Article 131. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
Articles 132 through 136 are untitled, but include some of the general principles.
Article 137. REDUCTION OF FRACTIONS
Articles 138 through 164 continue to present mathematical operations on fractions.
Article 165. PROMISCUOUS EXAMPLES - Gee, folks, I probably should leave you in the dark about what the term means (it is certainly not defined in the book); but, from context, I gather that it presents 21 problems that advanced (read: smarter) kids might be encouraged to attempt to solve.
XII. DECIMAL FRACTION which contains Articles 166 through 190
XIII. RATIO which contains Articles 191 through 196
XIV. PROPORTION which contains Articles 197 through 205
XV. ALIQUOTS, OR PRACTICE which contains Articles 206 and 207 - Perhaps I should let you look up "aliquots"; but, having read in the book that "One number is an aliquot part of another, when it will exactly divide it (Art. 110). Thus, 5 cents, 10 cts, 20 cts., &c., are aliquot parts of $1." I'll let you in on it.
There are a total of 28 sections, concluding with
I should have reviewed this little (4" wide x 6.5" tall x 1" thick - 336 pages) book before starting discussions with Stu on fractions, ratios, and permutations.
In an 11-page pamphlet re-printed when I was two years old (that would be 1940), CLOTHING: I.--Sewing Practices for the Beginner2, are the instructions for sewing an apron for oneself.
... you may make an apron according to the directions which follow.
Checked or plaid gingham is used for the apron and is made with a hem at the top which serves as a casing for a tape or belt. Cut the material in a size suitable for the girl who will wear it. An apron 16 inches long and 24 inches wide is a good size for a completed apron for a girl of ten years. In estimating the amount of material necessary to make this apron, allow enough for hems to finish at the top, bottom and sides of the apron.
Straighten the edges by drawing a thread. Turn a hem one inch wide at the top. The hem at the bottom may be 1 1/2 inches wide, and at the sides may be turned the width of the checks or according to the plaid in the ginham. Turn and cut out the corners as shown on page 27 of Extension Circular 373, "If You Would Learn to Sew." Baste all hems carefully and stitch close to the edge of the fold with thread which harmonizes with the color of the material. Tie threads securely and overhand at the corners. Press the finished apron carefully and insert a tape or fabric belt in the top hem for a tie. If desired the top of the apron may be gathered into a belt which is long enough to tie at the back. See page 15 of Extension Circular 373, "If You Would Learn to Sew."
If you wish to know how well you have made your apron, check it with the following:
1. Are the hems folded evenly?
2. Is the machine stitching straight and near the edge?
3. Did you use a thimble in basting and overhanding ends?
4. Have the basting threads been removed?
5. Is the apron clean and well pressed?
What intrigues me is comparing the above directions which take exactly one page of the pamphlet (the only illustrations are in the referenced circular, which the sewer probably won't have on hand!) to the video and color illustrations that would be in a sewing guide published, today. Below, I embed a video - just in case you don't wish to take my word for it.
Obviously, the video wants one to make a much fancier apron than the 1940 pamphlet addresses.
Grandmother had a book on citizenship - The American Citizen: West Virginia Edition3 published in 1897. I found the following section compelling. It is contained in a chapter on "The People Acting in Congress"
The Federal Union. -- For a little while after the War of Independence, the States tried the experiment of acting almost independently of each other. It proved a bad and dangerous experiment. New York might make laws to hurt or to tax the commerce of the people of New Jersey or Connecticut. There was no sure way to provide for the common good or the defence of the States. There was no treasury with money in it, or the means to secure money, to provide for the large debt which the Confederation had borrowed to carry on the war. [Omitted two sentences concerning the 1787 convention in Philadelphia.] It [the Convention] worked out the plan for our present Union, and recommended it to the people. According to the new plan the States agreed, by the vote of their people, to give up some of their independence, and to commit to Congress the charge of matters which concern all the people of the nation. No State now could do anything to injure the people of another State. No State could erect custom-houses on its boundaries to collect taxes from the commerce of the other States. The Union could have a treasury and courts with the necessary authority to command obedience. No State could justly resist the authority of the general government; neither could any State withdraw from the others and set up and independent government. Since permanent union proved to be for the general good, it was not only unfair for any State selfishly to threaaten the good of all by withdrawal from the Union, but the State which cut itself off from the rest would be likely to suffer in the long run.
What now, if Congress, which represents all the nation is unwise and passes laws that seem to hurt any part of the people? The remedy is to send wiser and better delegates, or to persuade the mistaken majority; because it is a harm only to the few to acquiesce for the time in what the majority have unwisely decreed, whereas it would injure every one if any portion of the nation were to resist or break up the government. This was abundantly demonstrated in the Civil War.
1 Eclectic Educational Series: Ray's Arithmetic, Third Book: Practical Arithmetic by Induction and Analysis, Ray, Joseph MD, Late Professor of Mathematics in Woodward College. One Thousandth [sic] Edition - Improved. Wilson, Hinkle & Co; Cincinnati, New York
2 Clothing: I.--Sewing Practices for the Beginner, 4-H Club Circular 21. Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics. University of Missouri College of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperating, January 1938 (Second Reprint April 1940).
3 The American Citizen: West Virginia Edition, Dole, Charles F.; D.C. Heath & Co., Publishers 1897.
4 The link to the file has been removed as I could not make it work!
Yesterday, some of my friends missed the most amazing Google Doodle that I've ever seen. Here, through the magic of YouTube are two videos of the doodle. I don't know if the sound track has been added; but, there was no sound to the doodle that I was watching, yesterday. Note, too, that, in the upper video, the whole doodle is not displayed in the video - only the PDA and its surrounds. Enjoy!
I started this posting to draw readers' attentions to today's posting at Ronni Bennett's place, Time Goes By. In particular, I wished to draw attention to a couple of videos that she embedded concerning purposes; as in, "What is the real purpose of life?" and "Does the Universe have a purpose?" However, I appreciate the two videos so much that I, too, am embedding them - below. They provide food for thought.
Addition of 12/10/2012:
Stu, in a comment below, mentions Douglas Adams. Adams in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe Galaxy (science fiction comedy) included a super computer that was constructed to figure out the "answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything". While the "Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything" is never defined, the computer arrives at the answer of "42". Somehow, it always struck me as funny that the answer would not be a prime number.
While I don't normally plug commercial products or ventures, I'm "bustin' my buttons" over my S-I-L's new book - her second (that I know of!) The following excerpt is from a posting on Helen S Fletcher's blog, The Ardent Cook. (Helen is Hunky Husband’s wonderful, much-loved younger sister.)European Tarts – Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking
European Tarts – Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking will be released on December 1st – just in time for the holidays. So start making a list of anyone you ever knew that likes to cook/bake/eat. For an advance peek at the blog, go to www.europeantarts.com,
This is a unique concept in cookbook publishing. While this book is fantastic for anyone interested in baking, the blog that accompanies it makes it almost foolproof for anyone. The blog holds a lot of how to photographs, just like this blog, to assist anyone who needs additional help or just wants to see how I do something. So please do visit it to see what I mean.
This is one of those weeks in which I actually believe I accomplished a few things. In no particular order, I accomplished the following:
Canned some pickled beets (with onions) and whipped up some taco spice, shipping them off to Bogie before the jars of beets had even cooled. I actually shipped two boxes of stuff, one of which contained a quilt that I had (nearly three years ago) promised to send her. The only other things in that box were some magazines and miscellaneous papers that had been in the box for so long that I no longer recalled what they were - nor did I take the time to check. I just stuffed an old pillow (to take up room) on top in the box and taped the box closed and added the address label. With the beets and spices, I inserted a couple of packs of seeds off of this year's crop of dill weed, a flash drive that Bogie had given me (nearly one year ago) with her Wonderful Spouse's family tree file on it, and a flash drive to which I had copied a bunch of family tree and family photo files - some scanned, some digital. Again, a pillow (I grabbed the wrong one, so it wasn't an old one; but, I wasn't going to take the time to change it out!) was stuffed in the top of the box to take up space. Wow! I no longer have to beat myself up for procrastinating.
The reason that I was in such a hurry with packing/mailing the boxes was that, while canning, I discovered that there was a physics seminar being held (as is done most Wednesdays during the Fall and Spring semesters) at 2:00pm at the largest of the local universities (Wichita State University, from which my degrees were rewarded). Thus, after mailing the boxes, I headed up to WSU to hear/see Professor Nicholas Solomey's presentation The Higgs discovery, what does it mean? Basically, the message was that it will probably be 25-50-100 years before we know the applications of the findings. After all, it took ages for the solid state diode to be developed following development of quantum theory (People started scratching their heads over cathode rays 100 years before I was born, but "quantum mechanics" was first used just 14 years before I was born!) and longer than that to develop processor chips - and - quantum computer design is in its infancy, now. Heck! At this point we don't even know whether to address "a" Higgs particle or whether there may be a multitude. Quantum numbers are TBD.
Early in the summer, I had told Hunky Husband that I wanted to rehabilitate one of the heavy comforters that he uses on his bed. It needed a new protector (at the end toward HH's face - whiskers do a number on protectors, which is why they are there!) and the blanket-stitched edges were fraying. I decided to put a binding around the edge, then to put on a new protector at what had been the foot-end of the comforter - to even out the wear. As much as I love to sew (not!), and as much as it bothers my hand to do hand sewing, I had told HH that I would have the comforter back to him in time for winter. This week, I finished sewing on the binding - and - I have started on the protector. An interesting finding was that, rather than batting, my mother had used an old quilt to fill the comforter. I could not see much of the quilt because Mom had knotted the comforter. I was not/am not about to take out all of the knots and sew more in!!
I finished three of the four books that I checked out of the library one week ago. The books were:
Charley's Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst by Fern J Hill - Although I did not find this novel to be a great book, the story of Parkhurst (a real person who was born female but lived as a male for most of her life) is fascinating (see the Wikipedia entry for factual information on Parkhurst.) Parkhurst, born in 1812 in New Hampshire, made a living working with horses, establishing a reputation as one of the best stage coach drivers in California.
The Help: a novel by Kathryn Stockett - Of movie fame, this is a story concerning the relationships between "colored" help and their "white" employer's families. Written in dialect, the dialogues ring true. Set in Mississippi in 1962, the events in the book ring heartwrenchingly true. I highly recommend this book!
Shadow Command: A Novel by Dale Brown - I grabbed this off of the "Large Print" shelves on the basis of the author's being "New York Times Bestselling Author of Strike Force". How dumb of me. Had I noticed that the text was preceded by four pages delineating the "Cast of Characters" and three pages of "Weapons and Acronyms" I would probably (quite rightly) have concluded that this was a book not worth reading. If an author can't tell me who people are and what things mean within the text, he's not much of a writer. I did not bother reading those seven pages, nor did I waste my time reading the sexploitative parts of his tale. While on the subject: why bother listing acronyms if you are going to insult the reader's intelligent by using "heads up display" instead of HUD (just one example) in the story? Premise of the story is that the Russians took out America's bomber fleet (except for a few B-1s and B-52s that were off somewhere away from the home bases) in 2003. [Mr Brown, I know that didn't happen; but, that's what your book (copyrighted in 2008 and set in 2009) tells me without any rhyme or reason as to your revision to history!] Some of the war toys are interesting and Brown includes many more female characters, in a wider variety of professions, than is the usual case in a war story written by a man. But (and that's a big but), his female characters ring not at all true. He is obviously pandering to the supposed male preoccupation with sex, and to hawkish right-wingers. Bleah! Oh! I nearly failed to mention that IMHO Mr Brown doesn't even do a good job of telling a story, his writing being very cumbersome.
To be read: Langston Hughes: Short Stories
Five new mum plants and three new ice plants got put into the ground - and - three daisy plants and about 10 clumps of sedum got moved out of their way into appropriate venues. I bought the white mums to set between existing burgundy-colored mums and the house to provide a lighter background against which the burgundy would show up. As is, being in the shade for 99% of the time, the burgundy blends in with the holly and other bushes that are behind those plants.
That's all folks!
Next day addition:
I failed to mention that I took my annual physical. Despite not having studied, I passed! Unfortunately, Dr S alerted me that 10/25/2012 would be her last day at the facility to which she had moved about 14 months ago from Kansas University School of Medicine - Wichita. Now, instead of having a 40-mile drive to her office at the hospital in El Dorado, I'll have a 100-mile drive to her office at the hospital in Salina. Oh, wait! She is to be a "hospital physician", meaning that she won't see patients who are not hospitalized. Dr S has taken good care of me for 18 years, so I did not remind her of her promise to me 18 years ago that she would not go anywhere until after I died. She gave me the names of a few Internists in Wichita (there are none in Derby) whom she would recommend and who are still accepting Medicare patients.
Why is Dr S moving? Her husband is an aircraft maintenance instructor at Kansas State - Salina. They have decided to live together. I advised her that, "The honeymoon is over when you go to live with your husband." Dr S is about Bogie's age and has been married to this, her second husband, for several years. They have built a hangar at the Benton Airport, planning to add a home to which they will retire. (Currently, they own a Cessna 172.) I wish only the best to them.
These are the books (photo, below) that will go back to the library this afternoon.
Divining Women, Kay Gibbons - I enjoyed this novel that provided character studies of a few people who lived during the Spanish influenza pandemic of about 100 years ago. Imagine "Little Women" as written by Stephen King.
Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy with Grant Blackwood - I put this book down, after 160 pages, as not being worth my time to finish. I don't know who is to blame - Mr Clancy, Mr Blackwood, or the publisher; but, this was blood and guts and dogma with no redeeming qualities in sight.
The Memory Collector, Meg Gardiner - As this was my first exposure to Ms Gardiner, I didn't really know what to expect. On the back cover was a sentence written by Stephen King about the book, "If you read Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, or Nelson DeMille, you're going to think Meg Gardiner is a gift from heaven."
Although Evanovich is the only author in Mr King's listing whose work I have read, and although I don't believe in heaven, Mr King was not getting carried away. This book is really that good! This is the sort of gripping thriller that Mr Clancy is normally credited with writing - but with a much lower body count. The protagonist is a forensic psychiatrist (she is also a climber in her spare time) who helps track down a suspected killer - a man who, it turns out, suffers from a brain malfunction that prevents his forming new memories. I will look for more books by Ms Gardiner!
People of Darkness, Tony Hillerman - This is a Jim Chee tale that doesn't disappoint this Hillerman fan. When someone bothers to murder a dying man - and then steals his body - one has to wonder what is going on! There is also a treat, for those who enjoy wordplay, in a tombstone that is erected by a white man for the grave of a peyote chief, "He Didn't Remember When He Was Born: Died December 11, 1953: A Good Indian".
My reading occurs in spurts and stops: sometimes I read a lot...at other times I read little beyond the daily paper and The New Yorker. When I was single, I usually had two or three books that I was reading - none of which was likely to be fiction. However, as I've grown older (I was single for all of my 40s), I find myself reading fiction. In the period of mid-2004 to mid-2005, I checked out (and read 99% of) more than 110 books from the local public library. Astoundingly, about 60% of the books were fiction. Since becoming an active volunteer, my reading has become, as I mentioned above, a matter of spurts and stops - and it has become 90% fiction. [Please note that in discussing "reading", I am only including the reading of books - printed on paper. My internet reading is, aside from blog reading, confined to non-fiction.]
Having finished a rather large project in my Volunteer Endeavors, last Thursday, I stopped in at the library on my way home. The photo (below) shows the books that I picked up in the few minutes when I was there. (BTW: the title of the Tom Clancy book is Against All Enemies. I would have taken another photo, hopefully without the glare, but the battery needed charging.)
Tony Hillerman has written some of my favorite books of fiction. They are interesting enough, and gripping enough, that I nearly always gulp them down in one day - two, tops! Unfortunately, I did not discover Mr Hillerman's work until 2007, only one year before his death. I was surprised, Thursday, to find one of his books that I had not already read in our library's collection.
Until The Fly on the Wall, all of the Hillerman books that I had read were mysteries centered in my beloved New Mexico, rife with details of the locale and Native American traditions and life. Delicious! However, The Fly on the Wall is a mystery centered in a fictional mid-western state's capital city where the Democratic Party holds sway - during the approach to a primary election. (Well, one "act" was thrown in from the San Juan Mountains and Santa Fe. I could smell the piñon smoke from the hotel's fireplace!) The protagonist is a political reporter who is assigned to the capitol.
This book did not in the least disappoint me. Please note that one of the pleasures of reading the book is that, not once is a cell phone, or iPad, or PC mentioned. The book was published in 1971!
I present a few paragraphs from The Fly on the Wall, The paragraphs contain dialogue between the protagonist (John Cottan) and one of his cronies (Hall) from another newspaper.
"The great electorate," Hall said. "The citizenry of the state. You think, Give 'em the facts and they'll make the right decisions. But they're not reading past the headlines. They're watching I Love Lucy and getting their instant political wisdom from some former disc jockey with a sincere smile on the ten-o'clock news. The bastard couldn't name the National Committeeman for you, but he's got credibility because they like his teeth."
Cotton said nothing.
"Cousin John, we've sold ourselves a bill of goods, you and Junior and I, and Volney and all of us. We buy this business of give them the facts and man decides in his enlightened self-interest. How about changing it--being realistic? Deciding that sometimes they're not going to digest the facts and come to the enlightened conclusion. You know it's true. You've seen it, time after time." Hall looked up, his eyes on Cotton's eyes. "How about making a selection sometimes of what facts they can handle--giving them what's good for them?"
"You feel like playing God? Cotton laughed. "I'm not ready for it."
"O.K.," Hall said. "Forget it."
Yesterday, while reading an article in The New Yorker, I (heretofore an atheist) became a believer.1 ; -¶
The article, included in the Annals of Science department is The Mosquito Solution: Can genetic modification eliminate a deadly tropical disease? by Michael Specter (The New Yorker, July 9 & 16, 2012). Writing on one theory of controlling, if not eradicating, dengue - caused by a pathogen transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, Mr Specter wrote the following:
"There is no vaccine or cure for dengue, or even a useful treatment. The only way to fight the disease has been to poison the insects that carry it. That means bathing yards, roads, and public parks in a fog of insecticide. Now there is another approach, promising but experimental: a British biotechnology company called Oxitec has developed a method to modify the genetic structure of the male Aedes mosquito, essentially transforming it into a mutant capable of destroying its own species."
From the above fragement of a paragraph, I immediately formed a mental picture of the male mosquitoes - out there with their machetes, destroying their own offspring.2 This led me to think that there really is a god who has genetically engineered people to destroy themselves. How else to explain our inability to, as Rodney King would have had us do, "...all just get along." Our aggressions - leading to wars, mass killings, environmental degredations - are killing us. How better to explain it than genetic modification?
1 ; -¶ An emoticon to indicate "tongue-in-cheek"
2 The mechanism is actually that, "Eggs fertilized by...genetically modified males will hatch normally, but soon after, and well before the new mosquitoes can fly, the fatal genes will prevail, killing them all." Previously cited article from The New Yorker