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I'm a single Mormon Democrat, an NPR & BBC news junkie, a dog lover, opera buff, bookavore, migraineur, knows just enough about technology to be a danger to myself, fan of James Bond and Godzilla. 

Micah 6:8; D&C 11:20 

"do justly, walk humbly, judge righteously."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reading Around the World - Don't Ask Questions! It's a Dystopian Oakland!

With this book, I've moved south from Davis, California, to the city of my birth, Oakland.

The book is Gun,With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem and it's a very strange Oakland indeed. It takes place in an unspecified future in a dystopian Oakland. As I say in my review: "It's an Oakland where you need a license to ask other people questions. It's an Oakland where drugs are not only legal, but de rigeur. It's an Oakland were "evolution therapy" has made not only intelligent animals, but also intelligent toddlers, or "babyheads"." 

This is also a noir mystery that Chandler would be proud to call home. I really enjoyed it. 

My next book I will move across the bay to one of my favorite cities, San Francisco.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wisdom from the Quakers

I discovered a short-lived mystery series by Irene Allen. It features the Clerk of a Meeting of Quakers in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I've always been attracted to the Quakers due to my family connection. I am descended from Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick who emigrated to Salem, MA, in 1637. 

They were persecuted by the Puritans - who, ironically, fled to America for freedom from persecution - because they were Quakers. 

Back to the books, the author prefaces each chapter with a quote from a historic Quaker and one of these quotes is by John Woolman (1754):

"To consider mankind as other than brethren, to think favours are peculiar to one nation and exclude others, plainly supposes a darkness in the understanding. For as God's love is universal, so where the mind is sufficiently influenced by it, it begets a likeness of itself and the heart is enlarged toward all men."

Truly a radical concept! No wonder they've been persecuted! Most faiths, sects, and churches want to consider themselves as set apart or, as the Mormons like to say, "a peculiar people" (1 Peter 2:9). 

Also, it shows the truly evil concept that is "American exceptionalism". I've always disliked it because it seems that people, instead of being proud of the values and accomplishments of our great nation, instead use it to claim that they don't need to abide by the same treaties, agreements, and standards as other nations. 

Any thoughts out there? Please comment below!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Reading around the world -- reading Jane Austen in Davis, California

Moving south from Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, I have arrived in the Sacramento Valley in Davis -- "the most bicycle friendly town in the world". 

For Davis, I read Karen Joy Fowler's book The Jane Austen Book Club. Other literary Davis natives are Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), John Lescroart (the Dismas Hardy novels), Deborah Madison (cookbook author), Kim Stanley Robinson (the Mars trilogy), Sean Stewart (Resurrection Man trilogy), and Zach Weiner (webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal).

The biggest employer in Davis is the University of California which has campus there. It is also the home of the California Northern Railroad.

The average temperature (year-round) is 47.8-74.7 Fahrenheit. The highest temperature ever recorded was 116 F in July 1925 and the lowest was 12 F in December 1932. 

Indeed, in the book, the climate is described as follows: 

"The climate in the Valley was classified as Mediterranean, which meant that everything died in the summer. The native grasses went brown and stiff. The creeks disappeared. The oaks turned gray."

The book is very entertaining, especially for a fan of Jane Austen like me. The book even came with a couple fun appendices, one all of quotes of people's opinions of Austen and her works.

The sense of place in the book was very good in places, not so good in others. Essentially the book is a book of people all linked by the wonderful Miss Jane. 

Please check out my review at Goodreads!

The mere habit of learning to love is the thing.
~Jane Austen

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Reading Around the World: Northern California's Lassen Volcanic National ParkThe

I've moved out of the Beaver State and into the Golden State - California.

When I searched for a book to read for Northern California, I was always directed to the Bay Area - San Francisco/Oakland and the environs. Yet, looking at the map, that seemed more like Central California. 

So, I looked at a map and one of the most northern places in California is Lassen Volcanic National Park. And, sure enough, Nevada Barr sends her character Anna Pigeon there in book #4 of her series that take place in national parks. 

What's more the book takes place in a wildfire at the national park.

In this book, Anna is working as an EMT for firefighters fighting a wildfire at the park. She and a group of firefighters get trapped after a flashover when a murder occurs. (Don't you hate it when that happens?) As she's trapped, she also has to investigate a murder while keeping herself and her fellows alive. 

Apart from the plot, which I really enjoyed, the scenery of the park and the description of fighting wildfires take central stage. Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the oldest in the national park system and will celebrate its centennial next year. The volcano, Lassen Peak, last erupted in 1914-15. A fire actually occurred at the park in 2012. 

There are a few lakes near the area and quite a bit of geothermal activity. Lassen Peak is the dominant feature and the largest plug volcano in the world. There is also the Cinder Cone volcano. Additionally, there are boiling springs, mudpots, and fumaroles at the park.

I really enjoyed this mystery and can't wait to read more in the Anna Pigeon series. You can find my review of the book at Goodreads. Next I will be travelling south to Sacramento!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Soapbox Moment

Okay, I'm going to get on a soapbox and you may be offended. Every time I talk about this I get people all uptight and they decide that I'm being sanctimonious or pushy or that I want them to do what I say. 

Is this about people vaccinating their kids? 


Is this about the war on women? (There is one, you know.)


Is this about the separation of church and state and the fact that the Founding Fathers most certainly did NOT found the United States as a Christian nation?


No, it's about books. More specifically, the books that people say they will positively will NOT read. Now, I get in a lot of trouble when I post about this. If you want to see examples, there are two threads on the Goodreads site, I will refer you to:

The Shining by Stephen King

Ultimate 2015 Reading Challenge

Now, when I was a kid, I was a very picky eater. Many times I would have food put on the plate and say "Ick!"

I didn't want to eat it and would say I hated it. This would really upset my dad - especially if he knew I'd never tried it - so he would give me an extra spoonful. 

So, when I hear someone say that they won't read science fiction or romance or horror or that science fiction, romance, horror, crime/mystery isn't REAL literature, that is the first thing I think of. Obviously, they need an extra helping.

Now, maybe they don't want to be told what to read, maybe they think they must know best...

Maybe they've tried and think they're right. Maybe they've had a bad experience. I can understand that. I had a bad experience with a book written in the first person once and didn't read books in the first person for DECADES afterwards. (Hey, I think I can be forgiven in a murder mystery when the narrator turns out to be the one "whodunit".)

But it just seems some people are just doing it for the same reason I wouldn't eat Brussel Sprouts. However, with one big difference, I didn't eat many vegetables (and bean sprouts) because I didn't think I'd like it.

It seems to me many people won't read science fiction, romance, horror, et al, because they feel they are better than that. That, in some ways, they are low-rent fiction. That they are for entertainment value only. 

Another problem I have is that, yes, you may have had a bad experience with science fiction after reading one or two books. But, do you know how many sub-genres there are? Wikipedia lists 49 different types of science fiction genres: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Science_fiction_genres

How about mystery? Westerns? Horror? Romance? 

Can you rule out all of romance because you hated 50 Shades of Grey? (Full disclosure: though I read quite a bit of romance, I refuse to read this because I have a philosophical objection to BDSM.)

Do you have any comments? Are there any books you won't read? Why? Do you rule out entire genres or subgenres? If so, what is your reasoning? 

Do you think I'm unreasonable? Sanctimonious? Is there a better way to get on my soapbox without upsetting people? 

Comment below or reach out to me via social media:





Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Spontaneity = Truth AND JFK and the Israeli Nuclear Program

In my last blog post, Hey! Music in the 80's wasn't that bad! IMHO, I mentioned that many times I listen to blog posts while walking my dog, Misty. I also like to start my day listening to Northwest Public Radio, specifically Morning Edition, The Diane Rehm Show, and On Point with Tom Ashbrook. Today was no different.

I discovered a new book I want to read on Morning Edition in an interview with Sandip Roy ("Family Secrets -- And Mango Chutney -- In 'Don't Let Him Know'"). I got an update on the Iranian nuclear negotiations on The Diane Rehm Show ("Prospects for an Agreement to Limit Iran's Nuclear Program"). And, I had to give up listening to On Point halfway through because the leader of the so-called "Freedom Caucus", Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), was making me have violent ideations ("Political Pressures Weigh on Homeland Security Funding"). 

On my walk, I learned about the composer John Tavener on Composers Datebook from American Public Media; learned about the power of food critics and when a flag should be lowered to half-mast (at least in the British Isles) on the Today Programme from BBC Radio 4; and visited pre-election Greece, the World Economic Forum in Davos, devastating floods in Malawi, Auschwitz on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of its liberation from the Nazis, and South Georgia on From Our Own Correspondent, also from Radio 4.

One of the great things about this habit is it usually gets me thinking about different things. And this morning was no different. One statement that got me thinking was from the Composers Datebook program ("Tavener's "The Whale"") and the second item was from this morning's The Diane Rehm Show that was previously mentioned. 

Let's start with Composers Datebook and Sir John Tavener. Apparently after a near-death experience, Tavener's approach towards composing and his compositions completely changed. One of the statements in the podcast was that "religious tradition held that whatever was spontaneous was true." Now, I don't know if this is true or not, but let's say it was. That's what got me to thinking. 

If religious tradition holds that, it would seem to be antithetical and contradictory to organized religion. After all, how much spontaneity is there in the Catholic Mass or showing up to church every Sunday? Or in praying every Friday in the local Mosque? 

Or, let's take my erstwhile religion as an example, the Mormons.

I joined the Church over 20 years ago and I always had a sense of not being like the others. But I stayed because I believed in the message of the Mormons, more specifically, the message that Joseph Smith brought back from the Sacred Grove

But more recently I have stopped going. Why? Because the current Church seems to be sending the wrong message. They seem to be standing for things and sending out messages that are contradictory to the message of Christ. Could one of the reasons be that once the Mormons became organized - or any religion really - does truth suffer? 

(Please make a comment below or contact me via Twitter, Google+, or Facebook if you have any thoughts!) 

My next thought-provoking comment came from a caller during The Diane Rehm Show. The show was about Iran's nuclear ambitions but the caller was commenting on Israel's nuclear program. He made the comment that the only President to call on Israel about their program was John F. Kennedy and he was assassinated soon after. Hmmm..... Coincidence? Was it just another conspiracy theory? 

Well, not entirely, it seems. John F. Kennedy did send a letter to Prime Minister Ben Gurion of Israel in May of 1963 where he stated: 

"It is because of our preoccupation with this problem that my Government has sought to arrange with you for periodic visits to Dimona. When we spoke together in May 1961 you said that we might make whatever use we wished of the information resulting from the first visit of American scientists to Dimona and that you would agree to further visits by neutrals as well. I had assumed from Mrs. Meir's comment that there would be no problem between us on this.
"We are concerned with the disturbing effects on world stability which would accompany the development of a nuclear weapons capability by Israel. I cannot imagine that the Arabs would refrain from turning to the Soviet Union for assistance if Israel were to develop a nuclear weapons capability--with all the consequences this would hold. But the problem is much larger than its impact on the Middle East. Development of a nuclear weapons capability by Israel would almost certainly lead other larger countries, that have so far refrained from such development, to feel that they must follow suit.
You can find the entire text here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hey! Music in the 80's wasn't that bad! IMHO

I like to listen to podcasts when I walk my dog. 

(She'll be 16 at the end of May and still walks 1-2 miles a day!)

This morning I listened to an episode of NPR's terrific All Songs Considered. I discovered this podcast maybe 10 years ago and I love it. It's introduced me to many bands that I love that I maybe would never have heard of because I don't listen to Top 40 radio or pop music much anymore. (I'm mainly a classical music nerd.)

One of the groups I discovered thanks to All Songs is Mumford and Sons, for example. 

The podcast I listened to this morning was called "The '80's: Were They Really That Bad?"

My answer to this question would be "NO!" - but they did an hour of trashing the 80's. Now, I agree that the 80's weren't the best decades for music. The 50's, the 60's the 70's... you can't really compare. On the other hand, post-80s there wasn't much. Grunge, rap, hip-hop, these are reasons I tune my radio either to NPR or to an oldies station. 

Reasons I like the 80's:

One, I graduated in 1984. So, it was the soundtrack to my high school experience. 

Two, it was happy music. You tapped your foot, you could sing along, it just made me happy. 

Hall & Oates, Duran Duran, Quarterflash, I just loved them.

Now, unfortunately, there was also David Lee Roth out there. 

I may not be a music critic like the guys on All Songs, but the music from the 80's makes me happy so who cares?